Monday, November 16, 2009

And then the angels sang

I told you the other day that I'd had a really special experience on my Abu Ghosh photowalk, one that made the whole gloomy rainy day worthwhile - and here it is. These few photos are the only ones I was able to grab after the whole "left on manual focus" debacle, but the story itself shines through as the highlight of my day.
After leaving our first stop we headed for the nearby Crusader-era Benedictine Monastery. This beautiful building, restored by the French in the 19th century, has beautiful 12th century frescoes, lovely grounds, and more relevant to my story (especially since with the rapidly approaching dusk we could barely see the frescoes) some of the most magnificent acoustics you can possibly imagine. So lovely that the church (and Notre-Dame as well) are used as venues for the semiannual (that's the one that means twice a year, right? I can never remember.) Abu Ghosh music festival.
I walked around the church's exterior, growing more and more frustrated that we'd missed the light completely and it was too dark to shoot. Another frustrated photographer and I decided to look into the interior of the church and see if anything more promising was on offer there. When we stepped inside, to our surprise and utter delight, we heard the most magnificent singing imagineable, but where was it coming from? The chamber we were in was completely empty. We went down a set of stairs, up another set and around a corner in pursuit of the music. At one point we even heard a guitar of all things, but where on earth was it coming from?
And then we found it. These magical, angelic sounds were coming from a large group of Philippine Catholic pilgrims. We snuck in on tiptoe, not wanting to disturb or break the spell, not daring to lift our cameras.
That lasted as long as it took us to realize that EVERYONE in the group, and by that I mean everyone, including the 37(!) white-robed priests in the group all had their own cameras out and were shooting at a speed that would make a papparazzi pale! It was an utter free-for-all. At that point we figured it was acceptable (practically required) to immortalize the moment and raced for those cameras. I caught some GREAT shots of clergymen taking pictures from right in the middle of the choir, leaning over, under, around and in front of anyone in view. Unfortunately, that was also exactly when I forgot to put my camera back on automatic focus and not a one of those images turned out, so you'll just have to take my word for it that it was quite a scene.
I did get these few just afterwards though - by invitation no less. They were all so excited to be there that they were actually asking to have their pictures taken, handing us their cameras to use, and even inviting us into their pictures (I lost count after being asked to pose with five different groups of people). I was trying not to use my flash because by then the nun in charge of the church was getting (rightfully) agitated so they're not the greatest photos, but what wonderful memories they hold. (And they even hold a bit of red too, enough to sneak them in as my Ruby Tuesday post - did you find it?)


kayerj said...

what an experience! I love the shot of the guitar alone.

Leora said...

Oh! I'm sure the music was beautiful. They have such elegant features, and then I read on your post that they are from the Philippines.

MUSIC is the theme for Thursday could probably enter one of these or something else you took at that time.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

LOVE the guitar. Oh, the things I could do with that picture...

Daryl said...

Wonderful shots .. and I think the guitar plating priest is a really excellent portrait

Carletta said...

Delightful story Robin!
Love the shot of the singing priest.
Music - a universal language and look how happy it makes people. :)

quilly said...

What a delightful story and a special moment! Sometimes the scenes of the heart just can't be captured on film, even in optimal conditions.

Carol said...

Wonderful experience...and I love the photos...esp the singing priest...

Mojo said...

I was just listening to Mason Williams' Classical Gas and Don Ross's Loaded, Leather, Moonroof right before I saw this, so I was primed.

I've had similar debacles, but it's been with manual exposure, manual focus I usually figure out pretty quick. Then there was the time I inadvertently set the metering mode to Center Weighted Average (and left it there) which caused me all kinds of grief. Oh the stories I could tell you. The point being... it happens to us all m'dear. So be gentle with yourself, eh?

Ralph said...

I spot some red here and there. Although the guitar does have a dusty rose sheen in the lighting - to me anyway!

The fact that many were taking pictures opened the door for you. The chorus of angelic voices catches you ear, and beautiful music is a real treat!

Gilit Frank said...

I love personification and as it is so late at night as I look at the photo of the guitar on the chair, that I expect it to start playing itself and dancing on the chair.

Auntie E said...

Looks like you had a fun time..Yes I saw the rubies. Happy RT

Patti said...

What a scene to stumble upon. the unexpected music must have been wonderful to hear.

I love the last photo, the group shot. Everyone is looking at a different camera! cute. And I saw bits of red.

Happy Ruby Tuesday, Robin!

Happily Retired Gal said...

Lovely post ... wonderful experience ... and nifty ruby touches ;-)
Hugs and blessings,

EJ said...

musical ruby tuesday, thanks for sharing!

My Ruby Tuesday

Meikah said...

Wow, yeah Filipinos overseas are known to join church choirs and show off their singing skills. :D We are like that. Love the shots here.

My RT entry is here. Happy RT! :)

michael bird said...

Nice write up, Robin, of a lovely experience.

Unknown said...

That is so funny! It is not easy taking pictures of musical or religious events. But there ususally is a "photographic opportunity" if they are organized enough to know that that must be included.
Worst for me is funerals. I just can't do it. I take pictures of the casket with floral tributes around it when everyone has left the church, or take pictures at the out-door grave-site if it is that kind of a burial.

But where is the red???

Happy Ruby Tuesday!

Robin said...

Look at the woman's shirt in the third photo. And the guitar is sort of red-tinted ;).

Hootin Anni said...

I bet this was one beautiful, awesome experience.

My R T is seaworthy...OUCH! Click here

Willa said...

i saw all the red indeed! I love your blog header,nice kitchen!

Claremont First Ward said...

Wow. What a cool "happening". I'd love to happen upon something like this.........I wish I could have heard it.

Dianne said...

everyone is looking at a different camera!! that's wonderful
such joyful faces
I love your description of the scene - it painted a photo :)

Marice said...

that is one awesome post! :)

u may view mine if u have time

MaR said...

What a wonderful experience!! and great post about it, lovely shots as well.

ruby red street decorations

Anonymous said...

They seem happy to be there. Philipinos are devout Catholics and in Hong Kong (whre my brother lives) they have several masses each Sunday for the numerous Philipino homehelpers.

Felisol said...

How wonderful to meet with sheer joy from singing pilgrims in The Holy Land.
I don't know much about Filipino music but by the sight of these happy faces it must have been soul songs.
I bet they sung David's Psalms.

I have a close friend who is a Benedictine monastery brother.
I have once visited his monastery in the Netherlands and shared meals with the monks.
-Hospitality is one of four corner stones with the Benedictines-
During the simple, but tasteful meals there is total silence, except for one of the Padres reading from the Book of Psalms.
They read through the book about twice a year.
Thought I'd mention it, since The book of Psalms are your heritage.
Also, that when I'm reading the Psalms in English I always use the
Hebrew-English version after Mechon Mamre.
This was a huge digression. Just want to wish you and yours all well on this Ruby Tuesday.
From Felisol

imom said...

Oh wow! It sounds wonderful.

ellen b. said...

Hello Robin! What a delight to stumble on this music festival! Happy Ruby to you!!