25 June 2022

Midsummer drinks with
panoramic views on
Britain’s highest viewpoint

The 30 metre high, LED-lit stainless steel sun design circle on the Hotel La Tour in Milton Keynes was created to align with the sun on the longest day of the year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

After walking through Campbell Park earlier this week to catch a glimpse of the midsummer sunset on Midsummer Boulevard in Milton Keynes, two of us went to Fourteen, the sky bar and restaurant on the top floor of the new Hotel La Tour, with its breath-taking views over Campbell Park and Central Milton Keynes.

As we made our way up to the 43-metre high top floor and the fourteenth-floor sky bar and restaurant, with its panoramic views, the panoramic lift gave us a unique visual experience.

On the top floor, Fourteen is Britain’s highest destination bar and restaurant, offering the highest viewpoint in the whole of the country. Soaring 50 metres above ground level, the 14th floor stylish all-day contemporary British restaurant – it offers 360-degree vistas over Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire.

The statement marble effect central bar, with high and low tables and plush green, grey, and pink seating, offers classic and contemporary cocktails, fine wines, champagnes, and locally sourced brews, as well as sharing plates and delicious bar bites.

Hotel La Tour opened in Milton Keynes in April, next to the Milton Keynes shopping centre, and the hotel stands tall overlooking the sights of the new city. The hotel is a 14-storey, split-tower, 50-metre-high concrete and steel framed building. It has 261 bedrooms, a 12,900 sq ft conference floor with meeting spaces, and an external terrace.

Every one of the 261 bedrooms and suites features expansive floor-to-ceiling windows with views over either Milton Keynes Central or Campbell Park.

The hotel is located at the highest point of the new city. This prominent location led to the building undergoing an extensive stakeholder consultation, with real and significant changes to the design.

Hotel La Tour is a culmination to Midsummer Boulevard and a gateway sign to the city centre (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The building form is a simple split tower, minimal in form and detail with mirror cladding, all capturing the classic forms of the city.

With this overall simplicity forming a screen, the east facing façade is dominated by a huge circle that is illuminated at night to form both a culmination to Midsummer Boulevard and a gateway sign to the city centre. This 30 metre high, LED-lit stainless steel sun design circle was created to align with the sun on the longest day of the year.

A large sculpture, ‘Cycloidal Form,’ by the artist Keith McCarter, stands adjacent to the canopy entrance.

The hotel was designed by pHp architects, a service led architectural practice with over five decades of experience in both the public and private sectors. The practice is led by three partners, supported by three directors, each with specialised roles. They are active in a number of sectors, with activity split across logistics, education, leisure, office and Industrial developments.

The project was completed in March 2022 and Hotel La Tour opened in April. The design used 3D design capabilities and this is the first building to meet the ‘Exceptional Developments’ policy in the Central Milton Keynes Alliance Plan (CMKAP).

Hotel La Tour is dedicated to enhancing and supporting the development of Milton Keynes, economically and environmentally, with its modern build emphasising sustainability from the ground-up and the creation of 180 local jobs.

Hotel La Tour’s managing director, Mark Stuart, is quoted as saying: ‘Encapsulating the town’s aspiration to be better by design, we have worked hard to create an aesthetically pleasing and sustainable building that delivers on luxury as well as functionality. We are committed to supporting the growth of Milton Keynes’ economy and this investment demonstrates our confidence in its strength.’

Midsummer drinks in Fourteen, Britain’s highest destination bar and restaurant (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Praying with the Psalms in Ordinary Time:
25 June 2022 (Psalm 122)

I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go up to the house of the Lord’ (Psalm 122: 1) … the chapter and choir stalls in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

In the Calendar of the Church, we are in Ordinary Time. This morning I am too recalling that I was ordained deacon 22 years ago by Archbishop Walton Empey in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on 25 June 2000.

Before today begins, I am taking some time this morning to continue my reflections drawing on the Psalms.

In my blog, I am reflecting each morning in this Prayer Diary in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;

2, reading the psalm or psalms;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Psalm 122:

Psalm 122 is the third in a series of 15 short psalms (Psalm 120-134) known as the ‘Songs of Ascents.’ These psalms begin with the Hebrew words שיר המעלות‎ (Shir Hama’a lot). In the slightly different numbering system in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, this is counted as Psalm 121. It is sometimes known by its Latin opening words, Laetatus sum.

Many scholars say these psalms were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim festivals. Others say they were sung by the Levite singers as they ascended the 15 steps to minister at the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Mishnah notes the correspondence between the 15 songs and the 15 steps between the men’s court and the women’s courtyards in the Temple. A Talmudic legend says King David composed or sang the 15 songs to calm the rising waters at the foundation of the Temple.

One view says the Levites first sang the Songs of Ascent at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple during the night of 15 Tishri 959 BCE. Another study suggests they were composed for a celebration after Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in 445 BCE. Others suggest they may originally have been songs sung by the exiles returning from Babylon, ascending to Jerusalem, or individual poems later collected together and given the title linking them to pilgrimage after the Babylonian captivity.

These psalms are cheerful and hopeful, and they place an emphasis on Zion. They were suited for being sung because of their poetic style and the sentiments they express. They are brief, almost like epigrams, and they are marked by the use of a keyword or repeated phrase that serves as a rung on which the poem ascends to its final theme.

Psalm 122 continues the themes of pilgrimage and peace. This is a song sung by pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem. We are invited to go up to ‘the house of the Lord,’ to Jerusalem, and ‘to give thanks to the name of the Lord.’

The Hebrew original of this psalm is shot through with alliterations on the sh sound – as in sha’alu shalom Yerushalayim yishlayu – echoing the sound of the second half of the sound of the name Jerusalem, shalayim, related to shalom, peace. The literary style of this psalm mirrors its content, so that the gentle, soothing sounds evoke Jerusalem at peace.

The author of Psalm 122 is ‘glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ He has a vision not of Jerusalem as it was at the time, but of the heavenly city where God dwells and where all people dwell in unity.

His response to this vision is to pray for the peace of the heavenly city and for all who live within its walls, for his family, and for the house of God.

The psalmist prays to God for peace and prosperity for ‘my relatives and friends’ and for those who love God.

This psalm is well-known because of Sir Hubert Parry’s anthem, ‘I was glad,’ a well-loved Anglican anthem often associated in England with coronations. Parry wrote his setting in 1902 using the text of Psalm 122 in the Psalter of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer:

I was glad when they said unto me:
We will go into the house of the Lord.
Our feet shall stand in thy gates:
O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built as a city:
that is at unity in itself.
For thither the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord:
to testify unto Israel, to give thanks unto the Name of the Lord.
For there is the seat of judgement:
even the seat of the house of David.
O pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
they shall prosper that love thee.
Peace be within thy walls:
and plenteousness within thy palaces.
For my brethren and companions’ sakes:
I will wish thee prosperity.
Yea, because of the house of the Lord our God:
I will seek to do thee good.

Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918) is best known for his settings for ‘I was glad’ and for William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem,’ and for his hymn tune ‘Repton’ used for the hymn ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.’ His orchestral works include five symphonies and a set of Symphonic Variations.

Parry was a professor of composition and musical history at the Royal College of Music and Professor of Music at the University of Oxford (1900-1908). His contemporary, Charles Villiers Stanford, counted him as the finest English composer since Henry Purcell. Edward Elgar learned much of his craft from Parry’s articles in Grove’s Dictionary, and Parry’s students included Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Frank Bridge and John Ireland.

Herbert Howells (1892-1983) also composed an anthem drawing on words in Psalm 122: 6-7:

O pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper that love thee.
Peace be within thy walls, and plenteousness within thy palaces.

‘O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you’ (Psalm 122: 6) … the Holocaust Memorial in the centre of Bratislava on the site of the former Neolog Synagogue (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 122 (NRSVA):

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

1 I was glad when they said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’
2 Our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.

3 Jerusalem – built as a city
that is bound firmly together.
4 To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
5 For there the thrones for judgement were set up,
the thrones of the house of David.

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May they prosper who love you.
7 Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.’
8 For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) has been the Swarupantor programme in the Church of Bangladesh. This theme was introduced on Sunday.

Saturday 25 June 2022:

The USPG Prayer invites us to pray today in these words:

We give thanks for the Word of God. May we set aside time to study and reflect on the Bible each and every day.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org