The views of Sentamu
Sir: I wonder if Archbishop Sentamu is really the best candidate for Canterbury as you suggest (Leading article, 6 October). Cutting up his dog collar on live television in protest against President Mugabe was a splendid gesture; but how exactly has it helped anyone in Zimbabwe? He is wrong in any case about gay marriage. It is absolutely within the remit of the state to redefine what in the first instance is a civil contract. Religious groups may make rules on the subject for their own members, but they surely have no right to bind those who don’t share their belief.
Sir: I was amused by the article about the Beatles in last week’s issue (‘Was Lennon really a genius?’, 6 October). I’m only a hack amateur musician and certainly not a ‘music expert’ (what is that anyway?), but I listen to enough music from across many decades and styles to know that Mozart, Purcell and Handel changed nothing: sure, they wrote good tunes, but music wasn’t changed one iota because of them. The form and style was there before them. Unlike Lennon and McCartney: true geniuses. They took an emerging, sex-based dynamic style (black music), and blended it with classical form, and British and Asian folk music, to create a unique and absorbing body of work where no two songs are alike. And in doing so, opened the door to endless musical directions and forms for those artists who picked up the baton after them (pun intended). ‘Classical’ music hasn’t changed, because there’s been no ‘Lennon and McCartney’ in the mix, just (among others) the composers mentioned in the article, who were certainly very talented, but sadly, not geniuses; classical music is still waiting for that to happen.
Sir: Why focus on Lennon when the true songsmith is McCartney? Giedroyc and Reed destroy their own credibility by citing the execrable ‘Imagine’ as one of Lennon’s ‘stronger’ songs. Even McCartney’s featherweight ‘Ebony And Ivory’ is ten times the song ‘Imagine’ strives to be, combining thought and feeling in a proper tune. But it is the lumpen, self-satisfied sentimentality of ‘Imagine’ that is endlessly lionised by us plebs. Above us only sky? Between our ears, too.
Talsarnau, North Wales
Sir: Miko Giedroyc and Ben Reed’s dismissal of Henry Bishop as only remembered for ‘Home Sweet Home’ ignores the important part he played in contemporary musical life. In 1846 he became Sir Henry, the first musician to be knighted. His ‘Lo hear the gentle lark’ is also by no means forgotten. I have a playbill which shows that in his time he was up there with the greatest. This announces that on Thursday 26 April 1827 the Covent Garden audience is to be offered ‘The Marriage of Figaro. The Overture and Music selected chiefly from Mozart’s Operas — the new music by Mr Bishop’.
Sir: The Stalin-celebrating Hungarian youngsters shown in the picture used to illustrate your review (Books, 6 October) of Anne Applebaum’s book on the Communist takeover of Eastern Europe cannot be Boy Scouts, as captioned. The nearer ones look too young and the further are definitely girls. These are, I suggest, Young Pioneers, a Communist youth movement once strong in Hungary. I trust the error is yours and not Anne Applebaum’s.
Sir: What a refreshingly truthful Notebook from Christopher Howse (6 October). If you just read news reports and watched TV, you might have thought Catalonia on the brink of a civil war over austerity and the euro. But the truth is — and I know this because I have just been in Valencia with my business — that everyday Catalans, whatever their political convictions, are less interested in money than we are, and they just want as pleasant a life as possible.
Sir: Charles Moore describes, in his Notes (29 September), some of the corrupt behaviour exhibited by the police over recent weeks and months. Their track record is now so degraded that it is questionable whether we can trust what is said even by chief constables, not to mention the Police Federation, who would do well to keep their mouths shut for the foreseeable future. The furore that has been whipped up by the police over the Andrew Mitchell outburst is a fine example of how low the force has stooped in an attempt to score a political point against recent disclosures, whether uncovered by politicians or the media. Our police force is institutionally corrupt, their credibility is in tatters, it’s time for fundamental change in the structure. An officer corps, recruited and trained separately, with the honesty, sense of duty and service exhibited by our armed forces, would provide the leadership and example that is so lacking and would be a first step towards giving us back confidence and trust in the police.
How many tits?
Sir: When Hugo Rifkind (29 September) suggests that the Guardian ‘only prints tits on the arts pages’, does he mean ‘prints tits only on the arts pages’, or should I consider taking out a subscription?
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 13 October 2012