Well, here’s a little song which has hung around, in a hazy fragmented state, in the back of my brain for half a century. And every year, around this time, at Easter, and afterwards… and also when I’m seeing ‘sheep with their little lambs’ dawdling across the mountain lanes in front of my car, it surfaces –that is, the snatches of it that I remember surface.
It all goes back to a school eisteddfod; and I was probably in form one or form two. In those days school eisteddfods were serious affairs (even ironically for us valleys grammar schools with no jot of welsh on the curriculum at all!), often lasting not just through the whole of saint David’s day but often continuing the next day as well; and we dutifully and enthusiastically dressed up in our house colours (did my mother really buy me a yellow roll-neck pullover so that I could support Glyndwr house? This is perhaps a memory best buried…) cheering our teams. And ‘worthy’ items of culture were generally chosen as performance pieces: so we would listen to the six or seven entrants/finalists all playing, say, Für Elise, one after the other –hoping of course that one of them would hit a wrong note so that we could at least distinguish the performances. And in this particular year that I’m thinking of, ‘All in an April evening’ was chosen as the item for the upper school’s girls’ solo singing performance competition.
You might think that having to sit through half a dozen performances from an earnest group of girls (most of them, if I recall rightly, a diligent crowd from Bedwas who entered absolutely everything) might have wearied the listener? Not this listener. The effect was, I suppose, equivalent to putting an unfamiliar song on iPod repeat today. It seeped, seeped deep into my soul and –well, it’s stayed there a long time, hasn’t it… without any particular conscious nurturing!
Living in the valleys, as I still do, the images of ‘sheep with their little lambs passing us by on the road’ and references to the ‘weak human cry’ of the lambs were familiar enough… It was perhaps the connection with the ‘Lamb Of God’ that was a little new and surprising, and the poignant melody somehow made the connection more intriguing. I’m not going to pretend that my listening to that song contained anything as sophisticated as analysis –but something must have stuck in me. I wasn’t at that time a Jesus-follower (though I imagine that the stirrings of conviction and grace were there –just like ‘April airs were abroad’) but within a couple of years I had indeed joined that great company and accepted the grace, forgiveness, life and hope which I was beginning to see vividly in that ‘Lamb…’
Yes, half a century on then –those ‘April airs’ are still ‘abroad’ –those beautiful/pesky sheep and lambs are still strolling and jumping on the high roads above the valleys, or occasionally loitering into our garden… And I am indebted to Catherine Hinkson wherever she was, and to Hugh Robertson, the music man (Wikipedia tells me that he also wrote the music to ‘Mhairi’s wedding’!) and to the music teacher who chose it for the eisteddfod, and those earnest participants, because sometimes – not always of course, but sometimes –‘ I [think] on the Lamb of God/going meekly to die..’ for such as me.