Labyrinth as Sanctuary with Tim Piper


October 15th marked the beginning of our second year of labyrinth programming at Christ Church Cathedral Ottawa. We were very pleased to receive news over the summer of receipt of a grant from the City of Ottawa to support our Labyrinth as Sanctuary monthly program of labyrinth walks accompanied by live music. Tim Piper, the Assistant Organist at the Cathedral and Director of the Girl’s Choir provided the musical setting for this month’s Sanctuary.

Tim is a very talented and creative musician and offered a rich combination of traditional music played on the portativ organ which he juxtaposed with his own improvisational music on the piano, overlaid with echos and gentle vocals.

His musical offering was, in a way, a synthesis of the life he leads as a contemporary musician – creating original art music by way of his own sensibility, as well as animating historical and liturgical music.  The evening’s result was a collage of liturgical references with ethereal and other-worldly overtones, mixing references from history with contemporary notions. Live music always has a performance quality to it, but at the labyrinth this is played down. The focus is on the participants/audience. I had the impression that Tim was enjoying this shift in attention away from himself as a performer and more on the people walking the labyrinth. It probably made it easier for him to be in the moment and just create. At times the vocal element formed a continuum with the piano and became indistinguishable from the sound of the piano. There were some avant-garde moments when the piano strings were strummed and plucked.

I think we have succeeded in creating an open invitation for musicians to explore and experiment with creating a musical setting for the labyrinth. It may have helped that this was the second time Tim accompanied or played for a labyrinth walk. When Vanessa and I started this series, it did not come with an instruction manual outlining and prescribing “How to offer the Labyrinth to 21st century people”, so we were very pleased to have created an invitation and context for this type of creative music making. In summary, it was a most beautiful evening.

With encouragement from Vanessa, I spent time this past summer making a series of geometric drawings based on the geometry of the circle and the Chartres Labyrinth. John Michell’s book, The Dimensions of Paradise: Sacred Geometry, Ancient Science, and The Heavenly Order on Earth were also an inspiration for these drawings. At Canadian Labyrinth Ventures we are now using these drawings as poster images for our Sanctuary Series. One day these may also be available as a set of printed cards. We’ll see……


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