Wednesday, July 07, 2004

On July 7, 1867
Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O., wrote to his friend Dean Church, and mentioned a gift that Church had made to him:

Your violin improves continually; I cannot desire a better one. I have got it at Rednal (ed. the Birmingham Oratory's retreat house), where I make a noise, without remonstrance from trees, grass, roses or cabbages.

One of his early biographers commented on his playing.

From the days when he played the violin as a young boy, his brother Frank playing the bass, down to the Littlemore period when he played in company with Frederick Bowles and Walker, string quartets and trios were his favourite recreation. Mr. Mozley in his 'Reminiscences of the Oxford Movement,' thus describes his playing of Beethoven with Blanco White in 1826: 'Most interesting was it to contrast Blanco White's excited and indeed agitated countenance with Newman's Sphinx-like immobility, as the latter drew long rich notes with a steady hand.' When the gift of a violin from Rogers and Church in 1864 made him renew acquaintance with his old love after a long interval, the manner of his playing was somewhat different. 'Sphinx-like immobility,' writes Mr. Edward Bellasis 'had made way for an ever varying expression upon his face as strains alternated between grave and gay. Producing his violin from an old green baize bag, bending forward, and holding it against his chest, instead of under the chin in the modern fashion, most particular about his instrument being in perfect tune, in execution awkward yet vigorous, painstaking rather than brilliant, he would often attend the Oratory School Sunday practices between two and four of an afternoon, Father Ryder and Father Norris sometimes coming to play also.

The Life of John Henry Cardinal Newman, Based on His Private Journals and Correspondence by Wilfred Ward.


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