A SUDDEN AND STEADY CIPHER, a bold single note, refused to be quieted at 10.45 Sung Eucharist yesterday, despite the best efforts of organist Michael Smith (pictured) in the run up to the enduring melody, the cantus firmus, in
Fill thou my life O Lord, my God,
in every part with praise,
that my whole being may proclaim
thy being and thy ways.
So Michael played on and we sang loud and long, under, and over, and with and around it. And God did fill, and God does fill – as Martin Smith, our Diocesan Adviser in Christian Giving had, incidentally, just been reminding us.
Cipher: music fault in organ valve: a fault in an organ valve that causes a pipe to sound continuously without the key having been pressed
I couldn’t resist suggesting that organs, like humans, are full of wind, and therefore not 100% predictable. But beyond that it was the juxtaposition of the cipher and the prayer to be filled with praise that really caught my imagination.
Michael Mayne, late Dean of Westminster, toward the end of his life, wrote a wonderful book called The Enduring Melody. He had spoken often of the God who was the cantus firmus, the ever present music at the centre, at the heart and soul of his life, and now, facing the reality of his cancer and impending death, he meditated upon the glory and the order in nature. Though he spoke of sharing “shuddering sobs” with his wife, he spoke too of the truth in the title of an earlier book: This Sunrise of Wonder.
Our long serving organist is part of the enduring melody of this place. He joked of the cipher as cantus infirmus! But he and I, and all of us, may wonder what the breath, what the (happy) fault of an enduring, and steady, and single musical note might have been asking us to notice as we sought to be filled with praise.