Wonder Weeks

Parenting Science: The Wonder Weeks — www.thewonderweeks.com

This theory is based on the idea that development occurs in a series of predictable “leaps” in which an infant’s understanding of the world is changed. The leaps are described as fussy periods and the book provides an explanation of what your baby may be experiencing during each leap, what skills to look for, and how to help. I bought the Wonder Weeks app and found it useful so far to identify when Ashton might be going through a fussier phase and when it might be over. I found it a useful reminder to think about the world from Aston’s perspective. Think about a time when you were trying to master a new skill. You thought about it a lot, practiced whenever you could, and might have been feeling a little stressed out until you felt like you had mastered this new skill. You may have had trouble sleeping or been a little shorter with others than you meant to be. Babies feel this way multiple times during the first year. Keeping that idea in the front of my mind (and having a handy little app to remind me when it might be happening) was really helpful to put the tough days in perspective. These “fussy” days mean that development is happening – right now!

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t fully agree with all the components of this theory. For example, I think the development of object permanence (i.e., the end of “out of sight, out of mind” and the understanding that things exist even when we can’t see them), is a game changing skill. Once babies have this understanding, their whole understanding of the world is changed and it is a necessary precursor for a number of other skills. Imagine how boring peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek would be without this skill! The authors don’t consider this to be its own leap, but rather, the baby developing an understanding of distances. I agree that understanding distances is necessary for this skill, but think that it’s much more than that.  But, like all parenting advice, take what you find useful and trust your instincts on the rest. No one knows your baby better than you.

I bought the app and the book, but felt like the app provided enough information for me. I just don’t have time to read through hundreds of pages of information with a new baby at home. I’d rather spend my time playing with that baby! The quick and dirty summary was enough for me, but if you want more information, feel free to buy the book, get it from the library, or borrow mine.

How Bottles Saved Breasfeeding

Bottles allow Chris to help feed Ashton.

Bottles allow Chris to help feed Ashton.

I had a lot of "help" learning to breastfeed in the beginning

I had a lot of “help” learning to breastfeed in the beginning

When I was pregnant, I knew I wanted was going to breastfeed. It wasn’t even an option. It’s what’s recommended by the CDC, AAP, and WHO. It’s natural. It’s the best. It was going to be easy. Except it wasn’t.

Breastfeeding a newborn has been the most draining and exhausting parenting task I’ve faced so far. I mentioned in an earlier post that I didn’t have the birth experience I had hoped for. Related to that, I had a really difficult recovery and felt awful physically for about the first month of Ashton’s life. On top of my recovery challenges, Ashton had trouble nursing. He was described as a “lazy” nurser and would drink for a few minutes, stop and doze, then start again. He had trouble latching deeply enough. He would unlatch and act as if he couldn’t find the nipple that had been in his mouth seconds before. For the first few weeks, nursing required two people and extra “equipment” like a nipple shield, syringe to squirt milk into his mouth to coax him to open up and nurse, extra pillows to support him and keep his tiny body off my incision, and a milk saver to collect any precious drops that leaked out to be saved and used later. It took at least an hour each time, often longer, and I felt as if we were wrestling him to the breast each time. In the early weeks, he ate on average 8-10 times per day, which meant that a good portion of our lives revolved around feeding.

At one point in my hospitalization, I felt too ill to handle attempting to breastfeed, but I really wanted to avoid formula if possible. The nurse suggested I pump and Chris could feed Ashton a bottle. This was a game changer for us. Pumping took half the time of nursing in those early weeks, which was so critical in the middle of the night. We all got back to sleep within 30 minutes, allowing us extra sleep before waking up to do it again. I still nursed during the day, because I really wanted us to get better at that too. It took a long time and I strongly considered pumping exclusively or quitting all together several times. Pumping allowed me to keep up my supply and helped me feel confident that I was able to feed him enough because I could see exactly how much he was eating a few times per day. Introducing the bottle early while still nursing helped Ashton switch back and forth with ease and I knew when I went back to work that he would accept someone else feeding him a bottle.

As I write this, Ashton is four months old and nursing has completely changed for us. He has grown to be a much more efficient nurser and can finish eating within 20 minutes. Before, I wouldn’t consider attempting to nurse in public and we always traveled with a bottle of milk or scheduled outings around his feeding schedule. I am so thankful now that I didn’t give up in the beginning and am finally able to enjoy our breastfeeding relationship.

Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or none. If I had insisted that Ashton only feed at the breast, we would not have been successful. Moms have more choices now than ever before. You can give your baby some expressed breast milk or formula in a bottle while continuing to nurse. The most important thing is to FEED YOUR BABY. It really doesn’t matter how. It is a hugely personal decision that is sometimes out of a mom’s control. Don’t let anyone pressure you into feeling like you MUST feed your baby a certain way. That said, if you are determined to breastfeed your baby even part of their overall intake, you will likely need support at some point. Some resources I found really useful are:


GBMC Mommy Matters support group – meets on Fridays and is led by a lactation consultant/baby nurse

GBMC Nursing Warm Line 443-849-3428 – staffed by lactation consultants from 6am-9:30pm to answer a variety of questions

Baby Language

Parenting Science: Dunston’s Baby Language

The premise behind this theory is that there are specific universal vocal reflexes that account for five different cries made by newborns. Dunstan describes these sounds as pre-cry language and claims she has a photographic memory which allowed her to identify and decode these sounds.

According to Dunstan, the five universal pre-cry sounds (or sound reflexes) used by infants are:

  • Neh (I’m hungry)- This sound is produced when the sucking reflex is triggered, and the tongue is pushed up on the roof of the mouth. Other signs may include turning the head from side to side or sucking on fists.
  • Owh (I’m sleepy)- The sound is produced much like an audible  This pre-cry sound has a round oval-shaped mouth associated to it. The Owh sound often comes just before other signs of the infant being tired such as jerky movements, pulling ears, arching their back and rubbing their eyes.
  • Heh (I’m experiencing discomfort)- An infant uses the sound reflex “Heh” to communicate stress, discomfort, or perhaps that it needs a fresh diaper. The sound is produced by a response to a skin reflex, such as feeling sweat or itchiness in the bum. This cry contains a distinctive breathy “h” sound, similar to panting.
  • Eairh (I have lower gas)- An infant uses the sound reflex “Eairh” to communicate they have flatulence or an upset stomach. The sound is produced when trapped air from a belch is unable to release and travels to the stomach where the muscles of the intestines tighten to force the air bubble out. This sound is often more urgent sounding than the “eh” sound reflex.
  • Eh (I need to be burped)- An infant uses the sound reflex “Eh” to communicate that it needs to be burped. The sound is produced when a large bubble of trapped air is caught in the chest, and the reflex is trying to release this out of the mouth. This sound is often produced as short, discrete sounds “eh, eh, eh…”

This theory has received a great deal of criticism in that it has not be subjected to rigorous testing or research replication. There was a push to get this information on the market to help families and thus it has not been peer reviewed. That said, it may be useful for parents who use this theory as informational to help them become more attuned to their baby’s cry. I know I’ve heard the neh and heh sounds clearly and have been able to address Ashton’s needs more efficiently.

For more information about Dunstan Baby Language (DBL), see:


Mourning the Birth Plan

A healthy baby after a grueling delivery makes it all worthwhile.

A healthy baby after a grueling delivery makes it all worthwhile.

When I was pregnant, I did all the “right” things to prepare for delivery. I read the books, went to childbirth class held by the hospital, discussed my preferences with my doctor, I hired a doula to help make sure I could have the labor experience I had hoped and prepared for. My birth plan was relatively simple:

1. Have a healthy baby
2. Avoid a cesarean
3. Use as few interventions as possible

As soon as we checked in to the hospital, I knew I would not be having the birth I had hoped for. Even though I felt relatively open to the possibilities that could happen during a delivery, I was not prepared for what we were about to experience. I won’t go in to too many private details here, so briefly, my labor was induced because Ashton was not “happy” when I experienced contractions. I underwent a series of escalating interventions that neither he nor I tolerated very well for 24 hours and ended up with an emergency cesarean when he went into distress.

Refusing the interventions or surgery very likely could have been devastating for Ashton. Even though I know that this was how he needed to come into the world, it is still difficult and emotional to think about. For the first few weeks after we came home, I cried every Friday night thinking about where we were and what we were doing the night before Ashton was born. I still feel a twinge inside every time someone refers to a vaginal delivery as “natural,” implicitly suggesting that my birth experience was “un-natural.” Even without having a firm birth plan, I still felt an intense period of mourning that I never heard anyone acknowledge when I was pregnant. I told myself that sacrificing my plans and my body for my child is one of the most “natural” things a mother can do and tried to take solace in the fact that I had a healthy baby to take home.

Although I’ve come to accept what happened as part of our life journey, it’s still emotional to think about. I recognized my feelings as normal and allowed myself a grieving period. I was surrounded by supportive people who were able to listen, offer comfort, or hold the baby for a bit. Some moms find these feelings more pervasive, intense, or need someone to provide professional support. Please take mental health seriously. Some sadness, grief, or mourning is normal. When it interferes with caring for mom or the baby, it is time to get help. Surround yourself with supportive people and talk it out. If that doesn’t help, talk to your doctor or find a local therapist who can help.



It’s Getting Better All the Time

Baby smiles make it all worthwhile.

Baby smiles make it all worthwhile.

getting better 2

Having fun after work

getting better 3 (1)

Sleeping while the baby sleeps in the first few weeks


The days are long, but the years are short

This too shall pass

Bedtime always comes

Someday, there will be a last time so embrace this time

These were some of my mantras for the first few weeks home with Ashton. I understood (intellectually) that it was going to be a difficult adjustment to have a newborn, but I couldn’t truly understand it emotionally until we were in the thick of it all. Those first few weeks were *hard.* In the first few weeks, you still remember what life was like before your child was born. It was so much easier to pick up and go, eat meals with two hands, sleep in if you wanted to.

In the first few weeks, a newborn is so utterly dependent that it is amazing and exhausting at the same time. Seasoned parents tell you it gets better quickly, but it’s difficult to imagine what that will look like and when that day will finally come. Will you wake up one morning, startled by a full night’s sleep? Will you stop being able to imagine what your life was like before the baby? Will you suddenly feel like you have it all under control?

As I write this, Ashton is three months old and I feel like we’ve emerged from the haze of the first few weeks. I can’t pinpoint an exact time when that happened, but I know it feels different now. I look at his face and feel such an intense and deep love for him. I miss him terribly when I’m at work or even when he’s napping in his crib. I don’t feel nervous about how we’re going to spend a whole day together. I don’t wish I had someone to hand him off to so I could get a break. I can’t imagine spending a night away from him (at least not right now). Add me to the group of moms who can honestly say “it gets so much better.”

When you’re living in those first few weeks, it’s so important to find support. It takes a village and the sooner you start to find yours, the faster you’ll feel like it gets better.

  • Epiphany church community
  • Hospital support groups: GBMC and Mercy both have breastfeeding/general support groups. I went to the one at GBMC while I was on leave and loved it.
  • Local online groups: Mobtown Mommies on facebook – request to join to connect with Baltimore moms, Babycenter.com has lots of “special interest” forums
  • The Longest Shortest Time podcasts – other new parents post about their experiences, they also have a facebook group to connect with new parents





intro 1intro 2Hi there! Welcome! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Kelly. My husband, Chris, and I joined Epiphany when we were expecting our son, Ashton. We were looking for a spiritual home for our family, and were so impressed by the strong sense of community the instant we entered the worship at Epiphany.

While I was on maternity leave, Kathryn approached me about writing a blog for new parents. I was thrilled by the idea. I am a developmental/pediatric psychologist by day and a nervous/excited new mom by night. At work, I administer developmental and behavioral assessments of children birth to five, to make appropriate diagnoses and recommendations for treatment. At home, I try really hard not to check off assessment items in my mind as Ashton learns new skills. I am excited to share my personal and professional experience and knowledge in the the hopes that it could help other parents celebrate and commiserate the little moments with little ones.

Photo captions:

#1: Our little family, pre-Ashton

#2: Our little man


Mary’s Sabbatical Blog Post #4

September 20, 2014

When last I wrote we were preparing to leave the beautiful island of Iona. The next day, (August 9) we took the Iona ferry over to the island of Mull to spend the night there in order to catch the early morning ferry to the mainland of Scotland to allow time for our long drive back down to Heathrow. We stayed in the village of Tobermory on Mull, a charming fishing village with a sheltered harbor lined with colorful houses and shops. (Pictures included are of our departure from Iona, the wild and remote mountain scenery of Mull, and the village of Tobermory).

Our hotel, the Western Isles Hotel, was a pilgrimage place of a different sort for Bill and me, as it was one of the locations used in a favorite movie of ours, ‘I Know Where I’m Going’ (1945), which was filmed on the island of Mull. While in Tobermory that afternoon we saw signs in shop windows for a family Ceilidh, which is a social gathering with traditional Gaelic music, dancing and singing. We thought this would be a wonderful way to spend our last evening in Scotland, so shortly after supper we set out on (you guessed it!) a narrow single lane track up hill and down dale, and around some hair-raising hair-pin turns on the tops of ancient volcanic mountains to descend into the remote and charming village of Dervaig.

As we came up the last steep climb, there lay Dervaig below us, with the sun shining across the sea in the west. The Ceilidh was great fun, and included all ages, from very young children to the elderly. Everyone took part, including Bill and me, in the dancing, which at times reminded me of square dancing. There was a small band consisting of accordion, guitar, and bass, and a ‘caller’ who called out the steps of the dances. It was great fun, and a wonderfully inclusive and welcoming evening. When the band took a break there was a general invitation for anyone there to come up and perform. A teenage boy played his guitar, and then a young woman got up and sang unaccompanied two hauntingly beautiful ballads in Gaelic. You could have heard a pin drop in the hall as she sang.

Finally Bill and I tore ourselves away, as we had to make the trip back to Tobermory and get the early ferry the next morning. As we ascended the steep hill out of the village at around 9:30 p.m. the sun was beginning to set and I looked back down at the twinkling lights of the village nestled in the glen—it was unforgettably beautiful.

Unfortunately I have no pictures to share of this last memorable evening of our trip, but I carry the pictures of it in my mind’s eye. Bill and I are so very grateful for the opportunity to have made this amazing trip together, and the memories of it continue to sustain us both back on this side of the Atlantic. Bill went back to work the day after our return, and I spent a couple of weeks at home tending our rather overgrown garden and dealing with a rather large list of ‘to-do’ items on my desk and at home which I had been postponing since early summer.

At the end of August we took some family vacation time with Gilbert up in New Hampshire for a week and visited friends in Exeter, where we used to live, and ended up at our favorite lake, Pleasant Lake, in New London, New Hampshire for Labor Day weekend. We enjoyed bicycling, swimming and canoeing at the lake, and on a particularly beautiful late summer day we climbed Mt. Kearsarge, which overlooks Pleasant Lake. Pictures included are of Little Boar’s Head Beach, North Hampton, NH (near Exeter on the Seacoast), St. Andrew’s by the Sea (an Episcopal summer chapel at Little Boar’s Head), Pleasant Lake, and views from the top of Mt. Kearsarge, and of Old St. Andrew’s Church in New London, where I worshipped on Labor Day Sunday.

After a week back at home after our New Hampshire trip, I was back on an airplane again, this time to go to San Francisco! Stay tuned for details about my week in California in my next blog post!





Mary’s Blog Post #3

We bid farewell to Worcester and the Malvern Hills on Sunday and began the second half of our journey by heading northeast to Yorkshire, where we spent a delightful two days touring and rambling around the Yorkshire Dales, taking in the James Herriot museum in Thirsk. I was enchanted to discover that the museum is actually the original “Skeldale House” where James and Siegfried lived and worked. James Herriot’s real name was Alf Wight, and Siegfried’s was Donald Sinclair. I highly recommend the museum to Herriot fans–well worth a visit! Having read and loved the books many years ago, it was also a real treat to see the Yorkshire Dales countryside.

At one point as we were walking along a high path up in the Dales, Bill remarked that he felt like he was walking in a calendar because of the spectacular scenery! Bill also deserves a medal for navigating the steep and narrow roads up and down the Dales!

We took in Richmond Castle gardens in Richmond, which has spectacular hilltop views of the River Swale coursing swiftly below the castle walls. Of particular note in the gardens was a memorial topiary garden dedicated to 16 prisoners held in the castle during World War I because of their conscientious objection to war. They were eventually sentenced to 10 years hard labor.

We left Yorkshire to begin our journey to the Isle of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland in the Hebrides, arriving on Wednesday afternoon. Along the way we visited Benmore Gardens in Dunoon, Argyll, and Inveraray Castle in Inveraray. Benmore is a large, primarily wooded botanical garden with hundreds of species of trees and plants from all over the world. We could have spent several days there and still not seen it all. Inveraray Castle, for all you Downton Abbey fans, is where they filmed the episode where the Grantham family went to visit their Scottish cousins! The Lord of Argyll actually lives there with his wife and children.

We finally arrived at Iona, after two ferry rides and a long drive across the Island of Mull on a single track road (did I mention that Bill deserves a medal for his expert driving and nerves of steel?), and settled into the charming Argyll Hotel.

It is hard to describe how beautiful and serene Iona is. There is something about the light and the color of the water that is almost other-worldly. There is almost a complete absence of commercial enterprise here, and the small village on the island is quiet and peaceful. Iona is a place of pilgrimage and of quiet Scottish sheep farming life.

The Iona Community has services mornings and evenings in the Abbey, which is on the site where St. Columba founded a monastery in the 6th century, and from which Christianity spread throughout Scotland and northern England. The Iona Community is an ecumenical Christian Community devoted to “seeking a more just and equal society, a fairer, more sustainable way of living on the Earth, and a progressive renewal of the Church and its worship.”

I have enjoyed entering into their morning and evening worship, especially the late evening Eucharist on Thursday night where they set up big tables down the middle of the nave of the Abbey with everyone sitting facing inward toward the table, with many candles throughout the Abbey. Communion was shared by passing many loaves of bread and chalices of wine around the concentric circle of people, with each person passing the bread and wine on to his/her neighbor. I will include a picture I took after the service was over.

You will notice that at the far end of the nave is a beautiful seemingly blue window. This window is actually clear, but it was just getting dark at the end of the service at around 10:10 p.m., and that is the evening sky! I will also include a picture of a rainbow I saw just over the Abbey right before the service began.

I have also attended services at the nearby Bishop’s House, the Scottish Episcopal Church’s retreat house on the island. Bishop’s House has a lovely Chapel of its own where morning Eucharist and evening Compline are offered each day.

Bill and I took a boat trip over to the Isle of Staffa to see Fingal’s Cave on the most beautiful day of our trip. The weather was gorgeous, and the climb along the rock face on the side of Staffa was unforgettable. Pictures are included! Fingal’s Cave was made famous by Felix Mendelssohn, who visited in the early 19th century, and was inspired to write “The Hebrides or Fingal’s Cave Overture.” I’m really impressed to think that Mendelssohn made this trip back in those days when he had to sail out here and there were no iron railings to hold onto along the cliff face!

We’ve also tramped around the Isle of Iona, searching for colored stones on the pebble beaches, and have been glad we brought rain gear!

Our hotel has been homey and comfortable, with lots of sustainable practices, including their own large organic garden, from which comes a lot of the delicious food we’ve been eating. Between the great food here and the cream and butter I’ve consumed, I’m definitely not going to have my cholesterol checked for a while!

It has been the trip of our lives, and we are both so grateful for the opportunity to have made it. We will indeed be sorry on Sunday to leave this beautiful place to begin our long journey home, but also grateful to return fortified and renewed by our spiritual and musical pilgrimage.
–Mary and Bill

Saturday, August 2nd


The Three Choirs Festival ended this evening, and it had been my hope to write a little bit each day about our experiences, but the vagaries of internet connection and the incredibly busy schedule of the week have prevented me from my original plan.
However, what follows is a recap of the past 6 days since I last wrote.

MONDAY began with a poetry walk on the Malvern hills led by Linda Hart, a writer and editor whose specialty is a group of poets called the Dymock poets, which include Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Frost, as well as several others. These poets lived in the village of Dymock (near Worcester) in the period before the First World War, and two of them were killed in the war. All of them wrote lovingly of this area around the Malvern Hills and Robert Frost wrote his poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ while living here. I had not known that Frost, a New Englander, had spent time living in England at the beginning of his career.

We couldn’t have had a more beautiful summer day to hike the Malvern Hills and stop periodically to hear Linda read poems by the Dymock poets. Interestingly, Linda, although now a British citizen of some 40 years, was born and raised in the US, and is a graduate of Goucher College!

In the afternoon we attended Evensong and in the evening a concert featuring Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony (Symphony No. 2) with the Festival Chorus and the Philharmonia Orchestra. The concert was beautiful, and for Bill especially was one of the highlights of the week!

TUESDAY saw us on another outing in the morning to go to composer Edward Elgar’s birthplace and museum, just a few miles outside of Worcester. We were fortunate to have along with us a new friend, Tom, whom we had met on the poetry walk, who is a member of the Elgar society and quite knowledgeable about all things Elgar. We felt like we had our own personal tour guide through the house and museum.

In the afternoon we attended a wonderful performance of Bach’s B Minor Mass by the three Cathedral Choirs and the Academy of Ancient Music, followed in the evening by a concert by the choir Tenebrae of Russian liturgical music entitled ‘Russian Treasures’. Tenebrae is hands-down the best choir I have ever heard! Go out and buy their CDs! Bill and I were blown away by their singing, as well as by the deeply spiritual nature of this music.

I should also note here that every concert of the whole week here has begun with a prayer led by one of the clergy or lay staff of Worcester Cathedral. Some of them have been written by the person leading the prayer at that particular concert, and usually have included references to the themes of the day and week as we work through remembrance of WWI to redemption and reconciliation, but also include references to what is going on in the world today.

It has been quite wonderful to find ourselves in prayer in a packed Cathedral with 1500 other concert-goers before each concert begins. At one of the concerts, one of the Canons of the Cathedral read this prayer from Shakespeare:
“O Lord that lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thanksgiving.” I thought this prayer would make a good table grace.

One final vignette from Tuesday:
At breakfast at the university dormitory where we we staying, I overheard the two young men who were manning the breakfast buffet talking about “the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”,the first book in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. Only in England!

WEDNESDAY began with a wonderful choral concert by Rodolphus, a high school youth choir who were amazing. They sounded like professionals. Great Britain is overflowing with choral excellence, I have decided. Whenever there are opportunities to sing at services here, one is surrounded by such hearty singing by all in attendance. I met so many people this week who sing in enormous choral societies in their home towns and villages. Choral singing is a national pastime here!

In the afternoon we attended another beautiful Evensong sung by the combined three Cathedral choirs. This one was being recorded live for the BBC program ‘Choral Evensong’, which broadcasts live an Evensong from a different Cathedral every Wednesday at 3:30 and repeats it the following Sunday at 3. I learned that ‘Choral Evensong’ is the longest-running and most- listened-to BBC program, with over 20 million listeners worldwide. And now I can say that I have sung for the BBC, as I sang the hymns!

On THURSDAY we attended a lecture given by Linda Hart on the Dymock Poets: “A rural idyll ended by war”. Following the lecture we attended a luncheon sponsored by the Vaughan Williams Society, which featured a talk on how Vaughan Williams was influenced by his experience in the Great War, interspersed with readings by award-winning poet John Greening.

The interweaving of poetry and music throughout the week has been so enriching, and it has been wonderful to have the time during this week to reflect on many moving texts and poetry.

After lunch we attended a fabulous concert by the King’s Singers, followed by another glorious Evensong, which featured a new anthem by a young composer (24 years old!) on the text “let all mortal flesh keep silence”. Bill and I were blown away by this anthem, which made me think of this text in a wholly new way.

After dinner we attended the premiere of the commissioned work for the Festival: “A Foreign Field” by German composer Torsten Rasch, who was born in Dresden, one of the cities obliterated in WWII. A German choir from the city of Chemnitz (also bombed during the War) joined forces with the Festival Choir for this concert, symbolizing hope for reconciliation and an end to war. The texts used for this work were an interspersing the Latin Requiem Mass with poetry by Dymock poet Edward Thomas. At this concert I sat next to a woman who was from Coventry in England (also heavily bombed during WWII), who said the music brought those experiences to her mind again.

On FRIDAY Bill and I took another jaunt out to the beautiful countryside to visit a garden at Croome Court. Bill has become quite good at navigating the challenges of driving on the opposite side of the road with a stick-shift transmission along the narrow and winding country roads, which include frequent round-abouts, with everyone going around the wrong way!

In the evening we attended a concert by the Festival Chorus, the Girl Choristers of Worcester Cathedral, and the Three Choirs Festival Youth Orchestra of Elgar’s oratorio “The Apostles”.

Today, SATURDAY, August 2, is my birthday, and a wonderful birthday it has been! We drove over to Hay on Wye, just over the border into Wales, and wandered around browsing in second hand book shops (there are over a dozen in the town!), and had a pub lunch. Then back to Worcester for dinner with our new friends Pauline and Mike (who have lent us a parking space all week) and the final concert this evening: “Best of British”, featuring a line-up of such classics as Handel’s “Zadok the Priest”, Parry’s “Jerusalem” and Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1″. I think I can honestly say that this has been the best, and certainly the most memorable birthday I have ever had!

As our week at the 3 Choirs Festival draws to a close, I am so very grateful for the opportunity to have come here and to have heard such great music, met such interesting and kind people, and had my love of words re-kindled. The final words of John Milton’s poem ‘Blest pair of Sirens’ from tonight’s concert sums it up:

O may we soon again renew that song,
And keep in tune with heaven, till God ere long
To his celestial concert us unite,
To live with Him, and sing in endless morn of light!

Greetings from Worcester, England!




Greetings from Worcester, England! We arrived at Heathrow early Friday morning and rented a car, drove to Oxford and had lunch with Bill’s cousin Liz and her husband Bill, and then had a lovely late afternoon drive through the Cotswolds on the way the Worcester. We stopped in Bourton-on-the-Water and strolled along the river running like a street between two rows of houses and shops. We arrived in Worcester around 8 pm and settled into our dorm accommodations for the week at the City Campus of Worcester University after a late dinner. A long day, to be sure, but some beautiful scenery and quite warm weather (in thThe Three Choirs Festival began Saturday morning with an opening service at the Cathedral with a grand procession of all kinds of dignitaries from the three cathedral cities of Worcester, Hereford, and Gloucester, including Mayors, Deputy Mayoresses, City Marshalls, Lords and Ladies, an Earl, Vergers, Bishops, Deans, the 3 choirs and their Directors, and lots of gold chains, amazing headgear, swords, and vestments.

The Three Choirs Festival is the oldest continuous Choir festival in the world, and this year is the 287th festival! There was only one year that the festival did not happen, and that was in 1914 at the beginning of the First World War. This year’s Festival marks the centenary of the start of the “Great War”as they call it here, and that theme became apparent in the opening service of music and readings and in the Dean’s inspiring sermon, where he spoke of the power that music and art have to bridge the gap between the horror of war and the indomitable human spirit, which continues to love and laugh and sing.

At the Festival Reception afterward we met a very nice couple who ended up offering to let us park our rental car in their driveway for the duration of the festival. We have already met so many lovely and friendly people!

Saturday evening began with Evensong sung by the Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir, after which we caught a quick bite to eat in order to return to the first concert of the week, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem. As I was waiting in the line to re-enter the Cathedral from the cloister, I studied the stained glass windows along the cloister, all of which were memorials to sons, husbands, and fathers killed in the First World War. One boy died 5 days before his 18th birthday. Britten, born immediately after the war, was a pacifist, and the War Requiem, his monumental work, interweaves the traditional texts of the Requiem Mass with poetry by Wilfred Owen who died in France one week before the Armistice in 1918. Bill and I were struck by how deeply the memory of this war is still felt here. There was a palpable feeling of engagement with the music by the rapt audience in the packed cathedral.

After this concert we attended a late night concert by a group called Opus Anglicanum, comprised of 5 men who presented a program of songs and readings about angels throughout history. They were amazing. Bill and I finally got back to our dorm around 11:30. A very full day for Day 1 of the Festival!

Today, (Sunday), featured the opening Eucharist in the packed Cathedral, after which we took a drive into the countryside and ended up in Hereford, where we went to Evensong. We had our first glimpse of the Malvern hills in the beautiful Wye Valley during our drive. Tomorrow we are scheduled to go on a poetry walk in the Malvern Hills. This is Edward Elgar county, which he said inspired a lot of his music. I can see why– the scenery is breath-taking. We are hoping to go see the Elgar birthplace museum (a short distance outside of Worcester) sometime this week.

It is hard to believe this is only the end of the second day of the Festival!