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Tired and Re-tired

Monday, June 18, 2012

“He is not dead, but sleepeth.” 1

That’s what Jesus said about a small dead girl, and today he could easily have said it about me!

If Jesus were physically in the vicinity this morning, Heather would very likely have gone running to fetch him.  She had been up early, reading the Free Press, and doing the various puzzles to be found therein.  When she heard my alarm going off, she wondered why I did not silence it, and came into our bedroom to find me sprawled motionless beside the loudly chiming and vibrating machine.

She touched me, gingerly.  Still warm.

She touched me again, more firmly.  Nothing.

But I was breathing, so definitely not dead.

More vigourous shaking ensued until with a start I came up from some unimaginably deep place of slumber wondering where I was and why I was being shaken.

“Didn’t you even hear your alarm?”

“Uhhh... nope.”

“It was practically falling off the table!”

“Didn’t hear it.”  I turned my back on her and promptly went back to sleep.

Satisfied that I was not deceased and that there was no need for a miracle of resurrection, Heather left me there, and half an hour later I regained consciousness rather more normally.  Another indescribable day in the life of this old retired cleric was now underway.

Why indescribable?  Because much of what seems to be taking up my energy these days, and making me so very very sleepy, has been the personal lives of other people, and you just don’t publish your friends’ personal information in a blog, do you!?  Hence, my life is indescribable.

It feels like the very same problem that I had when I was employed in parish work: my days were full and exciting, but who could I tell?  Everything I did from day to day involved the joys and sorrows of my parishioners.  It would be utterly unconscionable of me to publicly discuss their loves, quarrels, difficult decisions, medical crises, or family dysfunctions, even though these were the things that occupied so much of my energies.  That information is theirs and theirs alone.  True, I don’t have “parishioners” any more, in the strict sense of the term, but I certainly have friends and connections whose lives are intertwined with mine, and whose stories occupy many of my waking moments.

Summary of the past month

There are some things that I did since publishing my last blog entry that are readily observable by the general public: I presided at two funerals and attended another; I drove out to Morden Manitoba (possibly for the last time) to preside and preach at Sunday worship; I went to a book launch by my friend Dr. John Wortley; I was appointed to the Manitoba Medical Services Board of Directors, and attended my first meeting with them; on Victoria Day Heather and I drove out to the Interlake to visit some dear friends in their country home; early in June I drove Heather to Brandon where she attended the three day Synod of the Ecclesiastical Province of Rupert’s Land, and then I did the trip a second time to bring her home; I had lunch with friends and coffee with other friends; I went to Toronto for five days because of a concert featuring my daughter Ariel, and there I had several adventures; and now I’m preparing to play my clarinet in a concert on Thursday, June 21, and in that connection I had a private music lesson.

Now that I write it all out, it does make me look rather busy, but the fact is, the emotional stuff, the interpersonal stuff that lies underneath and behind all of that is where the intensity really lies... it’s not in this superficial round of activities.

Can I speak of the suicide of a young man, the grandson of close friends?  This was yet another funeral at which I presided, back in April, and it has had a series of consequences that culminated in an extraordinary reunion a month later.  An uncle of the deceased, who has not been seen or heard from for ten or fifteen years, re-connected with his brother and his mother and his sons, and with many more friends and family.  Somehow I found myself in the midst of it all.  Intense?  Emotional?  Such words don’t even come close to describing it.

It’s easier to speak of my daughter’s concert in Toronto, in the background of which the first steps of that reunion actually took place.  Ariel sang several Renaissance and Baroque pieces to a full house.  It was wonderful and professional and I’m hoping that one day some of it will be available on YouTube 2 (selections from her repertoire can be listened to here:

Ariel Harwood-Jones and the musicians of her baroque consort following their May 27, 2012, performace in Toronto
Ariel Harwood-Jones and her musicians
A professional concert professionally done

Most people delight in talking about their children, but I can hardly even do that (other than celebrate Ariel’s concert), because it’s not my place to talk about all the interesting personal decisions that my offspring are currently making.  Yesterday was Father’s day; my contacts with all four of them caused me extreme delight, and I learned about interesting developments in every one of their lives.  But, once again, to write about it here would be to tell you their news, which, despite my being their proud father, it is not my prerogative to do.


There are just four things that I can freely mention in this blog: (1) official clergy duties, (2) the MMSF Board of Directors, (3) clarinet playing, and (4) summer plans.

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Official clergy duties

I’m formally connected to a single parish now.  Last week a very grand-looking document arrived in the mail, carrying the bishop’s seal and appointing me “Honorary Assistant in the Parish Church of St. Margaret, Winnipeg.” 
an ecclesiastical licence
Licensed to St. Margaret’s shiny new certificate!
This merely means that St. Margaret’s can call on my services as a priest without having to request it through the bishop’s office.  I suppose that from time to time I will be asked to preside at worship, or perhaps preach; but for the most part I expect that Heather and I will simply continue to attend Sunday worship as ordinary members, just as we’ve been doing for nearly a year.  Heather volunteers in the infant Sunday nursery, and I’m getting to know the people and fitting in where it seems to make sense.  We are very content there, and I am happy to lend a hand however I can – armed with my shiny new certificate (it’s technically called a “licence”).

For a couple of years now, Heather and I have driven out to the town of Morden, in southern Manitoba, where I would lead Sunday services at the Anglican church there.  Sometimes we’ve gone as frequently as twice a month.  They have been without a priest of their own for several years, and have been hoping to find someone who could live and work among them.  On our last trip out they announced that this hope may finally be realized.  By the time I return from my annual summer trip to Québec, they may have their own priest and I will no longer be asked to make that twice-monthly trip.  This, of course, dovetails neatly with my new appointment at St. Margaret’s.

The MMSF Board of Directors

This spring I was asked to join the Board of Directors of the Manitoba Medical Services Foundation.  This was a referral by a friend of mine, aware that for many years I had served on an ethics committee for a major scientific research facility.  I have been told that this new appointment will not be onerous, but certainly it will be interesting.

The Manitoba Medical Services Foundation is primarily a grant-awarding organization promoting medical research in this province.  Researchers in the medical sciences can apply to this body, and if a particular project meets certain standards, it can receive financial support.  Board members interview the researcher-applicants, and through a careful and systematic evaluation process they make the awards.

Thankfully, these interviews are conducted by the Board in teams, so that a person like me with some ability in philosophy and ethics but not a lot of medical knowledge, will be teamed with those who have that knowledge.  I’m looking forward to the interview period, which takes place over a couple of weeks in the fall.

Clarinet playing

Readers of this blog know that twice in the last few years I have played the clarinet in front of a live audience; once in 2008, and a second time in June 2010.  The third time will take place on Thursday, June 21 – the longest day of the year, and the thirty-ninth anniversary of the day that Heather and I met (if you like that kind of detail).

I only have a very small part, actually, in a much larger event.  The Royal Canadian College of Organists, Winnipeg branch, decided that it would be quite proper if their annual concert this year was done in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond Jubilee.  So several organists will be playing grand and glorious music with some connection to British royalty.  My friend Russ Greene and I will do two numbers.  The first will be a coronation march: Crown Imperial, written by William Walton for the 1937 coronation of King George VI.  Russ and I have taken this mighty piece and adapted it for organ and clarinet.  The second number is a bit of a novelty: Russ has discovered that the Queen and Prince Philip enjoy certain jazz numbers, one of which is They Can’t Take That Away From Me – performed for them at the Queen’s fiftieth birthday, I believe. 3  So, we’re going to play it at Thursday’s concert.

When Russ and I rehearse at Holy Trinity church (the concert venue), the people working around the church (volunteers, clergy, caretakers) stop and listen.  They are attentive and respectful for the coronation piece, but when we finish the jazz number they clap!  Clearly it’s going to be a hit.

I had a bit of a scare, though, in getting ready for this concert.  There are some very high notes in the coronation piece that were giving me trouble, and I wondered if there was something I could do to improve how I play them.  So, I arranged for a private lesson with Janice Finlay, one of Winnipeg’s foremost woodwind players.  Well, she found a major flaw in my technique, and when I tried to correct it, suddenly I was making more mistakes rather than less.  For a while I wondered if I was going to be able to play properly at all!  But, mercifully, I’ve managed to overcome the obstacles, and I’m told that my sound throughout the range of the instrument is noticeably improved.  Phew!

How did the concert turn out?  See below (added June 21).

Summer Plans

Very soon, Heather and I will be heading off to Québec for some quality time at our cottage.  We will go via Toronto – which is hugely out of the way, but there is stuff being stored for us at Ariel’s house, so we must needs go and get it.  Being in southern Ontario, we figured we’d visit my old college friend, Patrick Gray, and his wife Cathy Carlyle.  So we’ll stay a day or two with them, then continue driving to Québec.

About a week after we get there, Heather has to fly back to Winnipeg, because her practice is still pretty busy and will need tending.  But she’ll return to the cottage early in August, whereupon we will be joined by our granddaughter Alexa, from Vernon B.C.  A pleasant time shall ensue with grandparents and grandkid, for about ten days, then Heather and Alexa will both fly home.  Finally, in early September, I shall drive back to Winnipeg myself, tenting overnight along the way.

- o - 0 - o -

Well, that’s about it, for now.  I guess I’m not dead, though sometimes I’m tired enough that I could sleep for a week!  And I’ve “left undone those things which I ought to have done,” 4 given that I’m behind in my email correspondence, and in a number of other projects and chores that, in retirement, I thought that I would have had plenty of time to do!

Ironic, isn’t it?  Being retired sometimes just means “being more tired than ever!”

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Postcript:   the June 21 concert – how it turned out...

I arrived at Holy Trinity church, our venue, about thirty-five or forty minutes before the concert was to begin.  To my surprise and pleasure, the church was already beginning to fill up – promising a very good turnout.  Indeed, by the time the programme began the church was really full.  There had been an article announcing the concert in the Winnipeg morning paper, complete with a photograph of my friend, Russ, at the organ console, which may explain why so many people had come.

I wore my tuxedo.  This caused much comment from the other performers, because no one else was so formally clad, but I just shrugged: “We’re honouring the Queen; we should dress up.  Besides I’m the only soloist here tonight, so I might as well dress the part!”

With very few exceptions, Anglican church organs are not built so that people can see the organist.  When there is a concert such as this one, and the audience ought to see the organists at work, cameras are placed to capture an image of them and of the complex console that they operate.  The image is projected on screens to give the audience a close look.  Even so, all that can be seen onscreen is the organist’s back, as he or she plays the multi-level keyboard with hands and feet, and pulls and pushes on the various knobs.

The clarinet player, on the other hand, stands front and centre, in full view of everyone.  Hence the tux.

Russ Greene was not only performing, he acted as a kind of emcee throughout the evening, announcing each organist and their music in turn.  When he announced our first number, he said, “Last year the organists at this event brought along friends who played other instruments.  My friend, Tony Harwood-Jones, was out of the Province at the time, so I ended up being the only organist at the concert who did not bring a friend.  But today the tables are turned: at this concert, I’m the only organist who has a friend!”  There was general laughter (his comment was intended to be funny), but it was in fact the case that none of the other organists had brought instrumentalists with them.  The effect of this was that the two pieces that Russ and I did together really stood out from the rest of the evening’s programme.

Were we good?  That’s for others to say.  We both made mistakes here and there, but Crown Imperial was full of grandeur, and They Can’t Take That Away From Me had a nice swing.  It may be my imagination, but the clapping seemed to have some extra enthusiasm after the jazz number.

To my surprise and delight, my son, Troy, was there, and after the show he, who has heard me before, said that my tone has improved markedly.  That pleased me, and I attribute the change to what Janice Finlay taught me in that somewhat traumatic music lesson.

There were, of course, several other musicians performing, all of whom were worth hearing, and some of whom were exceptional.

The concert was a roaring success really, and I’m happy about the part that I played in it.

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1  See Luke 8:52.  “Sleepeth” is, of course, language from the King James version of the Bible.
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2  A “trailer” for the professional video recording of the concert is online.  It strings together a few of the highlights, and gives an excellent sense of the quality of Ariel’s performance.  You can see and hear it here.
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3  A YouTube commemoration of their marriage has They Can’t Take That Away From Me as the background soundtrack.  Check out this link:
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4  From the general confession, Book of Common Prayer (Canada, 1962) page 19.  Or see this online page in the 1662 Church of England Book of Common Prayer (just scroll down to “a general Confession.”)
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