Mark the Word – Spring 2013

Spring 2013

From the Minister

Forward into Spring: a Report from Church Council

An invitation to the world of children’s ministry

Twenty-first Century Protestants singing the Psalms

Musical reflections of a violinist

Celebrating in Canberra

Being a Church Organist

Asylum seekers in Melbourne detention centres


Editor’s note:

Welcome to the fourth edition of the online newsletter, and thanks to contributors and readers for their support. Since becoming editor, I have gained new insight into the interests and talents of our congregation – and their families – and this issue will have some surprises for you too.

We find out a little more about our new minister, the Church Council reports on another busy quarter and Rosalie keeps us aware of a wider world and its needs.

Beyond that, our theme is music, something very dear to my heart since my wise father bundled me out on freezing winter nights to the Palais in St Kilda for the opera and ballet. By the age of 10 I could sing La Traviata from beginning to end – not a very suitable choice for a child at a very high-church Anglican boarding-school! But it set the scene for a life obsessed with music.

I am aware that, as a reviewer, I am a lesser mortal than the musicians I write about, but I hope that by writing about them (and with my new site Classic Melbourne on the way) I will bring them more of the applause they deserve.

In the meantime, the applause is closer to home (or church); thanks again to producer extraordinaire Rod Mummery and to Cindy Schultz who convenes the “coming in and the going out” of the newsletters. (Cindy is covered in reflected glory in this issue, thanks to her brother, noted composer Andrew Schultz).

But an editor’s job is to stand back and let the stories speak for themselves. So here they are. Please enjoy this issue and the season it heralds.
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From the Minister

Image of Rev Dr Craig ThompsonIt has now been 2 months – already! – since I began with Mark the Evangelist. I’d like to thank the congregation for what has been, for me at least, an easy induction into the life of the congregation. It seemed like a very long time between my acceptance of the call to the congregation and when I actually arrived, both in terms of how much had to be done to finish up at Kew and Auburn, and my enthusiasm to begin here. This little piece is intended to be a bit of a self-introduction, even if coming a little late!

I grew up in a united Methodist-Presbyterian congregation in Melbourne’s baby-boomer suburb of East Keilor. Church was typically suburban and enjoyed a great demographic bulge through the late 60s and 70s. Sunday School and (kind of) playing the organ in worship were my main contacts with the congregation, although our whole family was involved in most activities at church.

After high school I studied physics and maths before taking up secondary teaching. Restless in the classroom, I returned to college to study theology. Running out of money (!), I took up lay supply ministry for a year at Lakes Entrance and then at Violet Town before offering as a candidate for ministry. After the Theological Hall studies and a post-graduate program focussing on themes of post-modernity and the church, I began parish work with the Hampton Park and Narre Warren North congregations (1999-2004). From there I moved to Auburn and Kew, my most recent placement before coming to North Melbourne.

Many things about the possibility of coming to Mark the Evangelist appealed to me. That the congregation is the auspicing body of UnitingCare Hotham Mission strikes me as the way such service ministries should be run and a way in which congregations can be well shaped by mission and service. I resonate with the Congregation’s valuing of worship experiences that draw deeply on the rich heritage of the church catholic, and with the Congregation’s valuing of deep thinking about the continuing significance of Christian faith.

Of course, the Congregation also faces challenges (these always seem bigger on arriving in a parish than they appeared in the nomination conversations!). Our aging church building demands attention and our financial resources are shrinking. Contemporary western society is increasingly less familiar and less comfortable with “belief” as a resource for thinking about human being in the world. At the same time, the church has always had some over-shadowing matter with which to contend. In our time our challenges simply give shape to the work to be done, and the Congregation is well placed to rise to the challenges.

Image of Coulton ThompsonOn a more personal note, Annette, Coulton and I have appreciated the welcome we have had into the life of the Congregation, and also the Congregation’s willingness to allow us to live a little longer in Kew, which we requested for Coulton’s sake on account of the excellent “prep-prep” program he is enjoying in Kew this year. We are not particularly relishing the prospect of packing up house and moving – who does!? – but are looking forward to discovering the delights of living in North Melbourne after relocating to the Dryburgh St manse in December, and looking forward also to growing further into the life of the Congregation.

Craig Thompson
August 2013

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Forward into Spring: a Report from Church Council

Gwen Ince’s Supply Ministry to the Congregation concluded on 30 June 2013, and Church Council expresses deep appreciation to Gwen for her sensitive, spirited leadership through a time of challenge.

Our new Minister, the Revd Dr. Craig Thompson, commenced his placement on 1 July, with an induction service on 2 July that was well attended. Church Council is already working strongly and enthusiastically with Craig in matters of ministry, mission and the complex circumstances that we are addressing steadily with the input and support of the Congregation.

Welcome to Annette & Coulton
On behalf of the Congregation, we take this opportunity to offer a special welcome to life in North Melbourne to Craig’s family, his wife Annette and son, Coulton, and affirm our welcome to them into our community of faith in The Congregation of Mark the Evangelist.
It is great to have another child to join our ranks.

Congregational Life
This year’s congregational lunch that followed worship on Mark the Evangelist Day on 28 April was again held in the Hall, and the self-catered strategy worked well with much positive feedback.
Special thanks to Bev Wendelken, and others who assisted in the hospitality to promote a time of warm fellowship.

Two sessions were held to debrief on the fraud, and these were facilitated by Stephen Ames with the support of Gwen Ince.
Church Council was pleased that there was a good attendance at the sessions, for a shared understanding of what is now part of our history is essential. The focus on faithfulness in worship and congregational life continues strongly.

Highlights from Church Council
Church Council undertook, as part of the Parish Review & Restructure, to conduct a skills audit. It has been assisted in this by Barry Horn, nominated by the Presbytery of Yarra Yarra to help us in what has proved to be a stimulating process.
Alan Wilkinson has accepted appointment by Presbytery to Church Council for a three-year term as Councillor.

The Congregation’s Mission & Service payment of $40,000 for 2013 is being paid in seven monthly instalments.

Congregational Vision, Mission & Goals for 2014 is being reviewed and a draft for discussion and approval will be presented to the Congregation within the next few months.

The 2012 Annual General Meeting is scheduled for 15 September, pending finalisation of the audited financial reports for 2012 (2010 and 2011 are already finalised). We can look forward with confidence to resumption in 2014 of an AGM in the first half of the year.

Progress on the Restoration & Renewal project has been limited by the Special Circumstances identified by Synod following the Acacia College crisis, as there has been a freeze on property sales. Nevertheless, whatever preparatory work is possible has been progressed, since approval of the project is already in place.

The UCA Uniting our Future project established to extinguish the debt resulting from the failure of Acacia College has called on Congregations to contribute either via property or donation. Church Council drafted a response to the request for response, and the response incorporating inputs from the Special Congregational Meeting on 4 August has been forwarded to the Synod to inform them that while our situation precludes property sales or a financial contribution, we will promote to members the possibility of individual donations.

Finance & Property
The Finance & Property Committee is identifying options for addressing the deficit budgets that we have been funding over a number of years. In the interim, until options are fully investigated for a strategy to address the deficit, no major new expenditure commitments will be undertaken.

UnitingCare Hotham Mission
UnitingCare Hotham Mission’s Strategic Plan 2013-2015 has been approved and Church Council commends Mission Council for a constructive and forward-looking strategy framed in the context of financial stringencies.
Formal transfer of the ASP project to Lentara completed on 20 May. Church Council expresses its appreciation to Gaye Champion who has, as Chair of Hotham Mission Council, led the negotiations and changes with great skill, sensitivity and determination.

Feedback and queries from members of the Congregation continue to be welcomed by members of your Church Council: Gaye Champion, Wendy Langmore, Gus MacAulay, Heather Mathew, Rod Mummery, David Sutherland, Craig Thompson, Alan Wilkinson and Ann Wilkinson.

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An invitation to the world of children’s ministry

When we made our usual exit this morning (Sunday 14 July) from the church hall with the familiar thumping and shuffling of the children’s feet, I wished we could have taken you all with us, because what greeted us in the cottage was another world created by Mary in celebration of NAIDOC week.
Those of us who work alongside Mary in the “teaching” of the children are fully aware of her subtle and artistic creativity as well as her thorough preparation based on much knowledge and experience and research. But this morning was truly a wonderful experience.

Image of NAIDOC week displayMary’s idea was to create a setting that might resemble a swamp existing before white settlers came to this area – including where our church is now. So when we came into the main activity room, the long table was covered by a long sheet of brown paper, on which were placed green lily pads, scattered cut-out paper grasses, splashes of blue paper, some exquisitely painted eels, some brightly coloured yabbies, a bird’s nest, an echidna (which appealed to Sam who is playing the role of an echidna in a Christmas play), soft hand puppets of a wombat and a kookaburra peering over the chairs, dilly bags filled with special green plants and dried bush tomatoes, a rock and one soft curled-up eel (not real!).

Mary told the children about the meaning of the display, she asked who were the first settlers of our land and Coulton was eager to suggest “God and Jesus”, and when Mary gently mentioned Aborigines she then asked Sam or Coulton if they had ever seen an Aborigine –
and both shook their heads.

Image of Sam MancusoThen Mary talked about how the Aborigines survived in the swamplands, and showed a picture of caves, and talked about fishing for eels and how to catch a duck (!) and meanwhile the children had opened a mysterious looking box which was filled with different coloured frogs and they busily placed the frogs on the lily pads and Mary drew and cut out paper frogs from yellow paper and there was talking all the while.

The photos hopefully give a sense of the setting and the participation of the children, their curiosity and enjoyment as well as learning about our history. Sam even managed to be brave enough to have a spoonful of “unique blossom honey”!

If the older ones, Mireille, Luke, or Elizabeth had been there, Mary had artwork and written materials including her own drawings of plants she had seen on her travels in far places within Australia, to share with them.

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Our next pieces were written by invitation, and show the breadth of musical interests in our midst

Twenty-first Century Protestants singing the Psalms
By Peter Blackwood

Image of Peter BlackwoodFor most of the history of the church, psalms were intoned or chanted rather than sung to a melody. A cantor or the community would chant the words.
The Presbyterian part of our heritage was used to singing the psalms every week to a hymn tune. The text had been translated into metrical English to fit the tunes. Remember the old 1927 Revised Church Hymnary with the psalm and paraphrase section at the beginning of the hymn book with the cut pages so you could mix and match tunes with the texts?

A time came when we started singing the psalms differently – a cantor singing the text and the congregation singing a response. Sounds like a mixture of chant and hymn forms, and so it is. So how did we come to this?

Well, the Reformers started it. They wanted the liturgy of the church to be in the vernacular. They set about translating the Latin texts into the languages of the people. But they did not stop at the written texts. If the people were going to be able to join in the song of the church, then the music in the liturgy would need to be the people’s music. The people’s music was folk music for dancing and love songs. This music was metrical, and the songs had rhythm and rhyme.

There are many metrical psalters in English. Metrifying the psalms became an exercise for honing one’s poetic skills. John Dunmore Lang, larger-than-life minister and politician of the Australian colonies, paraphrased psalms while on his numerous journeys to Britain. He claimed he could do a better job than Isaac Watts. We still sing Watts. I have never seen a Lang paraphrase.

Metrical psalmody triumphantly gave the song of the church back to the people. But it was not without its problems, particularly linguistic problems. The language often needs considerable manipulation to render ancient poetic literary forms into shapes that fit European folk music. One such manipulation I heard goes, “…and if of them I think they more than can be numbered are…”

A writer in the Weekly Times (circa 1870) offered critiques of worship in Melbourne’s churches- and a backhanded compliment to Mr Menzies of Scots Church when he wrote:
That when we have to sing, he only gives us two verses of the psalms “arranged for singing in public places,” is ascribable perhaps to his good literary taste, which must shudder at the too successful effort made by the Presbyterian paraphrasers to unpoetise that grandest of all poetry, the poetry of the Hebrew bards, and reduce to commonplace that most majestic of all diction — the language of the inspired prophets of Israel. How the sins of the father are visited upon the ninth and tenth generation is only fully realised when we behold the children of culture in the nineteenth century turning over the mutilated metrical version of the rude iconoclasts of the seventeenth.
(The Critic in Church 1872: 20)

Lawrence Bartlett wrote in the introduction to Together in Song:
“The metrical paraphrases have proved popular ever since the Reformation. If people can sing a hymn, they can sing a paraphrase.

Of course, not all paraphrases are of equal quality. Some are doggerel and some bear little resemblance to the prose original. However, the paraphrases selected here are not guilty of either accusation.”
(Together in Song, Harmony Edition, 1999: xviii)

In the mid twentieth century the Catholic Church faced the same issue as the reformers when their liturgical reforms led them to worship in the vernacular. Their solution to the matter of the psalms was different. They would translate without the constraints that metrification present. Intoning or chanting the text allows the text, rather than the music, to dictate the pulse and rhythm of the music. In some places this is referred to as “speech rhythm psalmody”. Anglican chant is a form of this style, and was the musical form of psalms offered in British Methodist hymn books until quite recently.
The innovation that the Catholic liturgical reform provided was the refrain or response for the congregation to sing. A pioneer in this form was Joseph Gelineau SJ (TIS, 2,11,13,51,55,81). The form has its own different styles. Geoffrey Cox of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, has closely replicated chant forms of Gregorian chant (TIS, 4, 88). Christopher Willcock, a Melbourne Jesuit priest has not confined himself to a single style (TIS, 9, 14, 16, 17, 22, 32, 39, 40, 43, 46, 54, 70, 74, 82, 95). Some of our sister churches among the American Protestants have embraced the form (TIS, 21, 31, 66, 30, 58, 68).

The congregation of Mark the Evangelist sings the psalms and our congregation enjoys much of the rich and diverse heritage that the music of the psalms offers.

(Peter’s doctoral research examined Psalm singing in Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregationalist traditions.)

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Musical reflections of a violinist
By Tim O’Connor

Image of Tim O'ConnorWhat are your earliest musical memories How have your musical tastes changed over the years? How important is music to you? I would like to share with you some of my own responses to these questions. As a teenager I once asked an uncle how he liked Bach’s cheerful Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, which at that moment was playing on my family’s record player. He replied simply, I don’t like music”.

Taken aback I wondered how one could be deaf to the pleasures of music. I have no doubt, however, that at Mark the Evangelist we are a congregation of music-lovers, for we generally sing in tune, in time and heartily – all healthy musical signs!

My mother used to remind me that, after returning home from school each day as a seven year-old, I would lie on the floor, my head close to the stereo speaker, and listen to a recording of serenades and divertimenti by Mozart. I recall the feelings that arose in me as Mozart’s melodies played in my imagination and his harmonies nourished me as thoroughly as an after-school snack.

In that year my parents responded to my interest in learning the violin which has ever since remained ‘my instrument’. Learning violin was often trying, and I broke one bow in frustration, for bowing straight and fingering in tune simultaneously are difficult skills to acquire. A few years later I was attracted to the idea of playing the oboe and the French horn (I liked the plaintive voice of one and the heroic character of the other), but after blowing them, I decided that the effort needed was excessive! Rather I grew to like the sensations of drawing the bow over the strings and kneading the violin’s fingerboard.
Above all, I came to know the intimate enjoyment of playing violin with its boundless nuances of tone, phrasing and articulation.

In the late 1950s when my grandfather was minister at the Presbyterian Church in Sandringham, I began to be familiar with common hymns and the strains of the choir’s anthems. Soon after, as a schoolboy with my brothers at Haileybury College, we sang hymns daily with traditional and modern harmonisations played by the school’s outstanding music master and organist, Ivan Collins. He also persuaded our Scottish-born headmaster to include English hymns at morning assemblies, such as Christ is Made the Sure Foundation (Purcell), O Praise Ye the Lord (Parry) and For All the Saints (Vaughan Williams), which are among the many great hymns that continue to inspire me.

As my parents’ record collection expanded rapidly in the 1960s and 70’s, so did my love of the chamber and orchestral repertoire. As a teenager I refreshed myself after school by listening to stirring romantic and impressionist music for the first time, such as the Symphonie Fantastique of Berlioz, Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony and Debussy’s La Mer. At the same time I was learning from the leading violin teacher at the Conservatorium of Music, Nathan Gutman, who was rigorously systematic and demanding in matters of violin technique, while encouraging, patient and good-humoured.

Studying for degrees in Music (Performance) and Arts (Honours), I was ripe for experiencing all that musical life at Melbourne University could offer. Leading the Conservatorium Orchestra, it was a joy to perform great works such as Bach’s B Minor Mass, Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius and the Eighth Symphony in G Major of Dvorak. In preparation for courses in music history, you may imagine my excitement at the lists of required listening that included the symphonies of Beethoven and Brahms and operas of Verdi and Wagner. Being “required” to accompany Wagner’s Parsifal in his knightly quests was particularly irresistible to this idealistic young man. I was also a musical snob who could not understand how otherwise intelligent young people could be satisfied by pop music.

When I became a professional violinist after graduation, the rich experiences continued as I was able to play great operas such as Madam Butterfly, Eugene Onegin, Macbeth and The Marriage of Figaro, ballets including The Sleeping Beauty and The Merry Widow, and further repertoire for symphony and string orchestra.

When I left orchestral playing full-time in my twenties, my formation as a performing musician was coming to an end. However music-making has remained in my working life and leisure in many forms over the years. I took a position in community music in North Queensland, became music coordinator at a large Melbourne high school and established a busy entertainment booking agency. Five years ago I returned to school teaching, this time to primary classrooms.

Now as I come to the end of my sixth decade, I reflect on how my musical tastes have developed. I see that I have been content to stay largely in the realm of European art music, getting to know many more masterworks, encountering new works by Australian, Nordic and other composers, and revisiting many favourite compositions of my youth. I have particularly enjoyed playing string quartets, which I like to describe as an intimate conversation with friends. By the way, I am more tolerant of the musical tastes of others but they still frequently puzzle me!

The boy with keen responses to serious music remains in me, and I think I would be mistaken to imagine that my experiences are somehow deeper now than then. As a withdrawn and timid boy, I believe that much of what I could understand of the inner world of others and my own was intimated through music. As I grew into manhood, I became a much more gregarious and broadly interested man than I might have imagined, and so less reliant on music, for all the enrichment it has continued to bring me.

Now, if my violin and bow have been neglected for a few days, I like to open a page of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo and play a movement from this ‘concise bible’ for violinists, or like many of us, in the midst of a full week, I endeavour to set aside time for some quiet, renewing listening.

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Just recently, ABC CLASSIC FM featured the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra playing the work of Australian composer, Andrew Schultz. You will be excited to know that Andrew is indeed part of “our” Schultz family – and that earlier this year his work was chosen to celebrate a momentous event.

Celebrating in Canberra
By Cynthia Schultz

One hundred years ago, our forebears were putting into effect the momentous decision to build a brand new city as the capital of Australia. It was on 12 March, 1913, that the foundation stone was laid and the name of the yet-to-be built capital was announced. The background to that momentous decision is a story of historical significance in itself, particularly given the rivalry that continues to this day between Melbourne and Sydney. However, the present brief story is about the thrill of our family in being together in the grounds of Old Parliament House on 11 March, 2013, to attend the open-air world premier of the symphony composed by Andrew Schultz. Commissioned by the Canberra Centenary Committee, this performance was planned as the culmination of the huge birthday party held on Canberra Day, Monday, 11 March, 2013. On the following day, the actual centenary date, a formal Foundation Stone and Naming Ceremony was conducted in front of Parliament House to mark the anniversary officially.

Image of Andrew SchultzSymphony No 3: Century has three movements. In effect, Andrew (the third offspring of Noel and Cynthia) composed two works to be performed alone or in association, as each symphony movement is introduced with choral movements. Collectively named Three Architects, the choral pieces are individually named for and based on the texts of architects Burnham, Sullivan, and Griffin. In his writings, Walter Burley Griffin paid tribute to Daniel Burnham and Louis Sullivan of the Chicago school of architecture, who inspired him and his wife and influenced the approach to and design of our stately and beautiful capital city.

For this performance of the entire work, broadcast nationally on ABC Classic FM, the Canberra Symphony Orchestra and the Centenary Choir were conducted by Nicholas Milton. The symphony movements have individual titles too: Struggle, Dream, and Create. With these themes and a clear overall structure, Andrew created what he described as a “very big, bold, dramatic” work. It certainly electrified the 150,000-strong audience (80,000 on the one side of the Lake and 70,000 on the other) and held them spell-bound. (One family member commented that the sections for harp were yet another lovely tribute to his one-time harpist, pianist, organist Mother!).

The fire-works, which followed at the conclusion of the concert, along with the orchestra leading the crowd in singing Happy Birthday to Canberra, brought to a close with gusto a very big day of partying filled with an incredible offering of events, displays, and performances. Not surprisingly, the dispersal of the crowd called for considerable patience and goodwill, with traffic queues that had to be seen to be believed. A full program of year-long celebrations is now well underway. Our family members feel privileged to have shared in this significant milestone in our country’s history in a very special and personal way.

Hear some of Andrew’s music ….
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Being a Church Organist
By Donald Nicolson

What are the role and the function of the church organist today? This is a question that I ask myself every week, and somehow I find it changing every week as well. It seems that just when I start to uncover part of the service which had previously been unclear to me it presents a whole new puzzle which needs to be solved – it always appears that “the more you know, the less you know.” A clear solution is often very unclear in its application.

Let’s start at the beginning: “the organist must play the hymns in an intelligible and easy-to-sing manner.” I remember seeing this in my brief when I first started working as an organist in Wellington, and it would not be too misleading to surmise that the wording was the same when JS Bach began his position as organist in Arnstadt 300 years ago. It would seem this requirement presents few problems. The hymns will be easier to sing if we play all of them with only one register on the organ. We are well on the way! Now every hymn will sound the same.

Does this mean the hymn has become intelligible? Do all hymn tunes sound the same? We now have no understanding of it, nor its text or meaning, and have sacrificed intelligibility for ease of singing. Let us turn instead to intelligibility – how shall we interpret the opening of the Gloria, “Glory to God in the highest”? Oh that’s easy too. We should make the words Glory, God, and highest the most important, and put much less emphasis on those words in between. We should also play at the top of the keyboard because that is representative of God in Heaven. Let’s see how the congregation will follow THAT!

There is of course no simple solution. As a baroque musician, most of my reading is from the 17th and 18th century and I study not only scores, but books on the practices of the time, the aesthetics, the sociology and sometimes even written descriptions of particular musicians. I have a wonderful book describing in detail the lengths to which 17th century German organists would go to portray the meaning of each word. I read of “a certain organist who, at the words let not the light of my faith be extinguished played at first with the full organ, then gradually softer and softer, then with just one finger, finally stopping altogether.” I also encountered another who “read the words fear and terror and immediately pulled on the tremulant. Then he laid both arms (on the keyboards) and feet upon the pedals, thereby causing such a ghastly howl that the entire congregation, not least of all the poor organ blower, was quite alarmed.”

So much for easy to sing! Even Bach was heavily criticized for ornamenting the hymn and “mingled many strange tones in it, and for the fact that the Congregation [was] confused by it.” He even changed key mid-hymn!

Ultimately, the organist must lead the congregation – so at the very least our choice of registration on the organ must be clear. On a recent visit to New Zealand I attended the service at my old church, where the organ is a beautiful three-manual instrument with untold varieties of colour at one’s disposition. I was surprised to hear it being used in such a monotonous fashion and often seemingly inaudible. I was seated at the back of the church and under the organ loft – I looked around me and was not surprised to see no one at all was trying to sing. Who was leading whom?

There are many factors the organist needs to remember: A congregation must breathe between lines, something so easily forgotten when one is seated at an instrument whose breath is seemingly endless; the organist ought to choose a tempo which is not too fast, but, most importantly, not too slow. Once the congregation has begun to sing, it is harder to speed a hymn up than to slow it down, and often the worst-case scenario results when the hymn gets slower and slower leading to a funereal-like dirge!

Much of my decision-making over preludes and postludes is based on studying the hymns and the psalm that are chosen for each weekly service. The wonderful thing about the church liturgy is that so many tunes have formed the basis of most musicians’ knowledge for over 500 years. So when the congregation sings a hymn from the Lutheran tradition, I can choose preludes composed by Bach, Buxtehude or other great German baroque composers.

Maybe a psalm is based on an old Catholic church psalm tone, and so I can choose a toccata by the Roman Girolamo Frescobaldi or Claudio Merulo, active in Venice in the 1590’s. I have a particular preference for music by the French composer Jean-Francois Dandrieu – his pieces, although originally performed in quite specific parts of the French liturgy, are so lively and inventive that they deserve to be heard.

Playing hymns is only half of the job. There are many areas where there is no singing, but require organ music. This has also been a very informative and educational process for me. Playing the first musical subject that comes to mind is often not a good idea; it is important to understand the significance of particular moments of the liturgy – this is something that I am still discovering. The choice of musical ideas can create reflection, joy and wonder, but it is also important that they do not dominate moments of personal significance or contemplation.

Often the art of improvisation can be taken to interesting levels. One must be prepared to create a piece of music that has a cohesive sense of beginning, middle and end during part of the liturgy. These are elements that require decisions that are made on the go, based entirely on what action is perceived from the altar. I recall from my days in New Zealand settling in to an improvisation during part of the liturgy. The improvisation developed well and I came to a natural finish only to have the musical director grin and whisper with some urgency, “It’s not the regular celebrant and he is only a quarter of the way through his ritual!” It is vital to keep an eye on the proceedings and not lapse into familiarity.

The role and responsibility of the organist are surprisingly simple when laid out on the job description page. The precise nature however, of these requirements is deep and the ways to which they may be realised are many. Every Sunday presents a new opportunity to explore the mystery and wonder of the liturgy and it is the ever-changing demands within a stable framework that makes the position so challenging and rewarding.

Many music-lovers in the congregation are accustomed to spotting Donald at the keyboard in Melbourne Symphony Orchestra concerts – and many also know that (as featured in a previous newsletter) he is part of a baroque ensemble Latitude 37.
A Mark the Evangelist “fan club” turned up at the group’s recent concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre, among them our long-time and treasured organist Ken Falconer. I was there to review the concert for artsHub …

Latitude 37
By Suzanne Yanko | Friday August 2 2013
Image of Latitude 37
Latitude 37 – comprising Julia Fredersdorff, violin, viola da gamba player Laura Vaughan and harpsichordist/organist Donald Nicolson – has been building a keen following in baroque circles here and in New Zealand. On this occasion, however, Vaughan was absent and so the trio was completed by guest artist Simon Rickard playing the curtal, a baroque antecedent of the modern bassoon.

In an imaginative (and fair) stroke of programming, 17th century music by eight different composers from the Italian Peninsula – then a series of city states – was organised as if it were written for ten sections of the Catholic Mass. Although not strictly necessary to the enjoyment of this concert, the concept worked well …

Read the rest of this article at
Or hear another performance by Latitude 37… different concert, different guest … but “our” Donald is a constant!

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Asylum seekers in Melbourne detention centres
By Rosalie Hudson

The prolonged detention of refugees (often for reasons unknown to them) in Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre (MIDC) and Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) in Broadmeadows is of great concern to members of our congregation.

Several young men have given permission for their first names to be used, together with some of their personal details, so that we might pray for them regularly. Whether they are Christian, Muslim, or of no particular faith, they have acknowledged with gratitude the fact that someone is thinking of them by name. When they have little else in the way of hope, the assurance that they are being prayed for brings them great comfort.

On the first Sunday of each month a ‘snapshot’ of one or two refugees is provided, to bring their stories closer to us. They are then remembered by name in the prayers of intercession. Here are two examples:

Akbar is a 27-year-old man from Iran (a Faili Kurd, one of the most persecuted groups of refugees) who has been in detention for almost three years. His despair and hopelessness are now compounded by yet another rejection of his application for ‘release’ to community detention. His main ‘relief’ seems to come through (medication induced) sleeping. The serious harmful effects of prolonged medication in this context have been well researched. Akbar now lacks any motivation to learn English, with his hopes of living in the Australian community reduced to zero. However, he seems to appreciate even the briefest of visits, some home made ‘treats’, and the conversation, albeit with limited English. With Akbar’s permission, letters have been written to the Minister for Immigration, and regular contact made with his case manager and lawyer.

Pieter, aged 20 years, is the youngest person in MIDC. He is from Albania where he was pursuing a university degree in history. He is a devout Christian, and finds his ‘lifeline’ (‘the body and blood of Jesus Christ’) in attending local Mass weekly (being escorted by two security guards). He has several family members in Adelaide who support him with material aid. After almost one year in detention he is desperately waiting for release, and to continue his studies. However, his latest application has been rejected. When asked what he needs most he replies ‘Someone to talk to.’ His English is rapidly improving, so he is less isolated than Akbar. He also appreciates letters written and contacts made on his behalf.

Please continue to pray for these two young men, (and others not named) that they may by sustained by a hope beyond themselves, and beyond our nation’s shameful treatment of them.

Support for Asylum Seekers

Monthly food voucher collection
Asylum Seeker Project (ASP) staff have expressed their appreciation for our continued support and practical assistance for the most needy refugees in their care. Coles or Woolworths food vouchers (suggested $10 ea) or cash equivalent may be given to me (or to Rod Mummery in my absence) on any Sunday. However, a monthly reminder is given in the pew sheet on the first Sunday of each month.

Congregation prayers for asylum seekers in detention
Members of the congregation are asked to pray for asylum seekers in MIDC and MITA in Broadmeadows. We have committed to praying specifically for Mr Akbar Faridi, an asylum seeker detained in MITA for over three and a half years. Please check the pew sheet on the first Sunday of each month for further details.

Public intercessory prayers
Akbar’s name will be mentioned (with his permission) in the intercessory prayers on the first Sunday of each month.

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Make a note for the diary. Details to be announced.

The celebration will be followed by a special congregational lunch.

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Next newsletter
The great thing about being the editor is that you get the last word!
The next newsletter is for summer, and that means holidays and Christmas. Please start thinking about contributions you might make, for example:

  • Reflections on the past year
  • Family news, especially comings and goings
  • What Christmas means to you
  • A memorable Christmas (perhaps in another country)
  • Holiday plans

… or anything you like!

Enjoy all the glories of Spring!

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