I am fond of St George’s at Gate Pa, aka Pukehinahina, because that was my childhood church where I was baptised and confirmed and it was lovely in the classic Anglican style (it isn’t now). I am fond too of Christ Church in Russell, the oldest church in New Zealand, which is even more austere than St George’s used to be and still has bullet holes from the unpleasant events at Kororareka in 1845.
Salisbury Cathedal, whose construction is recounted in William Golding’s The Spire, is another favourite. (The Spire is the best novel about architecture, ever. Yes, even better than that one by Ayn Rand.) Gloucester Cathedral has its good points, as do St Paul’s, the Duomo in Florence and the cathedral in Siena which has one of the great floors. In France, Notre Dame is creepy and Sacre-Coeur is vulgar. I haven’t seen Chartres or York Minster – last time I was in York was just after the bishop had declared that he didn’t believe in the resurrection and three days later a lighting strike destroyed the south transept so the building was closed for repairs. God is not mocked, even in Yorkshire.
But of the churches I have seen, St James’s in Picadilly is the best. It’s in a nice part of town, there is a decent bookshop around the corner, there are good shirt-shops next-door in Jermyn Street. Even better, William Blake was baptised there. Font memories! But the main thing about the church is the interior. It is lovely, and has carvings by Grinling Gibbons.
So here is the Daily Telegraph on Neil Finn’s recent performance there. Quote unquote:
The last time Neil Finn made a solo album was in 2001, when he released 7 Worlds Collide, but at last he has completed another one. Dizzy Heights will be released in February, and Finn has been warming up with some low-key dates, premiering his new songs accompanied by a small string orchestra.
The recorded pieces are intricate mosaics of tones and textures coloured with hints of Minimalism and electronica, occasionally reminiscent of Finn’s buddies Radiohead. In these live performances (with string arrangements by Victoria Kelly, who also contributed keyboards and backing vocals), the approach was more organic, focusing on the melodic essentials, with Finn’s voice squarely in the middle.
He isn’t one of the great rock’n’roll bawlers or a flashy vocal technician, but he sings with an unforced expressiveness which perfectly matches the wistful qualities of his songs. In My Blood, for instance, exuded a lingering air of nostalgia and regret, while Recluse was a meditation on the perils of isolation and of mistaking the internet for real life (“it’s people that you lose when you become a recluse”).