The Six-Winged Seraph

Quick! What do angels look like?

Probably not like this, at least not according to most images in the media.

From the Isenheim Altarpiece by Mathias Grunewald, Colmar, France.

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Paint Your Wagon

The movie was not a box office success. Filming ran over budget, way over time, and let’s face it, there’s a really good reason Clint Eastwood is not famous for his singing ability. The movie is also long.

Two of the songs became famous: “They call the Wind Maria,” and “Wandering Star.” The movie tells the story of the American West, the dirty, corrupt, flash-in-the-pan part of the story.

Any of my readers who have been in the middle of nowhere, and wondering how-in-the-hell you got there and if you’ll ever get out of the hole you dug, can sympathize. And Harve Presnell had a heck of a voice. Good rule of life: never bet against a gambler named Rotten Luck Willie.

I went through a decade where this seemed to be the theme of my life. Lee Marvin’s other main song, “The First Thing You Know” is the anthem of anyone who kept looking over the next hill to see if there’s anything better, and I quote it in jest when talking about the views of the modern environmental movement (“G-d made the mountains/ G-d made the sky./ G-d made the people,/ G-d knows why!”)

The movie came as the great musicals were fading from the screen, which is part of the problem. Length is another difficulty, and that it’s not light and humorous all the way through. Pardner really isn’t cut out to be a miner. The female lead, Elizabeth,  just wants four walls and a roof and a stable life. That’s not the version of the American West that was popular in 1969.

But I grew up listening to the music, and watching it whenever it came on. I really disliked Elizabeth when I was younger, but I grew to understand her. Still don’t agree, though.

The Hortus Closus

My mind works in Odd ways. While looking at images of the tapestry “The Unicorn in Captivity,” I started hearing one of my favorite modern Protestant anthems, “Christ Hath a Garden.” Which led to medieval images of the hortus closus, also called the hortus conclusus, or the enclosed garden, which was a popular way to depict some of the theology of the Virgin. Which then led to “Riu Riu Chiu,” the Renaissance Spanish song about the Virgin that is still very popular in the Americas today.

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And the Silence Lingers…

One of the greatest moments in musical performance is the silence. The piece comes to its end, and no one moves. The conductor remains still, the orchestra and chorus are frozen, and none in the audience dares to break the spell, the hush of enchantment and sometimes of awe.

Sometimes everything works. Not always and there are compositions where the hush isn’t expected or appropriate – 1812 Overture, anyone? Rock concert encore?

But once in a while everything works and the music speaks through the silence.

And you know you got it right.

Magic happened.

And all the work, the sweat, the tears, the drills and note-by-note work over and over is worth it for that long, amazing, motionless silence, an instant almost outside of time.

Easter People, Raise Your Voices

The rains have come, the darkness has been defeated, life is returning, and the time for joy is at hand.

Christus Resurexit! (A not-exactly-traditional interpretation from Hamburg.)

Anthony van Dyck
The Resurrection, 1631-1632 circa.  My father irreverently refers to this style as “Resurrection and Liftoff!”


Choral Days of Obligation

All of you who have sung or who do sing in a church choir know what I’m talking about. Those days when the minister of music, choir director, or other person in charge of vocal music in worship lets it be known that nothing short of vocal-cord paralysis (with a doctor’s note) or death (yours, and provide proper paperwork) had better keep you home. Or Else.

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