Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Lost Boys Poetry and Music, Franciscan Chapel

This is it, the end of the road and what a road it has been.  Every traveller who has ventured along it has their own tale to tell, tales filled with magic and wonder, music and drama, laughter and love; mine is just a drop in the river, one of thousands of other droplets, all unique but all created from the same Wise Words source.
Up in the rafters of the tiny Franciscan Chapel, with ancient wooden beams and floorboards that have felt the soft pad of human tread since time immemorial, my tale comes to an end as the music of the bass clarinet soars, a counterpoint to the sound of the river rushing through the reeds below us. 

Through the tiny plate lead window panes the familiar sight of the Cathedral was perfectly framed, sitting majestic and proud over the cobbled streets of Canterbury on a cloudy Spring day.

The Chapel is small, we are directed to wooden pews and chairs lining every available space, shuffling past neighbours with mumbled apologies.  I catch the eye of the lady next to me and start in recognition - it's Tessa!  
There is only standing room left, people are sat on the floor under the deeply recessed stone windowsills and perched on the steps of the old oak staircase.  There is no introduction, no long winded speeches, no ceremony.  The music just starts to play softly as the late afternoon sunlight floods the small chapel that straddles the Stour river.  
The music stops and a woman rises at the front.  She introduces our poet, Victoria, a poet who focuses on the idea of well being.  I'm surprised as I recognise her.  I have had dinner at her house before now when The Canterbury Players were invited in to read her play, Bensen, before she entered production. Canterbury is, after all, a small place and for people with an interest in the Creative Arts, it is inevitable that their paths will cross on regular occassions.
Victoria's poetry is not Slam poetry, it is gentler and more naturalistic.  Around the Chapel people sit and absorb her words, eyes closed in contemplative self-reverie.  The audience here is more mature, more traditional in many ways.  
After each set of poems Edward plays songs from Bach and Debussy on his Bass Clarinet or the Soprano Saxophone.  Each song is haunting, a perfect counterpoint to Victoria's poems about Cornwall, the springtime blossom, dog walking, of wine and picnics late at night on the Cornish beaches, of midnight skinny dipping.  

There are three eulogies, the Lost Boys, gone too soon, saluted by the bird song that floats in through the open doors down the wooden flight of stairs that creaks and echoes with every late comer creeping in sheepishly.
My nostrils are filled with the slightly musty scent of ancient buildings that theme parks always attempt to recreate but can never fully emulate, that sense of antique peace and knowledge, a stone's throw  from the bustling city centre that feels a a lifetime away.
Victoria's finale, an ode to the animals, apt for our location, is followed by music that is eerily similar to that of Watership Down, so much so that I get that familiar sense of chill that used to overpower me as a child when I read of the Black Rabbit of Inlé.
The hour wears on, the mood is sleepy and meditative, almost hypnotic.  This was a gentle way to finish my Festival that exploded with dynamic fury onto the streets of Canterbury just a few short days earlier and flooded the cobbled walkways, the coffee shops and theatres, the meadows and museums with an incredible deluge of creativity.

Wise Words Festival, I salute you and will welcome you back when the season's change and the leaves turn golden before the winter winds freeze the spires with their glacial breathe.

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