The time of year is rapidly approaching when you’re desperately racking your brains for a present for that difficult uncle who’s got everything—even Dame Kiri Sings the Sex Pistols’ Greatest Hits by Candlelight.
To cite The Messiah:
Thou art gone up on high; Thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men…
Giving Handel and his librettist Jennens** the benefit of the doubt for sexist language, don’t forget the brilliant T-shirt of female composers—”Breaks the ice at parties”, in the words of Monty Python (who did rather let themselves down* on gender equality).
Such seasonal gifts will make a welcome change from socks and after-shave, and can be enjoyed over a sherry in a party hat while blowing a paper horn—a relative of the vuvuzela, perhaps? Laurence Picken could have enlightened us. You can play the party game of identifying festive toy instruments under the Sachs-Hornbostel system (or play Spot the Difference with Daoist ritual paintings, like the Judgment Officers here). The paper horn also evokes the conch in Daoist ritual—indeed, it would make a suitable companion to these early Daoist instruments of the Li family.
* “Let themselves down”: apart from the Proust sketch (from 2.14, notably the voiceover comment “golf’s not very popular round here”), there’s also the classic headmaster’s speech joke (available on request).
** Good to see Jennens slagging off Handel’s music, at least:
“I shall show you a collection I gave Handel, called Messiah, which I value highly. He has made a fine entertainment of it, though not near so good as he might and ought to have done. I have with great difficulty made him correct some of the grossest faults in the composition; but he retained his overture obstinately, in which there are some passages far unworthy of Handel, but much more unworthy of the Messiah.“
YAY!—I mean Hallelujah. Praise be to the Lord—and the Three Pure Ones, the Empress Houtu, Bob Marley, Mrs Cratchit and The Ten Kinds of Orphan Souls [can someone check this please?—Ed.] and the Thunder Lord of Three-Five Chariot of Fire—the latter (“Lingguan smoking a posh foreign cigarette on a train journey through his spiritual domain”) a fine read, though I say it myself.