Book Pick: ‘At Cross Purposes: A Cathedral Organist’s Memoirs’

crosspurposesMichael Smith has written a book that I found fun and intriguing and educational. It is a look behind the doors of a world that only a few of us have ever heard about.  He makes it accessible in a tasteful, yet revealing  method.

Synopsis:‘It was during a Monday evensong that the assistant verger murdered his wife.’ ‘It was not so much that the cathedral was badly run, as that it was not really run at all.’ When Michael Smith was 36, his life seemed well-nigh perfect. With a lovely wife and a young daughter he was living in the shadow of Salisbury Cathedral, where he was the highly-qualified and well-respected assistant organist. He looked forward to new challenges at a cathedral in south Wales, but was unprepared for the attitude of the authorities which would continually test his resolve. With the passage of years he was also dismayed at the conduct and inefficiency of some of his colleagues, which extended to inefficiency, deviousness, dishonesty and even murder. ‘At Cross Purposes’ is a detailed chronicle of his public success in maintaining the daily round of cathedral music, persevering towards his goals despite the obstacles and indifference, latterly amounting to relentless opposition, that he faced along the way. The book gives a fascinating insight into the life of Michael Smith, extending beyond his work as a choral director, music examiner and teacher to brief accounts of his later ventures into door-to-door sales networking and market research interviewing, alongside his significant role as a family man. ‘I feel the hand of Anthony Trollope on his shoulder,’ writes Canon Jeremy Davies in his Foreword, recalling the Barchester chronicles. In At Cross Purposes we have a real-life story at first hand.

Review: It is a wonderful adventurous read.  We have long heard the beautiful voices of young men reaching the rafters, yet never glanced at the person conducting the choir. Life is about being brave enough―for yourself, for God, for your tasks, and for your calling―right where He’s placed you. Michael shares those moments. You really feel the solid friendships and the really lonely frustrations. It is rare to get a story told that tells you the whole story with warts. This one does that with solid lessons of faith as well.  This is a must read for Fall 2016.

 

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