Ceiling of the Chapel of Saint Gabriel, Exeter Cathedral

For anyone who doesn’t already know, I’m currently in Exeter, in the southwest part of the United Kingdom, about to have a viva voce (that’s by living voice, for those of us not taught rudimentary Latin in grammar school) toward the acceptance of my doctoral thesis.

Monday was a bank holiday, and after doing some scholarly work in the morning, I drifted downtown to enjoy a bit of lunch and wander about this ancient city.

Approaching the cathedral, the stirring chords of a musical interlude drew me into the yard, where I was greeted by the sight and sound of a small orchestra supporting a young male vocalist.  The gentleman in question was literally draped in the Union Jack, and was lending a robust baritone to what seemed to me an unprecedented number of reprises of Rule Britannia, delivered without the slightest evidence of irony.  This was followed by that classic British melody, Jerusalem, the lyrics of which are based on the Blake poem which hypothesizes that Jesus Christ, accompanied by his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, somehow traversed what must have been an unfathomable  distance in those biblical times in order tread on British soil.

It was all a little surreal, made more so by the energetic approval of the audience.  I, the lowly Canuck, seemed to be the only auditor conscious of the incongruity of a nation reveling in lost glory, considering that this glory included forced colonization of any number of independent cultures, and the theft of the Elgin Marbles.

Later, as I tripped along High Street, enjoying the sunshine and buoyed by my absolute indifference to shopping, my progress was halted by the strains of an energetic pick-up band of ragtag musicians, playing a sort of Romany jazz involving plenty of brass, a concertina and a stand-up bass.  Their dress was a mixture of Slavik thrift shop and Elizabethan motley, all tied up with a Gypsy shawl and topped by a threadbare fedora.

And their music was rocking, rollicking, frolicking bliss.  Toe-tapping, tongue-in-cheek, alive with dramatic crescendo and musical feint, it was so filled with irony, I thought it would spill over and cascade unto the pavement.

What a dichotomous soundscape for a sunny/cloudy Monday!

A good day.

And in case you want to experience a little of their Romano magic, you’ll find it on their website at http://www.gadjomusica.com/.  Incidentally, ‘Gadjo’ is a somewhat derogatory term used by the Gypsies to describe the rest of us, but we won’t hold that against them!

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