Sir: Luke Coppen writes that livestreamed services ‘lack the vital communal dimension of worship’ and ‘are, at times, excruciatingly dull’ (‘Risen again’, 11 April). I would beg to differ. Catholics, at least, have had the rare opportunity to tune in to some beautifully sung Latin Masses in the Extraordinary Form which they would otherwise struggle to attend. As a Hampshire resident, for example, I have greatly appreciated the Birmingham Oratory’s livestreams. When celebrated well, these Masses are divine works of art in themselves, but are also highly prayer-focused and God-centred, with the celebrant facing the same way as the congregation — towards the altar. If anything, this pandemic has exposed the overreliance of the Ordinary Form, ubiquitous since 1969, on communal worship and interaction with the parish priest — neither of which can occur in a video of the celebrant looking out at empty pews. I hope the ban on public worship has at least enabled more Catholics to experience the spiritual riches of this age-old, yet evergreen, Mass.
Sir: Luke Coppen comments that many Catholics are aggrieved with our bishops prohibiting public liturgies and that live-streamed services are proving a poor substitute. The close to 400 parishioners from Welwyn Garden City who listen to Father Norbert every Sunday at 10 a.m. would disagree.
A defence of Radio 3
Sir: Michael Tanner’s philippic against Radio 3 annoyed me (The Heckler, 11 April). I am also a long-established classical music listener, and performer. Yes R3 is changing, but then everything is changing in the arts, as technology opens wider ranges of music. Tanner is clearly a late riser, as splendid Petroc Trelawney comes in for neither praise nor blame. There is lightness of humour combined with erudition and an opening up to listener responses. Composer of the Week is, rightly, giving every other week of 2020 to Beethoven, but has also introduced me, and hopefully several others, to Astor Piazzola recently, and others from outside the mainstream.
The attack on Elizabeth Alker is savage and unjustified. Tanner may find a Lancashire accent irritating, but she comes as a delightful light touch for Saturday morning, and I had always discounted the Francophone Gitane-modulated crooners until her ‘croissant corner’ imposed them on me. I begin to understand why the floor of my wife’s car is littered with discs by Brel, Trenet and Brassens.
Tune to KDFC
Sir: Michael Tanner writes what many of us have been shouting into our radios for years. May I pass on a tip which has proved a pleasant escape on Saturday mornings? This is when I change to KDFC online. This station broadcasts from California 24 hours a day. Some might think it old-fashioned, but they play classical music with no endless chatter, advertising or self-promotion. They often play complete works as opposed to just one movement. After an hour or two, one can change back to the BBC for the excellent Andrew McGregor and CD Review.
Dr Martin Kidd
The bell-shaped curve
Sir: Sam Leith is right (‘My only home-schooling success’, 11 April) that we are all wrestling with the maths of Covid-19. The government briefings do not help. Deaths are not following an exponential curve; if they were, we would all be dead by the year’s end. Government gives us single-day and cumulative figures and then warns us not to trust them. At the other extreme, the epidemiologists overcomplicate the variables to the point where they reach wildly differing conclusions.
Back in 1809, Carl Friedrich Gauss discovered that the bell-shaped curve explained most patterns like those we are witnessing today. Fitting two curves to admissions and deaths, updating them weekly, and presenting them in place of today’s dubious statistics would be a great leap forward. We can learn from the bell curves apparent from Wuhan and elsewhere, and thus gauge a reasonable estimate of when lockdown can be progressively relaxed.
Cley next the Sea, Norfolk
Sir: Alan Johnson (‘Saviours of the world’, Books, 28 March) must be corrected when he says the only US chart hits from Britain before the Beatles were Acker Bilk’s ‘Stranger on the Shore’ and ‘Telstar’ by the Tornados. Lonnie Donegan, the most important British artist of that momentously formative period of the 1950s and early 1960s, had two US top ten hits. Not only that, but he brought American folk, blues and gospel music to Britain. His deep understanding of that music was the greatest single influence on the later British music scene from the 1960s onwards, which included the Beatles.
Sir: I won’t hear a word against Izal toilet tissue (The Wiki Man, 11 April). It was strong, made great tracing paper and your finger didn’t go through it, unlike the modern three-ply rubbish. And don’t forget the infused medication, the smell of which alone could kill 99.9 per cent of germs.
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