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I looked around the table at my friends.  Most sat with their eyes closed, letting the music from the cello wash over them.  Two of them are cellists themselves and I could see the sublime pleasure on their faces.  I felt happy that they were having such a delightful treat when I knew that all of us had had had very busy weeks.  In the candlelit hall, all our cares were drawn out of us so that some of us almost went to sleep.  Very occasionally the gatehouse of what was once a large Augustinian priory becomes the venue for wonderful musical evenings for a few guests: since the fourteenth century the stone walls have seen people come and go, and the sense of time standing almost still is soothing.  The cellist played Bach, the mathematical cadences untwisting our minds until all the fibres lay in a single direction, and then she transported us all to Brazil.  Using recordings of tribal songs, she extracted their melodies and played them on her cello, never quite shutting out the massed voices of the villagers or the insistent drum beats.  You can listen for yourself here, but, having listened to it, I’m not sure it conveys the magic of the Priory by candlelight.  The cello is my favourite instrument, and I was surrounded by friends, and it was my birthday: I feel lucky indeed to have been able to enjoy all of those things together.

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.