Act of the Apostle 1
The focus of Belle and Sebastian’s, “Act of the Apostle 1” is on an insecure girl who is seemingly experiencing a rough time in her life. The beginning of the song starts out with her being late to class—a cliché commencement to a bad day, due to the “morning prayers” taking her “unaware”. At school the lesson of the day is the “Acts of Apostles” and this introduces the theological significance upon which the song rests. As the girl listens to this lesson in class, she is disinterested in the matter and begins to daydream of the desert with, “No cars, no mobiles, just sun and bread.” Her attitude toward religion and her apparently pious school is rather apathetic, and she is ostensibly disconnected from what is actually occurring, living inside of her own head. She then questions herself, “What would I look like standing by the well? / More like a woman and less like a girl.” These lyrics are drawing upon the Christian Bible’s John: 4, where Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman by the well. In this chapter of the gospel, the woman is at first skeptical of Jesus’ credibility as the Messiah, but when he tells her he knows about her past five husbands and the man who she is currently involved with and how they are not married, she believes him. With the upcoming chorus posing the question, “what would I do to believe?” connects back to the Samaritan woman, and the girls own skepticism of her place in the religious surroundings; she wants to believe in what she is taught, but there is no genuine root to it.
The chorus also touches up on the girl’s wanting to sing and stay in a melody, she would “float along in my [her] everlasting song.” If she could provide eternity for herself through her personal melody, she would not have to rely on religion and try to believe in something she is uncertain of. The actual Act of the Apostle comes along when the girl plays “Morning Has Broken” by Cat Stevens, a song about faith, appropriate for the religious setting she is in yet contradictory of her own beliefs. “She knows she’s bad / She is slowing everybody down.” The girl’s musical inabilities are very discouraging, and only aid her insecurities; but her choirmaster “knows her mother’s sick” so “he’ll be nice to her.” Her music instructor obliges the girl, and this is the Act of the Apostle, that the song is named after. The goodness of her choirmaster is the only goodness that the girl can actually see, unlike the supposed benevolence from the characters she learns about in the biblical lectures at school.
*Note: The music video is irrelevant to my analysis; my intention is only to provide readers with the song.