Tag Archives: Convents

Standfast and Other Tales



by Barbara Yates Rothwell

HC: 215 pp



Trafford Publishing



reviewed by Neville Cohn



Short story virtuoso Barbara Yates Rothwell paints with a delicate brush. Here are no vulgar splashes of colour. Instead, we’re taken into a world revealed in idiosyncratically gentle pastels. And she brings more than a hint of compassion – and a wry eye – to the characters she draws with such understated artistry.


In Crown of  Thorns, we meet an order of elderly monks in a remote and crumbling abbey. Their lives revolve around an exquisite, pearl-encrusted gold crown which has pride of place in the thoughts and lives of those leading ascetic lives. Why is this ancient crown so unusual in relation to those other relics – skulls, fragments of the Cross, say – which are treasured and revered in monasteries, convents and other places of worship?



A father trying to make the most of an access visit to a much loved young son, takes the little boy to the fair and all the fun that’s associated with such excursions. The child has his heart set on a minicar that’s the prize at a shooting gallery. Why does that innocent endeavour have so eerie, frankly inexplicable  – and deadly – an effect on others miles away?


Dawning is a gem about awakening awareness of the opposite sex when a still-gawky teenage experiences her first heartbreak. This is a beautifully considered piece.


On a visit to Sydney, a woman visits one of the city’s historic and prestigious homes. In one of the bedrooms, there’s a mirror – but what it reveals has nothing (or possibly a great deal)  to do with the here and now. And what of her gentleman friend who she hopes will ask her to marry. There’s more than a little heartbreak here


An attentive householder hears – senses – something that ought not to be there in that very old dwelling. It’s the sounds of a child weeping. But there’s no-one in the room.

 How does she handle this curious matter – and how does this kindly woman bring closure to a child in deep trouble?


In Grenadine, a woman sitting on a tranquil Australian beach in the here and now  suddenly finds herself part of an horrific event:  the death of a ship and many on it. It can’t possibly be happening now; these are people of a bygone age – surely?.  Yet, as if in a waking dream, she’s leading bedraggled survivors up the steep cliff to safety.


Here is a writer whose skilled literary touch brings odd events to life, if the latter is the appropriate word for events concerning those long dead (or perhaps not entirely so?).

Sacred Hearts and Secret Music


Musica Secreta and Celestial Sirens

divine art dda 25077

reviewed by Neville Cohn


Missa Veni Sponsa Christi (Palestrina)

Lamentations for Holy Saturday (Book 3) (Palestrina)

Magnificat Sexti Toni (De Rore)

with motets by Palestrina and Rore and chants for The Feast of St Agnes


If you’ve come home after a terrible day at the office or, if you’ve spent hours in the kitchen getting the cake mix just right only to have it come from the oven a charred ruin, then don’t turn to Valium or take it out on the cat. There’s a much better option available.


It needs to be said at once, though, that the alternative offered could also be habit forming – but it’s an addiction that is entirely beneficial and can be thoroughly recommended. Toss the pills into the bin and give the cat his dinner – then put this CD on, sit back and let it work its soothing magic. An added bonus is that you don’t have to be musically literate – although that, of course, helps – to derive great listening pleasure from it.


Not the least of the many fine features of this recording are first rate liner notes which throw fascinating light on the lives and work of nuns in 16th and 17th century European convents where music, in inextricable association with prayer, was a constant companion in up to eight prayer services per 24 hours.


In the popular imagination, the notion of nuns regularly singing complex polyphony barely exists. So, this recording is timely if only for that reason.


Of course, the lion’s share of sacred vocal music was written specifically for male voices. A fair amount of this, though, was – and is – also sung by women. And if the range was too low, then it was not particularly unusual for the music to be transposed upwards to accommodate the available voices. This presentation goes some way to redressing these widespread misapprehensions.


As well, there is also a view that composers of the time wrote little vocal music specifically for women. But think of Vivaldi who spent much of his working life in an  orphanage for girls for whom the Red Priest wrote innumerable works, instrumental as well as vocal.


The contents of Sacred Hearts and Secret Music are sung with an unpretentious artistry that allows the music to make maximum impact on the listener. It deserves to be heard by the widest possible audience; it is a most notable addition to the recorded canon of sacred music