Friday, October 31, 2008

Lost in Translation

OK, there's a problem with this road sign which Aled and Richard might spot, but probably passes the rest of you by.

You see, here in Wales we do roadsigns bi-lingually. Welsh and English - or English and Welsh, depending where you live and which language is more politically important. But sometimes, there are problems. And this particular sign, put up to stop heavy goods lorries driving down residential streets near an Asda (Walmart) store in Swansea, was checked by an English-speaker. O, they asked for a Welsh translation. By e-mail.

But the email they got back was not a translation.

It said: "I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated." And as it only said it in Welsh, the poor bloke who received his email reply put it up on the road sign...

This is the BBC report about it. Quite glorious. Living in this land has lots of pleasures. This is one of them!

Question of Sport

And the verdict is -

I loved it.

The opening sequence felt a bit brief (like we were thrown into the middle of it and cut out too soon), and the theme song is truly awful. Rubbish. (Though mercifully brief, unlike Madge's which seemed terrible and looonnnng.)

And then -

Something magical happened. It became entrancing. I have no idea why Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo couldn't follow it - no, actually, I really do know. This feels totally like the second part of a trilogy. Before you go and see it (and you really should) you absolutely have to re-watch Casino Royale, or it will make NO sense. And there are two characters (one of whom I think we see for two seconds) who are clearly major for the plot - except that we don't see them any more - which is why it feels like part two of a trilogy: they will return, as James Bond always does.

Quantum of Solace is a title that feels a bit grandiose for a second part, but Quantum it turns out is the new organisation for the baddies, and QoS of course literally means "Crumb of Comfort", for which Bond is seeking following Vesper's death at the end of CR.

Does he find it? Watch the film! But the alternatives laid out for him are forgiveness and revenge, with emotional release and internal prison the results of the choices he makes. This makes for surprisingly intelligent Bond, emotional Bond, characterful Bond - as well as action-packed and visceral Bond.

There are nods to the past - a Goldfinger moment that was creepy, and even a little Q moment, though it wasn't dressed up as such. And the action in the Tosca sequence was a pure joy! (Always good to have some Puccini in a movie.)

Is Craig Bond? Hmm. He plays him as Eton misfit turned Special Forces turned MI6. He is a believable army officer serving in the role, though not at the top end of the social scale. I think that's a reasonable reading of Flemming, though a little rough. It's certainly better than Moore or Brosnan. He's not likeable, though the two funny lines of the film were well delivered and all the funnier for being so sparse.

Four stars. The fifth would have come with an opening that had a beginning and end as well as a middle, or a theme song that anybody (anybody) could sing. But I really loved it, and will be back to see QoS soon. Just remember - re-view Casino Royale first, or it will make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Who will be the Tardis' next Ten(n)ant?

So it's official, we're moving on.

I guess there's a time in every Time Lord's life when he looks into the camera and addresses the nation to sounds of hysteria in the Royal Albert Hall, as he (Els-inor-ewhere) prepares to kill Captain Picard. As Hamlet.

And we shall just have to learn to love another as we learned to love Mr Tennant ("David Who?"), the only Doctor so far named after a 1980s pop star. It was love at first sight ("New teeth") and we can only hope that we find it again. After all, the irreplaceable Jon Pertwee was followed by Tom Baker - and David rightly saw that Tom overstayed his welcome, whereas Jon did not, though he never had a decent role again. (Worzel Gummidge? I mean...)

Thank you all involved. The ride has been lovely. Here's to the next Time (Lord).

And here's David's full interview on the BBC iPlayer - so it may not be available to those of you beyond these shores.

Friday, October 17, 2008

One More Once

Yes Indeed! Trombones all round from Jonathan ("Call me Irrepressible") Warburton, Gareth Roberts and Kenn Hughes.

Not exactly a worship song... but a lot of fun, and Sy Oliver, one of the classic Big Band writers of the 40s was having a little go at writing a pseudo-spiritual when he penned that one. Sadly, you don't get to hear the fine audience participation - every time I sang "Yes Indeed" they shouted it right back at me.

Of course, in the comfort of your own home/office/library, you can always join in. So: here it is. Yes Indeed! Featuring all three trombonists of the Marcus Green Big Band - "and chiefly, yourselves!"

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Big Band Praise

I'm being asked for more of this. OK, OK. Here are the trombones and Osian sitting on top of our splendidly relaxed rhythm section as we waltz our way through "Jesus We Enthrone You". You didn't know this was a jazz waltz? Goodness, I struggle to imagine what music in your church must be like...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Forever - and ever Amen!

The Marcus Green Big Band in full swing, roaring through Chris Tomlin's "Forever". It's a 'live' sound mix off the desk, so it's sadly light on the brass, and I over-sing hideously at the end, but for all that - you get the feel of what we did. Joy, joy joy! And Chris Gilligan's boogie-woogie piano break at 3'10" is worth the admission price all by itself.

Church as Church should be. O that we had a Big Band every Sunday! Though I might employ a staff arranger...

Speaking of church as church should be...

We had the Archbishop here yesterday morning for our Confirmation service; seven candidates - Alan and Joseph (father and son); Sam and Steph (husband and wife); Lisa and Linda (two mums); and Mark (student and regular contributor here). Someone commented that it was the "lowest" Confirmation service they had ever attended. With George on drums, and Matt Dwyer guesting on bass joing Dan, Kirsty and myself, we did have a great worship band, and even slipped in a little jazz during the service, plus the only robes in evidence were Barry's splendid golden ones... I felt we should be who we are.

And Barry was wonderful, as ever. He sent a lovely email today, in which he said, "I could quite get used to it!" He may have meant the renovations on the building, rather than the style of worship. He also gently pointed out that the Communion Service we use has now been replaced and we need to catch up!!! Absolutely. We'll do it immediately.

Speaking to Richard Wood, I repeated my admiration for Barry. He is a good man. Truly a Liberal in the church, but as an Evangelical, I find in him a godliness and a heart that longs for Christ, and I can only encourage my fellow Evangelicals to build relationship with him. He says "remarkable" things from time to time (things we would remark upon), after all he is a Liberal; but he is a good man and one who is no bete noir to us. Being Anglican should not make us fearful of each other but generous. If we look for evil anywhere we find it; how much better to take heed of St Paul's words - "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things."

Barry & I will continue to be very different; and I will continue to pray for him, to be glad I don't have his job, and totally to respect a heart in which I see genuine godliness at work.

As a church we have been blessed for two weeks running with very special Sundays. I love this place. I love Sundays. I love coming here to worship Jesus. I am a lucky man.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

It's Andy John!

It's Andy John!

The next Bishop of Bangor! Here we had been, all worried that we might end up with Jeffrey John, and instead we get Andy John - a wonderful godly man, a biblical man, a lovely funny human man, a gentle and generous man of God whom I am pleased to know. This morning I prayed and prayed that the electoral college would not place us in a terrible dilemma - and indeed they have done anything but! They have given the Church in Wales a great gift.

How wonderful. How wonderful.

This picture comes from a million years ago. Stuart Bell, Harry Latham, Andy John and I were the clergy in Aberystwyth. We were at the St David's Diocesan Clergy Summer School in Oxford, at St Peter's College. It must have been 1997. England were playing a World Cup qualifier against Moldova at the old Wembley, and I got us tickets, so we bunked off Evensong and drove over... I remember everyone chanting "make your people joyful" in the chapel, and the falling third on "joyful" sounding anything but joyful; yet exactly the same interval used by the crowd at Wembley as they chanted David Seaman's name sounded excited and full of life!

Remember this Andy? Mercifully I am not in the photo, so we can all simply look at Stuart and think how youthful he looked back then!

How wonderful. Glorious days. Thank you Jesus for a man like Andy as a Bishop in your church now in these days. Thank you!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Here we are, in all our glory, the Marcus Green Big Band, jumping our way through "Give thanks to the Lord" on Sunday evening at Big Band Praise. It was a sensational evening.

Some time ago, I talked about how I wanted to explore using worship as evangelism. That came in the context of spending time with Jared Ribble and Kenn Hughes from DMHO in Nashville, and seeing them on DVD doing their thing. If worship is our prime calling as a church, then it must remain our prime calling when we share our faith in Jesus. Thirteen words. (Go look them up.) This weekend was about trying to make that theory live a little. And to help us, Kenn Hughes came over and took part in what we did.

In addition to playing, he spoke warmly and briefly of his faith in Jesus, and then led the band in one of his arrangements, before we did a DMHO chart ("Blessed Assurance"), but it was his words of faith and his manner of gentle self-deprication and quiet humour as he commended Christ that was solid gold. I am so thrilled that he was here. The extra time we have shared together has been a total joy, a real gift.

Can worship be evangelism? Yes. If it is our calling then we must be obedient to it. I'm not saying we have got the model entirely right, but we are trying to learn how to do this: and we will try again. There were people there who were clearly impacted by the presence of Jesus in our midst and by the joy we have in worshipping Him. You can't fake worship and musn't try. But you can invite friends in as you spend time in Jesus' presence; and that's what we did. Some of them clearly felt Him very near in all the fun and the joy. Our job was not to worry about that, but to honestly give ourselves to Jesus, and for me, this music is the most honest way I have of doing that.

The evening itself was a seamless whole, a mixing of participation worship and performance ministry songs, played by a superb gathering of jazz musicians. Most were local, some from our church, others good friends, one a theology college tutor, one from the BBC Big Band, all excellent. There was a great spirit (and Spirit) in the band, and so I had a whale of a time leading and worshipping at the front.

There will be video to come soon!

Highlights: too many, but let's go with... the look on the faces of the congregation as solo after solo turned into "One O Clock Jump" and then back to the chorus of "Give Thanks to The Lord"... the clear moving of the Spirit during "All the Way My Saviour Leads Me"... the joy of "Yes Indeed"...

Who knows what long-term fruit this evening will bear. Time will tell. For now, here's a few encouraging comments from emails that have come in during the last two days:

"Just to say thank you for the encouragement to come to Big Band Praise last night. I really enjoyed it – yes indeed! And so did a lot of other people, very obviously. I don’t think my grade one sax makes me quite ready for audition yet….!"

"The concert was great - well done! ...I think you would have had God 'rocking' in his socks!"

"Jazz/boogie woogie meets worship......who'd have thought? oh yes of course God."

"Just to say what a great evening we had in your Big Band Praise. Great arrangements and a fab band made it an enjoyable event. Your Christian witness through song and speech was forthright and clear for all to see and it came over as so very sincere."

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Yes Indeed

I know I've put this up before, but we've just finished a rhythm section rehearsal for this Sunday's Big Band Praise and I am so excited by having spent a couple of hours with Dan and George and Chris and Tom that I had to put something up here. They are amazing. Singing with superb musicians is such a joy.

I have been writing dots on pages all week, I have been full of cold and feeling miserable all week - and now I see a magical mystical reality flow out of nothing into something, and my malaise is transformed.

All our songs are praise songs... well, one is a pseudo-spiritual... and using these things to speak to Jesus of my heart's overflow is the most wonderful gift. The full line-up for Sunday is terrific, a fantastic collection people. I do hope we get a good crowd - and if you are anywhere near us, then make the effort, because this is pretty unique! No-one else does this, and it's three years since we tried for a band this size, and even then we didn't have this quality all round & it was a "first go".

(Chris on seeing the part for "Jesus we enthrone you": "I thought that said "Jesus we entertain you" for a moment!" Which wouldn't be entirely beyond our aims... though I do hope we get a little deeper than that... I expect there aren't too many worship bands this weekend that have a section of one of their songs arranged in the manner of "One O Clock Jump".)