Celtic multi-instrumentalist Fr Tim Ardouin and lead philharmonic/Celtic flautist, Leslie Sheills are recording an album of self-composed music, songs and poetry about the Celtic church and saints.
The album promises a raw and natural sound, mixing atmospheric recordings taken in the wilder spots of Gower with Irish flutes and whistles, didgeridoo, guitars and bodhran.
The sparse production is evocative of a liminality inherent in early Celtic Christianity, which was itself influenced by the early Jesus Movement and the contemplative style of the Desert Fathers/Mothers, both of whom it is likely the fledging church in Gower and South West Wales were in physical contact with.
When St Augustine came to these islands to ‘convert’ the wild people on the edge of the known world, as far as the Roman Church was aware, he found the Celts to the west and north of the Saxon kingdoms had an already well-established Christian church with their own bishops, priests and monastics.
It was not until centuries of establishment of the Roman Church in England, that the Celtic way became subsumed in the dominant administration.
You can listen to a sample of the album below.
The Celtic church was very different from the Roman church and the later Protestant churches. The Celtic way did not discriminate between men and women with regard to leadership, priesthood. Priests and monastics, male or female, were often married and mixed monasteries, where families lived out their Christian calling, were common.
The Celts retained the tonsure of the Druids – probably the first Celtic Christian priests – who, unlike the Romans, kept the hair long and free at the back. The mystical Fourth Gospel ( John) was the scripture of choice for the Celts and, unlike the Romans, experience of the Divine, be it through prayer, through nature, art, music, in the elements, gazing at the stars or riding the waves in coracles to wherever God leads, was more important than any kind of doctrinal formulae.
Fr Tim said: “According to our Celtic foremothers and forefathers, heaven and earth are just three feet apart and far closer than that in a thin place. We hope that the music we are making now will be a thin place for people which, though evocative of the Celtic Way, will take them spiritually deeper than any sense of religion, history, ancestral hiraeth or romantic nostalgia, to communion with Christ, about whom all religion is merely modal response.
“The album will be released when it’s ready. It won’t be rushed but if it was released in its present form it would already be about three hours long. There will be some heart-searching editing before it is finished.”
You can find out about Leslie Sheills here: https://en-gb.facebook.com/Leslie-Sheills-Flute-player-294373797427022/ and read Fr Tim’s blog here: https://frtimardouin.com/