Grantchester is a village just outside Cambridge (the UK city famous for its university, not the suburb of Boston, MA). It was the setting for a series of whodunnit short stories, The Grantchester Mysteries, by James Runcie. The books spawned a TV series called simply, Grantchester – the headline picture here is a still showing James Norton in his role of Sydney Chambers, an Anglican vicar and amateur sleuth.
As detective stories the TV programmes were entertaining enough, but they really shone when they explored the conflicted personality of its main character. Sydney is perpetually torn between his love for a married woman and his love of God. And his inner tension is brought into sharp relief as his brush with crime scenes reminds him of Man’s cruelty and the pain it causes.
“Delightfully neat and economical of plot, it’s Cluedo with cassocks and just enough noir for the modern palate. Victoria sponge with a tablespoon of battery acid.”Michael Pilgrim in The Daily Telegraph
There’s a close parallel between Grantchester‘s Sydney Chambers and The Priest as painted by Joni Mitchell. He is wrestling with his emotions – love and duty threatening to pull him apart. He seems to have succumbed to Earthly temptations as he sits across the table and gazes into her eyes. She can’t tell if she can trust his commitment to her but she can not turn him down.
This was one of the first songs to inscribe the name of Joni Mitchell onto the Crotchety scroll of honour. The acoustic guitar rings pure and true, the melody has a natural lilt without being clichéd and the lyrics are poetry sublime. If Grantchester is sponge with a dash of acid, The Priest is simnel cake with a generous dollop of cinnamon spice. Where Grantchester is economical, The Priest is even more frugal in its phrasing. Only a supreme poet could cram more meaning into so few words.
Then he took his contradictions out
And he splashed them on my brow
So which words was I then to doubt
When choosing what to vow
There, in one verse, you have two books and a 5 (soon to be 6) series TV drama. It’s a marvellous song, too.