I went to a National Trust House last Friday. In one of the rooms was a beautiful grand piano and a sign saying 'Pianists are welcome to play.' I normally feel a bit self-conscious on such occasions but Mrs T asked me to tinkle so I did.
It does change the mood of a stately home if a bit of live jazz-blues is happening. I got no audience save the woman who was on duty but she was kind enough to thank me. And given that the doors were all open I expect it echoed through the house.
Compared to the normal keep off, don't touch, curl-up-and-die-now vibe you often get in such places I felt welcomed and affirmed. Come to think of it all the room attendants were helpful and friendly. Well done Stourhead.
But it was the sense of being allowed to do my thing in someone else's space that felt nice. National Trust houses don't all have to sound and smell the same. But in the sense that they are all given a specific historical spin, decorated for some period in the building's history, we know that they will not remain modern for long even if some whipper-snapper inflicts the blues on a piano which was expecting Mozart. He'll be back. Mozart not me.
Most cathedrals around the country are happy to throw their doors open from time to time for youth events and alternative worship events. It is like being allowed to play in the big kids' playground when they are off on a school trip but having to go back to our own safe space later. It's not your piano and it's not your room.
Why have all our cathedrals developed the same, choral tradition? Would one, any one, dare to be different? Not for one night only, but for ever. Is there one which would be prepared to farm its cathedral school out to another local church and mine a different musical tradition? Could there be a capital of progressive, modern, contemporary worship and theology somewhere? Johnny Baker for Dean; Pete Ward for Canon Theologian where we rock the ordinations, give Gospel the keys to the PA cupboard, stage several symbolic acts before breakfast, unpack the Lenten ambient labyrinth and just well, experiment damn it.
I can't believe such unilateralism exists in our country. And no archbishop has any power over any Dean to require it - they only go to cathedrals by invitation. Really.
So I'll leave it in the world of ideas for now, another case of Carlsberg don't do church, but if they did...
Wouldn't it be great? Join the conversation.
The pictures are of Stourhead. Great lake.