Santa Sabina

When we were in Rome, a couple of weeks ago, I insisted we go and see "my favourite church in Rome".  The first church I ever liked, to which I owe my introduction to, and love for, early sacred music.

It was all because I was a teenager with a crush.  

I was sixteen and attending the French Lycée Chateaubriand in Rome.  In the morning, I'd leave home earlier than I needed to, in order to reach the Aventino, where my French soon-to-be first boyfriend and his family lived, and, with some luck, "happen" to find myself on the same bus as he.  This required major planning with the help of maps, bus time tables, and psychic abilities to be able to predict when the Rome buses would actually be running.

That morning, through over-eager miscalculation, I arrived on the Aventino nearly an hour before I'd expected to.  The winter morning daylight had barely broken, and not wanting to loiter in the street, in the cold, I walked into a church.  Santa Sabina.

I'd never seen a church like this before.  From an early age, I had been both drawn to and frightened by churches.  I'd always found something unnerving and menacing about High Baroque Roman churches.  As a child, I couldn't find the right words to articulate what it was, exactly.  Now, I realise it evoked for me something deeply powerful and unforgiving.

Santa Sabina was different.  An open, wide nave with two rows of plain stone pillars, and no seats for the congregation.  Further down, before the altar, a separate, secluded area where, I guessed, there were a few seats, although from where I stood, hidden behind the first pillar, I couldn't see who was there.  But I could certainly hear them.  A regular, repetitive, lulling chant by male voices.  Gregorian chant, although I didn't know that's what it was called, then.  Nor did I know that Santa Sabina was a 5th Century church, and that the singers were Dominican monks.  All I knew was that, for the first time, I was in a church that I not only found far from menacing, but positively inspiring in a way I'd never known a church to be.  I felt a strong pull, a deep sense of longing, like the yearning to come home.  So new and yet so familiar.  

I was mesmerised by the regular, even chanting.  It wasn't imposing, like the great masses in the large basilicas.  It was deeply comforting.  A balm for my anxious soul.  I listened, entranced, leaning against the quietly strong, gently reassuring stone pillar.  I wanted to stay there for ever.

After that day, and even when, a few months later, I started going out with my French boyfriend, I would often leave home early, just so I could go and stand in Santa Sabina, behind the pillar, for a few minutes, and immerse myself into that dimension of peace created by the ethereal, and at the same time comfortingly grounding, music.

Scribe Doll

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
A beautiful post, Katia. It's certainly one that 'resonates' deeply with me. Often I've listened to Gregorian Chants at the end ... Read More
Monday, 11 July 2016 12:45
Katherine Gregor
I agree with everything you're saying, Rosy. I often put a CD of Gregorian chant on a timer when I go to bed. It feels like it c... Read More
Monday, 11 July 2016 15:36
Rosy Cole
Thank you. I'll look out for that.
Tuesday, 12 July 2016 13:25
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Blogging is Dead

Really?  I’m disappointed if this is the case.

I came across this link on Facebook.

 

 

http://www.fastcompany.com/3003658/why-blogging-dead-and-whats-next

 

I had mixed feelings after reading the article.

How can blogging be dead?

I am not a journalist or a professional writer.

I’m a blogger and I certainly am not dead!

 

Everything happens so fast nowadays.

A click of a finger and it all shifts.

Gadget after gadget, they only get faster and more sophisticated.

I personally can’t keep up!

 

Maybe it’s age.  Maybe it’s stubbornness.

I don’t want to be doing things so fast.

I like to take my time, stride along, pause if need be.

My blogging requires contemplation and thought.

 

After all, it’s not a race.

Call it blogging or writing, whatever it is I like to glide along.

My thoughts flow easier when relaxed and not stressed or rushed.

Unfortunately they struggle with keeping up with the speed of tech writing.

 

I have trouble being rushed when it comes to creative expression.

I don’t know that ever be able to blog from my mobile phone.

I may type key words and notes but I will need a moment to sit down.

I will need quiet time to compose my writing or my blog thoughts.

 

For me, blogging is not dead.  For as long as I’m alive, blogging lives!

Recent comment in this post
Katherine Gregor
Just because one person issues a sweeping statement, using universal language, doesn't make it true! It's the kind of sensational... Read More
Saturday, 09 January 2016 15:55
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– and that's Jazz.

It's 7.45 and all the tables are already occupied.  The staff are carrying in more chairs.  Drinks are sipped.  The hubbub of chatter hovers over the room, an evocation of the cigarette smoke of yesteryear.   

 

The jam session is advertised for 8 o'clock and, as always, I wonder why everyone arrives so early, since the music never starts before about 8.30.  8 is when the odd musician strays in, casual, as though he happened to be passing and decided to drop in.  He deposits his instrument on the stage area, then backtracks to the bar.  A couple of other musicians drift in and slowly start tuning up.  They catch sight of a familiar face in the audience, nod, smile, go and say hello.  Totally oblivious to the social convention of time.  Someday, someone will explain to me what makes jazz musicians think they are exempt from the professional courtesy of starting their performances on time.  Classical musicians manage it.  Actors manage it.  The audience don't seem to mind waiting.  Maybe the fact that the performers are free to be themselves, faults included, makes the audience feel loved.

 

Eventually, the musicians start playing and the audience starts nodding and foot-tapping in time with the rhythm.  Everybody knows the drill: about two-thirds of the way into the song, it's solo time.  The double bass player strums, pinches and boings, eyes closed, Dum-dum-dum-ing to himself.  It's the cue for the audience to applaud.  Then it's the turn of the bass guitar.  Eyelids scrunched up together, face tense, suggesting a painful orgasm.  Audience duly applauds.  Last, but not least, comes the percussionist's exhibition.  It's often the longest, with all the hide, wood and metal getting an extensive thrashing that culminates in another hail of applause.  

 

The singer steps onto the stage, with perfected languor and stylised weariness.  She brushes her mane of hair from one side of her neck to the other.  Eyes closed, head slightly thrown back, the mic almost brushing her lips.  It's just her and the song in a private, intimate space.  Shall we all tip-toe out and remove our voyeuristic presence? 

 

I observe that everyone on stage has either his or eyes closed, or half-closed with a vacant, expression suggesting sense-altering, direct communication with an extra-terrestrial dimension.  

 

A jazz trademark seems to be to cut the verse of the song and attack it straight from the chorus.  Maybe doing what the composer and lyricist intended for the song would be too banal, too conventional, too conformist?

 

Ah, jazz.  Jazz is life. Or is it life is jazz

 

Let's just drop all that jazz.

 

 

Scribe Doll

Recent Comments
Anonymous
Happy New Year, Katia. Still out there and always read your blogs with great pleasure. Thank you, Nicholas
Sunday, 03 January 2016 19:44
Katherine Gregor
Thank you, Nicholas. A Happy New Year to you and your family!
Monday, 04 January 2016 11:13
Monika Schott
Life is jazz! It's such a treat to read two stories from you in a week - thanks. x
Sunday, 03 January 2016 20:13
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Winnie-the-Pooh’s Guide to Making Up Stories

 
1.      Find your Hundred Acre Wood.
 
2.      Always put on the Big Boots before the Adventure.
 
3.      Do not use words that only Owl can pronounce.
 
4.      Every Kanga has a Roo.
 
5.      Doing nothing is something. 
 
6.      Hum if you feel like it.
 
7.      Sometimes Heffalumps are not.
 
8.      Always know where Christopher Robin is.
 
9.      Don’t forget the honey.
 
10.    Ten is too many.
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Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Your colleagues will sigh with relief and genuflect on reading this Taoist guide to the literary arts, dispelling at a stroke all ... Read More
Sunday, 04 October 2015 15:26
Stephen Evans
Very kind words - thanks!
Sunday, 04 October 2015 18:01
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2 Comments

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