Times Past, Present And Future

It is true that as this Earth turns, every day is new. But certain things occur regularly, often with the seasons. So whilst we have a pretty good idea when some events will happen, a great many others are simply beyond us to forecast them. We do know that rain will fall, but not always when or where we want! We have all the modern forecasting, we also have quite sophisticated equipment that help us to predict earthquakes and the tsunamis which can be created as a result, but that is pretty much all we can do with those, which is to be prepared. Our clocks show us the passage of time, we are born, we live and hopefully we learn, then we pass away. My dear Dad passed away in 1989, shortly before his seventieth birthday. Mum did very well, despite being badly injured during World War II. She passed away in 2016, aged ninety-five! But Dad was a heavy smoker for many years and cancer got him. Dad was a schoolteacher in Whittlesey, he was deputy organist and choirmaster at our local church for many years. So for me, music has always been part of my life and it has been a real inspiration to me for as long as I can remember. I am told that even before I was born, whilst my mother was carrying me she was always singing as she was so happy. I’ve said before about church organ music and there were times, especially when things weren’t going too well for me, I would go into Peterborough cathedral and often find an organist playing, perhaps practicing for a service or concert. I would attend organ concerts, not all were to my taste in music but I enjoyed them. I also sang in a few different choirs, one was the Gildenburgh choir in Peterborough and for a time the choirmaster was Andrew Newberry, who was also the deputy organist at the same cathedral. One particular person I first heard at a concert there was an American named Carlo Curley. He was an organist, not resident at any particular church but would travel around the world, giving concert performances in cathedrals, churches, concert halls, wherever and he had a very ‘outgoing’ personality.

Carlo Curley.

Carlo James Curley (August 24, 1952 – August 11, 2012) was an American classical concert organist who was born into a musical family in Monroe, North Carolina, USA and attended the North Carolina School of the Arts. By the age of 15 he was organist at a large Baptist church in Atlanta, Georgia, subsequently studying with some brilliant organists. His long-time friend and confidant Robert Noehren was another noted influence. At 18, Carlo was Director of Music at Girard College in Philadelphia and he developed his performance style in the manner of Virgil Fox, wanting to make classical organ music popular to a wider audience. He did this by including his arrangements and transcriptions of pieces from other classical genres. He was the resident organist at the Alexandra Palace, London in the 1970s and was the first classical organist to perform a solo organ recital at the White House, Washington for the U.S. President Jimmy Carter. He played before several European heads of state and toured extensively throughout the world, earning the marketing nickname ‘the Pavarotti of the Organ’, he was also one of only a few concert organists worldwide who supported themselves exclusively by giving recitals, concerts and master classes without any supplement from teaching or church position. Carlo toured extensively throughout the world, and had a large and loyal following. The Carlo Curley Concert Circle, based in the UK, was formed and numerous trips were organised with him throughout England and abroad. I was privileged to have been part of that following and went on several special trips for members of this Concert Circle. These were usually weekends away, we would stay in hotels and have private concerts and guided tours around different cathedrals or churches like Peterborough, Southwell Minster, York, Birmingham, Lincoln and Westminster Abbey to name but a few. Carlo also did a concert at the church in Attleborough in Norfolk, which was right next to where my late mother lived. This meant she was actually able to meet him personally and that delighted her, as I had spoken with her about him a few times. Carlo Curley also used a substantial Allen touring organ, especially where the venue lacked an instrument of sufficient scope to support his repertoire. He recorded commercially for various record labels, he participated in several concerts with other organists and his final such concert was in June 2012 at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral with his friend Ian Tracey using a Copeman Hart instrument. He served as patron for numerous music societies as well as for the newly formed British Academy of Music, he was involved in organ design as well as their construction and he served as advisor to numerous clients, including Melbourne City Council in Australia and The Cube, Shiroishi in Japan. His autobiography ‘In The Pipeline’ was published by HarperCollins in 1998. One of his Allen organs is now used in the Cathedral of St Michael and St George in Aldershot in the UK. A life-long bachelor, Carlo Curley died on 11 August 2012 aged 59 in Melton Mowbray, where he lived for a number of years. His ashes are interred in the grounds of Pershore Abbey in Worcestershire. Carlo was actually born in North America, he travelled the world but chose to live in the relative peace and quiet of Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, England. I myself have many memories of that town and I still have friends there. It is a lovely town, good people and a beautiful church with a delightful organ and I have been to quite a few concerts there too. In addition, not far away is a place where they refurbish and rebuild church organs with great skill. It was fascinating to watch, but then I have always been amazed at the skill some people have, whether it be building or repairing items.

Here in the UK we have recently had the Commonwealth Games and as with almost all sports there is the need, the urge to win, whether as part of a team or as individuals. I think these Games showed this up very well. Whether it is in sports or in life generally, some simply want to be the best and if done in a positive way that is no bad thing as it can motivate others to try harder. But sadly, some do so in a very negative way, selfishly putting others down, perhaps to prove something to themselves. In some cases they can also mar or even destroy the lives of others in their attempt to do this. I have noticed how many spend their lives following the same routines, doing the same thing day-in day-out, even going to the same places for refreshment or relaxation, never wanting to ever try something new. Such people also often find it difficult to cope with a change that is outside their control, but in this ever-changing world it is better if we can adapt to change. Some years ago I learned that the man who had been the headmaster at my old school had passed away. He had been quite active in the town all his life, but when he reached sixty-five he had to retire and sadly less than two years later his life ended. So it is perhaps a gentle reminder that, at the end of the day, we all go the same way. Also, as life passes by we cannot remain as we once were, but happily many then find other outlets for their skills, perhaps by teaching others so that their skills are passed on. I was told a delightful saying recently which was “Shrouds have no Pockets”, meaning that worldly wealth cannot be kept and used after death. It comes, according to the Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, from the mid-19th century.

I have said before about parents and grandparents saying how “It wasn’t like that in our day” and nor is it. What amuses me is that as I reach that same age, I begin to echo those same words! But that is perhaps how it ought to be, as we strive to better ourselves. I have written about different technologies, like cameras, computers, all things that the younger generation nowadays take for granted but when I was younger I was just the same. Many good things can and do come from these changes in technology, in our knowledge, in fact through so many things, but we can all too easily forget the basics. Sometimes the simplest of things are in fact the best! I am reminded of the time some years ago when I was walking past a colleague’s desk at work and they said, in an exasperated tone of voice, “Stupid computer, I can’t find anything I need!” So I stopped and politely enquired what the problem was. I learned that they were looking for a particular telephone number, so I said “That’s no problem”, at which point they said in the same exasperated tone, “If you’re so clever, you find it!”. So I ignored the computer and reached out for an old-style, printed telephone directory on my colleague’s desk. I quickly found the telephone number required and was grudgingly thanked, but to me it was no problem. I had been taught a similar lesson some years before, in that sometimes the ‘old’ ways are the simplest, as they can be the best. Once upon a time we humans all lived in caves, men hunted for food whilst their women bore children, they fed and cared for all the family. The idea of husband and wife, children, all living and working together became an integral part of human life for so many. I know that there have been wedding ceremonies for years, although it seems they are not universal to marriage and not necessary in most legal jurisdictions. They are not even universal within the Christian marriage, as Eastern Christians do not have marriage vows in their traditional wedding ceremonies. I am most used to hearing the marriage vows which are promises each partner in a couple make in turn to the other during a wedding ceremony which is based upon Western Christian traditions. That is because I have sung in a few different church choirs and so have heard the following words a great many times. But over time, these words have been altered a little. When I was a lad, the words that the bride and groom said either to other were:

“I, (forenames), take thee, (forenames), to be my lawfully wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I plight/give thee my troth”.

Here the groom makes a promise (plight thee my troth) to his bride and in reply the bride accepts the promise and returns it (give thee my troth). But in time it was amended, a few words modernised and in later versions the word ‘obey’ was dropped, whilst ‘holy ordinance’ was replaced by ‘holy law’. As I have said on a few occasions now, things change and will continue to do so. A long time ago we used to kill with rocks, then swords, then guns and other weapons were invented. We saw birds flying and wanted to do the same, so now we have aircraft and much more. At one time it was more usual for human males to go hunting for food whilst the females cared for the children. But not all species live that way and as we know, things change. Men and women have worked to design, build and maintain a great many things together, although this has not always been recognised immediately. But even now, there are still those people who continue to ask “Why should I be the one to change?”. They want to carry on in their own ways, they expect those around them to adapt to them, but that isn’t always the best way to survive. There have been a few people I’ve known who refused to change, to adapt, perhaps because of how they were treated. Sadly a number of them are no longer alive now. But I am reminded of some good, thoughtful words spoken by Srinivas Arka, an Indian Guru I know, which are, “Our future depends mainly on the way we think at present. To change our lives, we must change the way we think”. I have seen this to be true, I have learned of this adaptation in other creatures on Earth too, for example polar bears who, finding their world was being taken over by us humans, adapted. They found food from wherever they could and they continue to survive. We too must adapt and adjust so that we may survive. The ones who cannot or perhaps will not change? Some refer to them as dinosaurs, but that isn’t fair on those creatures who lived so long ago, as evidence suggests an asteroid impact was the main culprit of their downfall. Volcanic eruptions that caused large-scale climate change may also have been involved, together with more gradual changes to Earth’s climate that happened over millions of years. Some folk are just stubborn and will not change their ways!

It is around this particular time of year that I especially recall memories of people not now with us, also places I have been to and know well. I do not dwell on these memories, but remember them, mainly with happiness. We all have our own, special, individual thoughts and memories. I wrote last week about the lovely, unexpected trip to the seaside and I can still recall the sea air, the soft sand, fresh fish & chips and that lovely ice cream! Yes, my legs ached afterwards but it was worth it. People come and go, places may not be as easily reached but memories, for most, linger on. I look to the future and wonder – where to next?

This week…
A word of warning. Never get stuck behind Satan in the queue at a Post Office. For the devil takes many forms…

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