The Parish of Sandal Magna

Who am I and How do I fit in? 
Mark Taylor

When were you born and where?

1971 in Malaysia before moving to Singapore and South Africa, arriving in the UK in 1978.

An interesting family memory?

My mother used to ride horses, so we often went to the stables. One of her horses In South Africa was highly strung and once dashed off with my older brother at full gallop. I was adventurous and used to wander around. One day the grooms ran to my parents in a panic, having seen me in this frisky horse’s stable. When they all rushed in they saw the horse stood stock still. I was around its legs stroking it, with the horse blowing into my ear and sniffing my hair. Maybe through some mysterious understanding, it had picked up that, being blind, I was different. It gave me an insight into the sensitivity of animals.

Who influenced you most in your life?

I’ve always been fascinated by sound and how I’ve heard it. A music teacher at my first school for the blind in the UK called Gill Smith seemed to see things in me I hadn’t seen in myself. I remember her as a strong Christian. I admired her because she used to bring us adventurous songs to sing, such as How Jolly are we Beggars and A Flaxen Headed Cow Another massive influence in my life was Ali my first girl friend because she drew me out of my shy teenaged self and gave me confidence.

How did you develop your love of music?

I enjoyed singing in choirs and playing in school bands. I was always banging and scraping things, from an early age. My father had a record of Amazing Grace, played on the bagpipes. I had a little fan driven organ that sounded identical to the bagpipes and I taught my self to play Amazing Grace as I heard it on my father's record of bagpipe music. I was always having a go on the school pianos, but only started formal lessons from 9 years onward. I took up and taught myself to play the accordion from the age of 12 at my second school for the blind because I fell in love with the sound.
I had always liked all kinds of music and was always listening to the radio. When I went to my Undergraduate college at Dartington, I was able to explore all kinds of music at some depth, and it was there that I took up African drumming and also played in a Balinese percussion based orchestra known as a Gamelan.

After Dartington, I wasn’t certain what to do?

My parents were fearful for me. I went to learn independent living skills and employability in Torquay and went on to do a BTec first in Performing Arts at an FE college for the blind in Hereford. I then went to Bretton Hall to do a Contemporary Performing Arts MA in Music.
How did you come to faith?
I used to sing in church choirs and went to the Christian Unions at my first two UK schools for the blind as well as at Dartington. I had also experienced encounters with what I understood to be God's Holy Spirit but was put off Christianity by the misconception from some CU members at Dartington that music associated with other cultures, such as African drumming and Balinese Gamelan was of the devil!

After my Masters degree I started getting involved with bands such as the Carabali Drummers and The Durbervilles and participated in local shows such as Carnival Messiah.
A fellow drummer from Carnival Messiah recommended me to take his place accompanying dance classes which Sally was leading at Bretton Hall. I was invited to Church by Sally and met people associated with her artistic work at the time including Linda and Jim Currin, Ali Bullivent and the Cana singing group. They took me under their wings and invited me to various events and take part in playing with the worship groups. I was thinking, ‘I can’t do this as I’m not sure I believe' but Linda gently encouraged me to take part anyway.

I did an Alpha course in 2004. On 14 February, 2004, I was at home alone listening to Mythodea by Vangelis, an album about the 2001 Mars Odyssey and the origins of life. As I was listening, I had my strongest encounter with God. I sensed that I was being told: “I want you, I always wanted you, everything you’ve done was meant to be, you don’t have to believe the right things or sacrifice your curiosity and passion for music and sound before I can accept you. Just trust me. I want you to be part of me.”

How do you occupy your time?

I work at Leeds College of Music as a Policy Assistant to pay the bills. At weekends I help out with several worship bands, often singing as well as playing, leading as well as helping. I lead on the 4th Sunday of the month, choosing the songs, rehearsing the band, and initiating the worship on the day of the service, leading in response to the spirit.
I occasionally get involved with one-off events, such as working with the poet, Jimmy Andrex to put together community radio shows, helping Ali Bullivent with occasional projects etc. I have sometimes had urges or promptings to create sound sculptures, go and record dawn choruses from special places like Stubbs Wood in Walton, record myself interacting with gushing waterfalls and fountains like a dancer or painter capturing different colours and perspectives, put music to words by other writers, and set down musical ideas which I try to follow through as far as I can in my full schedule.
A few years ago, I managed to acquire a portable recorder that I could use to record myself multiple times over to create material as if it sounded like a choir or a band. Among some of the projects I put together using this recorder, I made an arrangement of the Sheffield Carol, Awake Arise Good Christians, which I may release for public hearing in time for next Christmas!

What recent experience of God stands out?

I am often fascinated by people who open up scripture and suggest new ways of looking at things, which open up freedom, joy and a response of Yes from my soul and the spirit! I also experience God outdoors especially in Spring hearing the abundance of birdsong ricocheting off buildings and trees.
What would be the one thing you would change in the world and why?
I wish it was possible to get people to slow down and listen more deeply to the things going on around them. Not just conversations but sounds as well. This is something I seem to be able to do naturally but find hard to communicate to others. I can't help thinking that the world in general is over stimulated and overwhelmed by visual information at the expense of every other sense we have which is contributing to the speeding up of our lives and expectations, leading to impatience, distraction and short attention spans.

Share something you get excited about in your life
I am fascinated by natural and environmental sounds. Also by sounds from around the world such as the rainforest sounds from Malaysia and Borneo or the festive sounds of Easter as heard in Eastern orthodox cultures.

What are your favourite works of art or artists?

Writers and speakers: Rob Bell and Brian McLaren.
Novel: Nicholas Nickleby. I love the element of journalism and sense of travel, the experience of joy and tragedy, outrage and compassion.
Podcasts: The Robcast with Rob Bell, The Liturgists, The House for All Sinners and Saints, and Radio 4's Seriously, to name a few.
Radio: The Radio 4 adaptation of Q & A, (the book on which Slumdog Millionaire is based). I love the radio rendition recorded on location in India sounding like a fly on the wall documentary. A moving story.
Comedy: Monty Python, Faulty Towers & Rowan Atkinson sketches.
Music: Composers: Arvo Párt, Steve Reich, Olivier Messiaen, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Hildegarde Westerkamp and Trevor Wishart.
Artists: Vangelis, Mike Oldfield, Bruce Cockburn, Sufjan Stevens, Peter Gabriel and Mamady Keita. Bands: Gungor, The Brilliance, Aradhna, The Orb, Rivertribe, The Web Sisters. World music album: Bali, Gamelan and Kechack by various Artists featuring authentic music from Bali. Sound recordist: Wild ambience AKA Marc Anderson, especially his albums dedicated to the sounds of Malaysia and Borneo and his recordings posted on Soundcloud.

Who would you like to spend time with?

I would love to hang out and improvise with Vangelis and explore his keyboard set-up which is unique. He spontaneously composes, as if he has a sound world and orchestra under his fingers and feet, and I would love to see if I could learn to do the same.

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© Sandal Magna PCC 2016.
Registered Charity Number 1131795.


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