“Liebe Goldene Konfirmanten:” A meditation on faith

The organ-tour group happened to time our arrival in Leipzig to coincide with the start of Bach Week. We tried out two of the organs in Bach’s home church, paid our respects to his grave, bought Bach stuff from his museum, and discovered the mall that happens to have a train-station built into it. (Anyone who has seen the Leipzig Hauptbahnhof knows what I mean.) We also attended worship at St. Thomas, Bach’s church.

In addition to having a Bach choir there to sing part of the service and kick off Bach Week, the day also served to honor people’s confirmations, especially those who had been members of the church for 50 years or more – the Golden Confirmands. Continue reading


Is it Classical or Baroque?

I’m wrapping up Beethoven #2 at the moment. The “Choral Fantasy” was round one, and the Missa Solemnis is round three. I’m still not a Beethoven fan in terms of his vocal compositions, although some of his earlier masses are nice. He tends to park vocalists up at the top of our range and then come back later. Even the tenors have been muttering darkly about “was he writing for castrati?”

One of the other challenges with Beethoven, for vocalist and instrumentalist, is that we think of him as Romantic but he’s not. In some ways he prefigures the Romantic movement (Brahms) but he’s actually a classical composer, and has to be treated in that way to get an accurate sound. If you sing his music as Romantic, it’s not being true to what he intended. Continue reading

Armstrong Starters and Other Old Things

Ah, the days of old when men were bold and planes had round engines… And no electric starter. I got to fly with, and learn from, men and women of the Olde School, and they had more rituals than the Eastern Orthodox Church when it came to starting airplanes. Once I started working on vintage beasts, I learned why.

Round motors are sweet, amazing pieces of art and power when they work as desired. They are stone cold [invective of choice] when they don’t. And starting them is not as easy as the modern prime with gas, turn on magnetos, hit starter, add throttle and go. Oh no, no, one treated radial engines with the same delicate manners and techniques used for… Never mind, PG-13 blog. Anyway, crank and go is not a radial engine “thing.”

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Lest We Forget. Fair Use under Creative Commons 4.0. From:https://www.theindiansun.com.au/2018/04/04/lest-forget-anzac-day-service-dawn/

April 25 is ANZAC Day, a day set aside in Australia and New Zealand to honor those who served in the militaries of both countries, and especially those who died in war. The men of Australia and New Zealand answered the call, first of England, then all free peoples, in the Boer War, WWI, WWII, Korea, and many other conflicts. We in the US don’t always think of Australia and New Zealand as having a military presence, because we don’t see them, but ask the people of East Timor and other places. You’ll learn a lot.


Two Steps Forward, One Sore Back

I caught myself cheating on the shoulder press on Saturday. Ow. Don’t do that.

I arched my back against the weight and tried to use body English. The good news is that I caught myself and promptly corrected my form. The bad news is that I managed to pull a muscle anyway. It really let me know when I was doing dead-lifts in between shoulder press sets. That last three inches to put the bar on the floor? Yeaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhoooowch. Continue reading

Earth Day – Yawn

Rant follows. You’ve been warned.

So today’s when we are supposed to feel bad about using plastic and having opposable thumbs, or something.

I’m a conservationist. I believe in wise use of resources in order to benefit the most people over the longest time possible, based on the best knowledge that we currently have. I also heartily agree that we need green-spaces, places like parks, nature preserves, and well-managed habitats for wildlife of all kinds. We are stewards of this world, and we don’t always do as good of a job as we could, but we’re learning. Continue reading

Christus Resurexit!

An early Renaissance/ late Medieval resurrection by Andrea di Bartolo 1390-1410. From the Walters Art Museum. https://art.thewalters.org/detail/38060/the-resurrection/ 

Today is Easter in the Western branches of Christianity. The Orthodox will celebrate it next week. Really, if we stuck with scripture alone, Easter should always be the same “weekend” as Passover, but Christians just had to make it more complicated – bureaucracy, you know. đŸ˜‰

To borrow from the Orthodox, or at least Orthodox-inspired, Easter tradition:

Saint Sulpice is the other “big” church in Paris. Improvisation is a major organ “thing,” and he is working from several chants and hymns in this prelude.

A blessed and wonder-full Easter to those who celebrate it!

Some Thoughts on the Damage to Notre Dame de Paris

Well, to paraphrase, since this is a PG-rated blog, “nagdabbit!” Followed by, boy I hope this was not arson. Then, medieval churches’ greatest enemy strikes again. Then I cried.

I’ve only seen the outside of Notre Dame. The line was so long, and the day so hot, that I opted to go to the Roman site under the church rather than stand in line for two hours in the sun. I’ve seen a number of other Gothic cathedrals, and didn’t feel the need to get heat-stress just to view this one along with thousands of strangers. (I got heat stress the next day, after going back to the Louvre. It was near 100 F on the city streets, with a hot wind and dust swirling from the park near the museum.)

One of the single greatest causes of, ahm, unplanned urban renewal in the pre-modern era was fire. Without pumps that could move water and apply constant pressure to it, the only thing to do was 1. bucket-brigade, 2. tear down buildings closest to the fire to keep it from spreading, 3. pray, 4. all of the above. Some of the earliest building requirements, such as a tile or slate roof, or covering the facade with plaster to cover and protect beams, or “cover fire hours,” (curfews) came from those fires. Multi-storey houses often kept ladders under the eves of the first floor, along with buckets, in case the fire tocsin rang in the night. Certain church bells would be designated as the fire bell, and when that note sounded, everyone stopped what they were doing and hurried to fight the fire. Continue reading