UPDATED: Portsmouth Institute, 2011

This year’s Portsmouth Institute conference takes up the topic of “The Catholic Shakespeare,” and fittingly, this evening’s musical interlude features music of a Shakespearean theme. Specifically, the orchestra will be playing Sir William Walton’s Henry V Suite and Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture. The performance begins at 6:15, so you’ve still got time to get to the Portsmouth Abbey campus if you’re in the mood for a free concert.
Going into the weekend, I was curious about the manner in which the topic would be presented. The inaugural conference, two years ago, following pretty closely on his death, was mainly a forum for remembrances of William F. Buckley, Jr., with an emphasis on his religious faith. Last year, with the impending beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, the conference dealt with that tremendous figure and his effect on Catholic thought. This year’s topic is a very specific question concerning a mainly cultural figure.
Of course, that figure is William Shakespeare, which makes the material of its own especial interest. So far Rt. Rev. Dom Aidan Bellenger described the cultural setting in which Shakespeare wrote, with specific reference to the destruction of Catholic monasteries. The second speaker, John Cox, gave a short survey of the use of prayer in Shakespeare’s plays. Both talks were certainly edifying and left plenty of room for revelations of a broader cultural significance — which shouldn’t have been surprising, after all, given the subject matter. Neither Shakespeare nor Catholicism are very narrow in their application.
Addendum 7:10 p.m.:
The music at these events is always excellent (thanks to music director Troy Quinn), but tonight’s performance exceeded even my high expectations. I hope to have video up in the morning.

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