A New Revelation – II

As I mentioned in the previous post one of the first things I saw this morning was a video from my friend Gillian. It had been a restless night and our Nora was requesting liberation and a walk at 0630. As I poured my first cup of coffee I watched this recreation of Alvin Ailey’s Rocka My Soul from his iconic Revelations by members of his American Dance Theatre. When I reposted it on Facebook I made the comment that if Ailey had never created anything else – and he created much much more – he still would deserve his place amongst the greats of the dance world.

The word for May 21 is:
Revelation /ˌrevəˈlāSH(ə)n/ /ˌrɛvəˈleɪʃ(ə)n/: [noun]
1. The divine or supernatural disclosure to humans of something relating to human existence or the world.
2. A surprising and previously unknown fact, especially one that is made known in a dramatic way.
1. From Late Latin revelare “to lay bare” Late Latin noun revelatio Middle English c. 14th century revelation.
2. Was first used in this sense in 1862.
I think both definitions apply to Ailey’s remarkable piece.

Emptying the Liquor Cabinet

Down with Demon Rum – and Rye, and Vodka, and Scotch – ah no, just leave the Scotch there.

So as I sat musing about how to fill a Saturday afternoon last week I casually remarked that I thought maybe I’d empty the liquor cabinet and …. I didn’t have a chance to finish the sentence before Mr Beaulieu went full Carrie Nation on me! Hatchet in one hand and Bible in the other he read me a temperance lecture about drinking during the pandemic that would melt the ice in your third G&T! He got as far as something about demon rum and the grapes of wrath before I calmed him down and assured him that I meant so I can clean it. And I also casually, well as casually as you can be when threatened by a Bible-welding spouse, mentioned that most of what was in there appeared to be his collection of Scotch and the odd bottle of esoteric aperitif he had purchased. So once the strings on his bonnet had been loosened and things settled back into the “new normal” I bent my elbow hand to the task.

I love the simple lines and contrasts of Shaker furniture. Black Cherry and Bird’s-eye Maple are such beautiful woods, particularly the way Graeme crafts them.

Our liquor cabinet was made by Graeme Fenwick at Simply Shaker in Perth; the same craftsman who created our dining room set. Again the woods he used were Black Cherry (a favourite of Shaker furniture makers) and Birdseye Maple. The piece is modelled on the traditional Shaker tinware cabinet that was used for storing foodstuffs. I’m not sure how the Shakers, who were abstainers, would react to its current use but they were a peaceful, accepting people so the fact that it was proving of use would probably have satisfied.

One of the things I love about Black Cherry is that it darkens with time as it is exposed to light so that shades vary from piece to piece. Graeme doesn’t use nails or screws but the traditional mortise and tenon, tongue-in-groove, dowel pins and dovetails joints of Shaker cabinetry. He also uses a unique “half circle and stick” method of supporting shelves and a simple latch for the doors.

The back of the cabinet is made up of six Black Cherry planks of varying widths fitted together using tongue-and-groove joints. The Birdseye panels are bevelled and inset in the rails and stiles also with tongue-and-groove. As with all the traditional joints it allows for the contract and expansion of the wood and prevents splitting or warping.

The Shakers were a fascinating sect that has faded into the history books – there were only two remaining adherents in 2017 – but they left behind a practical legacy of things that we use to this day. The household broom, the circular saw, packaged seeds, even the ordinary wooden clothespin are all inventions of Shaker communal workshops. And of course the architecture of their settlements, their innovative interiors and the furniture all based on simplicity and functionality have had a lasting influence to this day.

Handcock Shaker Village – Massachusetts
Photo: unknown – Woodcraft Magazine April 2020

The word for May 12th:
Shaker /ˈSHākər/ /ˈʃeɪkər/: [noun]
1.1 A container used for mixing ingredients by shaking.
1.2 A container with a pierced top from which a powdered substance such as flour or salt is poured by shaking.
2. A member of an American religious sect, the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming, established in England c.1750 and living simply in celibate mixed communities.
Meaning “container for mixing cocktails, etc.” is recorded from 1868 (ancient Greek had seison as the name of a kind of vase, literally “shaker”).
From mid-15c., “one who or which shakes,” agent noun from the verb shake. Applied from 1640s (with capital initial) to Christian sects whose devotional exercises often involved convulsions. The best-known being the “Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing;” so called from 1784; also know as the “Shaking Quakers”; the adjective with reference to furniture styles associated with these Shakers is recorded from 1866.

Merely Players

Back on his 465th birthday I rambled on about the birth of my love of Shakespeare – a love that has continued unabated to this day. Today while visiting the Guardian website – about the only news site I got to these days and even then … but that’s another story – I came across this wonderful video: The Quarantine Players Project.

Well-known names from the British theatre join with theatre goers from around the world to deliver three of the iconic soliloquies in a way that gives them new life and, for me, new depth of meaning. “The Guardian and Shakespeare’s Globe put out an open call for theatre fans to record their own renditions of the speeches. More than 500 submissions were received for the project, which was produced by Jess Gormley, and a selection were edited together by Noah Payne-Frank.”

At a time when emotions are often close to the surface I find these are amongst the most moving of passages despite their familiarity. Never have I been so aware of where I am in those Seven Ages as I creep towards the sixth. And Prospero’s farewell is all the more powerful for that connection to my first brush with Shakespeare.

The word for April 8th is:
Soliloquy /səˈliləkwē/: [noun]
1.1 An act of speaking one’s thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any hearers, especially by a character in a play.
1.2 A part of a play involving a soliloquy.
Middle English from late Latin soliloquium, from Latin solus ‘alone’ + loqui ‘speak’.
Or that conversation you have with your dog or cat in which all the grievances of life are addressed.

May Morning

Great Tower, Magdalen College, Oxford – W. Matheson 1909
Internet Archive St. Michael’s College Toronto
Courtesy Victorian Web.

Perhaps lately I’ve been dwelling a bit too much on tradition and its importance in our lives. This may well be one of the signs of creeping – or rather hobbling – old age mixed with the age of anxiety we live in today. However I find comfort and consolation in both the memories and the continuance of the familiar: the traditional.

For over 500 years at sunrise on the first day of May the students, choristers and fellows at Magdalen College join the townspeople of Oxford in celebrating the arrival of Spring. The choristers, stationed in the Great Tower of the College, sing the Hymnus Eucharisticus composed in 1685 by Benjamin Rogers, “Doctor of Musique of the University of Oxon”. It is followed by a series of prayers or collects from, to my mind at least, the second greatest piece of English religious literature, The Book of Common Prayer, and continues with Thomas Morely’s Now is the Month of Maying. It ends as the bells of Magdalen ring out over the colleges and town with a series of elaborate changes.

The tradition was continued today as once again the choristers sang Rogers’ invocation to the Eucharist, the Dean of Divinity read the Collects for the day, May was celebrated with Morely’s slightly bawdy Ode and the eight bell peal rang out to hymn the arrival of a season of renewal.

Whither the religious aspects of this small service appeal to you or not the music, the beauty of the language and the comfort in the words are the promise of hope. A promise I feel we are all in need of these days – no matter the form it takes.

Thanks to my dear friend Cathy for sending me this video to start the morning at a time when it was much needed.

The word for May 1st is:
Collect /ˈkälˌekt/ /ˈkɑlˌɛkt/: [noun]
In liturgical usage: a short prayer, especially one assigned to a particular day or season.
Late Middle English: from Old French collecter or medieval Latin collectare, from Latin collect- ‘gathered together’, from the verb colligere, from col- ‘together’ + legere ‘choose or collect’.
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