Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Letter from Europe

  • — Issue 2006/30 posted by hidden europe on

Tomorrow, 22 November, is the Feast of St Cecilia, a saint surrounded by a strong music cult. By the time Raphael painted his L'estasi di Santa Cecilia (around 1515), musical instruments had become associated with St Cecilia. The iconography runs deep, and from Verona to Oxford there are pictures, stained glass windows and statues of St Cecilia with musical instruments. Pipe organs seem to be her speciality, but we've spotted St Cecilia with everything from violins to flutes.

article summary —

Dear fellow travellers

Tomorrow, 22 November, is the Feast of St Cecilia, a saint surrounded by a strong music cult. By the time Raphael painted his L'estasi di Santa Cecilia (around 1515), musical instruments had become associated with St Cecilia. The iconography runs deep, and from Verona to Oxford there are pictures, stained glass windows and statues of St Cecilia with musical instruments. Pipe organs seem to be her speciality, but we've spotted St Cecilia with everything from violins to flutes. In seventeenth-century Rome, the Accademia di Santa Cecilia evolved into an early musicians' union, protecting the interests of its members. Included among their number were such distinguished composers as Alessandro Scarlatti, Arcangelo Corelli and Bernardo Pasquini.

St Cecilia pops up everywhere: in the shadow of Edward Elgar on England's twenty pound banknote, in Dryden's poem A Song for St Cecilia's Day ("from harmony, from heav'nly harmony") which later so influenced Handel, and in music festivals across Europe. St Cecilia continues to inspire musicians even today. Tomorrow, at 11 am in St Paul's Cathedral in London, a St Cecilia service will feature the première of a newly commissioned work, Richard Rodney Bennett's Verses for St Cecilia's Day.

'No music day'

Today, the eve of the feast of St Cecilia, will be interesting in some communities in Europe. It is a day when jingles will not jangle, church bells will not ring, mobile phones will be turned to silent mode, and choirs will not sing. An utterly daft idea perhaps, but therein lies its appeal. One London radio station which usually makes its living from music will not broadcast a single note all day. Instead Resonance FM tell us to expect "spoken word, discussion, dialogue, silence, imagination, perhaps even peace and quiet." In Kraków, today's Unsound Festival will open to complete silence. And even the usual mix of Jan Garbarek and Arvo Pärt which soothes the air in hidden europe's Berlin offices will today be replaced by pure silence. For more on 'no music day', go to www.nomusicday.com.

Banknotes

St Cecilia's picture on the English twenty pound note is soon to disappear. She and Elgar will be replaced next spring with a wholly new design featuring Adam Smith - a case of music being eclipsed by economics. Meanwhile, Slovenians are taking a last look at the tolar banknotes which have served them over the fifteen years since Slovenia emerged as an independent state. For on 1 January 2007 Slovenia will introduce the euro. For the first two weeks of January, old tolar notes will still be accepted in shops in parallel to the euro, but then the tolar will be consigned to currency history.

Surprisingly, Slovenia is not the first country in former Yugoslavia to start using the euro as its regular currency. Montenegro also uses the euro - and indeed did so even prior to its split earlier this year from neighbouring Serbia. In Kosovo, too, the euro is the official currency, a decision which displeases some of the territory's Serbian population who often still insist on using the Serbian dinar.

In the next issue of hidden europe, we shall return to the theme of banknotes, when we peer through the microscope at the map of Europe that features on the obverse side of all euro banknotes. But that is for the future, and meanwhile we would invite our readers to enjoy 'no music day' and to look at our Christmas gift options in our online shop.

Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries

This article was published in Letter from Europe.

About The Authors

hidden europe

and Susanne Kries manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers. They delight in discovering the exotic in the everyday.