If you enjoy anything that is free you have probably been to a free lunchtime concert. I have been to them in all sorts of places; theatres, town halls, cathedrals. Cathedrals are particularly good for accidentally enjoying free entertainment if you come upon a rehearsal. Even wrong notes sound great when pounded out on the pipe organ in a beautiful cathedral, the organist hidden from view up in the organ loft. Many cathedrals invite you to ‘make a donation’ or just charge you to go in; these historic buildings are expensive to care for. Exactly how this happens varies.
At Lincoln Cathedral you can walk in, stand at the back and take in the view. To go any further you have to pay. One day while visiting relatives in Lincoln we were walking back to their house and decided to pop in to the cathedral. We were greeted with singing that sounded familiar from the past. The Swingle Singers, are they still alive? We saw them at the London Palladium in Something BC ( Before Children ). Yes indeed and they were rehearsing for a concert that evening, we stood at the back and listened. Another time at Lincoln Cathedral we popped in and came across Mark Elder conducting Tchaikovsky with the Halle Orchestra, in rehearsal for that evening’s concert. The relatives wondered why we took so long to get back to their house.
Last week was Christchurch’s Music Festival. The Priory is the parish church with the longest nave in England, larger than many cathedrals and is over nine hundred years old; a beautiful place for music of all sorts and there are concerts all year round. I managed to get to three very different lunchtime concerts, the Bournemouth University Big Band, a lone tenor and two organists; described as Four hands, Four Feet and Four Thousand Pipes. The Priory was packed and of course they do like you to put some money in the plate on the way out. There were ticketed evening concerts as well.
The Priory has regular organ lunchtime concerts all year round and it was these that inspired my short story ‘Saints and Sinners’. What would happen if the resident organist was jealous of the guest organist, if the priest in charge was so protective of his historic church and its music that he would do anything to protect its reputation? Hambourne is a delightful riverside town and Hamboune Abbey is its treasure. Father Jonathon’s love of his church and music left no room for marriage or a partner of any sort.
In the free concerts I have been to no disasters have occurred beyond someone’s phone going off during the quiet movement, or rather strange people wandering around looking lost. But at Hambourne Abbey something very dark happens, in ancient churches, who knows what happened in the past? What restless spirits inhabit the organ loft?
At weekly writers’ group I found myself writing more stories about Hambourne and the people that live there; separate stories, but with a link. I didn’t want them to become a novella instead I included them as The Hambourne Chronicles in my second collection of short stories. I was going to call the collection Saints and Sinners until I discovered how many other books on Amazon had the same title, so it became Hallows and Heretics. There are five chronicles in amongst twenty four tales that take you through the year.
You can download Hallows and Heretics on Amazon Kindle for £1.48 or buy the paperback for £5.99.
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