Visiting Dorchester Abbey for the English Music Festival,
and by chance, (for I had not known they were near)
walking within sight of the Wittenham clumps,
I was offered in one day a perfect fusion of early twentieth century
English music and painting.
Paul Nash was obsessed with these small rounded hills,
and painted them numerous times -
this, Under the Hill, in 1912.
Wittenham Clumps was a landmark famous for miles around.
An ancient British camp, it stood up with extraordinary prominence
above the river at Shillingford. There were two hills, both dome-like
and each planted with a thick clump of trees whose mass
had a curiously symmetrical sculptured form.
At the foot of these hills grew the dense wood of Wittenham,
part of the early forest where the polecat still yelled in the night hours.'
'Ever since I remember them the Clumps had meant something to me.
I felt their importance long before I knew their history.
They eclipsed the impression of all the early landscapes I knew.
This, I am certain was due almost entirely to their formal features rather than to any associative force... They were the Pyramids of my small world'.
(extract from 'Outline' by Paul Nash, quoted in 'Paul Nash Places')
but in typical English May weather conditions
(drizzle, sharp showers and a tugging, blustery wind)
we trudged towards them,
past quiet cottage gardens,
by wheat fields
down fragrant high-hedged footpaths
under a circling red kite,
towards Day's Lock on the Thames.
We got soaked.
So damply wedged in our penitentially hard pews
we listened to the City of London choir performing
Holst, Elgar, Bridge, Finz, Britten, Pearsall, Stanford and Wood.
Paul Guinery wrote in the foreword to the programme,
'Much contemporary music is very good indeed at conveying anxiety,
pain or hostility but far less apt at communicating
exaltation, serenity or resignation.'
I think we had the last three moods covered today.