Quirke, Antonia, New Statesman (1996)
Our Lady of Paris
"It's a small kind of miracle, a building reaching into the clouds taking advantage of technological innovations to express the glory of God in new ways." Simon Russell Beale is standing outside Notre Dame--85o years old and in the midst of anniversary celebrations--and doing one of the many things he does so unusually well: making a script sound improvised without a hint of the faux casual (23 March, 12.15pm). Behind him a wintry Seine fiercely laps against stone and tourists chunter and hustle, but SRB maintains his usual quiet focus, a skill he transports directly into conversations with experts and historians that doesn't dissolve even when he's splurging out things like, "Oh, they're singing in a boat! On the Seine! How sweet!" when looking at an iith-century painting of musicians on the water.
Later, in this tender programme about the musical history of the cathedral, he quoted from bawdy medieval songs ("find here in Paris great joy/fine jewels/and honourable ladies/and others among them of the cheaper sort ...") without remotely changing the tone or emphasis of his voice and yet making it perfectly clear he was quoting. …