African Sanctus Cantebury Cathedral Celestine Prophecy

Jan Leeming

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Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.


Date: 25th August 2010


What an odd heading you are probably thinking.

So I shall start at the end with the Celestine Prophecy, a book I was given in 1996 and read avidly.  I wasn't fully aware that it was a novel - it had elements of Dan Brown and the darker elements of the Catholic Church and religion in general.  It was a very good read and the one element I remembered was a basic tenet that 'nothing happens by chance'.  This philosophy has helped me quite a lot during bad periods because it makes me try and see the positive side of the bad and to fathom out reasons.

So what has this got to do with Canterbury Cathedral and African Sanctus?  When I go to Canterbury - probably twice a month - I usually visit the Cathedral and go down to the Crypt where I light a candle and offer up a little pray to the Madonna (I'm not Catholic but went to Catholic schools and that kind of indoctrination is pretty hard to shake off).

On Wednesday I had much to do and was going to give the Cathedral a miss when something, inexplicably, drew me to it.  My favourite Cathedral up until I came to live in Kent was Winchester but my allegiance has now altered and I really love this glorious testament to Religion and man's amazing creativity.

As I've often indicated, I love history but like to ingest mine in a slightly more exciting way than text boo history, so I read copious historical novels (always trying to keep to the authors with good pedigrees who will give me my history lesson but with a little bit of embellishment around the sides).  I've recently finished Alison Weir's excellent 'The Princes in the Tower' (about the murder/disappearance of the two sons of Edward 1V - presumably at the hands of their uncle Richard 111) and mention was made of a stained glass window depicting the boys which was to be found in Canterbury Cathedral.  So having been drawn to the place the other day, I suddenly remembered the stained glass and made towards one of the guides to ask if she could direct me to the specific Window.  I had really scored as Joan turned out to be an expert on the stained glass in the Cathedral.  She led me to the Chapel of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket and there high up on the huge window was a band of stained glass not only depicting the two princes but Edward 1V, his Queen Elizabeth Wydville and their five daughters.  The band of colour really stands out because the remainder of the huge window is filled with plain glass.  Apparently during the reign of Cromwell some priest got a 60ft ladder and took a hammer to all the glass - he obviously couldn't reach the Princes!  Thank Goodness.  (Guess what I'm currently reading - Thomas - a novel of the life, passion and miracles of Becket by Shelley Mydans pub. 1965)

Joan and I had a long talk in which I told her that I'd often thought about being a guide but felt that I had reached an age where it would be very difficult to remember all the facts and figures.  She assured me that they offer  comprehensive tuition and you can remain an Assistant if you don't feel able to take the tests etc. to become a fully fledged Tour Guide. So this is what I might do - it would give me the opportunity to learn more about this wonderful building and also put something back into the community.

So - get on with it you say - what has this to do with African Sanctus?  Well just as I was about to leave the Cathedral I saw a poster advertising a performance of the Sanctus.  African Sanctus is a Choral Mass and is the best know work of British composer and ethnomusicologist David Fanshawe.  I had the pleasure of interviewing David shortly after this work was published in 1972.  I presented my own programme for HTV West in Bristol - it was called Women Only and though it started humbly only being shown in the HTV region,  it eventually went out to all the TV regions with the exception of the big ones in the middle like Central and ATV - all gone now!  I've just remembered what I got paid for each programme - £14!!!! And there were no repeat fees when it was shown in other regions.

You would be best advised to look up African Sanctus on the Internet because I would not be able to do it justice.  All I can say is that David married the Latin Mass to the music of Africa as he travelled it's length and breadth.   I have always loved the Catholic Mass in Latin - for me it loses its Majesty and Mystique when translated into one's own language.  Rather feel the same way about Opera - I think it's best performed in Italian and French - not very keen to hear it in English or guttural German.

So David's African Sanctus is being performed at Canterbury Cathedral on September 7th.  Very sadly, David died in July or he would have been conducting the work himself.

If you like this kind of Music, then a ticket to the Performance is a must - I've got mine and can't wait.  The acoustics in Canterbury are absolutely superb and this performance will be a wonderful testament to the life and work of a delightful man - Dr. David Fanshawe.

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