Not really a gig review (it was a great gig), but three things that occurred to me as I sat in the Union Chapel, enjoying the songs of James Yorkston.
Note One: Union Chapel as sacred grove
A book I’ve been blown away by these last few days is The New English Landscape, by Ken Worpole (Field Station Press), a set of essays on the post-war landscape of East Anglia, showing how much culturally-embedded ideas of an ‘ideal’ England upstream from London have damaged our relationship with the much more lived- and worked-in landscape ‘downriver’: a landscape – of mudflats and sea walls – that I love. I’ll write more about it, but Worpole makes one off-hand comment that struck me as so obvious that I was shocked never to have come across it before.
Using it as a comparison to the dangerous, ‘liminal’ locus of the seashore, Worpole talks of the sacred grove, which is, he says:
a secret, enclosed space known only to the gods and their self-elected worshippers. It is a powerful spatial configuration which starts with the clearing in the forest, or the woodland glade, and over time is transmuted into the interior of the Gothic cathedral.
I’ve no idea if this insight is Worpole’s, or is common anthropological knowledge (from Frazer, perhaps?) but it struck me as wonderfully, obviously true, in the way that mythic/pscyhological correspondences often do. (eg the expulsion from the garden of Eden as a metaphor for puberty, or the 1970 doubling of Hippolyta/Theseus and Titania/Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Peter Brook.)
It struck me doubly true, sat in the beautiful Union Chapel, my first visit there, under its beautiful dome, columns as trees. Those inside the initiated, having chosen to be there, gathering.
(The person I had arranged to meet at the gig couldn’t make it, but we sat down in the pew behind a woman by wife knows through work, whom she’d been trying to arrange to meet outside work for months. I had a tweet from someone else I know afterwards saying they’d seen me from across the room. Sacred grove…)
Note two: The singer takes nothing home
Yorkston said he would play two songs from his new, very-nearly-finished-being recorded record (produced by Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip). The first, an immediate belter, began with the lines I dreamed I was a red fox/Spiraling over the rooftops