Miles from Texas in Shapwick

It was halfway through Miles Pike‘s concert when I thought, “how on earth did we manage to get a singer this good here in Shapwick Church? For his first ever concert in the UK?!”

In practical terms it happened the following way. Some years ago, the pastor of Harvest Church in Street, Dylan Thomas, went to the Stamps-Baxter School of Music in Nashville, Tennessee where he met Miles for the first time, discovering that he was a very gifted singer with an unusually wide vocal range. It was Dylan who invited him over here to do a tour in the UK. Nigel Steady (whose wife Rowena leads our music group Polden Praise) realised that there was an opportunity for an event in Shapwick church, and set about organising it.

Shapwick Church was full for the Miles Pike concert

Miles sang a range of songs from traditional hymns, through modern worship songs, to some that he himself had written. The one which has stiuck in my mind the most was the finale, called “The Son Of A Carpenter”, which was a powerful and moving story from the perspective of the man who became the thief on the cross, who recognise that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. This was a wonderful composition that was truly the climax of an exceptional night in Shapwick Church.

Miles singing in Shapwick Church

As well as singing, Miles also spoke about the nature of the gospel and of Christianity. He managed to combine winsomeness with directness, which is something which is done all too rarely: I felt that this sprang out of the depth of his own personal faith which meant he was authentic in what he was saying.

Miles & Martha, with Rowena and Nigel Steady, Jan Jones, Jen, and Martha’s mum Jill.

As he’d appeared at cafe church in the morning, Jen and I had the prviliege of hosting him and his wife Martha for lunch. They are a lovely couple and very easy to chat with. It was great to hear how they had first met at music school: for Miles it was love at first sight, followed by four years of enabling Martha to recognise that they were meant to be together! A couple of days later we were invited round to Dylan and Liz’s house (unfortunately Jen missed out as she was in London), where Miles cooked a great chilli con carne followed by a traditional poundcake.

Miles & Martha at Dylan & Liz’s house (with Adam Smith on guitar)

They are off to Sweden for a few days and back in the UK for some more concerts in the area from the 22nd to the 24th of September, and I’d highly recommend anyone with the opportunity to go to do so. You won’t be disappointed!

Miles Pike’s website is here: https://www.milespikemusic.com/home

Christmas Praise!

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be part of the All Souls Orchestra in their most recent concert, Christmas Praise.

All Souls Orchestra

The orchestra during rehearsals

Violins

The violinists working hard during the concert

Philip Griffiths

Philip Griffiths performing ‘Long Time Ago in Bethlehem’. Philip is a Guinness World Record-Holder as the longest cast member in the same production (26 years in ‘Phantom of the Opera’)

When I lived in London (2006-2015) I was a member of All Souls Orchestra, the orchestra of All Souls Church, Langham Place in central London, which was founded over 40 years ago and is still led and conducted by the irrepressible Noel Tredinnick. I benefitted hugely from being a part of the orchestra, both in terms of improving my technical ability, and also in terms of my appreciation of music as one of God’s great gifts. The orchestra plays at a service in All Souls each month, as well as doing several concerts annually, both in London, around the country, and even internationally.

For the Christmas Praise event, we were joined by West End Has Faith, a group of Christian singers and actors who work in some of the shows in the West End of London who want to share their faith. The programme was varied, including traditional carols, dramatised songs from musicals and popular modern songs, as well as a bit of Bizet and some Gilbert and Sullivan!

The concert went very well and was, as ever, a great way of praising God and of sharing the wonder and hope of the Christmas story with those who came to hear it.

Nativity

Benjamin Isaacs and Tabitha Webb as Joseph and Mary in Nativity (which was co-written by Tabitha)

We were very fortunate in that regard to have Nathan Morgan-Locke with us, who gave a really moving talk in several parts, taking us from the excitement of sharing presents on Christmas morning to the fact that the most important present exchange is the one that can happen between us and God. God gives us himself – in the form of Christ – and if we accept this gift, we can give ourselves in return to God. But it’s not an equal exchange; he contrasted the perfection of Christ with what we can offer, which seems like a sack of rubbish in comparison. As a result of that exchange we get to experience the real God and enjoy life with him.

Nathan has also been involved in developing Life Explored, an exciting new 7-session course developed by Christianity Explored Ministries, which aims to look at happiness and where it can be found.

Lasting Happiness is like the Loch Ness Monster. Most of us are convinced that it doesn’t really exist, but we like the idea that it might. We can go looking for it, but don’t get your hopes up because we all have to settle eventually. When it comes to short term happiness we’re all believers. We’ve known the joy of relationships, holidays and achievements. But lasting happiness is a different story. So why is lasting happiness so elusive? It’s often because we’re looking in the wrong places. Psalm 16 v. 11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” The lasting happiness we’re looking for is found in God himself.’ Description of Life Explored taken from their publicity.

Nathan Morgan Locke

Nathan Morgan Locke explaining the Christmas story

It was wonderful to be able to play in the orchestra again. Much of what we play is available to download from the orchestra’s website, and an example of one of Noel’s recent arrangements is shown below.

Conductor's score

Excerpt from conductor’s score of ‘O come, O come Emmanuel’

If you are interested…:

  • If you would like to hear highlights of the concert, you can listen to the broadcast at 3pm-5pm on Christmas Day and at 10pm-midnight on Boxing Day 2016 both on Premier Christian Radio.
  • In addition, Noel has recently recorded an hour-long programme in which he plays some of the highlights from the All Souls Orchestra archives, and which you can listen to here.
  • For those in Somerset or southwest England, the orchestra is coming to Lee Abbey in Devon on 10-12 March 2017. More details can be found here.
All Souls Orchestra

The orchestra at the end of the concert

The photographs in this post were taken by friends of the orchestra and were obtained from the All Souls Orchestra Facebook page, where the appropriate credits can be found.