‘Bright flower breaks from charnel bough’: Commissioning the Arts of Peace for the 1953 Coronation

This article was originally published as ‘“Bright flower breaks from charnel bough”: The arts of peace and the 1953 Coronation’, in The Finzi Journal (March, 2014), 90-118.

As it is not available online, I am hosting a copy here on my site.

The article will also consider some of the reasons for the works’ subsequent lack of success, including the commissioning purpose, the publication history and the contemporary and later reception. I will argue that the failures and ambivalences are both the result of the artists’ attitude to a prestigious but occasional commission, and the result of the difficult legacies of the Second World War, of austerity Britain and of the first Elizabethan age. In ‘Canzonet’, by the poet Louis MacNeice and composer Alan Rawsthorne, the difficult legacy is turned into an opportunity for a serious and complex negotiation between celebrating the ‘bright flower’ of a young queen born in the spring time, and simultaneously insisting on the dark background, the ‘charnel bough’.

Firth, 2014, p.91

Photo by David Brooke Martin on Unsplash

Paper, ‘Luther as Translator | Translating Luther’ delivered at the Moorhouse Symposium

The 2022 Moorhouse Symposium brought together international and Melbourne-based to discuss the impacts of the 500 years of Martin Luther’s September Testament, 1522 on 13 August, 2022.

I presented material based on research I completed towards a 2018 article (Andreas Loewe and Katherine Firth. “Martin Luther’s” Mighty Fortress”.” Lutheran Quarterly 32, no. 2 (2018): 125-145. https://doi.org/10.1353/lut.2018.0029), with some new material. This article became a chapter in our forthcoming book Martin Luther and the Arts, due out in December 2022 from Brill of Leiden.

The entire symposium was recorded. You can watch the whole afternoon, or skip to 1hr35 for my talk. Immediately after my presentation, Andreas Loewe presents from another article that also became a chapter in our Luther book.

My paper starts at 1hr35mins in.

New Canticles ‘after Dietrich Bonhoeffer’ performed

Words written drawing from, and inspired by, my new translations of some of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letters and poems from prison, in the shape of the traditional evensong canticles, the Magnificat and the Nuns Dimittis, were set to music by regular collaborator Michael Leighton Jones, and performed by the Trinity College Chapel Choir, directed by Christopher Watson.

The work was initially produced in time for the 75th anniversary of Bonhoeffer’s death, in the last weeks of the Second World War. However, 2020 had other plans. It was exciting to hear the work performed in the presence of the composer and librettist on 7 August 2022.

The service was recorded, and you can watch the event below (or skip to the 20 minute mark for the first canticle, a reading and then the second canticle).

The music starts at about the 20 minute mark.

New anthem for 150th anniversary of Trinity College Melbourne performed

I was in close-contact isolation, so joined the event via the livestream. Our new ‘Covid normal’ continues to be a strange time!

A new commission for the 150th anniversary of Trinity College, the oldest residential college in Australia, and where I have been tutor, Head of Academic Programs, SCR President, Council member, honorary Faculty and continue to be on the Academic Committee of the Theological School.

The words for the new anthem ‘O lux beata Trinitas’ weave together a Latin hymn by St Ambrose with newly written poetry by me, set to music by Michael Leighton Jones (former Director of Music and frequent collaborator). Performed by the Choir of Trinity College and conducted by Christopher Watson.

The work starts about 30-ish minutes into the video.

An honour to be involved, and thankful for modern technology!

Thinking about quitting your PhD? published in Times Higher Education

Somewhere between 25–50% of candidates don’t complete their PhD. Sometimes not completing a PhD is the rational choice, and having open conversations around it helps stop people feeling isolated and uncertain, I argued in a recent article for the THE.

Supervisors, candidates and universities need to be more open to having conversations about quitting. Why do candidates choose to quit, how many people do so and what happens to them afterwards? It’s almost impossible to get detailed, accurate data about completion rates. People who quit leave the university and, therefore, we often don’t see what they do next. If we don’t talk openly about stopping, people who are considering it feel isolated and uncertain. But it isn’t rare, and supervisors are in a privileged position to recognise the signs early – and then, as appropriate, support their candidates as they successfully navigate away from the PhD.    

Read more at: Thinking about quitting your PhD? Maybe that’s the right decision

New hymn to commemorate the 175th anniversaries of the Anglican and Catholic Archdioceses of Melbourne

On 6 March, the choir and congregation of St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne premiered a new joint commission to commemorate the founding of both the Anglican and Catholic archdioceses of Melbourne. ‘Come Down to Earth’ is a six verse hymn, suitable for congregational use, with music by noted composer Christopher Wilcox SJ and words by Katherine Firth.

(L-R) Christopher Wilcocks SJ (composer), Dr Katherine Firth (lyricist),
The Very Revd Dr Andreas Loewe (Dean of Melbourne), Mr Philip Nicholls (Director of Music)

Research Degree Insiders joins The Whisper Collective

Research Degree Insiders has joined The Whisper Collective, a community of bloggers and authors supporting researchers.

Led by the Thesis Whisperer (Inger Mewburn), Research Whisperers (Tseen Khoo and Jonathan O’Donnell) and Wellbeing Whisperer (Narelle Lemon), the collective brings together some of my long-term favourite blogs in this space, including Patter (Pat Thompson), Conference Inference (James Burton and Emily Frascatore), From PhD to Life (Jen Polk), Doctoral Writing SIG (Claire Aitchison, Susan Carter, Cally Guerin) and some new ones like the Post-Pandemic University (Mark Carrigan) and The Hidden Curriculum in Doctoral Education (Dely L. ElliotSøren S. E. BengtsenKay GuccioneSofie Kobayashi).

I even found some new fantastic blogs (how had I missed them!) and look forward to learning more from the Prolifiko team (Bec Evans and Chris Smith) and Viva Survivors (Nathan Ryder).

Find recent posts by all the bloggers on their front page https://thewhispercollective.net.

‘Have you read much Woolf?’ is published

This memory of my time studying at Newnham College, Cambridge in the 1990s was published as part of the anthology Walking on the Grass, Dancing in the Corridors to celebrate the college’s 150th anniversary.

The memories were awakened during conversations back at Newnham on research leave as a visiting member of the Senior Common Room. I reflect on our transitions from student to teachers, from readers to writers, and back to readers, particularly as international students and as global alumnae.

‘Have you read much Woolf?’. In: Sutherland G., Williams K. (eds) Walking on the Grass, Dancing in the Corridors: Newnham at 150, 202-04 (London: Profile, 2021)

Research Degree Insiders featured on .blog

.blog is part of Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com and Jetpack, supporting the .blog domain, so it was an absolute delight to see that Research Degree Insiders was their featured site this week, with advice about finding your niche audience, offering variety while staying on topic, and sharing from both your expertise and personal experience.

Back in 2014, the post ‘Sounds and Silence and Headspace‘ was featured on ‘Freshly Pressed’ (now Discover WordPress). I look back at that post, seven years ago, and am surprised at how similar that post is to my most recent work (for example ‘Are you “inspired” or are you just breathing?‘). I’ve been blogging for nearly 9 years now, and I’ve found it a wonderful way to connect to readers, and to explore and draft in public towards what has now been published in my various books.

If you’d like to see what they said, you can read the feature article here.