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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Heia Safari!. The lyrics were written in 1916 by noted German painter of African wild life Hans Aschenborn, and became immensely popular. When Paul Emil von Lettow Vorbeck wrote his memoirs, he entitled the book Heia Safari (Hurray Safari).
Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck doubtless would have died an obscure retired German colonel but for the outbreak of World War I. Taking command of the troops of German East Africa he made up his mind that he would help the German war effort by holding down as many Allied troops in Africa as possible. This seemed like a large task for a man who commanded 2,600 German nationals and 2,472 African soldiers in fourteen Askari field companies. The other German colonies in Africa were conquered swiftly by the Allies, but von Lettow-Vorbeck had a deep streak of military genius in him that had hitherto been unrecognized.
He defeated the initial Allied attempts to take the colony and expended to 14,000 his mostly native force. He declared that “We are all Africans here.” and lived up to that claim by appointing native officers, mastering their language and treating his troops fairly, without loosening the strict discipline he applied to Germans and natives alike. He proved a master of guerrilla war and improvisation, often arming, clothing and feeding his men from the stores of defeated Allied forces sent against him. The Allies would pour 250,000 troops into a campaign that lasted the entire war. He became a hero in Germany as news of his exploits spread, and the British grew to respect and admire a man who fought successfully against very long odds.
He ended the war undefeated, he and his men in northern Rhodesia, the only undefeated German force of the War. He and his officers were given a tumultuous parade in Berlin in 1919. Deeply conservative, he entered German politics after he retired from the Army in 1928 and served as a member of the Reichstag. He fought against the rise of the Nazis and Hitler, who he despised. When Hitler offered him the ambassadorship to Great Britain, knowing in what esteem the British held their old foe, the old soldier allegedly told Hitler to perform an anatomically impossible act. (After World War II a nephew confirmed this in substance, but mentioned to his British inquirer that he had heard that his uncle had not been quite that polite to Corporal Hitler.) Continue reading
Something for the weekend: The Ship That Never Returned. Written in 1865 by Henry Work, who the same year wrote Marching Through Georgia, it enjoyed immense popularity. I can’t help but imagine that many of the listeners at the time were thinking of all the ships and men lost in the maelstrom of war in the preceding four years. The song is sung by Tom Roush who has developed quite a following on YouTube with his heart felt renditions of 19th century songs.
Something for the weekend. The Internationale being sung in Spanish in Havana. This is dedicated to Cardinal Jaime Ortega, and the Babalu Blog, the go to blog for all activities in Castro’s island gulag, tells us why:
Diplomacy does not seem to be Cardinal Jaime Ortega’s strongpoint. The archbishop of Havana behaved badly to a group of anti-Castro activists who were distributing a statement on a proposed amnesty law for political prisoners to diplomats attending 4th of July ceremonies at the home of Jeffrey DeLaurentis, head of the US Interests Section in Havana.
The cardinal’s harsh comments came shortly after a musical group — clad in colorful Prussian blue uniforms with white caps — had finished playing the last notes of the national anthems of Cuba and the United States on their wind instruments and after a brief welcome by Mr. DeLaurentis.
Relaxed officials and accredited diplomats working in Havana were chatting with dissidents, musicians and Cuban intellectuals — they had been invited to Independence Day celebrations — as waiters served red wine, beer, fruit juice and canapés.
Activists Egberto Escobedo and Jose Diaz Silva approached Ortega, who was chatting with a group of bishops, to hand him a list of fifty-one political prisoners whose release the Forum for Rights and Liberties — a group led by Antonio Rodiles, Angel Moya and Berta Soler — had been requesting every Sunday for twelve weeks in the face of intense harassment by police.
“I don’t want you handing me another list. Send it to the ’worms’* broadcasting on the radio from Miami. If you keep bothering me, I’ll have them call the police,” responded Ortega angrily.
Diplomats, guests and foreign journalists were taken aback. His outburst was the talk of the evening.
“He seemed more like a Stalinist commissar than a compassionate agent of the Lord. We assumed the Catholic church was supposed to welcome all of us. But for some time now there has been a faction of the Cuban church that has not only turned its back on dissidents but has attacked us nearly as forcefully as the government,” said Victor Manuel Dominguez, a poet and freelance journalist.
An official from a western embassy, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed the opinion of his mission that “all that is being asked of Ortega is that he at least listen to a person’s demands, even if he does not agree with them.”
The Cuban archbishop’s verbal hostility stems from statements he made on June 5 to Cadena Ser, a Spanish radio station, in which he said that there are no longer political prisoners in Cuba.
This statement provoked a harsh response from activist Jose Luis Garcia Perez, known as Antunez. Antunez and other activists — including Rodiles, Guillermo Fariñas, Angel Moya and Berta Soler — were present during the cardinal’s tantrum.
“This is what one would expect from a society in which religious institutions that supposedly welcome all believers turns its back on dissidents. But this is what is happening. Intellectuals and a certain segment of the clergy remain suspiciously silent in the face of Sunday assaults on activists and the Ladies in White,” said Rodiles. Continue reading
I have always thought `Dixie’ one of the best tunes I have ever heard. Our adversaries over the way attempted to appropriate it, but I insisted yesterday that we fairly captured it. [Applause.] I presented the question to the Attorney General, and he gave it as his legal opinion that it is our lawful prize. [Laughter and applause.] I now request the band to favor me with its performance.’”
Abraham Lincoln, requesting the playing of Dixie when a crowd came to the White House after Lee’s Surrender.
Something for the weekend. Well, after the Confederate flag madness of this week, the only appropriate song is Dixie. One of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite songs, it now may become an anthem of a new movement against the suffocating political correctness that is threatening the freedom of our land. Bob Dylan’s rendition of Dixie prior to the world going crazy:
Something for the weekend. In honor of the Green Encyclical, a bit of Tom Lehrer. Living through the Sixties when I was a kid was bad enough. Little did I know that I would have the “joy” of reliving the Sixties in my fifties. The only thing that Marx, Karl not Groucho, got right was that history frequently does repeat itself: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
Something for the weekend: Battle Hymn of the Republic. Doubtless many men who fought in the Civil War thought, and dreaded, that the War might go on forever. Now, however, it had ended with Union victory. Some European powers speculated that the United States would now use its vast armies to take foreign territory: perhaps French occupied Mexico, maybe settle old scores by taking Canada from Great Britain, Cuba, held by moribund Spain was certainly a tempting target. But no, the armies had been raised for the purpose of preserving the Union. Now the men in the ranks were eager to get home, and the nation was just as eager to enjoy peace.
One last duty remained however: an immense victory parade in Washington. On May 23, 1865, the 80,000 strong Army of the Potomac marched happily through the streets of Washington on a glorious spring day. For six hours they passed the reviewing stand, where President Johnson, the cabinet, General Grant and assorted civilian and military high brass, received the salutes of, and saluted, the men who had saved the Union. Most of the men had hated the Army, and were overjoyed to be going home, but for the rest of their lives they would remember this day and how all the death and suffering they had endured over the past four years had not been in vain after all. Almost all of them were very young men now, and many of them would live to old age, future generations then having a hard time picturing them as they were now: lean, battle-hardened and the victors of the bloodiest war in the history of their nation. When they died iron stars would be put by their graves, and each Decoration Day, eventually called Memorial Day, flags would be planted by their graves, as if to recall a huge banner draped over the Capitol on this day of days:
“The Only National Debt We Can Never Pay, Is The Debt We Owe To Our Victorious Soldiers.” Continue reading
Something for the weekend: The Judge’s Song from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury. Any relation between this judge and any that you may encounter is no doubt purely coincidental.
The Russians are celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany this weekend. It is fair to say that in that defeat the Soviet Union did the lion’s share of the fighting, the Soviets suffering more than twenty million war dead. For all their heroism and suffering , the Soviets were still enslaved to a tyranny just as bad as the Third Reich, with that system now extended throughout Eastern Europe. This cold fact is why Churchill entitled the final volume in his World War II history: Triumph and Tragedy.
The clip from the film Alexander Nevsky at the beginning of this post underlines the tragedy for the Russian people of World War II. A true work of genius by Sergei Eisenstein, who somehow pulled off the feat of making a film about an Orthodox Saint, an aristocratic Prince and pillar of the Church, and ladling it with Communist and anti-religious propaganda, and yet having the final result not be laughably absurd. The film was among the first efforts of Stalin to rally traditional Russian patriotism against the looming threat of Nazi Germany. Poor Eisenstein found himself in the doghouse soon after the release of the film due to the Nazi-Soviet pact. After the onset of Operation Barbarossa, the film was once again released and played to packed houses throughout the war. The Russian rallying song in the film was composed by Sergei Prokofiev. The lyrics roughly translated are :
Arise, ye Russian people,
to glorious battle, to a battle to the death:
arise, ye free people,
to defend our beloved country!
All honour to the warriors who live,
and eternal glory to those slain!
For our native home, our Russian land,
arise, ye Russian people!
In this temple
As in the hearts of the people for
whom he saved the Union
The memory of Abraham
Is enshrined forever
Inscription above the Lincoln Memorial
Something for the weekend. Lincoln and Liberty, Too. The mortal remains of Abraham Lincoln were laid to rest in Springfield, Illinois a century and a half ago this week. This is a good time to look at the impact of his life, a life more consequential for his country and the world than that of any other American except for George Washington.
1. Lincoln ended slavery. That is a simple three word sentence but what an accomplishment it was. Slavery, a world wide institution, had existed in the American colonies since their foundation. By the time of the Civil War the institution was two hundred and fifty years old and had tainted American history from its inception. It tainted everything it touched, and, in the ringing words of Lincoln:
I hate [indifference to slavery] because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world-enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites-causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty-criticizing the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest.
Slavery was such an entrenched institution in the South that only a mammoth Civil War, with atrocious blood-letting, brought about the conditions that ended it. In four short years Lincoln lanced the boil of slavery, and if that were his only accomplishment that alone should ensure that his name will be honored by endless generations of Americans. Critics of Lincoln often pretend that the South would have abolished slavery. There is no evidence to support that belief, and much evidence to support the contention that slavery was an immensely strong institution and getting a new lease on life by having slaves work in factories. Vast slave empires arose in the twentieth century, and the Confederacy, if it had won the Civil War, might now be regarded as a harbinger of the future on the issue of slavery, rather than as a rear guard defense of the past. There is nothing inevitable about history, which is a human creation, and Lincoln ending slavery had global ramifications, and if he had failed opposite global ramifications might likely have occurred, which would have reverberated to this day.
2. Lincoln preserved the Union. There would be no United States today but for Lincoln. There would be two or more nations where the United States of America now is. Daniel Webster, in his immortal reply to Hayne in 1830 stated: “Union and liberty, now and forever, one and inseparable.” For this country and this world I believe his comment was prophetic. Without a united America I suspect that this nation would not have successfully led the fight against Nazi Germany and then prevailed in the Cold War over the Soviet Union. I think it all too likely that in addition to the United States and the Confederate States, there would have been other successor states to the original United States. Allow secession once, and in times of national stress it would have been a “remedy” trumpeted by ambitious demagogues. The founders of the Confederacy feared this, the drafters of the Confederate Constitution voting down South Carolina’s proposal that a right of secession be set forth in the Confederate Constitution and instead included in the preamble of the Constitution that they were forming a permanent federal government. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. I Am a Rebel Soldier sung by Waylon Jennings. Stephen Vincent Benet in his epic poem on the Civil War, John Brown’s Body, follows, in part of his poem, a Confederate Georia cavalry unit in the Army of Northern Virginia, the Black Horse Troop. On the way to Appomattox they met their destiny guarding the rear of their expiring Army. I have always thought this was a fitting tribute to the men of that Army who endured to the end.
Wingate wearily tried to goad
A bag of bones on a muddy road
Under the grey and April sky
While Bristol hummed in his irony
“If you want a good time, jine the cavalry!
Well, we jined it, and here we go,
The last event in the circus-show,
The bareback boys in the burnin’ hoop
Mounted on cases of chicken-croup,
The rovin’ remains of the Black Horse Troop!
Though the only horse you could call real black
Is the horsefly sittin’ on Shepley’s back,
But, women and children, do not fear,
They’ll feed the lions and us, next year.
And, women and children, dry your eyes,
The Southern gentleman never dies.
He just lives on by his strength of will
Like a damn ole rooster too tough to kill
Or a brand-new government dollar-bill
That you can use for a trousers-patch
Or lightin’ a fire, if you’ve got a match,
Or makin’ a bunny a paper collar,
Or anythin’ else–except a dollar.
Old folks, young folks, never you care,
The Yanks are here and the Yanks are there,
But no Southern gentleman knows despair.
He just goes on in his usual way,
Eatin’ a meal every fifteenth day
And showin’ such skill in his change of base
That he never gets time to wash his face
While he fights with a fury you’d seldom find
Except in a Home for the Crippled Blind,
And can whip five Yanks with a palmleaf hat,
Only the Yanks won’t fight like that. Continue reading