Saturday, 16 June 2012

Can't Compline?

I've landed on my feet for a while with an interim position for two days a week at the rather special Goodenough College in London. It's an international hall of residence for postgraduate students and if you're interested you can find out more about it on my business blog, Coracle Communications.

We're often told not to mix business with pleasure. To some extent it's hard not to when you're working somewhere like that which has a distinctive community feel all of its own - and where there are various talks, exhibitions, concerts and extra-curricular events going on. Of course, it's best to keep the professional and the general interest side separate on such occasions.

That said, I find I'm benefitting greatly from some of these extra-curricular aspects. I attended one of the College's 'Port Talks' the other week and found it really helpful - all about decluttering your email and organising your work priorities.

There's something very holistic about that. Equally, as I'm around on a Monday I've attended the candle-lit Compline service that takes place at 10pm that evening. I do like reflective liturgical services, but I wasn't familiar with the Anglican Compline setting. Where has it been all my life? It's lovely.

Goodenough College Chapel - simple, dignified, beautiful
I've only been twice and won't make it every Monday (I've got people to see and things to do) but there's something about the rhythm of it. Just the job before you settle down for the night. I must admit, it threw me a little the first time as they divided the chapel in two for the chanting of the Psalms and the various responses. There were only two of us on my side of the aisle and my chant leaves a lot to be desired. My wife can do Anglican chant but I never learned and so I tend to trail along with what everyone else is doing. As there were only two of us I felt a tad exposed ...

It was easier going the next Monday as there were more chanters on my side of the chapel. Not that it had thrown me the first week, I'm old enough and ugly enough not to be intimidated so easily. And once you get into the swing of it, the chants suggest themselves.

Why don't more places do this? I can see why chant has fallen into disuse, but look what's replaced it? Grim sub-Cold Play power pop and slop.

Ok, ok, there's nothing more boring than a born-again liturgist. But I'm unrepentant. Bring back the chant. We need it. It can do us good.


  1. Ah me! Compline. That takes me back to retreats with the Franciscans. There is something very special about it. Those antiphonal psalms can trip you up, especially the pause at the * mid couplet. There was often somebody who forgot and continued on. Usually me...

    1. Aha! 'Antiphonal', I thought that's what it meant ...

      Mind you, the pause at the mid-couplet, the 'caesura' as it were, happens when they're not sung antiphonally but ... well ... non-antiphonally. Someone will know the correct term ...