I am rapidly becoming a full-bore Gilbert and Sullivan fan. Their plays are some of those works, like the writings of Shakespeare, Pope, and Dickens, that really show off the English language to its full power of rhythm, sound, and turns of meaning. As well, of course, of being set to absolutely beautiful music. I like musicals in general, but Gilbert and Sullivan are to a modern Broadway show what Rembrandt is to a comic book artist.
So, for your Saturday pleasure, I offer a full recording of The Mikado, one of the best such recordings that I’ve found (all too many recent versions of the play have the actors in western garb or even modern dress, which…just why? What happened to you?). This one features a great cast, including the immortal John Reed (who offered yesterday’s rendition of ‘Nightmare Song’ and was a foremost G&S performer for many years) as Koko. I also especially love Kenneth Sanford as Poo-Bah (“Oh, my proto-plasmic ancestors!”), who will forever be my definitive image of the role.
(I actually watched a version once which, while quite good, featured a thin Poo-Bah, which is like having a thin Falstaff!)
1. As I think I’ve mentioned before now, I don’t currently belong to a parish, mostly because my living situation is not one that I want to ascribe any kind of permanency to. However, I have been attending one particular parish as a rule for some time now, mostly because they kept offering the Sacraments throughout the Imposition through a combination of parking-lot Masses / Confessions and just having a lot of space for people to filter out (that and they are not fussy about masks). They’re what I would call a ‘faithful Novus Ordo’ parish: they engage in the usual post-conciliar nonsense (Communion in the hand, children’s masses, etc.), but they at least attempt to center their worship and their preaching on Christ. In short, they strike me as sincerely trying, so it goes down a little easier than it might.
This week on Tuesday, they actually offered a Latin Mass for what I think is the first time. I of course made a point of going (that’s ‘of course’ because I want them to keep doing it, not ‘of course because I’m so bloody wonderful it’s only what you’d expect of me’) and intend to make it a regular thing if they continue it. Attending the Latin Mass after months of Novus Ordo is unspeakably refreshing. But the real surprise came on Ash Wednesday Mass. It was a Novus Ordo of course, but about halfway through I realized that the priest was celebrating it ‘ad oriens’ (facing the tabernacle for those who don’t know).
I think something is happening at that parish. We’ll have to wait and see how it all goes, but I took that as an encouraging sign. Perhaps the slack tide has begun.
2. ‘Slack Tide’, for those who don’t know, is when the tide has stopped advancing one way or the other before beginning to turn. Basically it means that everything still looks the same, but the underlying mechanics have already begun to reverse. So, historically speaking, early 1942 was ‘Slack Tide’ for the Axis powers: Germany was making rapid advancements in Africa and the Soviet Union, most of the Soviet Army had been trapped and destroyed, Rommel was closing in on the Suez Canal, and in the Pacific the Japanese were nearing the point of establishing bases within range of Hawaii and the West Coast.
Only, the underlying mechanics had already changed: they weren’t fighting the swaying, overspread British Empire alone anymore, they were facing the world’s largest nation, the world’s largest Empire, and the world’s largest economy. The Soviets were relocating their industry beyond the Urals where the Germans could never hope to touch it, neither Germany nor Japan had the capacity to strike any part of the American homeland, let alone its industrial base in the Midwest (not to mention that the US was functionally invincible as far as an invasion was concerned), and Britain alone was outproducing Germany in military material. Basically, if you could have looked at the actual facts of the situation, you could have seen that, contrary to all appearances, those facts were almost all against the Axis.
I sometimes have a sense that we are in such a period of Slack Tide both regarding the Church and the secular society. I obviously can’t say for sure (I don’t follow current events nearly closely enough to even approximate certainty), but that’s the overall impression I get. I think that what seem to be the obvious trends around us don’t actually represent what is going on ‘under the surface’, and that the next, say, ten or twenty years will be very different from what most of us expect at the moment.
That’s as far as I’ll go in terms of prediction.
3. Rather than trying for a third topic, I think I’ll just throw a bit of Gilbert and Sullivan at you