Something for the weekend. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong team up to give an unforgettable rendition of Summertime. Composed as an aria in 1934 by George Gershwin for the play Porgy and Bess, it always conveys to me memories of the various hot summers of my boyhood when home air conditioning was rare and a luxury.
Something for the weekend. You’re A Grand Old Flag sung by James Cagney in the film biopic of George M. Cohan Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). Cohan wrote the song in 1906 after an encounter with a Union veteran of Gettysburg who was carrying a torn American battle flag. The old soldier smiled at Cohan and said the flag was “A grand old rag!”
I cannot have a post that mentions the film Yankee Doodle Dandy without showing the scene of Cagney as Cohan tap dancing down the White House steps. Cagney did the scene completely impromptu.
Something for the weekend. Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’. A historical curiosity of 1943. The only gospel song that I am aware of that praises Joseph Stalin, it was inspired by this remark in a speech by FDR:
The world has never seen greater devotion, determination, and self sacrifice, that have been displayed by the Russian people and their armies under the leadership of Marshall Joseph Stalin. The song was performed a cappella by the gospel group Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet. The song was a moderate success in 1943 and has mercifully been largely forgotten since that. A tribute to war time tunnel vision and the delusional view of Stalin firmly embraced by President Roosevelt and many other liberal Americans, inside and outside of his administration, at the time.
Something for the weekend. Spring from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. Until Thursday of this week I had been complaining to my wife and secretary that this was the most November looking April I could recall. Then glorious Spring burst out in Central Illinois and all was well.
Something for the weekend. Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Written in 1880 to commemorate the victory of Russia over Napoleon, its composition was due to the fact that the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, commissioned by Tsar Alexander I in thanksgiving for the victory, was nearing completion. As it happens, Tchaikovsky did not think much of what would become his most famous piece, writing that it was noisy and lacked all artistic merit and was written by him without love. Oddly enough, it has become associated in this country with the Fourth of July, as I have heard it performed on several Independence Day celebrations.
Although it has been endlessly parodied, “the cereal that’s shot from guns”, I have always liked it. Listening to a great piece of music like this, I wonder if the below humor piece does not possess a rare insight:
Something for the weekend. Louis Armstrong gives an unforgettable rendition of Go Down Moses. A Negro spiritual dating from Virginia in 1853, the song is a tribute to the imperishable desire for freedom planted by the hand of God in each human soul.
We bide our chance,
Unhappy, and make terms with Fate
A little more to let us wait;
He leads for aye the advance,
Hope’s forlorn-hopes that plant the desperate good
For nobler Earths and days of manlier mood;
James Russell Lowell, Memoriae Positum
Selections from the score of the movie Glory (1989), the story of the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first Union black regiments, up to their valiant assault on Fort Wagner in 1863. A prime example of historical movies should be made, Glory performs the epic feat of bringing to life again the days of the Civil War when the fate of the nation was decided.
Something for the weekend. Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians playing Auld Lang Syne. The first year I spent on this globe was in 1957. The above is the New Year’s Eve broadcast on CBS by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians on December 31, 1957. Born in Canada, Lombardo became a naturalized American citizen in 1938. For 48 years, until his death in 1977, Guy Lombardo and his band ushered in the New Year with broadcasts, first on CBS radio and then on CBS television. The first televised broadcast was in 1956. Guy Lombardo and his band managed the feat of remaining popular, and highly profitable, for half a century, a difficult feat in as fickle an enterprise as the entertainment industry. Lombardo was the heart and soul of the operation, his band surviving his death only by two years.
The culmination of the Advent portions of Handel’s Advent Messiah. Go here to listen to the earlier portions.
Handel heralds the coming of Christ with the immortal words of Isaiah Chapter 9, verse 6:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.
Something for the weekend. Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming. Written by the ever prolific composer Anonymous in 16th century Germany, it quickly became a favorite hymn of both Catholics and Protestants in that time and land of religious strife, and that is a good message for Christmas.
Something for the weekend before Christmas. Veni, Veni Emmanuel. The words of this magnificent hymn are from the 9th century and the melody is from 15th century France. It is more familiar these days in its English translation. Below is a powerful version that has great meaning for me. After the death of my son Larry on Pentecost Sunday 2013 I found it of immense comfort. Christ is Our Way, Our Truth and Our Everlasting Life.
Something for the weekend. Turkey in the Straw seems appropriate for the weekend before Thanksgiving. The spirited rendition above is by the Skillet Lickers, a Georgia band of the twenties and thirties of the last century. Part time musicians, they made up in enthusiasm and faithfulness to the traditional music they played, what they may have lacked in technical skill.
Something for the weekend. A rousing rendition of Southern Soldier by the 2nd South Carolina String Band, a group dedicated to bringing to modern audiences Civil War music played on period instruments. Southern Soldier was immensely popular among Confederate troops during the latter part of the War and was one of their favorite marching tunes.
Something for the weekend. Salve Regina. Christopher Columbus was nearing the end of his voyage across the Atlantic 523 years ago. He had a deep devotion to the Virgin Mary. Each night he would assemble the crew on his ship to sing the Salve Regina. The hymn was written in the eleventh century by Blessed Hermann the Cripple, a truly fascinating figure.
Born on July 18, 1013, he was a son of Wolverad II, Earl of Altshausen. He entered this world with maladies that would be considered overwhelming in our time and in the eleventh century entirely beyond hope: a cleft palate and cerebral palsy and spina bifida, or perhaps Lou Gehrig’s disease or spinal muscular atrophy. In any event he could barely move, and could hardly speak. He was placed in a monastery at age 7, no doubt his parents fearing that all that would occur for their son for the remainder of his time in this vale of tears was that he would be made as comfortable as possible until his afflicted life came to an end.
Among the monks he flourished. At twenty he took his vows as a Benedictine monk. He spent most of his life at the Abbey of Reichenau. He quickly demonstrated that a keen mind, as well as a beautiful soul, inhabited his wreck of a body. He mastered several languages including Latin, Arabic and Greek. His genius was catholic in its scope: he wrote a treatise on the science of music, several works on geometry, mathematics and astronomy, a chronicle of events from the Crucifixion to his time and composed religious poetry. He built musical instruments and astronomical devices. Students flocked to him throughout Europe, drawn not only by his learning but also by his sweet demeanor. It is impossible to overstate the importance of his role in the scientific renaissance sweeping through Europe in the eleventh century.
Going blind in his later years, he became a noted composer of hymns, including the Salve Regina. Dying in 1054 at age 40, he was beatified by Pio Nono in 1863.
Something for the weekend. I am in a disgusted mood at the papal events of this week, and when I am in such a mood it is time for a little Irish rebel music, and nothing fits the bill better than The Rising of the Moon. The song, written around 1865, celebrates the Irish rising of 1798, when Protestant and Catholic Irishmen, with the help of a small French invasion force, launched a rebellion, probably the largest and most hard fought revolt against English rule in the history of Ireland. Like all such Irish revolts, except for the last one, it was defeated and drowned in blood. However, the Irish have ever celebrated their defeats even more than their victories, and The Rising of the Moon is a fitting tribute.
Oh! then tell me, Shawn O’Ferrall, Tell me why you hurry so?”
“Hush ma bouchal, hush and listen”, And his cheeks were all a-glow.
“I bear ordhers from the captain, Get you ready quick and soon,
For the pikes must be together At the risin’ of the moon”.
At the risin’ of the moon, at the risin’ of the moon,
For the pikes must be together at the risin’ of the moon.
“Oh! then tell me, Shawn O’Ferrall, Where the gatherin’ is to be?”
“In the ould spot by the river, Right well known to you and me.
One word more—for signal token Whistle up the marchin’ tune,
With your pike upon your shoulder, By the risin’ of the moon”.
By the risin’ of the moon, by the risin’ of the moon,
With your pike upon your shoulder, by the risin’ of the moon.
Out from many a mudwall cabin Eyes were watching thro’ that night,
Many a manly chest was throbbing For the blessed warning light.
Murmurs passed along the valleys Like the banshee’s lonely croon,
And a thousand blades were flashing At the risin’ of the moon.
At the risin’ of the moon, at the risin’ of the moon,
And a thousand blades were flashing at the risin’ of the moon.
There beside the singing river That dark mass of men was seen,
Far above the shining weapons Hung their own beloved green.
“Death to ev’ry foe and traitor! Forward! strike the marchin’ tune,
And hurrah, my boys, for freedom! ‘T is the risin’ of the moon”.
‘T is the risin’ of the moon, ‘t is the risin’ of the moon,
And hurrah my boys for freedom! ‘t is the risin’ of the moon.
Well they fought for poor old Ireland, And full bitter was their fate
(Oh! what glorious pride and sorrow Fill the name of Ninety-Eight).
Yet, thank God, e’en still are beating Hearts in manhood’s burning noon,
Who would follow in their footsteps, At the risin’ of the moon!
At the rising of the moon, at the risin’ of the moon,
Who would follow in their footsteps, at the risin’ of the moon.