Something for the Weekend. After hearing this week that Pope Francis plans to canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, the Apostle of California, while he is in this country later this year, the musical score to the heavily fictionalized account of the first missionary journey of Serra, Seven Cities of Gold (1955) seems appropriate.
In 1955 Hollywood told the story of the 1769 expedition to Alta California in the film Seven Cities of Gold. Michael Rennie gave a very good performance as Father Serra and Anthony Quinn gave an equally fine performance as Governor Portolla. Of course Hollywood could not remain completely faithful to history, and a fictional hunt for the Seven Cities of Cibola was given as the reason for the expedition. A love story between an Indian girl and one of the Spanish officers was also grafted on to the story. In spite of the usually Hollywood twisting of history, the film is accurate in its depiction of the goodness and charity of Father Serra and his zeal to spread the Gospel. One scene from the movie has him denouncing the greed of the Spanish soldiers and their desire to exploit the Indians: Continue reading
Something for the weekend. On January 8, 2015 we reached the 200th anniversary of the battle of New Orleans, so Jimmie Driftwood’s Battle of New Orleans seems appropriate. Driftwood, when he was a teacher, wrote the song in 1936 to help his students differentiate between the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War. After Driftwood became a full time singer and composer, he often sang the song. Johnny Horton made it a mega hit in 1959 with his rendition.
After it became a hit, the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, visited Newfoundland. The song was banned for the term of her visit by the provincial government. My sainted mother who loved the Queen, but also had to the full the Irish rebel spirit, used to regale me with tales of the lengths that Newfies went to make sure that the song was played continuously during the Queen’s visit as a result!
Newfies were hanging record players out of their windows, the volume cranked up full blast playing the song. Her comment on this fiasco is that if the idiots in government hadn’t attempted to ban it, no one would have been playing it. I think my attitude towards government began to be forged by this example of folly related to me at a very young age at my mother’s knee!
Something for the weekend. I Saw the Light by Hank Williams. Written by him in 1948 at age 25, it coveys the hunger for salvation that was always a part of Williams’ brief and tragic life. Dead before he reached 30, Williams was a great talent, and he threw it all away with alcoholism and addiction to drugs, which shattered both his personal and professional life. His life typifies what Christ spoke of in this parable:
The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.
However, that is not all there is to say. This song has brought comfort to millions as they call upon Christ in this Vale of Tears. I hope it weighed heavily in the balance when Williams appeared before the God he clearly loved.
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. God of Our Fathers. Written in 1876 to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it reminds each American how fortunate we are to live in this land.
God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.
Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast;
Be Thou our ruler, guardian, guide and stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.
From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thy true religion in our hearts increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.
Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never-ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.
America is a wonderful place, even when we acknowledge her flaws. I think one of the best tributes to America is contained in Stephen Vincent Benet’s The Devil and Daniel Webster, when he describes Daniel Webster addressing the Jury of the Damned: Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Mini-Abe to the rescue, to the song Up Where We Belong, played at the conclusion of An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), a good ending to an otherwise forgettable flick. This is one of a series of Mini-Abe commercials that highlights the delightful eccentric daffiness that often adds charm to an otherwise miserably misgoverned state.
Mr. Lincoln has long been a fixture in Illinois tourism commercials. Here is one from the late eighties:
“There are no real personalities apart from God. Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerers have been; how gloriously different are the saints.”
Something for the weekend. It being All Saint’s Day, For All the Saints seemed appropriate. Written by Anglican Bishop William Walsham How in 1864. Ralph Vaughn Williams in 1906 wrote the music, Sin Nomine, the tune of Sarum being used up to that time.
All Saints Day reminds us of all those holy men and women whom God, in His infinite mercy, sends us as torches to light our path in a dark world. Filled with God’s love and grace, they make golden the pages of our histories with their lives and witness. Feeling the lure of sin just as much as any of us, they turned to God and reflected His love to us. They come in all sorts of humanity: men and women, all nationalities, wise, simple, warriors, pacifists, miracle workers, saints whose only miracle was their life, humorous, humorless, clergy, laity, old, young, united only in their Faith and their love for the Highest Love. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. The score to the movie Lincoln (2012). Go here to read my review of this masterpiece. One hundred and fifty years ago there was little doubt now that Lincoln was going to be re-elected and the Union was going to win the War. The Civil War had just a little over six months to go, as did Lincoln’s life.
After he was re-elected, Lincoln on November 10, 1864 responded to a serenade outside the White House with this brief speech:
Something for the weekend. Picture on the Wall. Written in 1864 by Henry Clay Work, it captures the overwhelming tragedy of each of the 650-800,000 deaths in our Civil War. One victory that can be claimed by each of the fallen, North and South, is that after the terrible trial of the Civil War our nation has never repeated that fratricidal struggle. Perhaps the lessons that Rossiter Johnson hoped would be learned from the War were learned: Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Abraham’s Daughter. One hundred and fifty years ago the presidential election was in full swing. I doubt if this song was popular with either the Republicans or the Democrats since it mentions both Lincoln and McClellan, the two opposing candidates. The composer Septimus Winner, yep, that was really his name, was probably a partisan of McClellan. After McClellan was removed from command by Lincoln after Antietam, Winner was arrested for treason after he published “Give Us Back Our Old Commander: Little Mac, the People’s Pride”, a song which sold an astounding, for those days, 80,000 copies in its first two days on sale. He was held until he agreed to destroy the unsold copies. Nonetheless the song featured in McClellan’s campaign for president in 1864, and Grant’s campaign used it when Grant ran for president with the lyrics changed to be praising him. Here is that song: Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Scotland the Brave. I have always loved orchestral versions of this song, but I find the lyrics insipid. Therefore I was happy to find the above version with lyrics worthy of the tune.
Let Italy boast of her gay gilded waters
Her vines and her bowers and her soft sunny skies
Her sons drinking love from the eyes of her daughters
Where freedom expires amid softness and sighs
Scotland’s blue mountains wild where hoary cliffs are piled
Towering in grandeur are dearer tae me
Land of the misty cloud land of the tempest loud
Land of the brave and proud land of the free
Enthroned on the peak of her own highland mountains
The spirit of Scotia reigns fearless and free
Her green tartan waving o’er blue rock and fountain
And proudly she sings looking over the sea
Here among my mountains wild I have serenely smiled
When armies and empires against me were hurled
Firm as my native rock I have withstood the shock
Of England, of Denmark, or Rome and the world Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Composed by Samuel Barber in 1936 as the second movement in his String Quartet, Op. 11, the Adagio for Strings seems appropriate for the weekend before we observe the thirteenth anniversary of 9-11. The piece always conveys to me sadness mingled with elements of hope. As we survey the march of the jihadists in the Middle East today I confess that I find it easier to hear the sadness in the piece rather than the hope. However, God often gives evil a moment to strut about on the stages of our lives, and to seem unbeatable and inevitable, often just before it is beaten and left to join the terrors of the past. Whether the present calamities will play out in that fashion is, as always, entirely up to the actions each of us take as we play out our lives and destinies.
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.
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
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.
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.
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