Friday, 9 March 2012

Favourite Composer

Dear Bishop, I know you love and sometimes perform music and just wondered who is your favourite composer out of the many you must have listened to? Blessings,  Amelia

It is both easy and perhaps a little difficult to isolate one composer out of so many, but if I had to it would be Frédéric Chopin ― also my mother’s favourite composer. Chopin became the source of my inspiration to learn to play the piano. I only recollect my mother playing his works, a composer who never performed his music the same way twice. Each recital reflected Chopin’s mood in that precise moment. His compositions lend themselves to a degree of freedom and self-expression rarely found in classical music prior to the century in which my mother was born. So, despite liking so many other composers ― Olivier Messiaen immediately springs to mind ― I have an emotional attachment to Chopin's music which makes me love his compositions more than anything else when I hear it.

The first piece by Chopin I played on the piano was the Nocturne in E-flat, Op 9, No 2, which can be heard by clicking on the portrait of the composer above. I quickly gave it my own interpretation which I don't feel Chopin would have minded. At least, I hope not. My father also played the piano, but it was jazz that inspired his choice of music, as did a cousin who went on to become a classical concert pianist where Chopin featured significantly; though I believe Bach was her absolute favourite composer. I, too, feel drawn to Bach, but it is Chopin who really makes the heart leap. When death approached the composer he seemed to detach his mind from his person, and to show towards his illness and death itself that same aristocratic indifference which, in his ordinary life, he had reserved for importunate visitors. His thoughts returned to his sister and to the friends about him, and on 13 October 1849 the Sacraments were administered. On the 15th, in a moment of respite, he asked Delfina Potocka, who had hastened to his bedside, to sing for him. The piano was moved to the door of his room, and, holding back her tears, Delfina sang two songs.

On the following day Chopin asked that his manuscripts and all his papers be burnt, but this wish was not respected. Haunted by the fear of being buried alive, he asked ― in writing for he could no longer speak ― that his body be opened after his death. On 17 October 1849, at two o'clock in the morning, Chopin ceased to live. The funeral was not wanting in grandeur. His adoring public flocked to the Church of the Madeleine to take leave of him. Chopin's body was placed in the nave to the sound of Marche Funèbre from his Sonata in B-flat minor orchestrated by Réber. Mozart's Requiem was sung. Two of the Préludes, the fourth and the sixth, were performed on the organ.

Frédéric Chopin's heart was carried back to his native Poland by his sister, where it was placed in the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw. His body was interred in the cemetery of Père Lachaise in Paris where, still to this day, people, myself included, visit his tomb to pay tribute. 

Chopin was dead and the legend of Chopin was born. He was the incarnation of the romantic suffering hero, assigned to the role of extremist in all the conditions of the human soul ― despair and fever, tears and exaltation. Yet Chopin rarely gave himself to any sentimentality. He seems to rise above all the historic and aesthetic categories, evading, as Debussy put it, "the game of classifications." His art has the formal perfection, the intelligence, balance and measure of classical art. But if Romanticism ― in its deepest significance ― can unveil hidden worlds through inspired vision, then Chopin truly belongs to Romanticism, for he reveals through his music the inner mystery of man's heart.


Sunday, 4 March 2012



There's magic in a Mother's touch,

And sunshine in her smile.

There's love in everything she does

To make our lives worthwhile.

We can find both hope and courage

Just by looking in her eyes.

Her laughter is a source of joy,

Her words are warm and wise.

There is a kindness and compassion

To be found in her embrace,

And we see the light of heaven

Shining from a Mother's face.