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Rhythm-A-Day Blog for February 12, 2020: Feast Day of Saint Ethelwald

Posted by Wolf Murphy on

Feast Day of
Saint Ethelwald of Lindisfarne

We don't know a great deal about this monk who became a Saint; we do know he was a leather craftsman and a bookbinder. He was an assistant to Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne.

He was the prior and abbot of Old Melrose monastery in Scotland and became Bishop at Lindisfarne in 721 where he commissioned the famous Lindisfarne Book of Gospels which is in the British Museum. He also personally made a leather cover for it, which was decorated and encrusted with jewels by Billfrith the anchorite (sounds like a Monty Python character, what?), but this is long lost. 

Book of Lindisfarne, Frontsplate, End of 7th century
(Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

He is also known for writing the appropriately named Hymnal of Ethelwald. He died in England around 740 AD, and was buried in the cathedral buried in the cathedral at Lindisfarne.

Such was the veneration he was held in, in the 8th Century, his relics were taken to Durham in the hope they would prevent the Vikings from invading.  

Folio 27r from the Lindisfarne Gospels, incipit to the Gospel of Matthew.
It includes runic capitals—Latin letters in a rune-inspired script.
(Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

The rhythm we will play for this day is Garangedon, an orchestration from the Bambara Ethnic Group in Mali. This rhythm was played for and originally danced exclusively by the craftsman caste of leatherworkers (and shoemakers) at all events, including weddings, births and full moon ceremonies.

So we'll play this for our man because apparently Ethelwald was a craftsman of note and probably DESERVED a rhythm and festival to celebrate his excellence at his profession, and I'm willing to go out on a limb and hazard that he did NOT receive that affirmation in the 8th C. out on the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne right offa England, so we shall fix that! It's musical reparations :)

The bell part shown is the pattern played on the bells of all 3 dunun. The basic djembe accompaniments for this orchestration are the Ternary Passport parts we played for the rhythm Kawa; the High and Mid Djembe parts below are a little more challenging. The High drum part is the most characteristic defining rhythm of Garangedon; the way the slaps precede each beat makes it a very exciting part to play:

Today's Video Lesson

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