Town mouse fills his ears with honey

A ravishing of my ears.

In 1987, an arsonist, thinking St Peter’s, Eaton Square, was Catholic, set fire to it. The whole
of the opulent interior was gutted, but good triumphed over evil, for one consequence of the rebuilding was to create a wonderful space for music. The new church’s exceptional acoustic is particularly suited to the complex lines of polyphony in 16th- century music. Worshippers at the 11.15am service every Sunday have their ears ravished—or the spiritual equivalent—on a regular basis. There’s also an annual programme of concerts and this season’s was opened last week by the Oxford Camerata, celebrating the group’s 30th anniversary.

Such beauty of sound… it felt as if my ears were being filled with honey. The conductor, Jeremy Summerly, provided explanatory aperçus. John Sheppard wrote for seven voices because of Mary Tudor’s devotion to Marian sevens—the Virgin Mary’s Joys and Dolours. I was pleased to learn that Palestrina found financial security by marrying the widow of a fur merchant, disproving the romantic notion that great art can only be produced in a garret. Tomorrow night (October 16), the sensational young Romanian pianist Alexandra Dariescu plays Russian and Romantic music. Oh dear, diary clash. I’m talking to the Churches Conservation Trust about war memorials at the Charterhouse, London EC1.

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