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What a week.

What a week for the music ministry of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, having completed a week-long choral residency at the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew in Wells, England - it was the second-best choir tour I’ve been of which I’ve had a part (eclipsed only by that taken by the Bach Society in Houston to Germany in 2001), though the trip to England taken by the Good News Singers of South Main Baptist Church in 1999 comes in at a close, close third.

Continue for the rest of the article including Deathly Hallows spoilers:

During the week (16 - 22 July), we sang six Evensong services plus a Mattins (morning service we did on Sunday — using the British spelling) and Eucharist on Sunday morning 22 July, the music of which consisted of nine psalm settings (Anglican chant plus one plainsong), ten hymns, six anthems, two sets of preces/responses for Evensong, three Magnificat/Nunc Dimittis settings, a Te Deum, a Jubilate, and the choral Gospel acclamations normally used by the Cathedral. I’m sure I’ve missed a few items - we had about thirty-five pieces of music in all, more than a few of which by Houston composer and Palmer parishioner David Ashley White. I was also fortunate to be slated to do the cantor solos for the preces/responses and for parts of Francis Jackson’s Magnificat/Nunc dimittis setting (along with two other people) for the week.

I cannot say enough about the Cathedral itself (indeed, as my friends at St. John’s would put it, “a holy place to be”) as well as its clergy and staff from the Very Revd John Clarke, the Dean of Wells and Reverend Canon Russell Bowman-Eadie (who delivers the best prayers I’ve ever heard at church (both in the words he uses and in the way he delivers them) - and that is no exaggeration) to Graham Cheshire, the Head Virger (spelled “Verger” in this country) and his people. These folks are as down-to-earth and approachable as can be and gave us all the hospitality in the world. “Worship” at Wells was truly worship: God was there. Hopefully, Palmer will visit again very soon!

But making music and worshipping were not all I did. Oh, no: I was almost as excited about the 21 July release of the seventh and last Harry Potter book as I was about singing at the Cathedral!

But before that momentus and happy day came my lovely visit to London on Wednesday 18 July, for which I skived off a trip to Bath with the choir, it being our one day off from singing. I visited London with the idea in mind of visiting with Rachael, Rose, Charles, and Chris from Snapecast for the afternoon and making it back to Wells late that evening. I got to London at about Noon, but it turned out Rachael and co. were busy until 4:00pm. That leaving me with a lot of time to kill, I made my first trip ever to St. Paul’s Cathedral, going all the way to the Golden Gallery near the top of the Dome. The place is amazing: Christopher Wren’s triumph over the ravages of the Great Fire of 1666.

After St. Paul’s was done, I got to Rachael’s and Charles’ (married on 7 July) hotel on, yes, Tottenham Court Road! It gets better: given Harry’s patronus, it’s highly appropriate that I stayed at the White Hart hotel in Wells. Given the Slytherin connection in Deathly Hallows, it was quite remarkable that, on leaving the house for the airport to get to England on 13 July, two garden snakes slithered into the house! The five of us Snapecasters went to a pub for about two-and-a-half hours, and I got back to Wells at about 10:30pm after making all-too-close connections to the train back to Bristol at Paddington and the bus from Bristol back to Wells. I had a tense moment when my bank card would not work in the ATM machine at Temple Meads Station in Bristol on the way back, but I had enough cash on-hand for the bus. It turns out I should have, before leaving the US, contacted my bank to let them know of my trip abroad: when I made my first cash withdrawal at London Gatwick airport on 13 July, the bank immediately, sticking to routine in these sorts of things, put a block on my bank card. I had to phone customer service near to the end of the week to straighten everything out.

And then there was the evening of 20 July. With the Waterstone’s on the High Street (which looks like Diagon Alley in the movies) in Wells, I had reserved three copies of Deathly Hallows ere leaving for the UK. I had told them of my singing at the Cathedral, and I was, for that week at least, somewhat famous among the staff there. The store held a little HP party outside the entrance, complete with an entertainer as Dumbledore and the staff in wizarding cloaks and hats. The moment of the release was not the raucous applause one might expect: a short “whoot” from everyone at the stroke of midnight, and that was all. I got my copy at about 1:30am, got back to the White Hart and read until 5:00am.

I skived off the next day’s tour to Glastonbury Tor (it was cloudy, anyway) to sleep in and read some more. I read for an hour-and-a-half that morning, and after Evensong was done at 6:00pm, I returned to my hotel room and finished the book at around 12:15am, having put in a total reading time of about eleven hours, after which I felt (and still do) emotionally numb, but satisfied.

In the light of Book 7, I strongly encourage you to take a listen to Snapecast’s interview with Orson Scott Card from our most-recent episode (released on 15 July). Here are some other very cool things:

Deathly Hallows launch footage from England
launch footage from Melbourne (very cool with music)
Half-Blood Prince: Chapter 1 - made with the video game “The Sims 2″

As for the copious predictions I made just ere leaving for Wells, here is how they turned out (Warning: SPOILERS) followed by my initial review of the book and more thoughts (again: SPOILERS!):

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http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/6/story.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=10333960

The book will be dedicated to Jo’s husband, Neil. The book will also be dedicated to Alice, who, after pestering him forever, was finally able to convince her father at Bloomsbury taking a look at Jo’s first chapter was a good idea.

Alice did not get a mention, but Neil did. However, so did all the members of her family and all her fans.

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“Deathly Hallows” = Godric’s Hollow = the scene of the last confrontation with Voldemort

Absolutely wrong: the “Hallows” are the Elder Wand, Resurrection Stone, and Cloak of Invisibility. The last confrontation with Voldemort occurs at Hogwarts.

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Harry’s last moments with the Dursleys ere he leaves for Bill and Fleur’s wedding (which will take place without a hitch) will go pretty much the same, in a way, as his leaving began in Goblet of Fire: “Harry looked at Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, and Dudley and said, ‘Goodbye.’ There was no reply.”

The wedding ceremony itself has only just ended when the party is broken up prematurely by way of Kingsley Shacklebolt’s patronus message. As for the last confrontation with the Dursleys, Big “D” stuns all by showing a bit of genuine love for Harry, which is more than I can say for Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia.

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JKR: “You can’t domesticate a dragon whatever Hagrid thinks. That’s simply impossible. So no. He’s got more sense. He might get a different pet at some point but I’m saying no more at this moment.”

No, Norbert will not be Harry’s pet. That honor will go to Fawkes.

Nope. Hedwig gets offed and Harry gets no no pets during the book. Neither Norbert or Fawkes make even a single appearance. I guess when Fawkes left at the end of Half-Blood Prince, he was gone for good.

+ + + + + + +

The “gleam of triumph” - Voldemort can touch Harry, but the tables are turned: Harry can now touch him.

Sorta.

Unlike Dumbledore and (presumably) R. A. B., Harry will be able to destroy Voldemort’s Horcruxes without injury.

Wish I’d thought of this before reading it somewhere…

It turns out anyone with the right equipment or spells can destroy a Horcrux without difficulty or injury. Dumbledore made the foolish mistake of wearing Marvolo’s cursed ring.

As for the cursed fire, that was a bit too easy to come up with. It also wastes Ron and Hermione’s good efforts at getting more basilisk fangs from the Chamber of Secrets, though Ron will always be able to say he knows at least one word of Parseltongue.

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R. A. B. = Regulus Black

Duh and bingo. It was the only plausible choice.

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http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/19198385/

Well, well… It seems Wormtail will indeed pay back Harry’s life debt - by directly saving Harry’s life. Does he die in the attempt? No, but he dies later on.

Wormtail pays back Harry’s life debt - with inadvertent mercy in a way I sure as heck did not see coming. Jo remains the master of throwing us curve-balls and sliders.

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Horcrux: Hufflepuff’s cup
Horcrux: Slytherin’s locket
Horcrux: Ravenclaw’s wand
Horcrux: Nagini

As for locations, I couldn’t even begin to guess.

Save Ravenclaw’s diadem, I was spot on with all Horcruxes, though I must hasten to add the other three were predicted by Dumbledore in Half-Blood Prince. At that moment, Jo made it pretty obvious those were indeed the Horcruxes.

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How it will go down with Neville vs. Bellatrix: “Wazzup — B;|&H!!”.
Yes, Neville will do in our dear, sweet Bella.

The emotion and syntax is about right, but Molly does the deed.

Poor Bella. Of all the Death Eaters, she had the greatest and most-sincere devotion to Lord Voldemort, something the Dark Lord was fully aware of. In the books, she is the only one to whom he shows any affection whatsoever. Of all the Death Eaters, she was probably the most-dangerous. “Some are almost as terrible as he is.”, says Dumbledore to Harry in Goblet of Fire (I think) — none more so, I think, than Bellatrix Lestrange.

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Who dies (in addition to Mrs. Lestrange — everyone of any consequence not mentioned lives):

Hagrid
George Weasley
What’s this?? No Voldemort on the list? That’s right, folks.

Surprisingly to me, Hagger lives, but it is Fred, not George, who dies in the battle at Hogwarts.

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http://www.mugglenet.com/editorials/archive/

Somewhere in Mugglenet’s Editorial section (late 2005?), someone speculates that Voldemort, ever trying to “fly from death” will get his wish: forever eluding the very thing he feared the most via his last bit of soul being devoured by Dementors whilst Harry looks on in horror.

Well, it was an interesting theory.

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Snape lives but his fate after the books are done — as well as his true loyalty — is forever left to ambiguity, thereby ensuring the continued existence of Snapecast for eternity.

Unfortunately no.

And was he really “Dumbledore’s man”? I don’t think so. In an interview this week on NBC’s Today show, Jo says that but for his love for Lily, “He would not have been remotely interested in what happened to this boy [Harry]“. Everything Snape did for Harry was solely because he was Lily’s son. Snape was,
to his dying day, Lily’s, not Dumbledore’s, man.

As for Snapecast, I hope it can continue for a long time to come. :-)

+ + + + + + +

Many Death Eaters escape in the end, leaving Harry and pals to carry on after the books, tracking them down. — Let the fanfiction begin anew!!

Jo implies that a few escaped, but does not name names. We know for sure that Lucius is captured.

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http://allday.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2007/06/08/217942.aspx

http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2001/0301-raincoast-interview.html
I have to agree with the folks here: the dragon is indeed Norbert, it’s the last scene in the book, and they are literally flying away into the sunset.

Nope on all counts.

+ + + + + + +

Hermione will, in time, become Hogwarts Headmistress.

We’ll have to wait for the encyclopedia for this one, though from what Jo has said in the above-linked Today show interview, I have to deem it unlikely as she is on a one-way track to becoming Minister of Magic.

+ + + + + + +

Ginny and Harry will marry as will Ron and Hermione.

Duh. I had to put in at least one prediction that I was sure to get right.

+ + + + + + +

There will be wedding bells for Argus and Dolores.

lol - more gristle for the encyclopedia

+ + + + + + + + + + + +

Professor Trelawney always did say I was her best student - LOL!!

As for Deathly Hallows itself, I found it to be a good read, though I thought the numerous deaths would be more on a part with what George R. R. Martin in his A Song of Ice and Fire series likes to do. Had Jo decided to ratchet things up to that level, both Ron and Hermione would have died along with Hagrid, all the Weasleys, and practically everyone else at Hogwarts plus a couple of Death Eaters and Harry for good measure!

Molly, you go, girl! R. I. P. Lupin, Tonks, Mad-Eye, Fred, Dobby (whose burial was particularly touching) and many others. Good riddance Bellatrix and Voldemort (all eight of him)! And future Hogwarts professor Neville has his day in the sun and his Gran’s pride and admiration (’bout time Augusta).

And Severus Snape is no longer enigmatic. May he rest in peace, too - probably the bravest man Harry ever knew as well as being, again, Lily’s man to the end.

J. K. Rowling has established herself as a master of minimalism: doing a whole lot with very little. Reading between the lines is essential to getting at the crux of Harry Potter, and Jo invites us to do just that by weaving complex characters with interesting plots and puzzles to create a magical world that is both whimsical while being eeriely familiar and hauntingly dark.

The ‘Tale of Three Brothers’-Hallows plot was inventive and the Dumbledore storyline was unexpected, but it all fits the clues brought out in previous books and makes for a well-written whole. Ron is still an emotionally-immature idiot prone to fits of profound wisdom. Hermione is a walking encyclopedia and Harry/Ginny is a much-more winning couple than ‘harmony’ would ever have been. Plus, the epilogue is too short but ends fantastically: the perfect ending to the series: “All was well.”

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Harry Potter series, and am glad to no end to have been on this ride with everyone else. Jo Rowling, I salute you!

Wells Cathedral and Harry Potter = Hakeem Olajuwon = “unbeatable”

Trip pics to come…

Jeff


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