It is generally considered, after extensive research, that there are nine scientifically-proven characteristics of effective public speaking and although some are not directly applicable to the recital of ritual, many are. Judging by the performances of the brethren of Baines Lodge No 7844 at the lodge’s installation ceremony at Poulton-le-Fylde Masonic Hall, the lodge had invested in a correspondence course on public speaking and what’s more, they had benefitted from the investment by producing a first-class show for those in attendance.
We are all aware of the maxim that ‘practise makes perfect’. When the individual has practised again and again, confidence will flow naturally. In order to achieve the quality shown at Baines Lodge, a heck of a lot of practise must have gone into the ceremony and the product of that practise was an obvious confidence.
With the confidence came the desire and ability to project their voices; clearly, forcibly and bursting with zeal. There was no mumbling, no fumbling and no bumbling; no umming, no erring and no ahing. It was crisp, energetic and stimulating. In no remote corner of the lodge room was there a need to strain to hear. All could enjoy it to the full. The entire ceremony oozed with confidence, giving it that quality of zing that we enjoy in any performance. It was full of freshness, spontaneity and passion.
And it was that passion that made the ceremony memorable. In order to really communicate to people through ritual, the performer needs to have passion about the subject. Without passion, the ritual is flat and meaningless. The performer needs to exude sincerity in his emotion when communicating ritual. At Baines Lodge’s installation, the air was charged with excitement.
When a performer is truly excited about his subject, that feeling will shine through any nervousness that he may have been experiencing. Again, it proved the axiom that people who label anxiety as ‘excitement’ end up feeling more comfortable about speaking. The entire cast at Baines Lodge appeared comfortable, enthusiastic and above all, relaxed. They all fully deserved the accolades they received from the distinguished visitors.
Quality was apparent from the moment the members and visitors gathered. Minute details were ironed out before the ceremony commenced. Director of ceremonies Ryan Modlin ensured that lodge deacons and acting Provincial grand officers knew exactly what was required of them. Lodge mentor John Lee and grand officer Dave Thomas mingled with the members and offered encouraging words. The genial-faced installing master Graham Bannister and master elect David Edwards made sure that everyone in attendance had been warmly greeted. Little wonder that the evening was so successful!
Becoming of such quality, there was a galaxy of eminent Masons present. The principal guest who was representing the Provincial Grand Master was Geoffrey Pritchard; he who is renowned as an expert orator and more than qualified to assess the worth of ritual. Supporting Geoffrey was a plethora of grand officers. Past Assistant Provincial Grand Masters Terry Hudson and Philip Gardner led the field, along with Provincial Grand Secretary Peter Taylor, Stuart Thornber, Peter Elmore, David Randerson, Keith Jackson, Dave Thomas and Malcolm Bell.
Acting Provincial grand officers Creag Williams, Darren Gardner and David Pallister headed the procession into the lodge room in impeccable style whilst vice chairman of the South Fylde Group John Robbie Porter volunteered his services as guest organist.
So well-orchestrated was the ceremony that the selection of installing officers warranted only those of the stoutest credentials. Director of ceremonies from the master elect’s mother lodge of Blackpool Temperance Lodge No 5303 Martin Linton was recruited as installing senior warden, with ritual maestro Paul Darlington posted as installing junior warden and ever-reliable Bob Bennett as installing inner guard.
Installing master Graham Bannister established the highest quality from the moment he opened the lodge and conducted the general business. It was efficient, cheery and precise and being one not to be frivolous on such a sacred occasion, he introduced the main event of the day with fitting reverence and decorum. John Lee preserved the dignity of the occasion when presenting master elect David Edwards.
Every element of the ceremony was performed to the highest of standards. Graham is a precise sort of chap who, when charged with a task, will throw his whole weight behind it to ensure a first-class outcome. David Edwards on his part pursues perfection in everything he does. To him, the rules of the guild of master ritualists do not allow for anything less.
Baines Lodge, abundantly supplied with raw talent, maintained the standard throughout; ladling out masterpiece of ritual after masterpiece of ritual. Creag Williams, Dave McKee and John Lee were exquisite in their presentations of the third, second and first degree working tools.
But the pleasures of the ceremony were not entirely due to the excellence of ritual. There were moments of charming irony. John Robbie Porter was honoured to address the lodge charity steward Dave McKee on his duties and responsibilities – Dave McKee is the South Fylde Group Charity Steward – it was obviously considered essential to remind him of the duties of a charity steward.
Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies Dave Thomas, who has served as Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies for many years, was invested as the lodge’s assistant director of ceremonies and reminded of his duties. David Nicholson was invested as the lodge’s senior deacon after only having been balloted for as a joining member, moments before the ceremony – Baines Lodge believes in putting its members to work straight away.
The quality of the ritual was, nevertheless, the highlight of the evening. That quality continued with excellent addresses to the senior warden, junior warden and inner guard by Martin Linton, Paul Darlington and Bob Bennett respectively. Creag Williams was first class in his recital to the stewards and John Lee provided a distinctive address to the newly-installed master, whilst Dave Thomas proved his credentials with an inspired address to the wardens.
The customary final address of the ceremony, that to the brethren of the lodge, was in the care of Geoffrey Pritchard. Under pressure to equal the clarity and excellence of the preceding performances, Geoffrey demonstrated that the challenge was of little concern to a Mason of his calibre. He nailed it in superb fashion.
The quality of the ceremony was expressively summarised by Philip Gardner in responding on behalf of the grand officers at the first rising, describing it as ‘classic’ and being particularly complementary about Graham Bannister’s relaxed handling of the task. He also stressed the importance of the director of ceremony’s role in choreographing the occasion.
One of the many factors that made the ceremony at Baines Lodge noteworthy was the prevalence of ‘light blue’ brethren in attendance to experience such well-delivered ritual and which, hopefully, will motivate them to replicate the standard in any ritual they may be required to perform at a future date. Such a lasting legacy would be a fitting reward for those individuals who put so much work into this installation ceremony. Let the lesson learned remain with each light blue and all Masons for the remainder of their Masonic careers.