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Girton Parish News - April 2002
Girton Operatic's 2002 Production ; Trial by Jury and The Sorceror
One of the special parts of any opera performance is the opening: the lights go down; the conductor steps onto the podium, and the orchestra starts to play the Overture.That Girton Operatic has an orchestra (not just an electronically enhanced piano) adds greatly to the performance. Our thanks are due to all the orchestra members, and in particular the Musical Director ( Petrina Lodge) for bringing them together and making the music. Another special aspect of Girton Operatic's productions in recent years is the tableau performed during the Overture. This year it was used to combine the two (shortish) operas chosen, very cleverly enhancing the overall performance.It also provided opportunity to view the excelent stage set (set designer Helen Wilson).
One seldom has time before the performance to read or digest the synopsis in the programme. Without this, one gets impressions about what is going on as the perfomance proceeds, and then at various stages these come together and your own ideas about the plot emerge. Here is one such retrospective account by a member of the audience: a 'rough guide' to “ Trial by Sorcerer”.
“It is 1945, and the men of Ploverleigh are just returning home from the war.” There is both pleasure and a touch of anxiety in the air. But what a fine band of heroes enters. And what an excited village greets them. A highly decorated naval group; an army contingent including the Padre and a Grenadier Guardsman in fall parade uniform with bearskin headgear; a rather dashing airman, only out-done by a Free French officer, also highly decorated and displaying a large Croix de Lorraine.
The Overture comes to an end and receives a well earned ovation. The scene changes into a court-room. A capable land-girl from the village has been appointed Court Usher (Maggie Phillips), and the war heroes have been drafted onto the Jury and seated in two (church?) pews. “ Trial by Jury” begins.
The Foreman of the Jury (Mike Charlesworth) attempts to exert some authority - his colleagues seem confused as to whether they should kneel down and pray. Only the Usher is able to exert some degree of control. The Judge (James Robertson) enters, adding a new dimension to the gathering disorder ( which the audience greatly enjoys). In rich bass voice the Judge launches into a traditional Gilbert-style rendition of his curriculum-vitae. He quickly establishes himself as a musician of the free-time school, clashing with the more strict-time orchestra. Descent into chaos is saved by the intervention of the conductor, and we recognise that with conductor and court usher in concert, the trial is well under control.
We learn that the trial is for breach of promise. The Defendant (Geoffrey Lewins) comes in - he is none other than the 'General de Gaulle look-alike' seen earlier in the heroes parade( the only one not imprest for jury service - being of foreign nationality). We detect some resentment; has the Entente Cordiale broken down? Despite the Usher insisting that the trial shall be 'from bias free of every kind', it appears that this defendant is considered guilty from the begining. Despite this he displays sangfroid and joie de vivre, with considerable panache.
By contrast, the Plaintiff (Wendy de Horsey), coy and songfull, and preceded by her pretty and flirtatious bridesmaids (Joanna Blakeman and Helen Wilson) enter to rapturous welcome and are showered with affection. Next enters Counsel for the Plaintiff (Helen Smith), until recently a member of the Royal Air Force, but now in wig and gown, ready to present the case for the plaintiff. Erudite argument commences with 17th century 'reckoning', but the 'good' Judge in the meantime has developed a close interest in the Plaintiff and, somewhat impulsively, announces his intention to marry her himself (despite having told us earlier about his existing wife). And soon the trial comes to an end and we all stroll back towards the village, but not forgeting to congratulate the Producer (Maureen Brown) and all the Players.
En route, we sense impending magic.Perhaps sorcerers’ magic. We meet Mrs Partlett (Laura Staves) - 'a pew opener' - and her daughter Constance (Gytha Lodge), both expressing their love for the Vicar (Roger Few) who shortly joins them. All three perform excelently.But the Vicar is timid and, though torn with doubt, concludes that he is past marriage (probably). As he continues through the village he finds that marriage is the topic of the day, and that his services for marriage are much in demand. At the top of the list are Aline (Lizza Baines) - daughter of Lady Sangazure (Claire Dewing), and Alexis (George Thorpe) - son of Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre (Geoff Maitland). It is Alexis who takes us into deeper water. Last seen as a smartly dressed Grenadier Guardsman, he and Aline are so deeply in love that they feel they must also bestow it on everyone else. To do this they decide to engage a sorceror with a reputation for love potions. Getting all this across to us requires much singing and acting, which is very well done.
Now for the magic. Enter John Wellington Wells (Jeremy Harrison), Hercules (Bryony Few) his apprentice; and his sprites (Penny Knight, Maggie Phillips and Helen Wilson). This team performs brilliantly, first administering the love potion to everyone and putting them to sleep. Then, after inducing the necessary internal workings, bringing each out of sleep face to face with another and instantly falling in love for each other.Perhaps it is mid-summer and we are dreaming.Even the Vicar, a Doctor of Divinity, seems able to accept divination by sorcery.
Then much confusion and mismatching, some fudging and manipulation, but still leaving some unusual pairs - e.g. Constance (Gytha Lodge) finds herself not with the Vicar but engaged and enthralled with an ancient demented Notary (Douglas de Lacey).And so,” The Sorcerer” comes to an end. There is general joyousness in the village of Ploverleigh, now as good, if not better than before the war.
Once again congratulations to Alan Lodge and his very able associates for their excelent production. And a final tribute to the chorus, for their excelent words, music and drama.
We look forward to Girton Operatic's 2003 production.
John Robson, March 2002.
A Profession of Faith in a Word SquareAt two minutes past eight on the evening of 20th February this year a rare phenomenon occurred. It was 20.02, so that altogether it was 20.02.20.02.2002. The figures had combined to give a palindromic date and time.
A palindrome reads the same forwards as backwards. The word is derived from the Greek "palindromos", which means "running back again". It is applied to a sentence, phrase or word reading the same from either end Palindromes go back a long way, at least as far back as the ancent Greeks. The Romans delighted in them too! and the most famous of all Latin ones has comedown through the ages to us:
Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas
The excavation of the ruins of Pompeii, destroyed by a volcanic eruption in AD 79, led to the discovery of that Latin palindrome on a wall in one of the houses Roughly translated it means "The sower (or farmer) holds with labour the wheels of the plough", or "The farmer by his labour keeps the wheels to the plough". In effect, it would appear to be saying "The farmer by his industry keeps agriculture going".
When it was discovered in Pompeii it was in the form of an inscription thus:
Remarkably, the square reads the same whether one goes forwards, backwards, downwards or upwards. But it is even cleverer than this, for this square concealed a secret. It contained the letters of the Latin title of the prayer "Our Father" - PATERNOSTER - twice, except for the central N, which appears only once if the letters are arranged as a cross thus:
There were certainly Christians in Rome within 25 years of Christ's crucifixion. St Paul's Epistle to the Romans proves that it was quite likely that there were also Christians in Pompeii, and that one of the new converts there wrote the above on the wall of one of his rooms to remind him and his family of Christ's crucifixion and of the "Our Father" which he had taught his disciples. However, he would not have written it in that form.
Those were uneasy times for Roman citizen converts to Christianity, and they were careful not to parade their new faith openly. The Pompeii convert would therefore, employing an exceptional degree of verbal dexterity and imaginatve acumen, have written the inscription in the guise of an innocuous- looking word square. He would arrange the letters thus:
Having four empty spaces he would have filled them with the initials
of the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, Alpha and Omega.
Everyone who lived round the Mediterranean at that time understood and
could write Greek. The word square would now be complete.
So, the magic square concealed not only the Lord's Prayer and the Cross, but aso the symbol of God continually surrounding it as He continually surrounds His whole creation.
John T Wright
A fascination with numbersI received some leg pulling after last month’s article when I described how I had once travelled on a royal train. The point of my friends' tease was not that I had travelled with royalty, but that I had remembered the train number! I could, of course, have made up a number and inserted it into the article, but it was genuine, for I had remembered the figures. I guess it came about through a fascination with numbers, particularly if they have some sort of pattern to them. I can still remember my mother’s “co-op divi” number from years ago and recite elephone numbers I have long since ceased to use.
It probably says something about the child in me, for children are fascinated by numbers. I experienced that a few years ago when taking assembly in the Primary School and the theme was big numbers. The children sat enthralled while we tried to get to grips with the fact that Mount Everest at 5½ miles high is very near the deepest valley, the Yarlung Zangbo, which is 3 miles deep. Yet if you look back at the world from outer space, the mountain and the valley would appear to be nothing more than a scratch, the whole of the Himalayas as God’s fingerprint on the globe. That, I explained, is because the world is so big, its mass alone is nearly six thousand, million, billion tonnes. This time I had the figures written out on fan-fold paper, one digit per sheet, and I watched their faces as we stretched the figures, 5,983,346,778,000,000,000,000 across the hall.
Big numbers captivate children. They gasp when you show them a huge figure and laugh when they try to read it out. When I asked for an estimate of how many hairs were on their heads, they had to admit defeat.
Although I have lots of books in my study, I too have no idea how many hairs are on my head. Yet God knows me so well, that he has the answer for me and for every single one of us. In a lovely passage of encouragement in Luke’s gospel, chapter 12, Jesus assures us that the very hairs of our heads are all numbered. That is how precious we are in God’s sight, and not just you and me, but the whole of the world, for God really is the God of big numbers including the biggest value of all, infinity.
Humans have struggled for years with the concept of infinity; how big is infinity and can it ever be reached? To me infinity is as vast as God’s love. Jesus did not give a figure for the size of God’s love, but instead stretched out his hands. Then with them outstretched men took him and nailed him to a cross. There on the cross we see the full extent of infinity, the vastness of God’s love in Jesus. Jesus who died for us, for our sins, and rose again that we might know that we are forgiven. I saw a poster the other day that had this little sum on it,
1 CROSS + 3 NAILS = 4 GIVENESS
Perhaps that is the sum of infinity.
Phillip Staves - Minister, Girton Baptist Church
Message from the SchoolWe have just had a wonderful week of Science to mark national Science Week and the Year of Science. The children have taken part in workshops run by the teachers on a range of topics from structures to volcanoes to electro-magnetism and three Science Assemblies. Everyone has listened to a talk by a visiting scientist and is invited to take part in a competition. We have all enjoyed our week of Science and yet more Science [with a little Numeracy and Literacy in between of course].
Our next big event is the launch of the Safer Routes to School Project. This is taking place from 22nd-26th April with a week of exciting activities and our official opening on 22nd April at 11am. We have published an information leaflet promoting walking and cycling to school and the safer routes to school that have been created by the project.
We hope that, in this week, you will see families walking past your doors and children cycling safely to school. We are sure everyone will enjoy the fresh air and the chance to chat to friends and maybe walking or cycling to school will become an enjoyable, everyday activity.
Have a good Easter break.
Susan Baker, Headteacher