A message from the Chairman of
The Friends of Coventry Cathedral
Broken Angel –
reimagining a missing window
IN JANUARY 2020, one panel of John Hutton’s great West Screen was damaged beyond repair. The Broken Angel Project gives contemporary artists the opportunity to make new images for the space left behind.
The project recognises that a permanent replacement for Hutton’s work is inappropriate at present. Instead, for three successive periods of four months there will be new works by different artists responding to the idea of the removed remnant of the ‘Angel of the Eternal Gospel’, while the shattered original is being consolidated. The project is part of Coventry's Year as UK City of Culture and the Friends of Coventry Cathedral have made a supporting grant towards it.
The two photos on the left show the damaged angel intact. On the right - the empty space.
Anne Petters will be the first artist, making a new work to be installed in November 2021, and present until February 2022.
Anne grew up in Dresden. Her work has been shown in the USA and Europe. Since 2017 she has had a studio in the UK following her appointment as Fellow in Glass at the City and Guilds of London school.
Anne describes her practice as “an attempt to visualise and materialise the poetic spiritual space of the everyday“. She uses glass, light and natural phenomena to make objects and installations that create a sense of wonder and curiosity in the viewer. Her work challenges our ideas of fragility and the passage of time.
The advisory curator working with the Cathedral for the project is Professor Michael Tooby. He grew up in Coventry, lives in Wales and is a Professor at Bath School of Art, Bath Spa University.
Michael comments : “The possibilities for creative responses to the ‘broken Angel’ are a microcosm of the Cathedral itself. From a destructive act, we gain fresh insights, and positive outcomes from which we can take new experiences. The project will also renew the dialogue between living artists and the life of the Cathedral and its communities that has always been at the heart of the Cathedral’s ethos. “
Anne’s work will be succeeded by two further works, to be installed in early spring 2022 and summer 2022. A small participative research group generated by a public engagement programme will be involved and we hope it will be an important component of the project. It will offer a further dimension to the Cathedral’s work in reaching out and making its life relevant to the many communities to whom it welcomes.
We are weaned from our timidity In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
from ‘Touched by An Angel’, Maya Angelou
If you would like to become involved in the Broken Angel Project please get in touch with Mike Tooby at [email protected]
CHAIR Martin R Williams DEPUTY CHAIR …vacancy… SECRETARY Revd William Howard TREASURER Deryck Horton MEMBERSHIP SECRETARY Jim Newton
Hamish Blair Jane Williams
Jane Edwards Phil Morris
Richard Chamberlaine-Brothers Mandy Wooltorton
Stuart Fielding (co-opted)
AmazonSmile helps the Friends
Each time you shop on Amazon, you can support the Friends of Coventry Cathedral at no cost to you. You can use the firm's charity arm at smile.amazon.co.uk. where you find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as amazon.co.uk, but with the added benefit that Amazon donates 0.5% of your eligible purchases to the Friends of Coventry Cathedral.
SEPTEMBER ORGAN RECITALS
On Mondays in August at 12.30pm there is a free 30 minute recital on the magnificent Harrison & Harrison organ of Coventry Cathedral.
Monday 6th September 2021 David Henning(Houston, Texas)
Monday 13th September 2021 Daniel Greenway
Monday 20th September 2021 James Lancelot(Durham Cathedral)
Monday 27th September 2021 Oliver Hancock(Warwick)
The Friends membership application form is available online –
THE NATIONALLY-RENOWNED Methodist Modern Art Collection of more than 50 works will go on show in churches across Coventry this autumn as an Art Trail, entitled Stories of Change: Hope, Faith and Love, as part of the city’s celebration as UK City of Culture.
The Collection includes works by artists such as Graham Sutherland, Elisabeth Frink, Edward Burra, William Roberts, Patrick Heron, F N Souza and Jyoti Sahi. The Art Trail marks the relaunch of the Collection after a two-year conservation and re-framing project to conserve the works and ensure they will be able to be displayed for many years to come.
The Art Trail will start at Coventry Cathedral and Coventry Methodist Central Hall in the city centre. Then visitors will be encouraged to follow the trail beyond the city into churches in Earlsdon, Balsall Common and Fillongley, which are part of the Coventry and Nuneaton Methodist Circuit.
The Methodist Modern Art Collection Art Trail ‘Stories of Change: Hope, Faith and Love’ will be available to view on selected days from Saturday 4 September to Sunday 3 October 2021.
NEW BOOKSTALL FURNITURE is now in place at the west end of the Cathedral. It has been carefully designed in keeping with the original Spence furniture. The intention is eventually to reverse the flow so that visitors enter the building through the door on the Chapel of Unity side of the nave. New welcome furniture is also in place on that side.
This move has been postponed for the time being because of the need for care during the Covid-19 pandemic. For the time being both visitors and worshippers enter and leave through the large glass doors of the west screen that are kept open and provide ventilation. The narrower side doors are not currently in use.
THE FRIENDS OF Coventry Cathedral was established in 1934 upon the initiative of Provost Howard. Between 1934 and 1965 twelve volumes of a publication entitled "Coventry Cathedral Chronicle" were published as a record of events at the Cathedral. Recognising the importance of this published record, the Friends Council has created a bound copy of those early publications. Copies are also available in the Cathedral Archives.
THE ARCHIVES SECRET revealed this month is a ground breaking and historic photograph on the cover of a magazine printed in the USA for sale in the United Kingdom.
You may well ask What on earth makes this photograph ground breaking and historic?
After all, the details appear slightly indistinct. At the top of the Cathedral steps is a procession of no real significance. It is a picture of Epstein’s St Michael and the Devil that could be posed and taken on any day.
But look a little harder. Published in 1966 on the front of VENTURE magazine, what made the original photograph so special was that it was in three dimensions (3-D). Coventry Cathedral was the subject chosen for the first 3-dimensional photograph to be used on the cover of a magazine sold in the UK.
The picture was produced using what was then a new process called lenticular imaging, a technique that had taken 12 years to develop and had only recently been perfected for mass use. It produced three dimensional pictures that could be experienced without the need for special glasses or other viewing devices. (For this FRIENDS newsletter I can only scan the picture in two dimensions, which explains the loss of quality.) VENTURE, a global US magazine targeted at international travellers, first revealed the technology in 1965. A year later the editor sent its ground-breaking camera across the Atlantic to Europe. Their instructions were to search out and photograph “the best of Europe’s modern architecture” for the magazine cover. That is the reason they photographed Coventry Cathedral.
My description makes transporting the camera sound a lot easier than it was in practice. The 3D lenticular camera was both heavy and bulky. It weighed approximately one ton, and a vehicle the size of a furniture van was required to transport it by road. In Priory Street the van was reversed onto the paving beneath Epstein’s statue of St Michael. The back doors were flung open to reveal the camera pointing outwards and fixed inside.
The photographer needed a group wearing bright robes in order to add colour and human interest to the picture. The subjects were instructed to stand absolutely still for some 30 minutes or more for the camera, which then took a series of photos. Hair was ruffled and the robes blew wildly around them as they were buffeted by the breeze, which necessitated several retakes. The event was also photographed by hordes of visitors fascinated to see the massive camera lens moving from side to side in the back of the van.
I am not able to identify the two priests wearing the green John Piper copes. I was present so I know that they were two of that day’s Cathedral chaplains, persuaded to pose for the camera with two Cathedral vergers. John Wickens, Provost’s Verger, is the figure at the rear.
The 3D photographs were called Xographs and for a few years through the 1970s they could be found occasionally on greetings cards and postcards. They are rarely seen today, though last week, by chance, I spotted a single Xograph card in the gift shop at Kenilworth Castle.
How did it work? The specially designed camera took pictures through a transparent screen that was serrated to break up the image into hair-thin vertical slices. The camera then moved slightly to the side to allow other sliced-up pictures to be taken on the same negative. The resulting picture was carefully printed, and a plastic film poured on to it and shaped into what became in effect a collection of lenses. The plastic lenses were so arranged that the viewer's left eye saw one of the serrated pictures, and the right eye saw the other.
A SPECIAL SCREENING of this BBC FOUR film will take place in the Cathedral on Friday 17th September 2021 at 7pm. The film will be followed by Q & A with John Wyver, the writer and director of the film, and Helen Wheatley from the University of Warwick. The screening is part of the University of Warwick’s Resonate Festival.
Tickets are FREE and can be booked online from
IN 1984 THE Cathedral Choristers sang the Ceremony of Carols in a Cathedral concert (photo above).
In 2000 Tony Blair and his wife met the Cathedral Choir in the Lecture hall following the Cathedral service for the dedication of the Home Front Memorial in the Cathedral Ruins (photo below).
Former Cathedral choristers of every year will be welcome at the Grand Ex-chorister Reunion in May 2022. The Friends are helping to create a complete contact list of former Cathedral choristers, so if you know of any ex-chorister, please mention the Grand Reunion to him or her.
Former Cathedral choristers are asked to pass their contact details to Mike Smith, who was a Cathedral chorister back in 1962. Mike is collecting ex-chorister contact details so that he can circulate all ex-choristers with 2022 Reunion details once the plans are complete.
WHENEVER I SAW the Cathedral Churchardens on duty at services after the Consecration in 1962 I simply saw them as serious figures of authority. I had no idea that three of them had sung in the Cathedral Choir.
Those three singers were John Collier (Provost’s Warden), George Rathbone and Mr E A Smith. I was reminded of this last month when in my newsletter I identified Mr Smith as one of the youngest choirboys in the Choir group photo of 1912.
Another pre-war Cathedral chorister, who in his later life became a much-published leading authority on the singing voice, was John Steane. His writings enable us all to share today some of his experiences when as a freshman he sang in St Michael’s immediately before the outbreak of war.
In his privately published memoirs John Steane wrote about his freshman year:
“I looked up to the men in the choir and told my parents that I thought there could be no nicer set of men anywhere. Directly behind me in the stalls sang the bass soloist, David Gee, and to hear him throughout a service or a practice was a singing-lesson in itself. Even at that early age I marvelled at his runs in Handel. But to his side and also close behind me was the Cantoris alto, Mr Collier. I had never heard anything like that before and was first appalled, then fascinated. Soon that strange sound and very different quality of his counterpart on Decani became an obsession.”
In his book “Voices: Singers and Critics”, John Steane wrote about Mr Smith. Smith sang in the Cathedral Choir for almost 60 years before becoming a churchwarden in 1948. He sang in the choir as a boy but when his speaking voice broke and he became able to sing bass, his unbroken but lowered boy’s singing voice remained with him. The choirmaster pronounced him “a natural alto”.
In St Michael’s Church whenever the Cathedral Choir was on duty before Matins and Evensong the singers assembled in the Mercers’ Chapel (where Bishop Gorton’s tomb is today) to sing an introit.
Steane’s favourite introit -
“was If Ye Love Me by Thomas Tallis, and it informed my young mind of nothing less than what music truly was. It involved a most delicious interplay of voices. Previously I had thought that we, the trebles, having the tune, were the important ones. But no: it passed to the tenors, then there it was in the basses, and ah, what was that? That, I came to realise, was Alto Smith. It was a sound from outer space, it was not of God’s
Mr A E Smith (l) and Alan Stephenson (director) 1938
earth. Over and above us trebles came this phrase, “even the spirit of truth”. And Tallis, lovely man, had arranged for it to be repeated.
Knowing that our part was for once subordinated to other voices, we trebles could look around for the source of this celestial impertinence, this surplice-clad voice of astonishing height, power and purity. It was not, I noted, Mr Collier. This surprised me, for Mr Collier was an alto of immense hootage who sang immediately behind me in the stalls and who seemed to be the most likely perpetrator. He indeed was singing, but the source of this sound was elsewhere, to my right. For years it spearheaded my quest for fuller understanding of the human voice; for some time it even directed my personal ambitions.”
John Steane’s home was in Coventry. He attended King Henry VIII School, and after graduating from Jesus College, Cambridge he took up a teaching post at Merchant Taylor’s School, Northwood, Middlesex where he became head of English and simultaneously began his writing career.
We must thank John Steane for these pictures of Cathedral Choir life in the immediate pre-war period. After the war he took a leading part in the Cathedral’s music life when services started again in the crypt chapels, but I will keep that story for another day.
There are almost no photographs available of Cathedral services and the Cathedral Choir taken before 1962, so do please look out for them on your travels. It would be good to find photographs from the 1920s to accompany the recorded recollections of Ken Fell, who joined the Cathedral Choir in 1921 – just three years after the founding of the new Diocese. Ken tells of his Cathedral Choir days in those early years long before John Steane became a member. I will include Ken’s recollections in a future newsletter.
(To hear the music that so affected John Steane, look online for “If Ye Love Me by Tallis” and you will find several versions on Youtube.)
The first head chorister
I WAS SADDENED to learn of the death in April of Brian Saunders. He was one of the early band of Cathedral choristers recruited by Precentor Joseph Poole. He was the first Head Chorister of the new Cathedral.
Mike Smith, a member of the Friends, sang alongside Brian. He explained that Brian’s singing voice was so pure that he was nearly always selected to take soprano solos. “Not one of us resented that Brian got the lot. We were proud of our champion. He had a sublime voice and would have been a contender for choirboy of the year any year.”
Brian made a positive contribution to the life of our city. He hit the headlines several times in the Coventry Evening Telegraph when he managed the Theatre One cinema in Pool Meadow. (photo in the 1980s) His views were often sought as he fought the cause of the independent cinemas.
For a while he owned Busters Nightclub in Market Way, Coventry and he was a founder member of the Coventry Canal Basin Trust. In 2004 he starred in a Channel Four documentary series” A Place in Greece”, as with his partner he pursued their dream of building their own home there.
FAITH Friday 10th September to Saturday 11th September 2021. FAITH is a 24-hour invitation to explore our understanding of life and our search for hope through the beliefs of people of faith, and of non-religious world views using music, theatre, and ritual. There will be events across the city all day finishing in an extraordinary ceremony of light that everyone can take part in. FAITH is co-produced by Coventry City of Culture Trust and the Royal Shakespeare Company with City Voices and Coventry faith communities supported by Backstage Trust and David and Sandra Burbidge. Full details are available online if you search for Faith Coventry UK City of Culture.
WELL DONE! to the many volunteers who made the sponsored virtual journey on foot from our Cathedral to the middle of Transylvania and back!
As the photo shows, St Michael was on hand to welcome some of them home. They are raising funds for work in Romania that has been supported by members of the Cathedral congregation since 1994. Through the UK charity SHARE they are caring for three young disabled Romanians who have been rescued from the institutional care system.
The 24 hour care costs £1500 a month, so the sponsored walk has raised more than 2 months' care costs, with some money still to come in. (Contact: [email protected])