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Brass Band France Blog 
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Brass Band France Blog
I am travelling around northern France and Belgium with my daughter Diana who is the singer for the Eastern Australia Brass Band. Today we were in Paris. I went with some others from our hotel near Laplace into Notre Dame by train. We managed to get into Notre Dame Cathedral with no queue, being early, so I filmed the stained glass windows, which are magnificent. Myself and a friend nicknamed Tex had a cup of coffee on the left bank of the Seine River, where we discussed some of the psychological difficulties of life, including the relation between existence, anxiety and freedom. As you do.

We then wandered down to the Louvre Museum, which is surrounded by the most magnificent and astounding sculptures, redolent of the mythology of the human conquest of nature. France follows the cult of supreme reason, so the Louvre has sculptures of all the gentlemen of logic, such as Descartes, Laplace, Colomb, Rousseau, Voltaire, all around it. We checked out the arch in which Napoleon celebrates crushing Austria at Ulm and Austerlitz, and the obelisk that Napoleon stole from Egypt, then strolled down the river to the Eiffel Tower, past some disconcertingly attired riot police, who were there to keep the protesting communists under a watchful eye.

Seeing Notre Dame amidst the rationalist names such as Laplace inspired me to explain to Tex some of my views on religion, given the obvious veneration that the people who designed and built this magnificent catherdral soaring to the heavens felt for their imagined God. Religion should be about offering people a sympathetic ear, as a way to help heal some of the psychological damage of the world. Instead, religion has largely morphed into an expansionist political organisation that has destroyed its social trust by trying to brainwash people with bullshit, and as a result is in a state of crisis. Back to that stuff another day. The rest of this post is about brass bands.

The Eastern Australia Brass Band, with about fifty members, played a concert together with the leading brass band of Paris. It was great. Sadly, it seems that brass bands are a fossilized genre, dating from the era just before amplification when they were the loudest thing around, so got popular on that basis. Once electricity transformed music, the public audience dropped brass like a stone, partly because of its stodgy obsolete religious associations. So all those rotundi in town parks are rotting away, when a hundred years ago they were the hub of the community.

These days, brass bands exist for the enjoyment their members get out of playing, with any entertainment for the public just an accidental bonus. Diana is a wonderful singer, so fronting a big band to sing Autumn Leaves and Roses of Picardy at the first world war centenary is very special. I will share some scratchy film on youtube.


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Thu Jun 19, 2014 6:06 pm
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Post Re: Brass Band France Blog
excuse me while i turn green with envy :-D



Thu Jun 19, 2014 10:08 pm
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Post Re: Brass Band France Blog
This post starts with some information and comment about brass band music, and then explains what we did today, with exquisite and evocative performances. The second part is more interesting, but please read the first bit if you are patient.

Information on the brass band genre is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brass_band_(British_style) Brass bands are fiercely competitive in Australia, with contests from A Grade down to D Grade. Gunnedah Shire Brass are the current national champions. I keep finding out things I never knew. The tenor horn and the baritone horn are main brass band instruments, but are less well known because they are not generally part of the classical or jazz scene. Adding a singer in the big band style is innovative, since they do tend to be conservative, but Diana fits in beautifully and is really lifting the tour. Brass bands were designed to be easy to join, so even beginners could participate. It is a shame that this participatory attitude to music has been overwhelmed by the rise of passive electronica such as the matrix pod (my characterisation of how people are being zombified by new technology). ABC radio’s classic FM station used to have a regular program of brass band music, but it seems the ABC regards tradition and diversity with some disdain, so has cancelled this program.

I first acquired a love of brass when I studied the wonderful classical piece Concerto for Orchestra by Bela Bartok at school. A brass chorale in the second movement brings out the wonderful lush and rich and mellow tones of brass harmony. I have not been able to find a youtube recording of Bartok’s brass chorale, but will keep looking.

I should just mention while I think of it, before getting on to what we did today, yesterday morning as Tex and I were wandering along towards the Champs Elysess from the Louvre, what should we stumble upon but the most magnificent statue of the Goddess Diana you could dream of. In their idiosyncratic way, the French spelt her name Diane on the plinth. Also known as Artemis, Diana is depicted in this statue with a hound ready to tear in pieces anyone who might by chance see her swimming nude. As moon goddess of the hunt, Diana has a superb statuesque dignity and nobility and divine beauty in her personality. The number of astounding statues in Paris is very impressive.

So with apologies for such extensive asides, today (Friday 20 June, the summer solstice), the Eastern Australia Brass Band played at three concerts, at the Australian Embassy, in the gardens of Notre Dame Cathedral, and at the Arc de Triomphe. This was a very special and memorable day, steadily escalating in its political symbolism, emotional resonance and spiritual intensity.

The Embassy concert featured a quintet from the band, made up of two cornets, two horns and a tuba, augmented by two flugelhorns in one piece, followed by a piece for trumpet and keyboard. Then, my daughter Diana sang Still as the Night (in French), Fly Me To The Moon (in English), and, after the return of the quintet to play Waltzing Matilda and an Australian folk song suite, Diana joined the quintet for an encore, Autumn Leaves (in English and French). Diana was utterly stunning, making it very difficult for me to restrain my beaming pride, try as I might in deference to her modesty.

His Excellency Australian Ambassador Ric Wells spoke with high praise of our host Eric Brisse, saying that the brass band connections between France and Australia are part of our diplomatic links. Eric lives in Villiers Brettonaux, and has arranged our tour.

Our second concert today, on a rotunda in the gardens behind Notre Dame, was even more special, with a wonderful appreciative audience and an extraordinarily simple but powerful location, nestled among the deep green trees.

And then, the ceremony of the flame at 6pm at the Arc de Triomphe. We stopped traffic on the Champs de Elysses while the band marched at the head of a military procession with representatives of France and Germany. The band then continued to play while the invited guests assembled around the eternal flame in the centre of the arch. Community, diplomatic and military representatives from the three countries, including children from our touring party and Ambassador Wells, laid commemorative wreaths, and the band played the three national anthems. I marched with the band associate group and was able to film the event from the front row, just two metres from the flame. Joining Australia together with France and Germany in this solemn remembrance of service and valour and loss, this ceremony symbolised solidarity in culture and steadfast commitment to peace and stability.

In chatting with one of the band members, I learned that Roses of Picardy, Diana’s signature song for the tour, is the provincial song for Picardy. Thinking of the red poppies of Flanders strongly reminds me of the song for the fallen, Flowers of the Forest, usually played on bagpipes only at funerals and memorials for soldiers who have died in battle. At the memorial for my grand uncle Jack Grant in Vignacourt Military Cemetery on 26 June, Diana will read from a letter from her great great grandfather informing her great grandfather Robbie Grant of Jack’s death, and I will say a few words.

I again filmed everything today on my camcorder, so look forward to uploading some highlights.


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Post Re: Brass Band France Blog
C'est magnifique! A triumph.



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Sat Jun 21, 2014 9:56 pm
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Post Re: Brass Band France Blog
France Brass Band Blog #3 Saturday 21 June 2014

Apart from the wonderful brass music, my interests in visiting Europe include astronomy and philosophy. So I would like to use this post, while travelling on the bus with the band from Paris to Champagne in the northeast of France, to comment on these topics.

But first, what a magnificent and memorable day yesterday! I have been playing my footage of the three concerts for the band members on the bus, and I don’t mind if I whet your appetite by saying that some of it is worth watching.

Coleridge has a line in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ‘the sun he rose upon the left’ to signify the clockwise motion of the sun across the southern sky as seen from England. Then, as the cursed vessel heads into the albatross-filled wastes of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, Coleridge tells us ‘the sun now rose upon the right’, signifying the apparent anti-clockwise path through the day of the sun across the northern sky, as viewed from southern latitudes.

Coleridge’s tutor at Christ’s Hospital travelled with Captain Cook on his second voyage after going to Canada to inspect the transit of Venus, which Cook saw in Tahiti.

My reason for this poetic discursion is that we southerners are literally disoriented when visiting the north, so when the sun is at noon we imagine the orient is the occident, that east is west, because it looks like the sun stands in what for us is the northern point, when actually it crosses the meridian at due south. This sense of the sun going clockwise for someone born and raised in Australia seems as intuitive as the old idea, described by Lewis Carroll in his poem Old Father William, that people in the antipodes must walk on their heads. Similarly, the moon today, in its last quarter and about five days before new, appears in the sky in the position that only the new moon occupies in southern skies.

So the sense of astronomy starts with the intuition of the path of the sun and moon as a means of orientation, to acquire what the existential philosopher Martin Heidegger called directionality, or a sense of place and relatedness. We extend from this main observation of the two great lights to view the stars. I am very much looking forward to seeing the northern circumpolar stars, the little bear, the dragon and king Cepheus, stars that will not be seen in Australia for another ten thousand years or so.

As a way to gradually segue back from astronomy to music, and this visit to France, today, Saturday 21 June, the summer solstice, is celebrated every year in France with a national festival of music, the Fête de la Musique, also known as World Music Day.

The concept of an all-day musical celebration on the days of the solstice, was originated by American musician Joel Cohen and adapted as a national celebration each June 21 in France. The idea was embraced and made official by the French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang. In October 1981, Maurice Fleuret became Director of Music and Dance at Minister of Culture Jack Lang’s request, and applied his reflections to the musical practice and its evolution: 'music everywhere, concert nowhere'. When he discovered that one child out of two played a musical instrument, he began to dream of a way to bring people out on the streets. It first took place in 1982 in Paris as the Fête de la Musique. Ever since, the festival has become an international phenomenon, celebrated on the same day in more than 460 cities in 110 countries. Its purpose is promote music in two ways:
• Amateur and professional musicians are encouraged to perform in the streets. The slogan Faites de la musique (Make music), a homophone of Fête de la Musique, is used to promote this goal.
• Many free concerts are organized, making all genres of music accessible to the public. Two of the caveats to being sanctioned by the official Fête de la Musique organization in Paris are that all concerts must be free to the public, and all performers donate their time for free. This is true of most participating cities, now, as well.

Next is about our first day in Champagne.


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Post Re: Brass Band France Blog
22 June 2014
Yesterday, we left Paris at 7am and drove to Champagne. We stopped at a champagne maker, Goutorbe, http://www.champagne-henri-goutorbe.com/en/Default.asp in the small village of Aÿ for a tour of the bottlery, including the cellars or caves dug out of the chalk soil. Flanders poppies are flowering on the edges of all the fields, of wheat, lucerne, corn, beet and barley. Driving up the Marne River Valley we reached the village of Sillery, for an open air concert in the Parc de la Vesle as part of the Fête de la Musique, together with the Brass Band de Champagne. http://www.brassbanddechampagne.fr/

Locally, this concert was part of the official program of the music festival of Reims, Les Flâneries Musicales http://www.flaneriesreims.com The Champagne Brass Band played first, with superb energy and attack. Our program included four songs sung by Diana with the big band, Moondance, Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal, Fly Me to the Moon, and Autumn Leaves. It was a remarkably picturesque location, with the deep green of the trees along the bank of the Vesle providing a beautiful backdrop for the stage. Happily my recordings were fine, if slightly wobbly, like the champagne effect on the brass players.

The quality of the French bands is very high. In chatting on the bus, I commented that Australia is not as musically strong as some other countries such as France, where ability to participate in music is much more widespread. We see the growing indifference to music in Australia in the decline of brass bands, which used to be sponsored routinely by shire councils as a central part of the construction of social capital. I don’t feel the passive bleakness of duf-duf music is much of a replacement, since brass is a genre that is accessible to all ages, built on participation rather than anomie.

The Riems festival hosted the band for dinner. I was able to sit with my friend John, who shares my interests in the analysis of Christian origins and the status of philosophy. Having already ventured to discuss abstrusity here more than perhaps I should dare, I will just say we solved the problem of Heidegger’s deconstruction of Descartes, in terms of human identity as a social construction built upon the relational framework of the axiomatic principle of the meaning of being as care, as the basis for a systematic existential ontology.

John and I walked together through the music festival in the city, which was full of free music, although the subwoofer style of modern electronica seems quite depressing to me. We walked around Rhiems Cathedral, which is an immense thing, former location for the crowning of the kings of France, and came upon a large audience listening to a Mexican music and dance performance.

This celebration of the summer solstice in music reminds me of Christmas in Australia, with midsummer the high point of the year. This coming Tuesday 24 June is Saint John’s Day, marking the peak from which the length of the day decreases until Christmas, from when it must increase, as John the Baptist explained at John 3:30.

Today, Sunday, we travelled to the ancient city of Laon, and I am writing this sitting in the magnificent old cathedral, beneath a ceiling nearly forty metres high in the glorious soft light of the beautiful stained glass windows. The eastern rose window, about ten metres across, is shaped like a clock, with twenty four circles around the perimeter, and circles inside that of twelve, twelve and four in number, and at the centre the single circle of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus. This building is nearly a thousand years old, and has stood up well against the vicissitudes of time, although the spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity brought some destruction to this monument to the divine blessing on the established social order.

Next Saturday, 28 June, is the centenary of the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand of the Austro Hungarian Empire in Sarajevo, the event that set in train the cascading alliances that brought the great powers into the conflict of the first world war. We will be in major Australian sites of mass death, in Amien and Villers-Bretonaux. On the drive into Champagne we saw a military cemetery in a small town. It is one of those many places across France where countless white crosses stand in mute witness to man’s blind indifference to his fellow man, as Eric Bogle put it. Each cross is a life snuffed out short, fallen in battle like the flowers of the forest.

My new friend John explained to me that the First Battle of the Marne in 1914, the first effort of German blitzkrieg, was part of the front in which the plucky Belgians held up the Germans for long enough for Britain to send troops to enable the trench stalemate.

Sitting now at the main western entrance to Laon Cathedral, under the statue of the virgin crushing the snake, brings on the contemplation of how and why this awesome edifice was built. Above the right door, a frieze of the Last Judgment shows an angel at the feet of Christ sending the nobles to hell and the poor to heaven, like in the story of Dives and Lazarus. So there is a sense that the mythology of the cathedral aimed to protect the poor, in a recognition that the rich are evil. But it didn't work, since the fury of the poor kicked out the rich in the French Revoluion.

Here is a photo of Diana singing in Champagne yesterday

Attachment:
Diana Tulip Champagne Concert June 2014.jpg
Diana Tulip Champagne Concert June 2014.jpg [ 249.95 KiB | Viewed 6870 times ]


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Post Re: Brass Band France Blog
Monday 23 June
Once again, sitting in front of a cathedral, St Martins in Ieper (Ypres/Wipers) in Belgium. Today the Eastern Australia Brass Band played at the ceremony of the Last Post at the Menin Gate in Ieper. The Menin Gate lists the names of the fallen allied soldiers in the Ypres Salient who do not have a grave. There are thousands of names. It is appalling. The scale of death on the Belgian front indicates a pathological level of depraved insanity.

The Last Post is played on the bugle every evening at the Menin Gate. Tonight there were four bugles, and a big crowd. The band played after the buglers and the minute silence, while about fifteen wreaths were laid by different groups. After the ceremony, the band marched down the cobblestone road to the central square to play a concert.

The Musée Louvre has extra galleries in the town of Lens, which we visited today. It is an extremely modern gallery, purely designed to showcase the art. The free area which we visited is organised on a timeline, beginning with Cycladian art from 3000 BC and gradually moving through to the nineteenth century. I particularly liked seeing a big marble Tauroctony, with all the usual characters. And an Iranian star sphere clearly dated from about 1400, detectable from the position of the X formed by the ecliptic and the equator in Pisces.


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Post Re: Brass Band France Blog
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Tues 24

Sightseeing Ghent
In Ghent, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghent you get the feel you are in the heart of Europe. Our tour guide commented that while the French identify themselves by province, the Belgians identify themselves as European. Ghent is not as well known as some other places, but it is rich, orderly, and displays strong attention to detail, in the manner of the famed Belgian dentist.

I have a thing about cathedrals, and it was magnificent to have a tour of the Cathedral of Saint Barf in Ghent. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Bavo_Cathedral This building was apparently consecrated in 942 AD, making it 1070 years old. Belgium has been regularly invaded, as punishment for being rich, flat and near some big mean countries. Saint Barfs has beautiful paintings by Rubens and other masters, which they hid in the crypt while marauding armies passed through. The capitalists of the linen market formed the order of the golden fleece, so it is unsurprising that the pulpit in Saint Barfs is crowned by a dragon guarding a golden apple tree, reminding me of the myth of the Hesperides. Under the pulpit the angel of time, Saturn, Kronos or El, engages with an angel of the book, standing on the world. My favourite piece of art in the cathedral was a painting on the wall of the crypt of Jesus Christ carrying his cross with the foot forward, a miraculously impractical position, perhaps suggesting the Chi Rho cross as cosmic symbol.

For lunch a small group of us went to a restaurant by the river in Ghent, where I had a plate of mushrooms and a glass of Petrus, a dark beer that was so rich and intense in its unique and complex delicate flavour that I had a second glass. On the drive from Kortrijk where we are staying to Ghent we passed a ten metre high nude plastic Cyclops, and sang Abba songs in the bus.

In the afternoon I went for a wander around Kortrijk, and found Saint Martins Cathedral which was empty, apart from some magnificent art work. One of the principles of the Gothic cathedral construction seems to be the idea that the spirit of God can be captured in a high ceiling, as a resonant space that echoes with holiness, giving people in the building an emotional feeling of connection with the divine. I tested out this theory by sitting before the altar stone and meditating.

These places that have been used for worship for a millennium are now considered as quaint and obsolete tourist attractions from a previous false culture, such is the extent of Europe’s conversion from Christianity to humanism. Our tour guide explained that people do not want to get married in cathedrals for three reasons – it is too expensive, they no longer believe in God, and they fear they will be embarrassed by divorce. I regard the loss of Christianity as an unfortunate trend in cultural evolution, since using cathedrals as worship devices can still be a way to engage the ethics of social psychology.

The constructed sense of place in a cathedral is powerful. As I said, I tried to test that out by meditating, exploring the concept of the body as the tree of life, joining the imagined roots of the soul beneath the cathedral floor with the eternal heavenly wonder of God captured in the high ceiling space. It is a very interesting thing to try, since it generates a quite pronounced involuntary Indian head wobble. Meditating in a cathedral produces this neural effect more strongly than anywhere else I have experienced. I use the chakra mantra system loving right now you’re holding on, with each syllable a note of the major scale ascending from the base of the spine to the rainbow crown of astral unity.

We are in Kortrijk for a concert with the local brass band. http://www.kortrijkbrassband.be/en-uk/p ... index.html
The general assessment of the Eastern Australian Band was that the Kortrijk Band was far better than any community brass bands in Australia, as their ensemble tightness and power is astounding in playing such difficult music, with a conductor who is great fun but a tyrannical perfectionist. I recorded the whole concert on my camcorder from the sound and light box at the back, in a beautifully well designed theatre, as one might expect from these superbly modest and talented Belgians.

Diana sang like an angel, performing two songs with the full brass band, Moondance and Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal. The highlight from the band was Ash Wednesday, written in response to the 1983 Victorian bushfires, performed with a powerpoint of bushfire related photos. The scale of Australia’s bushfire carnage does not compare with the First World War, but the overall themes of loss and struggle against incomprehensible forces are similar. Thinking about these comparisons helps to place the war centenary in a meditative framework of memory and mourning, with music having a healing power of harmonic redemption.

Today we drive to Mons, for another joint concert this evening with the Mons Band http://www.monsstgeorgesbrassband.com/

The hospitality of the European bands has been wonderful, even if, as I say, the popularity of the brass band concert as a genre is less than it deserves for the quality of the entertainment.


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Post Re: Brass Band France Blog
With apologies for any indiscrete statements, I must note that my comments here are just impressions, not always fully informed. Contrary to my last comment, the top Australian brass bands would compete more than adequately against the bands of Europe. The British brass band tradition is actually quite young in Europe, and their superior overal musical culture has not yet let to a superiority in the brass band genre. So I am sorry for any offence, and welcome any corrections of my errors.

More on cathedrals. Brass bands cannot really play in them because the reverberation is so strong that the echo turns the sound to mush. So it seems cathedrals were designed to provide amplification of the human voice in the days before electronica, and of course with the organ. I tried whistling several slow hymns in an empty cathedral today – Personent Hodie, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, Come Immediate Being, and the melody from Bach’s Passacaglia in C minor. The smallest sound fills the space.


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Post Re: Brass Band France Blog
You rock, Robert. And by some coincidence I'm listening to Glenn Miller.


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Post Re: Brass Band France Blog
Here is my post from 27 June. I have only just got back to the internet.

Our visit to France continues to be quite intensely moving and memorable. I am in Vignacourt, a town with a strong historic relationship with Australia due to the presence here of Australian troops in the Great War. Yesterday, we held a memorial service at the British Military Cemetery in Vignacourt at the grave of my grand uncle Jack Grant, where the band played both the Australian and French national anthems, I was able to give a short speech of respect and gratitude, and Diana read from a letter from her great great grandfather to her great grandfather. (Speech and letter are below) Eric Brisse kindly arranged to frame a photo of Jack that I sent him (below), which was placed at the grave, and where Diana and I laid a beautiful wreath. I really appreciate that the Eastern Australia Band made this commemoration possible of the connection of our family to the war.`

The band performed in the Catholic Church in Vignacourt, a beautiful and immense neo-gothic building more like a cathedral than a church. Diana sang Moondance and Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal. The reverberation of the cathedral chamber worked well, and I filmed the concert from the organ loft, and also climbed the bell tower, up a long narrow circular stair case.

I am billeted with a local family, Charlie and Marie-François. I cannot express enough my gratitude for their warm welcome and generous hospitality, in their beautiful house and garden. For dinner last night we ate a venison pate from a deer that Charlie shot, drank a 1985 red wine, had the most exquisite cheeses, and a raspberry desert from their garden. For breakfast we had coffee and bread, with raspberry jam.

This photo of Jack Grant was taken in London, and was included by my mother in her memoir Seven Generations of A Queensland Family, from which the letter below was also taken. Here are my speech and my great grandfather’s letter, as presented at Vignacourt.

Attachment:
Lieutenant John Grant, First World War, in London.jpg
Lieutenant John Grant, First World War, in London.jpg [ 243.59 KiB | Viewed 6637 times ]


Speech by Robert Tulip at Jack Grant's grave, Vignacourt, France, 26 June 2014

My grand uncle Lieutenant Jack Grant died on 20 May 1918. We honour and remember his service in gratitude, as we honour the service of all who have fought and died for Australia and for France.

We are here to thank the people of France, and especially the people here in Vignacourt and the region of Picardy where so many Australians died. I extend personal thanks to Mr Eric Brisse for his work to make this commemoration of Jack Grant possible, as part of the visit by the Eastern Australia Brass Band. Thank you Eric for the opportunity to join in this service of remembrance. Thank you also in particular Mayor Ducrotoy, for sharing in this special event. It is deeply moving for me personally, and for my family.

Music contributes to community spirit. We celebrate through music the bonds of solidarity and friendship between France and Australia. Our enduring relationships are grounded in our shared values.

This Saturday 28 June marks one hundred years since the start of the war. Over the next four years, as we reach the many centenaries, we will remember the sacrifice of the fallen.

My mother’s father, Robert Grant, spent the war years in India and Africa. His brothers Gag and Jack Grant sailed for France. Sadly, like so many of his brothers in arms, my grand uncle Jack Grant did not return home to Australia, and is buried here. We are here now to pay our respects. The flowers of the forest are all wede away. Lest we forget the roses of Picardy. We will remember them.

A French soldier stands eternal guard over the Australians buried here in Vignacourt. We turn now to him to symbolise our ties of friendship.

Letter read by Diana Tulip in ceremony at Jack Grant's graveside.

Mackay 10 June 1918
To Lieutenant Robert Grant
Nairobi, East Africa

My Dear Son,
I have to confirm to you in my cable of 1st June from Colonel Luscombe to mother, ‘Lieutenant John Grant, Military Medal, died of wounds on 20 May, sympathy, all well.”
I thought it best to let you know as soon as possible. It would be very hard for you over there by yourself so far away from all your people to hear about Jack’s death. The news has come as a severe shock to the town and district as Jack was so well known, and so exceedingly popular with the public in his capacity as station master. We have received piles of condolences and have numberless visitors all of which things keep us from fretting too much.
I am writing to Gag today. It seems so hard that I cannot write any more to Jack. I have just received a letter of his dated 24 March and he writes so cheerfully and brightly. I expect two more letters from him at least. They will be treasured.
Mother is quite brave and Annie and Janey doing their best. We must just wait patiently and trust in God.
Cheery Robbie and blessings on you always and everywhere.
Your Affectionate Father, Alexander Grant 


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Post Re: Brass Band France Blog
27 June
A blog from the tour is at http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog-e ... /tpod.html

Today we visited the Bay of the Somme, including the Parc du Marquenterre

http://www.visit-somme.com/somme_touris ... rquenterre

This is a migrating bird sanctuary, scientifically rehabilitated to encourage birds to stop en route from Africa to the Arctic. It has a large resident population of storks and spoonbills, and extensive fresh water wading ponds for the birds. The stork nests in the pine trees are impressive.

The band played a concert at the seaside town of Mers Les Bains with the Brass Band de la Côte Picarde http://brasscotepicarde.free.fr/b_orche ... hestre.php
Mers Les Bains is at the mouth of the Somme River, on a wide shallow estuary. It has a beautiful beach, with big pebbles down to the water line and then sand. At both ends of the beach are high white chalk cliffs. I took the funicular train to the top of the western cliff, where a diorama explained that England is a hundred kilometres away.

Saturday 28 June

Today is the centenary of the assassination of Austrian Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, beginning the cascade into the maelstrom. We visited the military cemetery at Villiers Brettonaux, where hundreds of Australian and other British Empire troops who died in the First World War are buried. This is an immense monument with a high tower. The band marched up the central grass colonnade between the rows of grave stones, about two hundred metres with more than ten rows of graves tightly packed. In addition the wall at the end lists the names of 11,000 Australians who died in France but who have no grave. The memorial was finished in 1938, but was then heavily damaged in World War Two, and the walls are pocked with bullet marks.

We drove to the Hamel battle site, where General (later Sir) John Monash of the Australia Corps executed what he described as a classical symphony of a battle plan to rout the Germans. Using tanks, artillery, planes, gas, bayonets and men in the place of the instruments of the orchestra, Monash ensured accurate timing of the entry of all parts beginning at 3am on American Independence Day, 4 July 1918. This battle was used by the imperial high command as a model of modern warfare.

Returning to Villiers-Brettonaux, the town saved by the Anzacs on 25 April 1918, Australia’s second ANZAC day, the brass quintet played Roses of Picardy at a wedding at the town hall. This song is a signature tune for the tour, and Diana will sing it for the first time tonight. The roses of Picardy evoke the flowers of the forest, the finest of the young who lie cold in the clay, in the hymn for the fallen.

And the concert was a triumph. Diana received a standing ovation for Roses of Picardy, and again for her encore Fly Me to the Moon. Due to Diana being unwell in Mers Le Bain, it turned out the anniversary concert in Villiers-Brettonaux was the only time on the tour that she sang Roses of Picardy in full, in both French and English.

Sunday 29 June
My hosts Charlie and Marie-François Dupuis welcomed me and Martin Schaeffer, tuba player in the band, into their house to stay for four nights. Charlie and Marie-François have been wonderfully generous, with their time, effort and help. They have a beautiful house and garden in a small old village just outside Amiens. The rich soil of northern France grows trees and vegetables that are far more lush than anything we see in Australia. Marie-François’s grandfather was mayor in the town of Fourdramoi, and we visited his grave in the local church yard with Charlie. As it happens I discovered that Martin’s son Stuart used to be my boss at work. Marie-François cooked us a wonderful meal on our first night at their house, with the local Picardy special of ham and mushroom sauce rolled in pastry,

29 June turned out to be a magnificent climax for the tour with the concert on the steps of Amien Cathedral where Diana was the soloist with a band of about a hundred musicians. The day began with a picnic on the bank of the Somme River in Amiens. The Somme is to me an almost legendary river due to its fearful reputation as the site of some of the most horrible battles of the Great War, in that mad world of mud, death and fire. The war is remembered of course, but today the Somme is a very beautiful region. Our picnic began under heavy skies which soon opened with solid steady rain. I was under an umbrella in a twelve seat boat in the Hortilonage, a large area of the Somme that is crisscrossed by canal channels, traditionally for agriculture but now more for private enjoyment, since the only access is by small boat. They have flower competition, and also some have market gardens.

From the picnic, we went for a brief visit to Amiens Cathedral, one of the great gothic cathedrals of France. Due to the rain, a scheduled outdoor concert in front of the town hall had to be moved to an indoor concert venue.

I am now on the train from my hotel in Paris to visit Chartres Cathedral, another French place with a completely legendary reputation for me, but for good rather than evil. Despite my strong faith in reason, I find places such as Chartres, and also Amiens, to be entirely magical, oozing a chthonic energy linking our fleeting moments of historical appearance to an enduring constant reality, surrounded by eternity.

One of my main interests in the cathedrals of France is how they show medieval concepts of time. The great western face of Amiens Cathedral is lit up every night in summer, restoring the appearance to its brightly coloured painted original. This comes as a shock when we are used to imagining that things have always been as they are now. But like with the ink in the chiselled names of the lost Australian soldiers on Menin Gate in Ypres, the paint that once coloured the magnificent figures of Amiens Cathedral, and all the great Gothic cathedrals, has fallen off over the centuries.

The scene on the Amiens Cathedral gate that most interested me was a depiction of the cycle of the year in stone. I am looking forward to seeing the same thing today at Chartres. On the bottom of the northmost end of the western wall, we find the symbols of the twelve months of the year, both in the agricultural activities that typically occur from sowing to harvest and storage, and also with the stars behind the sun at that time.


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Post Re: Brass Band France Blog
1 July 2014
Now I have spent a beautiful day at Chartres Cathedral. The extraordinary thing about this extraordinary construction is how little we today understand the thinking that inspired it. The purpose of a cathedral, as I have already suggested, is to bring time into connection with eternity, to enable community to see the original connecting connectedness of the ordered rationality of the cosmos expressed in the Christian idea of the unity of mythos and logos.

Mythos is the sense of mysterious symbolic archetypal meaning that generates a sense of beauty and awe. Logos is the logical ordered causality of things that can be represented and understood by language. The connectedness of being refers to the perception of an original unity, understood as all in all, recognising that the past, the present and the future come together in a stable causal whole of the universal reality of space-time.

In Chartres Cathedral, the grand immensity of the use of space seeks to hold an image of God within the high ceiling and walls, in the limpid light of stained glass. The windows and sculpture are truly magnificent, telling stories of the Bible, nature and history. I am sitting at the eastern end, in the part of the cathedral called the choir, facing a sculpture, made in the 1500s, of Jesus Christ riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. The series of sculptures to the left, on the southern side of the choir, tell the traditional story of Christ’s life up to this point, and on the right, the northern side, we find the subsequent events of passion, resurrection, and ascension. Chartres Cathedral has thousands of figures in glass and stone, and had many more in earlier times. The whole culture of veneration of Christ is based on a cosmology that through the middle ages provided a coherent and satisfying sense of meaning and purpose for the community of faith. But the conflicted status of this doctrine of meaning is shown by the large amount of destruction, especially decapitation and removal of sculpture.

In the construction of Christendom the church used the Christ story to assert that the union of throne and altar was on the side of the poor. This story was a means to deflect and contain social unrest, and to sustain social stability within the economic framework of the prevailing inequality between the classes. For example, the Gospel parable of Dives and Lazarus says the rich will go to hell and the poor will go to heaven. Preachers can use this to buy political peace, by convincing the poor that the emotional satisfaction of a hope for a better life to come, including revenge against their enemies, will serve to prevent protest about the injustice of the world.

In countries such as medieval France this trick worked for a long time, partly because the social contract between rich and poor did actually provide mutual aid, with the lord giving military protection in exchange for taxation. But the steady slide from a reasonable bargain into an unjust aristocratic exploitation produced the French Revolution of July 1789. The peasants saw the hypocrisy of the church as a target for destruction, leading to numerous beheadings, of kings, queens, lords, bishops and statues. This violent conflict leaves its residue today in the numerous headless statues of Chartres Cathedral.

I climbed the Chartres bell tower, up a narrow stone spiral staircase, providing breathtaking views over the city. When I get more organised I will share a photo I took.

The use of the cathedral to reflect a real sense of time and space is indicated in the repeated use at Chartres of the four living creatures, marking the four corners of heaven, and the twelve signs of the zodiac, marking the months of the year. The irony in this material is that this use of the stars indicates a purely materialistic understanding of time, but this cosmology has largely been forgotten and rejected due to its magical associations. Meanwhile, the actual myths, such as the Virgin Birth, create a massive quiet polarisation in society, between those who find these stories consoling and important, and those who see them as delusional and dangerous. My own view is that the polarisation can be reconciled by placing at the crux the vision that the myths of faith originate in real allegorical meaning.

2 July 2014
The Louvre.
My campaign to minimise my holiday costs has led me to stay at a hotel in Paris where the internet does not work. But that does not bother me, unless of course people are trying to get in touch with me, since the tariff is only 25 euros. From the Rue de Stalingrad I walked to the metro, which costs just 1.70 euros per trip within the city walls. A short walk along the river of dreams led me to the grand palace of the beheaded kings, properly of the citizens of Republican France since 1789.

The Louvre is truly spectacular. It only took me one hour from arrival to get in, descending through Mitterand’s pharaonic tribute, the glass pyramid in the forecourt. I patiently read a book in the warm summer sun while moving forward in the queue. I then spent five hours wandering around the galleries, starting with the mosh pit (Mona Lisa) and then moving through the Italian, Greek, Egyptian, Babylonian, Roman, French and Flemish collections.

I do not understand what motivates people to hold their camera aloft in front of the Mona Lisa, since it is easy to get a much better photo of Mona Lisa on the internet, except for the crass effort of the selfie. Nonetheless, I elbowed, kicked and headbutted my way to the front of the scrum of Chinese Ipad wielders, and then spent a serene few minutes of heavenly peace contemplating the inscrutability of the smile and the wise depth of the bottomless intelligent eyes, looking straight at me from behind their very own screen of bullet proof glass.

The Louvre contains seething currents of human flesh drawn from the four corners of the world. From gentle brooks, vast rivers of people come together, mostly politely, with the greatest maelstroms around La Gioconda and the wonderful torso and head of Venus de Milo. For their own polymorphous reasons the Louvre insist on titling La Gioconda as Monna Lisa, which I am sure must be infinitely confusing to some visitors.

After a brief wander around the Italian collection, mostly on Biblical themes, I spent some time communing with my friend Leonardo. His John the Baptist has the same deep genius as Mona Lisa, and uses the same Virgo model for the index finger pointing up to the starry heavens as in the corresponding figure in The Last Supper. The ladies in The Virgin of the Rocks are stunningly beautiful.

Next I headed for Egypt. I will never fail to be amazed by the high civilization of Ancient Egypt, and will never cease to wonder how the stony fragments that have survived form part of a coherent whole that we can only understand in the most partial way.


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Post Re: Brass Band France Blog
Seriously. I envy you.

What a great opportunity to visit such a historical treasure. Chartes was a topic of discussion in one of the Great Courses I own.

Wow! Magnificent!

Thanks for this post. It's among the finest ever here.



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Tue Jul 08, 2014 10:47 am
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Post Re: Brass Band France Blog
3 July 2014
Continuing my interest in the great Gothic cathedrals of France, today I am sitting at a café in front of the great cathedral of Saint Denis, patron saint and genonym of my home town Sydney. My reasons for visiting St Denis were that it is a single train ride by metro from my hotel in Malakoff, and that I wanted to see its magnificent south transept rose window, perhaps the greatest depiction in medieval art of the basis of the twelve apostles in the structure of time ordered by the movement of the sun through the stars each year.

So it was a considerable disappointment to me to find that the great zodiac rose window has been physically removed from Saint Denis cathedral. My enquiry to the bookshop attendant revealed that it allegedly was removed for reasons of maintenance, and that the church could not afford to restore it. Meanwhile, massive restoration work is underway on the western façade. Naturally, my conspiratorial suspicions led me to imagine that the reasons for its removal relate to disquiet that modern Catholics feel at how their medieval forebears understood Christ as allegory for the sun, with the astrological implication of the comparison of apostles and zodiac symbols seen these days as heretical, as derogating from the transcendental supernatural glory of God. But further investigation showed these suspicions not to be grounded in fact.

Saint Denis himself was certainly a rather miraculous character, at least according to the faith traditions. He was allegedly martyred at Montmartre in the mid third century by application of an axe to sever his head from his body. Inspired by Christ, he managed to physically carry his own head to his final resting place here, his neck spurting blood all the way. In awe at this magical feat, the church then built a place of worship above his tomb, gradually growing to the present magnificent edifice which is the resting place also for the beheaded kings of France, and of many royals (reals) who died of less gruesome causes.

Some magnificent old art in the crypt shows Denis delicately cradling his own head while his neck emits a red fountain.from its grisly flesh wound.

Paris in July is very beautiful. The square here in front of the cathedral has the typical French dense trees, pruned each winter to maximise the leaf to volume ratio and provide dark shade. I should also put in a good word for the Paris Metro, which I have found extremely easy to navigate, except for my bad southern hemisphere-derived tendency to constantly expect trains to come from the opposite direction from where they actually arrive. Today I caught the train to Gare du Nord, and bought a ticket to London for tomorrow. The trains are jam packed like sardines even in the middle of the day, but are nonetheless very easy to navigate, and the staff have been very helpful to me despite my complete lack of any French whatsoever.

Last night at the hostel where I am staying I stayed up till the wee small hours discussing music and philosophy with a couple of guys from England and the US. We had quite a good chat about electronic music, and how it compares to more traditional forms. I am rather biased against modern dance music, but the fellow I was speaking to explained how it is designed to produce an entrancing state of ecstacy, somewhat like religion was once meant to do in its Dionysian dissolving whirling frenzy. Which brings me back to old Denis the menace, who was allegedly the pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite, and responsible for extensive writing on Christian cosmology, which might in turn help explain the presence (and absence) of cosmic imagery in his cathedral.

The best astrological image I have discovered is at the holy core of St Denis, where a row of twelve zodiac signs on the floor lead straight to the altar. This indicates how they regarded the zodiac as holy, central to the actual structure of time.  

7 July 2014
Two beautiful days in London with my old friend Tony Tonks and his wife Jo. First day spent at the British Museum. The two highlights there for me were the bark shield recording first contact between Captain Cook and Australia, and a few pieces in the Egyptian collection.

The story of the bark shield is that when Captain James Cook landed at Botany Bay on 29 April 1770, ready to declare ownership of the continent of New Holland for the King of England, two aboriginal men approached them. After desultory attempts at civil conversation, it seems the Brits had a soldier fire a bullet through the shield, marking the first contact between Great Britain and its future dominion of Australia.

The shield, apparently newly drilled with a bullet hole through its upper middle, was collected by Captain Cook as a trophy of his first contact with Australia. The information in the British Museum Enlightenment Section, where this prize of the British attitude to savage dialogue is on proud display, does not record if Cook knew or cared if the original shield bearer was killed or injured, although a bullet to the heart would be unlikely to be therapeutic. The British Museum say they "cannot state conclusively whether this particular hole was caused by a spear or a musket ball." I can't imagine how Cook got his hands on it without using a musket ball to encourage the owner to hand it over.

Bark is sufficient to ward off spears and boomerangs, but this contretemps shows that military technology in Australia was at the beginning of its rapid evolution into the wonders of metal. I am not quite sure why the British Museum sees fit to display this trophy of empire in its Enlightenment section. Certainly it has a strange iconic irony, in that dialogue by lead bullet does not really show civilization at its most refined and rational.

In the Egypt section, apart from the wealth of plundered wonders, the thing I found most interesting was a picture of the snake god on a coffin. More on that later.

Here is a haiku I have just written after visiting Rochester Cathedral in Kent, and seeing how they use the French Gothic cathedral ceiling design in the choir as a reverbarative amplifier, and how they put the green man on the ceiling straight above the central point where the nave-choir axis crosses the transepts.

Church in Rochester
Pre-electric Marshall stacks
Wake up the green man
Image


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Tue Jul 08, 2014 2:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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