Monday, March 25, 2013

Five Glasses of Port

Saturday evening after dinner, I said to Mother, “My original recommendations to Father Goodfellow really were too expensive, however I was reading the Wall Street Journal today and I saw a marvelous article on Port.  It is not lost on me that the Chalice we use on the altar at Church is tulip shaped and slightly flared on the edge; a perfect chalice for drinking port.”  I am amazed that all of the Wall Street Journal Port selections were under $50.00 a bottle, so I have resolved to sample each one of them.  After all, how bad could they be?   
Mother said, “Well, Alfred, that accounts for the five glasses of port that are sitting on our Chippendale coffee table.  Surely you don’t expect to drink that all by yourself?”

“Certainly not, Mother, I was rather hoping that you would help me sample each of the offerings before us.”

“Me? asked Mother, “how lovely.  I was hoping you wouldn’t leave me out.”

Mother and I sat for a while by our Chippendale table, sipping and savouring. The Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve was too sweet and fruity.  Neither Mother nor I really cared for the 1997 Dow’s Colheita Single Vintage Tawny.  The 2009 Croft Vintage was dense and sweet, but not really suitable for a Communion wine.  The 2000 Broadbent Vintage was admirable, but the one that really hit the spot was the Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old Tawny. I must admit we had a merry time sampling each of the Port wines, and I resolved to recommend the Taylor’s to Father Goodfellow at Church tomorrow morning. 

This morning after our Sunday Communion service I waited looking for an opportunity to chat with Father Goodfellow.  I half expected to be rebuffed, after all, in a way it’s really none of my business, and I know it.  It just that that the pale yellow Angelica they are using is truly terrible, but I didn’t go there.”

Father Goodfellow immediately said, “Alfred, I’ve been thinking.  I have to admit that the Angelica wine we have been using has never been a favourite of mine.  It’s just that the parish has been using it for years.  Not only that, but the symbolism of a pale yellow wine conveying the image of the Blood of Christ doesn’t quite fit.”

“Blood of Christ? Said I. “That’s an uncomfortable image.”

“Nonetheless,” said Father Goodfellow, “that is after all what it is all about.”

With that I changed the subject, as well I should.  After all, blood.  And I made Father Goodfellow an offer, “Father, I have found a reasonable port at $40.00 a bottle, and it is certainly a deep red colour.”  I saw him raise an eyebrow at the mention of the price, so I immediately barreled right along, “I’ll make the parish an offer.  I will donate a case of Taylors 20 Year Old Tawny if you will allow the parish to try it out.”

Father Goodfellow fixed his eyes on me as he thought, then answered, “That’s a very handsome offer, Alfred.  If it’s that important to you I’ll let the Altar Guild know that we will try the Taylor’s port wine at our Maundy Thursday Communion service, but one condition.  Just remember that this port wine of yours will convey the reality of the Blood of Christ.”

 “Jesus said to them … Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” [ John 6:53-54 ].


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

In the Garden Where I Love to Go

In the garden where I love to go
I see the hollyhocks all planted in a row,
Peach and apple blossom, hyacinth and golden bell,
The Lily of the Valley, the greater celandine and daffodil.
Nothing can compare with God’s great beauty rare
In this wild profusion of His glory, a sight beyond compare.
Come walk with me a little, while the gentle breezes blow
And share with me the beauty of His garden here below.
                   -         Alfred Montrose, Spring, 2013

            “Mother,” I said, “nothing quite affects me like the beauty of the springtime flowers, and it seems to there is special beauty this year in the early blossoming of the trees, the redbud and magnolia and the lilac.

           “I know what you mean, said Mother, “which is precisely why I chose our Royal Albert 1920 Spring Meadow Mugs for our tea this afternoon.  Why on each mug is a wild profusion of primroses, roses, violets, harebells and forget-me-nots.”

            I held my mug aloft in appreciation, and gazed at it, “I do love the subtle cream colored background and the 9-karat gold trim, although I must say, that as carefully crafted as these are they can’t compare with God’s beauty rare.’

            “Oh, Alfred,” said Mother, “you are so poetic!”

            I looked at Mother wondering whether or not there was not just a subtle note of sarcasm in her voice.  Of late she seemed to be a little annoyed with my pursuit of the tenor solo parts in the Easter Messiah program.  It may not be just my rehearsing; after all I do keep my study door closed.  Mother seems to have been bothered over my background research in Holy Scripture. 

            Yesterday, she actually said, “Really, Alfred.  Really! The Bible, Alfred!  Why don’t you stick to the Wall Street Journal?!”

            “I retorted, “Some familiarity with Holy Scripture is the mark of educated and cultured men.  It is as valid as reading Shakespeare.”  Mother wasn’t impressed.

            “Now, between you and I, leaving Mother out it for the moment, (a dangerous but necessary thing to do), leaving Mother out of it, as I said, there are some very disturbing things in the text.  Why at the heart of Handel’s Messiah is that passage from Isaiah,

Surely he hath borne our griefs,
      and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken,
      smitten of God, and afflicted. 
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
      he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
      and with his stripes we are healed.[i]

Why that passage is unexcelled from a literary perspective, but from a personal perspective it is thoroughly alarming.  Nevertheless I have this deep conviction that in order to sing my tenor solo parts I really ought to find a way to interiorize the text.  That my friend is a dangerous thing to do; perhaps even more dangerous than leaving Mother out of the equation.

            While I was ruminating on these things, Mother, as was to be expected, changed the subject saying, “Do you know Alfred that our son Jeremy and his Winifred are coming for Easter?”

            “Wonderful, Mother,” I said, “That will be quite exciting.”  But privately I said to myself, “From our conversation at Christmas I know they will have some appreciation for what I'm struggling with.”  As much as I love Mother, I have a feeling that this is something that I have to work out for myself.

The Collect “For Joy in God's Creation:
O heavenly Father, who hast filled the world with beauty: Open our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works; that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve thee with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”


Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Little Tipple

The other day Mother and I were enjoying a little tipple, and I said to Mother, “There’s nothing like a fine glass of wine and a small plate of assorted cheeses.” I remarked, ‘that the communion wine at our church is absolutely dreadful.  It is appallingly sweet and too fruity.  I asked Millicent Ordinarius, the Altar Guild Directress, what kind of wine it was, and she said, it was “Angelica Altar Wine - Mont La Salle which is approved by the Most Reverend John T. Steinbock, Bishop of Fresno,” obviously, not that he knows anything about wine.

“You have enough fine wines in your collection, Alfred, to be a sommelier in your own right.  Why don’t you make a suggestion? “said Mother.

“You are quite right, Mother, “It says somewhere in the Psalms, “Lord give me wisdom and good taste”. The average person wouldn't understand the nuances of fine wines; why I was talking with a Burgundian vinter yesterday and asked him why they don’t acknowledge on the wine label that a Bourgogne Bland is actually Chardonnay.  How do they expect the general population to understand what they are buying?  Not that most Americans would care!  Imagine! They prefer cult wines like California Cabernet Sauvignon!”

With that I went to my wine custom wine room, and I must say with modest pride that it holds over five hundred bottles, and most of them are very fine wines.  I know that some of my wines are out of the question for a parish church.  Take for instance the 2009 Domaine Romanee Conti (DRC) burgundy at $ 12,900 a bottle; or perhaps a Bordeaux’s such as the 2005 Lafite Rothschild or the 1996 Latour.  But perhaps, a d’Yquem 1989 at $ 389 a bottle. Or even a J.L. Chave Hermitage 1999 at $325 a bottle.  That is the greatest vintage Chave has produced since 1990.

I said to Mother today, “How really very embarrassing!  Millicent Ordinarius as good as told me to mind my own business, that is unless I wanted to start washing and ironing the linens.  She really is a Vin Ordinaire!  Then she referred me to Father Goodfellow.  It was most discouraging.  He pointed out that the parish budget wouldn’t allow for a wine that was even $50 a bottle.  He upset me dreadfully.’

“Well, you know, Alfred, “said Mother, “the Priest is not there to shake everyone’s hands; he’s there shake everyone up.”

“That’s a horrible thought, Mother.  I thought the Priest was there to comfort the comfortable, or something like that.  I remember St. Paul saying something like. “The time is coming when we will have itching ears and gather teachers and preachers to encourage us in our lives.”

 “That sounds like another Alfred Montrose translation again! said Mother, Why don’t you look that one up and see what it really says; or perhaps even better, ask Father Goodfellow.  He would probably appreciate a spiritual question from his flock for a change.

“Well, I guess we don’t go to Church to drink fine wines,” said I.  “After all, it is the opportunity to sing a tenor solo that really keeps me coming to Church.”

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” 
1 Timothy 6:17.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Alfred Rehearses the Tenor Solo

“Mother,” said I, “I have so enjoyed listening to some of our old recordings on the Victoria 7-in-One Stereo that you brought me for Christmas.  Why just the other morning I was listening to that fine lyric Scottish tenor, Kenneth McKellar, singing “ Flow gently, sweet Afton.” “Did you know, Mother, that McKellar was one of the finest lyric tenors to sing the tenor parts of the Messiah?”

“How could I have missed that, Alfred, you’ve been listening to his recordings all week long.”

“It makes me glad to be a Scot, Mother!  Background is so very important, and the Montrose name goes back to Clan Graham.  Why the current chief of Clan Graham is the 8th Duke of Montrose.”

“I wondered why you have been wearing your clan tartan tie all week, Alfred,” said Mother.  “I am quite proud of my own illustrious family history.  As you know my grandfather  Antonio Talliaferro was an important member of the clan of Don Calò Vizzini.  Don Calò owned the Belici estate through his close association with the owner, the Duke Francesco Thomas de Barberin.  Although of course grandfather never referred to it as a Clan, but rather as La Familia.”

            “Listen to this, Mother,” said I as I put on another recording by Kenneth McKellar.  The beautiful strains of McKellar’s voice wafted over us, “Where'er you walk Cool gales shall fan the glade.”

            “Is that Handel, Alfred?”

            “Good for you Mother.  It certainly is, and listen to this,” said I, as I put on a second recording. “This is McKellar singing some of the tenor solo parts of the Messiah with the Royal Opera House Orchestra under Sir Adrian Boult.  It’s absolutely marvelous; but I must admit the words leave me a little unsettled.  Do you think it’s all true?”

            Again the four walls of my study are filled with the glorious tenor voice of McKellar singing,

            “He trusted in God that He would deliver Him; let Him deliver Him, if He delight in Him. . . . Thy rebuke hath broken His heart; He is full of heaviness. He looked for some to have pity on Him, but there was no man; neither found He any to comfort Him.  Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto His sorrow.  He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of Thy people was He stricken.”

            “How horrible, Alfred,” said Mother. “It can’t be true.  Tell me it’s only a story.”

            “Oh, Mother, how I wish it were only a myth.  If it’s true, it will upset all of my life.  Why everything I hold dear may turn out to be only folly.”  With that I took off that McKellar recording, and put something cheerful on instead and McKellar bounced around the room singing, “The Waggle o’ the Kilt.”

            “Well, Alfred, that won’t do.  It too harsh a contrast with his Messiah tenor solos.  You know you have to sing those very parts in our Easter Messiah.”

            “I know, Mother, I know, but the words have really just left me unnerved.”
            “Alfred! That is not at all like you.  After all, they are only words.

“For good news came to us just as to them; but the message which they heard did not benefit them, because it did not meet with faith in the hearers.” (Hebrews 4:2).

All Mother and Alfred stories are written by Canon Rob.  You may enjoy checking on YouTube for the music.