Saturday Snippet

I thought I’d finished writing about Rigi and Co. I thought four books was enough. No. A short-story ambushed me during rehearsal last week. Here’s a tiny tidbit. It does contain two spoilers, so I’ll put it below the fold.

What happened to launch a story-attack was a song. The chorus is singing a choral arrangement of “Ashokan Farewell.” I had always thought this was a folk-song, but it was composed by Jay Unger for Ken Burns’s The Civil War. A few years later words were written for it. Ashokan, New York, was a small town that is now under the Ashokan Reservoir and that is near where the composer has a music camp. In the choral version it is pronounced “Ash OH ken.” It certainly has an American folk-music feel to it, with Southern Harmony/Sacred Harp harmonies in many instrumental versions I’ve heard.

We’ve been battling the notes thus far, and last week was the first time I really had enough brain free to follow the lyrics as well as the notes. Alas. My mind’s eye promptly locked onto a couple dancing to the tune. The couple was Aunt Kay and Uncle Eb. And story ensued.

I couldn’t find an adult choir recording. The lyrics really call for mature voices, not young ones, but that’s purely my opinion. Again, spoiler below the fold.

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Warm, Dark Music

Last Friday my mind was in an odd place, given that the liturgical season is well away from the nativity. Today is the Feast of the Assumption, or Dormition*, when according to tradition the Virgin Mary was assumed into heaven. Yes, she died, but, eh, it’s complicated. There are some doctrines of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches that even I hesitate to comment on because of the depths of my ignorance, despite having read a great deal about them. But anyway… Continue reading

“As the light of the morning, when the sun riseth…”

Monday night we got a good rain – steady, a little heavy at first then just long and steady, with very little wind. It overflowed the gutter and filled one cistern and boosted the other one, but didn’t flood much in my part of town. The clouds lingered almost until dawn.

And then the sun rose. A high layer of sheets of ice shifted from grey to soft pink, washing the sky. Lower clouds to the west blushed before darkening to near purple. Below the high pink, smaller, lower storm remnants glowed like gilded jewels, ruby in liquid gold settings, a scatter of gems against the rose-gold sky. The rose shifted again into soft gold but the rubies remained hanging above the fresh emerald world below.

The cool, sweet air smelled clean, looked clean, washed of dust and pollen. The world was alive with the morning, singing and pure, full of life and every good and glorious thing. Is it any wonder I broke out in song?

Samuel 23: 3-4 “The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, ‘He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. 4And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.’ ” (KJV)

The second section at :50 – 2:20.


“Finlandia” is a tune most people probably recognize from hearing it as a hymn or as background music. It is melodic, slow, pleasing to the ear, and not difficult. The words most commonly used are “Be Still my Soul” or “This is my Song” one of the lowest-key “patriotic” hymns in the hymnals I’m familiar with. Most people assume it is one of the folk-tune hymns, arranged by Jan Sibelius. It has a rather more turbulent history. It was composed for a covert anti-Russian protest pageant. Continue reading

More Musical Musings for the Season

“America the Beautiful” is one of those songs that seems to keep changing. Here are the original words, which don’t always 1) fit the meter of the tune (“Materna”) and 2) include references I don’t think 99.9% of us including Yours Truly would get these days, and 3) are not really a mainstream-denomination hymn. Original poem (1893)[6]

O beautiful for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!
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Assorted Musings on Seasonal Music Part 1

It’s that time of the year, when the sound of John Phillip Sousa and Aaron Copeland and Tchaikovsky are heard through the land, and people who don’t normally like classical music all that much are thumbing through the TV listings in search of the Boston Pops or whoever else might be doing the “1812 Overture” with fireworks. And Lee Greenwood and a few other vocalists get more air-time than the other 361 days combined. Which led to some interesting thoughts about music. Continue reading

The Time I Didn’t

A minister I like has a saying that you need to be very careful about distinguishing the promptings of the Holy Spirit from the churnings of indigestion. I’m not certain if it is something from the Divine, or my family’s touch of Second Sight, or what, but there are times when I’ve gotten a very strong sense from outside of myself that I really, really do not want to do something or go somewhere, or take a certain route at that very moment. And there have been times when I’ve been pushed by that same sense to do something, usually something I’m not comfortable about but that turns out for the best. But there was one time I didn’t do what I was moved to do.

I had not thought about it for many years, until I was driving home from worship and turned on the radio. It was the last two verses of “Walking in Memphis.” I’m not sure why that took my memory back to that concert, unless it was because the narrator talks about going to a club and being asked to perform. The lady pianist “asked ‘Are you a Christian, Child’ and I said, ‘Ma’am, I am tonight’!” Continue reading