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  • Writer's pictureNigel

Close Harmony 🎵 緊密な調和 Kinmitsuna chōwa

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

Welcome back to my weekly blog. Welcome back to reporting from a hot Hessen summer... ようこそ!

As I wrote last week, the recent heatwave here forced me indoors. I had opened up a box of stuff which I had recently brought back from the UK : This involved a a trip down memory lane - to my schooldays in fact.

▶I am not an audio geek, but I still implore you to use headphones for this post. ヘッドホン を使ってくださいください🙏!  I shall remind you with this little sign......💥🎧

The Voices Beautiful. 美しい声. Let me explain. When I was about 17, I sang every Sunday in our school chapel choir. We were immersed in the English church music of Tallis, Byrd, Elgar, Purcell, Stanford etc. etc. It was an important part of our school life, apart from the A levels which we were supposed to be studying for. For it was expected that after school we would go on to some important university and blaze a trail of success, or something like that 🙄.

Five of us banded together to form a close harmony group, with the encouragement of a certain Neil Page, the Director of Music at the time. We called ourselves The Voices Beautiful (how very modest!) and we took the repertoire which we knew, along with some American songs (The Yale Song book I think - really cringe-worthy stuff actually, but great fun to sing.), and arranged it for 2 basses, two tenors, and a counter tenor. Here are two recordings from the mists of time. If English church music 英語の教会音楽 is not your thing, then just skip to the second recording. I was amazed that I had not consigned my cassette deck to the rubbish heap, and after a quick google on "how to", channelled this 1974 rarity into my laptop.

This is Charles Wood's"Oculi Omnium" - actually a kind of grace, きとう 祈祷 sung before a meal. My colleagues are: Robin Swaddling, Counter Tenor (R.I.P.), Adam Searle and Paul Clarke, Tenors, and Adrian Gunning and myself, Basses. The accompanying photo shows a group of all the older musicians from the school at that time. 💥🎧.....


Switching to some fun, you can also listen to us singing our own version of a song called "Saloon" 飲み屋 .We adapted the words to fit our situation, namely that we were all in the same "house" , which was called Fleur de Lys. If you are unfamiliar with this British school system then maybe think of the houses Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin from the Harry Potter story. Yes, I was at a school like that! But there was precious little magic. Five respectable young Englishmen singing American close harmony. If you are actually American, you should maybe skip this...💥🎧..........Adam sings the solo......



Ok, you can take your headphones off now.


The weekend saw me on another hike ハイキング in the Rhine Valley. It never ceases to amaze me who I meet on these walks - a young doctor from Uzbekistan, an I.T. worker from India, a young manager from Iran, a Yorkshire teacher working for the US military, a Japanese businessman.......even a few Germans! It's reassuring to know that the Frankfurt area has such a cultural mix. I'm not sure I could survive in deepest Bavaria, for example.....😅

We met today at the tiny village of Kestert, north of St. Goarhausen. At the waterfront the barges plough by on their way to Rotterdam......ロッテルダムに行くはしけ.艀.

And you might be tempted to swim.....(don't)....水泳はお勧めしません.

The water looks nice and clean though............川はきれいできれいです. (had to repeat a Japanese adjective there - not sure about that 😅

Kestert is a typical Rhineland village. There are fruit trees, a church.............ケスタート村

a landing stage......ふなつきば

and a smattering of Hotels and wine a sign proclaiming some partnership, in this case, to a region in the UK........

I met my hiking colleagues at the small railway station, and after walking along the banks of the Rhine for a while, we entered the Pulsbachklamm, a narrow ravine. A well-trodden path wound its way up to the fields above......急な渓谷 Kyūna keikoku.

For a good 20 mins the only sounds around us were the gurgling and splashing of the mountain stream, accompanied by bird calls from all directions.....自然の音だけ.

At a grotto adorned with a Madonna, one of the Chinese walkers hesitated. She then turned to me, and, (this was a genuine question) asked me if it was ok to photograph this little white statue. In Shanghai, she said, she would always ask the god's permission before photographing. Pause for thought, Nigel. マドンナ の 写真 おとって も いい ですか.

A strenuous rocky climb later......... Photo Andreas Müller

and then we were on top of the world.......世界の頂点に.

My hat was essential.......私は帽子をかぶらなければなりません... Photo Nicolle

Above the valley.......... Photo Andreas Müller

Near the end of the day there was a great debate about how many km we had walked. Some said "only 10km" others were sure it was 17km. When this picture was taken it felt like 25km........😛.

photo : Phe


Back to my home town. The View from the Towers. 塔からの眺め .

Years ago in the town of Langen I remember cycling past a factory. What did it produce I wondered? It even had its own railway track, branching off from the main line. Soon afterwards I made the discovery that it made........railway sleepers. How exciting 😅. Concrete ones. Well no wonder they needed their own branch line - I mean, a few dozen railway sleepers must be rather heavy oder? Then came the closure and then the demolition, and the area started to become a new residential part of Langen. But the railway? Well, they still haven't quite decided what to do with it. It sort of ends at the pavement.........古い枕木工場.

and the light is still red....permanently I presume......

I mean, you wouldn't want a train to get diverted into the new appartments would you? Even with the new 9€ ticket. Maybe that's the reason they left the notice saying "Halt".................


Following the news this week,今週のニュース, I hear a different perspective from each country. The BBC picks up Boris Johnson's flippant comment at the G7 meeting in Germany, Japan is worried about a power crunch as record temperatures means air-conditioners are in overdrive, and the Hessen news takes a critical look at the bonanza 9€ train ticket. I also read about the rocket attack on a shopping centre in Kremenchuk, クレメンチュグのショッピングセンターへのロケット攻撃、and like you I'm sure, was gripped by disbelief, anger and frustration. 不信. 怒り. 欲求不満. 悲しみ. How much longer is this going to last? Where is this taking us in the future?

Hessen news also told me that 1.600 Ukrainian children have been taken into schools here in this region. There was a report from a primary school (Grundschule) in Kiedrich, Rheingau. The Ukrainian children were delighted by the warm reception they had recieved. They had rapidly made new friends, and were learning German. A Ukrainian nurse had been drafted in to help with translating - all quickly organized with the minimum of bureacracy - quite unusual,given usual German bureaucracy.

So there is good news. The children miss their dads of course, and would like to return home. But their mothers are simply happy that their children are safe. This picture came out of the classroom.....Do not the men in the tanks have children as well? 戦車の中の男性にも子供がいないでください. What has gone wrong?



This week's drawing by Kawanabe Kyousei (1831-1889),

Two Crows with "Crow Gourd"Karasu-uri 1884-9


So that's all for this week.

Thanks for reading this post. I hope you found it interesting and that it didn't clog up your inbox.

Don't forget, the easy way is to subscribe, then I don't have to send out whatsapps or emails manually. But it may land in your spam folder! この投稿を読んでいただきありがとうございます。 新しい投稿のお知らせを受け取りたい場合は、上部の購読フォームに記入してください。 ありがとう!Nigel.😊



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