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Archdeacon’s Article Feb – March 2018


The Musician

A memory of Kreisler once:

At some recital in this same city,

The seats are taken, I find myself pushed

On to the stage with a few others,

So that near I could see the toil

Of his face muscles; a pulse like a moth

Fluttering under the fine skin,

And the inedible veins of his smooth brow.

I could see, too, the twitching of the fingers,

Caught temporarily in art’s neurosis,

As we sat there or warmly applauded

This player, who so beautifully suffered

For each of us upon his instrument.

So it must have been at Calvary

In the fierce light of the thorns’ halo:

The men standing by and that one figure;

The hands bleeding, the mind bruised but calm,

Making such music as lives still,

And no one daring to interrupt

Because it was himself he played

And closer than all of them the God listened.

It was R.S. Thomas, the Welsh priest-poet, who wrote those lines. They attempt to engage with and partly interpret the death of Jesus on the cross. Just as the great Kreisler suffered to convey some beautiful music to his hearers so Jesus suffered to convey a different kind of music to all those ears that are open to hear it.


Music is like that. It seems to come from somewhere else and it needs the instrumentalist to pull it out of the womb of silence and to present it live and accessible to the audience. Indeed some composers speak as though music comes to them rather than from within them. They act as midwives to music that is seeking to be born into our human sphere. It is not their creation – they simply act as messengers. No one can of course decide if what they are saying is true. The composers are describing a subjective experience, which, whilst it is very real to them, may not carry conviction with us. Nevertheless the music seems as though it comes rom beyond them. And that was how it seemed when Jesus died on the Cross. He seemed to be responding to a hidden world and bringing its music into this world. The name given to that hidden world is the spiritual an the One to whom Jesus was responding is God.


It was God’s music that Jesus was laying on the Cross. He was the invisible composer whilst Jesus was the visible instrumentalist.

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