Music Video

United States Merchant Marine

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Something for the weekend.  Labor Day weekend seems a fitting time to recall again the United States Merchant Marine.  The civilian fleet that carries imports and exports to and from the US, during war time it becomes an auxillary of the Navy to ship troops and war supplies.  Officers of the Merchant Marine are trained at the Merchant Marine Academy, founded in 1943, at King’s Point, New York.

Technically civilians, one out of 26 merchant mariners died in action during World War II, giving them a higher fatality rate than any of the armed services.   Members of the Merchant Marine were often jeered  as slackers and draft dodgers by civilians when they were back on shore who had no comprehension of the vital role they played, or how hazardous their jobs were.  Incredibly, these gallant men were denied veteran status and any veteran benefits because they were civilians.  This injustice was not corrected until 1988 when President Reagan signed the Merchant Marine Fairness Act.  Some 9,521 United States Merchant Mariners were killed during World War II, performing their duty of keeping the sea lanes functioning in war, as in peace.

August 23, 1864: Secret Cabinet Memo

Something for the weekend.  We are Coming Father Abraham, written by Stephen Foster in 1862.  Few songs better conveyed Northern determination to win the War.  However, by August 1864 that determination seemed to be wearing thin.

 

With the War stalled both East and West Union morale was faltering.  On August 22, 1864 Lincoln received a letter from Republican party chairman Henry J. Raymond suggesting that Lincoln offer peace terms to Jefferson Davis on the sole term of acknowledgement of the supremacy of the Constitution with slavery to be dealt with at a later date.   Lincoln’s morale remained unshaken, but he was a veteran politician and could read the political tea leaves as well as any political prognosticator.  That he read defeat in the tea leaves is demonstrated by what has become known as The Blind Memorandum.  Lincoln sealed this document and on August w3, 1864 asked his cabinet officers to sign it unread.  They complied.  Here is the text:

This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.

A. Lincoln Continue reading

Ye Cavaliers of Dixie

Something for the weekend.  Ye Cavaliers of Dixie, sung by Bobby Horton who has fought a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.  Written by Benjamin F. Porter, the song was a riff on the popular song Ye Mariners of England.

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

Something for the weekend.  Leaning on the Everlasting Arms sung by Iris DeMent.  Anthony Showalter wrote the hymn in 1887.  He had tragically received two letters from former pupils who told him that their wives had died.  In his letters of consolation he referenced  Deuteronomy 33:27:   The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms, which became the theme of his hymn.  Showalter wrote the refrain and Elisha Hoffman, at the request of Showalter, wrote the remaining lyrics.

There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding

Something for the weekend.  On the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I, There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding, one of the more popular songs of the Great War, seems appropriate.  Stoddard King wrote the lyrics and Alonzo Elliott composed the tune.   Two Yale seniors in 1913, they wrote the song during some idle time and sang it before their fraternity.  The lyrics of the song seemed eeriely on point during the coming War: Continue reading

What Wondrous Love

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Something for the weekend.  A moving rendition of the hymn What Wondrous Love Is This by Bobby Horton, who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War era music to modern audiences.  The lyrics were first published in 1811 during the Second Great Awakening, a huge religious revival that swept  the nation.  The hymn was written either by that most prolific song writer Anonymous or by Alexander Means, the historical record is unclear.  The tune comes from that hit of 1701,The Ballad of Captain Kidd.

Few hymns are better than this one in powerfully, and simply, conveying the eternal truth of Christianity:  God, the great I AM, became one of us, walked and taught among us, and died for us.

Here is another rendition I have always liked, combining the hymn with another work of art that wordlessly conveys the core of Christianity, the Pieta: Continue reading

America and Marian Anderson

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Something for the weekend.  Only one song is appropriate I think for a Fourth of July weekend:  America.  Written by a Baptist minister, Samuel Francis, and set to the tune, ironically, of God Save the Queen, the song was first performed on July 4, 1831 at Park Street Church in Boston.  Near the end of his life, Francis was proposed by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr, for an honorary degree from Harvard.  Harvard turned this proposal down on the grounds that Smith had not written the tune.  The reply of Holmes was memorable and prophetic:  His song will be sung centuries from now, when most of us and our pipings are forgotten.

The rendition at the beginning of this post is by Marian Anderson, perhaps the most gifted songstress of her generation.  A devout Christian, this granddaughter of slaves was denied the opportunity by the Daughters of the American Revolution to sing at Constitution Hall in 1939.  In 1939 the District of Columbia was controlled by committees of Congress.  Democrat segregationists rigidly enforced rules of segregation in the District.  Blacks were rightly upset that during a performance by Miss Anderson, if it had been held at Constitution Hall, they would have been required to sit in the back of the hall.  The District of Columbia Board of Education, controlled by Democrats, declined to allow Marian Anderson to perform in the auditorium of a white school.  To her credit, Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband arranged for Anderson to give her unforgettable performance at the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939, Easter Sunday.

During the war years, Miss Anderson spent a large part of her time entertaining troops.  In 1943, at the invitation of the Daughters of the American Revolution, she sang before an integrated audience for a Red Cross benefit.  The always gracious Miss Anderson remembered the event:  When I finally walked onto the stage of Constitution Hall, I felt no different than I had in other halls. There was no sense of triumph. I felt that it was a beautiful concert hall and I was very happy to sing there.” Continue reading

The Longest Day

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Something for the weekend.  The theme song from the movie The Longest Day performed by the West Point Cadet Glee Club.  From 1968-1995 the song was the regimental song of the Canadian Airborne Regiment.

Marching Along

Something for the weekend.  Marching Along by William B. Bradbury.  Bradbury was a human song writing machine of the 19th century.  Of all the songs he wrote, doubtless the best known is the tune for Yes, Jesus Loves Me which I frequently sang as a child.  He wrote that tune the same year, 1862, that he wrote Marching AlongMarching Along, appropriately enough, was a favorite marching song of the Army of the Potomac, and they sang it endlessly during their marathon marches of the Civil War.

Hymn to the Fallen

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It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

General George S. Patton

 

Something for a Memorial Day weekend.  Hymn to the Fallen by John Williams.

Jesus The Water of Life

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Something for the weekend.  One of the most powerful depictions of Christ on film from the movie Ben Hur (1959).  A wonderful melding of music and dialogue as Christ goes silently to the aid of Ben Hur and gives him water.  The wordless encounter between Christ and the Centurion was amazing, as the Centurion’s face registers bewilderment, shame and curiosity as he has a totally unexpected encounter with the Divine.  Whatever the actor who played the Centurion was earning that day, it wasn’t nearly enough.

The Church’s One Foundation

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Something for the weekend, The Church’s One Foundation.  Written by Church of England minister Samuel J. Stone, it is sung to the tune Aurelia by Samuel S.Wesley.  I have always enjoyed this hymn and I have cherished the memory of Stone for it, and for this poem The Soliloquy of a Rationalistic Chicken: Continue reading

Anchors Aweigh

Something for the weekend.  Anchors Aweigh.  The fight song of the United States Naval Academy, it was composed in 1906 with music by Charles A. Zimmerman and lyrics by Alfred Hart Miles.  Universally regarded as the song of the United States Navy, it has never been officially adopted, although that has not stopped it being loved by most of the sailors who have served in Uncle Sam’s Yacht Club. Continue reading

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