culture

You're a Firework!

Before the coronavirus pandemic locked us all down and locked us all in, before the days of constant news about the 'virus' and testing and tracing and sanitising and physical distancing ... I was for more than a year part of a Community Choir here in Jersey. 

We met every two weeks on a Friday just to sing ... mostly inspirational 'pop' songs and music with a bit of a meaning. It was organised by a few of us at our church - The Salvation Army in Jersey - and it was wondeful.

None of us were particularly expert singers or musicians, including the trio (including me) who led the group, but we had real fun. We did 'sing out' at church services including at Christmastime 2019 just before the pandemic hit, but most importantly, and more important than the music, it was a time to grow friendships and sing. 

We know that singing is good for us, it can lift our spirits and help with stress because it can help control out breathing. And that's why the loss of song and music and performance and choirs, and the communities and friendships they create, were so missed during the lockdowns and the pandemic restrictions. Now here in Jersey, along with other parts of the world which are benefitting from the COVID19 vaccines, we are fortunately able to sing again. 

Tomorrow evening I will be at a thanksgiving service and concert here in Jersey which I've helped to produce - I spoke about that yesterday in this blog - and it will be fabulous to welcome 'live' musicians to perform for us! It's a glimpse of how we might be returning to some sort of 'normal', although at the service we will be remembering those who have lost their lives and for whom that 'new normal' will never come.

We haven't started our Community Choir again, but who knows?

However today I want to share with you one of the songs we loved singing. It's a song by the American singer and pop sensation Katy Perry, who's birthday it is today, and it's called 'Firework'.


Katy Perry - FireworkThe words are so inspiring and challenging and for any of us who've often felt 'invisible' or worthless or vulnerable, there's a real message of hope here.

I particularly like the line :

Maybe a reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road

Sometimes it feels like we're getting nowhere in life, that all the doors are closing on us and we're not getting any of our dreams or even wishes. Nothing seems to work for us, we feel abandoned and without hope.

But remember - you are a firework. I'm a firework and we can shine!

I just need to believe more ... believe in myself more, maybe ... and Ignite the Light inside and let it shine. Breathe in, be courageous, regain my confidence, show the world who I am.

Don't listen to the criticism. Forget the nay-sayers and those who would put us down! We are  worthy, we are valuable,  we are precious!

Let's Fly High!

This song, we discovered when we sang it in our Community Choir, meant different things to different people. It's got the knack of touching hearts.

So .. thank you Katy ... and Happy Birthday!

 
Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind
Wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper-thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep
Six feet under screams but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there's still a chance for you
'Cause there's a spark in you?

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

'Cause, baby, you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go, "Ah, ah, ah"
As you shoot across the sky

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colours burst
Make 'em go, "Ah, ah, ah"
You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe

You don't have to feel like a wasted space
You're original, cannot be replaced
If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow

Maybe a reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road
Like a lightning bolt your heart will glow
And when it's time you'll know

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

'Cause, baby, you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go, "Ah, ah, ah"
As you shoot across the sky

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make 'em go, "Ah, ah, ah"
You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
It's always been inside of you, you, you
And now it's time to let it through,  

'Cause, baby, you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go, "Ah, ah, ah"
As you shoot across the sky

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colours burst
Make 'em go, "Ah, ah, ah"
You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon

 

 


The Road Home

Next Tuesday - October 26th - at St Thomas' Roman Catholic Church in Jersey there will be a very special event.

It's a Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving, and it's an opportunity for all of us to remember those who have died and who meant something special to us and to celebrate their lives.

The service has been organised by a local Funeral Directors - Pitcher and Le Quesne - who have held similar events before, but of course in the past couple of years that's been impossible because of the COVID19  restrictions.

We know that since the pandemic began, so many of us have been unable to to remember loved ones in the way we may have wanted. Either we've had limited opportunities to say a proper 'farewell' or we've been unable to travel to pay our respects and to grieve with families members and friends. So next Tuesday is an opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for the lives that meant, and still mean, so much to us.

But the service is not just for folk who've lost someone in the pandemic ... it's open to everyone who wants to keep alive the memories of their dear ones, even if they passed away years ago.

PLQ-remembrance-facebook (2)The evening, which starts at 7pm, will be just an hour of poems, readings, prayers, music and ... we hope ... smiles along with the sadness.

Church and faith leaders will play their part, and we'll have the magnificent Malcolm L'Amy on the organ at St Thomas' ... which is in Val Plaisant in St Helier (if you don't know it ... it's the big Catholic Church!) 

But we'll also be joined by some amazing singers. 

Georgi Mottram is a Jersey-born soprano. She's already a Classic Brit Award Nominee who’s debut single shot to No.1 in the iTunes Official Classical Charts in May 2021. Georgi is a very special talent and we're so thrilled she'll be joining us.

The Aureole Choir will also be part of the evening. The choir (founder and director Nicki Kennedy) was set up during the early stages of lockdown in early 2020 to give people who love singing a chance to celebrate their love for music. They initially met online and recorded music to raise money for local charities but now have over 100 members of all ages who meet regularly to sing, have fun and fundraise. They also run weekly ‘sing-alongs’ (with requests) to boost morale among those living alone and in Jersey’s care homes. They're a great bunch of people, so talented and so committed!

Next Tuesday will be an evening, as I said, which will be reflective, but it will also be filled, we trust, with smiles and hope!

During and after the service there will be an opportunity to remember loved ones and leave messages in a ‘memorial garden' at the back of church and those who wish to do so are also invited to give a donation to the Royal British Legion Jersey Poppy Appeal. That appeal actually starts next week!

Now you might be wondering why I know so much about this?

Well, it's because I've been working on this for months with the managing director of Pitcher and Le Quesne, Paul Battrick, and St Thomas' Church ... helping to communicate, finding the artists and speakers, sourcing the poems and prayers etc and getting involved in a little bit of PR as well.

I have to say, it's one of the best 'jobs' I've had for a very long time. It feels like we are doing something which will make a big difference to people and maybe bring help and comfort in their sorrow and grief.  But hopefully it will also just be a general uplifting hour! It's made me really happy to be involved, but also it's given me much time for reflection myself, and moments when I've been moved by words and music and remembered MY loved ones, including my darling Dad, who have 'gone before'.

If you are in Jersey on Tuesday, we would love to see you! If you are not here in the island, please pray for us, that people will come and be blessed. It's a big church and we'd love to see many people... and we hope it will bless us all.

So, on this Sunday, to bring you all into the circle of love we hope will surround us on Tuesday evening, please click on the link below to see/hear a presentation that will be part of the Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving.

It will be the first of two musical offerings from the Aureole Choir  and it's actually one of the first projects they produced when Jersey was in lockdown in Spring 2020. The song and video (which is on YouTube as well as the Aureole Music website) raised money for local charities, and it brought music into our lives at a time when choirs could not meet, we could not sing even in church (and anyway churches were closed)  and we felt so bereft of the joys of music and performance.

Enjoy the beautiful Jersey landscapes and seascapes and images and people, and the even more beautifully talented islanders who joined together for this very special project.

See you on Tuesday! 

 

 


Land of Hope ... and Glory

There are some pieces of music which are iconic, and for me that includes not just rock and pop but also the occasional piece of 'classical' music.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a classical buff ... I don't listen to a lot of what might be described as 'classical'  music, but I do enjoy the occasional iconic tune.

So I was interested when I discovered that On this Day - October 19th - in the year 1901, a piece of music which would become one of the most well-known in Great Britain at least, was performed in public for the first time.

The Pomp & Circumstance March No 1 is perhaps best known because it includes the tune which is the song Land of Hope and Glory. which is especially well known in the UK because it's a highlight of 'The Proms'. otherwise known as the 'BBC Proms' because the series of mostly classical concerts are shared with the world by that broadcaster. The march and the tune is traditionally also an integral part of the Last Night  of the Proms concert.

Edward elgarThis iconic piece of music is the creation of Sir Edward Elgar and many of his works are part of the British and international classical concert repertoire. Apart from the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, another of his best-known orchestral compositions and works is another favourite of mine -  the Enigma Variations - but he's also well known for concertos for violin and cello, and two symphonies. Elgar also composed choral works, including The Dream of Gerontius, chamber music and songs.

Elgar is often regarded as a typically 'English' composer but the most interesting thing I've learned about him is that his musical influences came not from Britain but from continental Europe. He also felt like an outsider including musically - this was a time when music was dominated pretty much by academics and Elgar was a self-taught composer. Now THAT'S astonishing!

Socially Elgar also felt out of place.  He was a Roman Catholic in a largely Protestant Britain, and as a result some people were suspicious of him. He was from humble origins but lived in a very class conscious society in Victorian and then Edwardian Britain. He apparently was sensitive about his beginnings even after he gained recognition.

And another interesting point about Elgar - his major success didn't come until he was in his 40's ... 

That's encouraging I think ... it's never too late!

Just a note about the Pomp And Circumstance Marches - full title Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches. Although No. 1 In D and March No. 2 premiered today in 1901, actually they are a series of five (or six) marches for orchestra. The first four were published between 1901 and 1907, when Elgar was in his forties, but the fifth was published in 1930, a few years before his death and a sixth march was compiled after his death, from unpublished sketches. This was published in 1956 and in 2005–2006.

But back to Marches No 1 and 2. Both compositions were played two days after the premiere in Liverpool, at a Promenade Concert - a 'Prom'  - in the Queen's Hall in London. It was  conducted by Sir Henry Wood, who is synonymous with the annual promenade concerts. Wood actually conducted The Proms for nearly half a century and introduced  hundreds of new works to British audiences, and after his death in 1944 the concerts were officially renamed in his honour as the "Henry Wood Promenade Concerts".  In 1901 he conducted Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1  second, after March No 2, and Wood later recalled that the audience  "...rose and yelled... the one and only time in the history of the Promenade concerts that an orchestral item was accorded a double encore." (Henry Wood, My Life of Music p. 154)

And a final point before I leave you and you can enjoy this presentation of the iconic piece ...  The piece now known as Land of Hope and Glory in its original form was just a tune.

It was a big hit, including with the new British monarch - King Edward VII - who happened to mention to Elgar that he thought his March No 1 tune would make a great song. So when the composer was asked  to write a work for the King's coronation, he worked the suggestion into his Coronation Ode, with words written  by the poet and essayist A. C. Benson. Unfortunately the coronation was postponed because the king was unwell, so Elgar created a separate song, which was first performed by Madame Clara Butt in June 1902. And part of that original work - the first of the seven stanzas of the Ode's original final section - is now a feature of the Last Night of the Proms, and has become an English sporting anthem and a  general patriotic song.

Final thoughts on all this - apart from the fact that some people are just brilliant Elgar teaches me that sometimes we have to wait for things to happen for us. And sometimes what we create turns into something more wonderful than we might ever have imagined or dreamed.

How wonderful!

 

 


I Pledge to ....

This Saturday maybe it's time to kick back a bit and try to rest and relax.

But when it comes to our human interactions, I believe there's no 'rest' or 'relaxation' from trying to be a person who helps others, encourages, supports and makes the world a better place.

There's no time to 'rest' from being kind.  But sometimes it doesn't come naturally and we may need to work at it.

So here's a reminder of some of things that can help to make a difference in our world.

If you fancy it, while you're having some 'downtime' this weekend, maybe give this a few moments of your time. You don't have to sign a pledge or anything like that ... but thinking about it is a start.

Be encouraged.

Have a great day!

The_Be_Kind_People_Project2

 


Notre Reine, le Duc

October 14th - 1066!

It's a day which changed history.

Because it was on this day that the Norman-French army under William, the Duke of Normandy, took on an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson, at the Battle of Hastings.

Actually my little bit of research tells me that the 'battle' took place about 7 miles  (11 km) northwest of Hastings, close to the present-day town of Battle, in East Sussex, on the south coast of England.

I've read quite a lot about this part of history - I'm a bit intrigued by the Anglo-Saxon era - but I won't go into the details here about why a Norman duke (from the present day France) thought he had a right to the English throne and ended up claiming that right, changing England and the British Isles forever.

Suffice to say it was all a bit of a fiasco for the English ...  they were fighting among themselves, got into all sorts of confusion, ended up traipsing all over the countryside and ultimately, it was a decisive Norman victory.

We don't know how many people/men were actually part of that bloody battle but we do know that the English army was composed almost entirely of infantry topped up with a few archers. The Norman army was only about half infantry, and the rest of their fighting men were cavalry (on horses) and archers.

The battle lasted from about 9 am to dusk on that day and initially the English seemed to have the upper hand. The Normans, unable to break through their opponent's battle lines, pretended to flee in terror. The English chased after them and that's when the Normans turned on them Eventually, Harold was killed -  probably near the end of the battle  - and the English retreated. Although historians can't be sure of casualty figures. some reckon that 2,000 invaders died on that day... but the number of Englishmen who perished on that day was double that. 

The Normans had won the battle but they continued to face pockets of opposition as they marched north towards London. However, eventually, the Anglo-Saxons admitted defeat and The 'Duke of Normandy' ... William ...was crowned as king - King William 1 of England - on Christmas Day 1066.

Bayeux tapestryWithin a few years of the battle, the events leading up to Hastings and culminating in the conflict on this day back in 1066 was captured in embroidery ... I've never seen the Bayeux Tapestry but I really want to.

It tells the story from the point of view of the conquering Normans but experts now agree that it was made in England. It lives in the town of Bayeux - where else - in Normandy in northwest France.

The early part of 'William the Conqueror's' rule included the submission of the English nobles and ruling class, but despite this and social engineering to impose the Norman culture on the Anglo Saxons, resistance continued for several years. These were all dealt with by the new ruling class and monarch and so, despite the opposition, Hastings effectively marked the culmination of William's conquest of England. And the Normans - government, architecture, even spiritual life - would determine the future history of England and the British Isles.

However, here in Jersey, we already had experience of what the English would go through post 1066 because the Norman influence had been present for at least 100 years and more before the Battle of Hastings.

Jersey is just about 12 miles across the water from the French coast and Norman 'pirates' began invading from about the year 873, although they were around long before that apparently. Jersey was part of a region called 'Neustria' –  part of the Kingdom of the Franks in West-France. Jersey and the rest of the Channel Islands was originally part of the Kingdom of France, and not linked to the British Crown as it is today.

The Channel Islands actually remained politically linked to Brittany until the year 933, when William LongswordDuke of Normandy seized the Cotentin - the French peninsula which on a good day is visible from Jersey's east coast - along with the islands and added them to his domain. Jersey, along with the rest of Normandy, was not part of the French Crown,  which had only limited rights in the region.  It was at that time that any form of government and way of life in Jersey which pre-dated the Normans was replaced upon the Norman invasion, a good century before the Battle of Hastings.

During Norman rule, Jersey developed, including as an agricultural economy and links with 'France' were strong. There was a large Norman migration to the island and in fact, my own family - the Le Feuvre family - probably came over to Jersey at that time. My own family tree dates back to around 1560 but like many Jersey families, our name and heritage goes back much further. Today the Norman cultural influence is still evident in the island. Norman law is still the basis of Jersey law (although it now has large influence from English common law) and our local language - Jèrriais - is a form of the Norman language - Norman French !

Oh and one final thing which you may not know... Jersey is a Crown Dependency. We are a self-governing possession of The Crown, part of the British Isles but NOT part of the United Kingdom. We have our own government, our own laws, finance and currency (the Jersey pound is not legal tender in the UK) ... we are an independent county. But our Head of State is the English monarch..

And the Queen is STILL referred to here as the 'Duke of Normandy' - the loyal toast at formal dinners is to our Monarch ... Notre reine, le Duc. ... which refers back to the period before 1204 when the island was part of the Duchy of Normandy.

With the conquest of England by the Duke of Normandy William II, otherwise known as William the Conqueror -  King William I of England -  the Channel Islands remained part of the Duchy until 1204 when King John lost the majority of his French territories and the Channel Islands became possessions of the English Crown.


A Time for Everything

We've had a lovely weekend in Jersey, with lots of sunshine and the temperatures still warm. It's been glorious!

But last night, for the first time, it felt like there was a nip in the air ... and what with the leaves beginning to turn, it really feels like summer is turning to autumn.

I'm reminded at times like this that each season of the year brings with it challenges and joys. Autumn, or Fall, brings harvest and a reminder of what the world has to offer, so long as we take care of it. 

Autumn is also a time of preparation for winter, when we maybe hunker down a bit ... well I do anyway. A time to maybe not rush around quite so much as I have in the summer. A time to appreciate home.

Every season of the year, every time of our lives, brings with it responsibilities,  demands on our time, periods of rest and recuperation, work and life, family and fun. As we grow older, I am finding, life takes on new perspectives. The dreams I had as a young person are now no longer so 'essential'. The sky won't fall in if I don't get all I want! I no longer worry much about what people think of me. I find myself becoming aware of the need to use the time left to me wisely, rather than worrying about things I cannot change. 

Time is a precious thing. Every day I learn a little more about that. And although I still yearn for a bit of 'adventure' in life, these days good health and good friends, love and security are the things I find myself cherishing  ...

Oh ... and a good night's sleep! 

In the Bible, in the Old Testament, in the book of Ecclesiastes, there are some words which talk about there being 'A Time for Everything' ... it pertains not just to people but also to nations and nature. It reminds us to use time wisely. As I said before, to cherish the moments we have been given. 

The words are encouraging, and challenging, and worth reflecting on. And at the beginning of a new week, it's worth thinking about.

I love the poetry of passages like this ... glorious!

Not sure what 'season' this is for you ... but as you read this maybe you'd like to think about your dreams and wishes and wants, priorities and the passage of time.

Be blessed!

There is a seasonA Time for Everything

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

(Ecclesiastes Ch 3: verses 1-8)

 


The Candle of the Lord

This past few weeks I've been thinking quite a lot about light and candles. 

Although we're in the early weeks of October, I'm already commissioned to work on a few Advent and Christmas projects so I've been thinking about themes.

The idea of Jesus Christ being the Light of the World and being born to be one of us is an overriding Christmas theme and of course, candles are often synonymous with the festive season. 

It's a time when we may think a bit more than usual about the Light coming into our world but also, it's a time when I think about my responsibilities to be a person who brings light to others. A person who doesn't sow discontent and negativity, but peace and positive vibes.

For inspiration today I turn to a song written by an amazing Christian leader, singer and songwriter ... Joy Webb .... She is a Salvation Army officer (minister) who in the 1960's led a Christian pop group called 'The Joystrings' - they made it into the UK pop charts! 

Major Joy has devoted her life to God  and since those heady Joystrings days, she has blessed us with many incredible songs which are loved and appreciated, and not just in The Salvation Army.

What I love about Joy's music and songs, writing and words,  is that she really goes to the heart of what it means to be a person of faith.  Her songs, in particular,  are always 'real'. sometimes poignant, many times challenging.  Down the years, her God-inspired words and music have inspired me many times.

There's a song which Joy wrote years ago and which is still one of my favourites ... it sums up that whole idea of US following the example of Jesus and being a light in our world.

The Candle of the LordIt's called 'The Candle of the Lord' and the words are incredible ...

Please click on the link below to read the words and immerse yourself in the music.

There's are many versions online, including vocal renditions, but today I've chosen an interpretation by a friend of mine, another incredible musician called Gaz Rose ... and his imaging of the song in music and pictures/video.

Thanks Gaz!

Thanks Major Joy!

And to you all ... have a great day!

And be blessed!

 

 


Imagine

IMAGINE!

You just need to say the word and immediately a particular song starts resonating in my head and heart.

It's a classic 'pop' song, that is much more than a 'pop song', by one of the legends of pop and rock music - the inimitable John Lennon ... he of the legendary pop group The Beatles ... singer, songwriter, musician, peace activist ... what a guy!

I'm thinking about John today specifically because it was on this day (October 9th) in 1940 that John Winston Lennon ... later John Winston Ono Lennon ... came into the world. 

Today I could have chosen SO many songs to celebrate John Lennon - and those of you who know me might have thought I might choose one like Strawberry Fields Forever which is directly linked to a Salvation Army children's home in Liverpool of that name in the grounds of which Lennon played as a child. Today it is an amazing centre run by The Salvation Army which works with the community and people with special needs, and pays tribute to the Lennon legacy.

But no ...  instead I've chosen another of John's iconic songs, composed and recorded and released after his time with The Beatles had come to an end.

IMAGINE!

Rolling Stone magazine described Imagine as Lennon's "greatest musical gift to the world" ... for many many reasons musically ... I won't go on about that now, but if you're interested, please feel free to investigate by clicking on the link embedded in the name of the song above.

Actually the eponymous album on which the song appeared was released in the USA in October 1971,  a month after the international release in the UK.... and the single was the best-selling one of John's solo career.

ImagineIt's a song which resounds with people around the world. 

Some believe this song is 'anti-faith' but I don't think it is. It actually encourages us to imagine a world of peace, without borders separating nations and peoples and without materialism which divides. Yes, it says 'no religion' but note it doesn't say 'no faith', and the two are very different.

John Lennon is credited with writing the song but just before his death in December 1980 he said that much of the song's content and the lyrics came from his wife, Yoko Ono. 

In an interview, actually for Playboy magazine, Lennon said that he and Yoko had been given a Christian prayer book which inspired the concept behind Imagine

He said this:

The concept of positive prayer ... If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion – not without religion but without this my God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing – then it can be true ... the World Church called me once and asked, "Can we use the lyrics to 'Imagine' and just change it to 'Imagine one religion'?" That showed [me] they didn't understand it at all. It would defeat the whole purpose of the song, the whole idea. 

Some might think this sounds rather 'pie in the sky', but I love John Lennon's sentiment and he and Yoko's idea that we can dream of the world living as one ... one day!

So, to celebrate John Lennon and this brilliant song, here's the official video for Imagine, which is also iconic.

I love that the first 45seconds actually has no music ... but just the sound effects of John and Yoko walking. I love it's rather surreal concept ... rather like the song actually.

It's actually the first few minutes of a longer 81-minute feature-length film or 'documentary rock video' that was made to coincide with the launch of the Imagine album.

From the shots of John and Yoko walking through a thick fog and mist, arriving at their house as the music begins, to a sign above the front door to their house which reads: "This Is Not Here" (the title of Yoko Ono's then New York art show) and then to the interior shots of John at the piano as Yoko gradually opens the shutters to let in the daylight and reveal an all-white room. It's all so symbolic. But the end is where it gets me. Until that moment it all feels like a piece of art really, including when Yoko sits down beside John at the piano as he concludes the song, and she just looks at the camera.

But then ... as the song ends ... the couple look at each other and ... wait for it ... they kiss!

Fabulous! 

So let's sit back and enjoy the song today ... and dream.

 

Oh and by the way ... remember earlier I told you about the Strawberry Field project in Liverpool? 

Well, click on the link and you'll find information about the 'Imagine' Piano which is there.

It's actually THE world-famous piano that John Lennon used to compose and record one of the great peace anthems of the 20th century and it's on loan to the exhibition, courtesy of the estate of the late George Michael. It's a walnut-finished upright Steinway model Z piano and George bought it back in October 2000.

I haven't seen it myself yet but I'm looking forward to going to Strawberry Field when I can!


Talking Movies

This past weekend the latest James Bond movie hit cinemas across the world.

'No Time to Die' is the 25th in the series of films featuring the British secret agent James Bond -  based on the original spy novels by author Ian Fleming 

For actor Daniel Craig it's his fifth outing as '007',  the fictional British MI6 agent, and it's his final Bond film so next time around there will be a new Bond.

After various delays in production, the latest movie in the Bond franchise was due out in 2019 and then 2020 but release was delayed several times because of the global COVID19 pandemic.

The producers and distributors resisted temptation to release the movie early via one of the streaming sites and decided instead to wait to release it in cinemas. And finally, No Time to Die had its world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 28 September 2021. An exciting, sparkling event by all accounts packed full of royalty and celebrities!

Loads of my friends have already seen the movie - it was released in cinemas on 30 September 2021 in the United Kingdom and here in Jersey (as well as other countries like India where Bond is huge) . It is set to be released in the United States on Friday this week - October 8th -  and is now being rolled out across the world.

But it's already a massive success - in its first weekend Universal Pictures reckon No Time to Die took $121 million at the international box office! 

In fact, No Time to Die is being credited with 'saving' cinema. Across the world, the coronavirus has closed cinemas  and James Bond is bringing people back to movie houses in their millions!

But I'm not talking about this today just because of the latest 007 phenomenon, but also because October 6th marks another important day in movie history.

It was on this day in 1927 that a film called The Jazz Singer posterThe Jazz Singer was released.

Starring Al Jolson - a big stage and musical star of the day and reckoned to be the most well-known American entertainer of the 1920s - although it wasn't the first film to have pre-recorded sound, it was the first feature-length movie to have pre-recorded dialogue as well as music and song. 

And so it's gone down as the first 'talkie'.

The movie premiered on this day at the Warner Theatre in New York and it was a sensation! Although many people in the industry may have thought 'talking movies' were a 'flash in the pan',  actually The Jazz Singer revolutionised the motion-picture industry and marked the end of the silent-film era. It was a huge investment and gamble for Warner Brothers, who were just a small studio in those days ... but it paid off.

Film dates back to the 19th century and by the early part of the 20th century movies were very popular ... but they were 'silent'.

There were HUGE stars of the Silent Movies (just think people like Charlie Chaplin for starters), but no one heard them speak or talk, or sing. There was no sound at all and when the films were shown in cinemas there was usually organ accompaniment which was a whole genre of entertainment in its own right.

And then came The Jazz Singer!

The film is the fictional story of Jakie Rabinowitz, a young man born into a devout Jewish family who defies tradition - he decides not to follow in his father's footsteps to become a 'cantor' in a New York  synagogue but instead decides to aim high to make it in the world as a jazz singer. It's not just a change of name (he becomes Jack Robin) but also a change of direction which puts him into conflict with his faith, his culture, his home and his heritage.

Although it's gone down in cinema history as the first talking film actually most of The Jazz Singer is still silent with subtitles. There are actually only nine scenes with lip-synchronous singing, two of which also include a few spoken words, lasting less than two minutes.

But it was enough to see off the silent film era. In 1928, the year after its release, The Jazz Singer was given an Honorary Academy Award and by mid-1929, Hollywood would be producing almost exclusively sound film. By the mid-1930's movie makers in Western Europe were doing the same. If you're interested in all this, why not go to  A Brief History of Sound Film (1895-1930) to find out more or click here?

The Jazz Singer has been re-made a couple of times as movies - namely in 1952  starring Danny Thomas and Peggy Lee; and - one of MY favourite movies - the 1980 remake starred Neil DiamondLucie Arnaz, and Laurence Olivier - a classic, in my opinion, with some amazing songs!

Cinema has come a long way since 1927! The majority of those who flock to the 'movies' to feast on No Time to Die may never have watched a black and white film and some might even turn their noses up at the 'old stuff', thinking them to be unsophisticated, 'old fashioned' and a bit 'simple' because they don't have all the bells and whistles, effects, tensions and pounding soundtracks of today's films.

But it's worth remembering that without the trailblazers of movie making, those willing to take a risk, try something completely new, step outside the normal conventions of the day and reach, literally, for the stars ... we wouldn't be where we are today, and not just when it comes to movies!

So to mark this landmark day ... let's enjoy a clip or two from the original 'talkie, learn more about his amazing film that broke the mould, and give thanks for those pioneers of cinema1

Have a great day everyone!

 


Celebrating a Riot!

Today in Jersey is a Public Holiday!

But it's not one we usually celebrate, this is a 'one off' bank holiday in Jersey- for just this year!

The Jersey Corn Riots festivalThis weekend we've been celebrating the 250th anniversary of the Jersey Corn Riots, which led to major legislative reforms and a fairer society!

We've had a four day festival where there have been lots of public events not just so we can have a great time and a day off work, but also so we may learn more about why the past matters and have an opportunity to cherish our heritage and thank our forefathers, and mothers, for the change they made happen which allows US to live in a fair community.

So ... what were the Jersey Corn Riots all about?

I've been doing some research and I learn that back in the 18th century, power in Jersey was concentrated in just a few hands, and particularly in the hands of one family ... specifically the Lemprière family. In the mid 18th century, the two 'top jobs' in the island were held by Lemprières. In 1750, Charles Lemprière  was appointed Lieutenant-Bailiff while his brother Philippe was named Receiver-General. Political as well as economic power lay with just a few influential individuals.

There were those in the island who resented and opposed the concentration of power in just one family and one man in particular, Captain Nicholas Fiott, a businessman and sea merchant who had a long standing feud with Charles Lemprière, was determined to bring them to account. Fiott wanted to take the Lieutenant-Bailiff to court but so powerful was Charles that no lawyers would represent the sea merchant. Eventually Fiott DID take his claims to litigation but instead ended up being prosecuted by Lemprière for insulting members of the Court. Fiott received a fine and was ordered to get down on his knees to pray for the forgiveness of God, the King and the Court (a sentence called ‘amende honorable’) which was just humiliating. Fiotte refused, was sent to prison and then left the island in disgrace. 

Jersey in those days (and some would say has been down the centuries and still is to some extent) an island of 'haves' and 'have nots' - rich and influential people holding power and not really bothered about those further down the chain who effectively were just there to 'serve'.

During the mid to late 1700s, across the world there was a spirit of 'revolution'. Think the American Revolution which included the United States Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. And in Europe there were the seeds of revolution ... just across the water from Jersey in France, the French Revolution (1789 - 1799). People everywhere were beginning to realise that life was just too unfair and they didn't like it! They wanted change, not just to law and privilege and equal rights, but to ensure everyone could enjoy the simple things like a decent wage and a roof over their heads and the ability to put food on the table. The rising cost of living and costs of housing and food was causing great dissent and while some lived in the lap of luxury and lauded it over others, many lived in poverty and for them there appeared to be no justice in law or life.

In 1767 here in Jersey, anger was simmering and people began protesting about the export of grain from the Island. Anonymous threats were made against shipowners and just a year later, a law was passed to keep corn in Jersey. However, in August 1769 the States of Jersey - the Government of Jersey which was populated by rich and influential men -  repealed this law, claiming that crops in the Island were plentiful. Rich merchants were missing out on the export of the crop. Vested interest reigned supreme in the Jersey government and the courts!

But the feeling in the general population was growing that actually this was all a plot to raise the price of wheat. And this, of course, would only benefit the rich, many of whom had ‘rentes’ owed to them on properties that were payable in wheat. As major landowners, the Lemprière family stood to profit hugely from the change in law.

There were food shortages, rising prices and an unfair taxation system and in that summer of 1769, the defiance began. A ship loaded with corn for export was raided by a group of women who demanded that the sailors unload their cargo and sell it in the Island,   

On Thursday 28th September 1769, a group of very unhappy islanders from the parishes of Trinity, St Martin, St John, St Lawrence and St Saviour marched towards the main town of St Helier ... they were joined in great numbers by residents of the town and they descended on the main government buildings. It's reckoned that around 500 islanders stormed the Royal Court - the seat of power - on that day!

A Court called the 'Assize d’Héritage' was in session at the time, hearing cases relating to property disputes. The Lieutenant-Bailiff, Charles Lemprière, was sitting as Head of the Court when the crowds gathered outside. The Corn Rioters were ordered to disperse but instead they stormed the building and forced their way into the Court Room armed with clubs and sticks. Inside, they ordered that their demands be written down in the Court book.  What they wanted went to the heart of fairness and equality for the 'ordinary' people of Jersey ...

• The lowering of the price of wheat to a set price

• Foreigners to be be ejected from the Island.

• That the King's tithes be reduced 

• That the value of currency be set 

• A limit on the sales tax.

• Seigneurs (those rich and influential men who ruled the 12 parishes) to stop enjoying the practice of 'champart' (the right to every twelfth sheaf of corn or bundle of flax).

• That seigneurs end the right of ‘Jouir des Successions’ (the right to enjoy anyone’s estate for a year and a day if they die without heirs).

• That branchage fines could no longer be imposed - this is the fine which, even today, is imposed if your hedge or trees are blocking a pathway or road 

• That Rectors (the Anglican parish priests ) no longer be allowed to charge tithes except on apples.

• That the Customs’ House officers be ejected.

As we see, this really all relates to the condition of the people, many of whom were living in poverty and enjoyed no 'rights' at all in law and who were subject to taxes at the drop of a hat, with no recourse for fair negotiation.

But in addition, the Corn Rioters also wanted charges dropped against Captain Nicholas Fiott - that  islander who had taken the Lemprières to court and who had had to leave the island as a result. The rioters wanted him to be be able to come home without any  repercussions.

The riots were undoubtedly intimidating for the court and those used to having things their own way. After the events of September 28th, the rioters' demands were published in the Market and announced on the Sunday following in all 12 parishes. By the Sunday evening, the Lieutenant-Bailiff and the Jurats (court officials/judges) claiming to feel unsafe, fled for safety to Elizabeth Castle - that's a castle fortress on a small island in the bay just off the coast of St Helier.

On October 6th, a meeting of the States of Jersey was held at the Castle when it was agreed that Charles Lemprière, together with two Jurats, and Philippe Lemprière, would travel to London  to present the issues facing them and the island of Jersey to the Privy Council, which advises the Crown  and which is still Jersey's main connection with the Monarch.

At first, hearing about the Jersey troubles by those with vested interests, the Privy Council was outraged and commanded that the demands of the rioters be erased from the Court records. On November 1st, a Royal Pardon and a reward of £100 was offered to any rioters who named the ringleaders.

However, once the Privy Council, representing the British monarch, became aware of the full situation - both sides of the argument in Jersey - the protestors were eventually pardoned.

After the Corn Riots, a Dutch heritage military commander called Colonel Rudolph Bentinck was sent to Jersey with five companies of soldiers to bring peace and to start an investigation into the riots and the circumstances surrounding the unrest.  What he discovered was that the situation was not as serious as had been reported but changes were still implemented. At the centre of the unrest was wheat so it was once again made illegal to export crops and a committee was set up to examine the distribution of grain. In 1770 Bentinck was named Lieutenant-Governor of Jersey, the Monarch's representative, which gave him even more authority.

Until this time, little in the way of law and order had been written down in Jersey - much was just 'common law' which, of course, invariably benefited those old families who ruled the roost. In September 1770, Lt-Gov Bentinck declared that a set of rules and regulations be written down to make the Law as fair as possible. 

Jersey flagSo it was that in 1771 'Bentinck’s Code' was introduced which clearly laid down the Laws of the Bailiwick of Jersey. Among other things, the code divided the power to make the laws and enforce them between the States of Jersey and the Royal Court. Although Charles Lemprière remained as Lieutenant Bailiff, he had lost his monopoly on power.

This meant that the general population could not, or should not, be held to ransom by the rich and powerful. As Bentinck's Code said ...The aim was that everyone ‘…be no more obliged to live in a continual dread of becoming liable to punishments, for disobeying Laws it was morally impossible for them to have the least knowledge of.’

As I said before, the Corn Riots started Jersey on the road to reform and a fairer society but we still live in an unequal society ... but for different reasons. 

Unfortunately, Jersey is still in my opinion an island of 'haves' and have nots' ... those who have money and influence and those who do not or feel they do not. Although we have a solid government system, there is a still a feeling that the rich and powerful - including the influential finance industry - pull the strings of power. In recent decades, with the very high cost of housing (synonymous actually with London prices) and a higher cost of daily living than many other places in the British Isles and other places on the planet,  many people now cannot afford to own property, which is now in the hands of fewer and fewer people. There's resentment in some quarters of rich immigrants who come to Jersey and appear to be allowed to buy up big houses and swathes of land, including land on our coastline, and although many do bring with them wealth via the high value taxation regime, many locals believe it's not worth the payoff. 

These days many people do work two or three jobs just to pay the (high cost of) rent and many do believe the government is not acting, by and large, in their interests. They feel that they have no 'power' to effect change, are disgruntled with local politics and feel disenfranchised. Historically people have always left Jersey to seek their fortunes elsewhere but now people are leaving our island because they feel they have no future here!

Some things never change!

I would argue that this weekend, as we have marked the 250th anniversary of events which did bring about change for our forefathers and mothers, has been not just interesting from an historic perspective, but also serves as a reminder that, in fact, Jersey does have a democracy to be proud of. 

We can learn from our history and heritage. And if the Corn Riots of September 1789 teach us one thing it's this - Jersey is, or at least should be, about it's people - first and foremost. Those who live and work and have their being here in our lovely island. And it's a chance to acknowledge that when the people get to the end of their tether and decide to speak out and act ... it is possible that things may happen.

Change can come! Maybe we just need to be brave!