2

The New York Volunteer

Something for the weekend.  The New York Volunteer sung by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man campaign to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.  New York supplied more troops to the Union than any other state.  Some 400-460,000 New Yorkers wore Union blue during the War in 27 regiments of Cavalry, 3 regiments of United States Colored Troops, 15 regiments of artillery, 8 engineer regiments and an astounding 248 infantry regiments.  The New York Volunteers took a back seat to men from no other state in the Union in providing manpower to win the War.

3

Twelve O’Clock High

Something for the weekend.  The score from the movie Twelve O’clock High (1949).  A film shorn of any Hollywood glamor or heroics, it tells the story of the fictional 918th bomb group as it pioneers daylight precision bombing in the early days of the Eighth Air Force in England and suffers harrowing losses as a result.  Veterans of the Eighth Air Force applauded the film for its stark realism and its demonstration of the impact of war on the men called upon to fight it.  Anyone who has not seen this masterpiece should do so as quickly as possible.

Here is the opening of the film:

Continue Reading

9

Edelweiss

Something for the weekend.  Edelweiss, from The Sound of Music.  A show tune written for the musical it refers to the sturdy mountain flower, which in the 19th century became a symbol for the people of the Alps.  In 1907 it became a symbol of the elite Alpine troops of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  The song is a good reflection of the quiet Austrian patriotism of a most remarkable man:  Georg Johannes Ritter von Trapp.

Georgvontrapp

Born in 1880 he was the son of a Commander in the Austro-Hungarian navy who had been elevated to the nobility in 1876.  This gave his son Ritter (Knight) status, allowing him to put von in his name and to be addressed as baron.  His father died when Georg was four, which did not deter him from following in his father’s footsteps by entering the Austrian naval academy in 1894.

He enjoyed a colorful career in the Austrian navy, including participation in quelling the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900, which earned him a decoration.  Always fascinated by submarines, he transferred to the infant Austrian submarine service in 1908.  When he took command of the U-6 it was a double red letter day for him.  His ship was christened by Agathe Whitehead, the granddaughter of the English inventor of the torpedo.  Georg went on to marry her in 1910.  They were very happy together and had seven kids.  When their daughter Maria was born, she sent her husband who was on patrol and could not receive personal missives, a coded message advising him that the SS Maria had been successfully launched! Continue Reading

7

Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott?

Something for the weekend.  Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott by the Statler Brothers.  A 1974 lament of how tawdry the movies had become, it fastened on Randolph Scott, king of B-movie westerns, as an icon for a better day when kids could be taken to the movies without parents being concerned about what they would be exposed to.  I heard this song endlessly when it came out,  my parents’ radio blaring it most mornings in the kitchen in 74 in the hour before I and my brother got up to prepare for yet another day in high school.

Scott was born as far from the West as it was possible to be in Virginia and raised in North Carolina.  His family had money so he was educated in private schools.  During World War I he served as an artillery observer in France, a highly dangerous post.  (After Pearl Harbor, the 43 year old Scott attempted to enlist as a Marine, but was rejected due to his bad back.)

After his service in World War I, he worked for a time with his father in the textile industry in North Carolina.  In 1927 he moved to California to embark on an acting career with a letter of introduction from his father to Howard Hughes.  The next few years saw him develop his acting skills with bit parts and small roles.  In 1931 he had his first leading role in the film Women Men Marry. In the film Heritage of the Desert (1932) Scott played his first leading role in a Western, the first of ten films he would make based on Zane Grey novels.

Until the conclusion of World War II, Scott starred in a variety of film genres, but after the War he concentrated solely on Westerns.  Scott was a modest man and always underestimated his considerable skill as an actor.  He was comfortable in Westerns and decided to stick with them.  It was an inspired choice.  As he aged his handsome features took on a weathered, stoic look, and helped make him a Western icon.

Scott did not financially need to make films after the War.  Shrewd land purchases in California helped make him a multi-millionaire, and he increasingly looked upon his acting as a hobby.   By 1962 he was ready to retire, but he was convinced to make one last Western with his friend Joel McCrea.  McCrea and Scott had much in common:  both had become very wealthy through land purchases and neither needed to work in film, post World War II McCrea had gravitated to B Westerns, and both he and Scott were staunch Republicans.

The film that they made in 1962 is now regarded as a classic.   Ride the High Country was the second film to be directed by Sam Pekinpah.  It tells the tale of two former Old West lawmen who have fallen on hard times.  Steve Judd, Joel McCrea, has been hired by a bank in the early years of the last century to bring back 20,000 in gold from a mining camp.  Judd is elated because this is the first lawman like job that he has had in a very long time.  He runs into his old friend Gil Westrum, Randolph Scott, who is making a meager living running a shooting gallery in a circus.   Judd invites Westrum and his young friend Heck Longtree, Ron Starr, to join him in the job.  They agree, Westrum and Longtree planning to steal the gold.  As the film proceeds it becomes obvious that Judd still holds to the same code of honor and honesty that he upheld as a law man.  Westrum does not, having grown bitter with age and viewing the gold as his reward for his courage as a lawman, a courage that was not rewarded monetarily and has left him facing a hard scrabble old age.  Ultimately Judd realizes what Westrum is up to and disarms both him and Longtree, planning to put them on trial for attempted robbery.   The plot is complicated by Elsa Knudsen, Mariette Hartley in her screen debut, who the trio rescue from a miner she has just married who plans to have her serve not only as his bride but also as the “bride” of his four brothers.  Longtree grows to admire Judd for his courage and stubborn honesty while Westrum escapes, only to ride to the rescue at the end of the film to help Judd. Continue Reading

1

The Devil’s Brigade

Something for the weekend.  Scotland the Brave, from a video clip of the movie The Devil’s Brigade (1968).  Officially the First Special Service Force, the Devil’s Brigade earned its name from their German adversaries in Italy.  An 1,800 man elite brigade of Canadian and American troops, the troops were originally trained for a hare-brained mission behind enemy lines in Norway. General Staff officer Lieutenant Colonel Robert Frederick warned that the mission as planned would inevitably lead to the death or capture of all the troops involved.  Frederick ultimately succeeded in convincing his superiors that the mission in Norway was a mistake and he was assigned to command the brigade.  In fighting in Italy and Southern France the brigade performed superbly, carrying out missions thought to be impossible, and inflicting 12,000 casualties on the Germans and capturing an additional 7,000 Germans.  The brigade suffered high casualties, by the end of the war having an attrition rate of 660%.  Frederick had intense loyalty from his men, always leading from the front and exposing himself constantly to enemy fire.  Both the US and Canadian special forces units trace their lineage from this unit. Continue Reading

10

Killing Lori Softly?

 

Something for the weekend.  Killing me Softly with His Song , written by Charles Fox  with lyrics by Norman Gimbel.  Out of the musical wasteland that was the Seventies, this is one of the few songs that I enjoy.  Sung by many artists, this version by Roberta Flack is the standard.  The song had an interesting genesis if one believes one version of how it came about.

Don McLean, he of American Pie and Vincent, was singing and folk singer Lori Lieberman had an emotional reaction to his song Empty Chairs.  She wrote a poem and the song was based on the poem.  She sang the song in 1972 a year before Flack’s version.  Here is her version: Continue Reading

4

A Song for Hot Weather

Something for the weekend.  The theme song from The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).  A combination of the Colonel Bogey March and the River Kwai March, performed by Mitch Miller.

Yesterday, taking a mini-vacation with the family, we were stuck in traffic for forty-five minutes due to bridge repairs south of Joliet on I-55.  Temperatures topped 100 and my faithful Transit Connect Wagon decided this would be a splendid time to give me my first mechanical difficulties in three years by overheating.  It was touch and go but we managed to get off the interstate and stopped at a convenience store.  I let the engine cool down and then put coolant in with the able assistance of the store manager, an Indian immigrant who turned down my offer to pay him for his time.  I gave him my card and asked him to call on me if he ever needed legal assistance gratis.  I try to never forget a favor.  We drove home without further incident and I will have the vehicle checked by my mechanic.  I suspect it is a blown fuse on one of the electrical fans cooling the radiator, but we shall see.

In any event this heat drenched adventure convinced me to post a song where the setting is quite hot and the theme song from the Kwai film fit the bill.  For anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, it is magnificent.  Alec Guinness plays Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson, absolutely indomitable in the face of the most savage treatment from his captors.  Ultimately he wins his war of nerves with his captor, Colonel Saito, over the issue of whether British officers must work in other than an administrative captivity, but fails to understand that by building the bridge he is collaborating with the enemy.  Nicholson is a man of rules and discipline and in many ways he is a heroic figure, willing to die to uphold what he perceives as civilized standards, and is beloved of his men who he also loves.  However, he is a tragic hero in that he fails to see that following what he thinks are the rules in this circumstance will benefit the enemy by building them a strategic rail bridge.   He rectifies his mistake at the cost of his life.  The film is an absolutely riveting character study of both Nicholson and Saito, stunningly portrayed by  Sessue Hayakawa, a Japanese immigrant to the United States, who fought with the French Resistance during World War II, helping downed Allied fliers. Continue Reading

Ghost of Bras d’ Or

Something for the weekend.  The things you find on Youtube!  I loved this album and this song,  Ghost of Bras d’ Or, when I was a kid.  Part of my Mom’s Newfoundland record collection.  I always thought that Dick Nolan sounded like Johnny Cash, and I see that he was called the Johnny Cash of Newfoundland.  I am sad to also see that he passed away in 2005, but his music endures. Continue Reading

1

The Wearing of the Grey

 

Something for the weekend.  Irish Americans and Irish immigrants distinguished themselves in battle throughout the Civil War, whether they fought beneath the Stars and Stripes or the Stars and Bars.  In 1865 one of them who fought for the South wrote this song to the tune of The Wearing of the Green.  A brave defeat to the Irish is always more cherished than a victory.

4

Prelude to The Agony and the Ecstasy

Something for the weekend.  As we approach a conclave and the choosing of a new pope I think a fitting musical interlude is the Prelude from the Agony and the Ecstacy (1965).  Charlton Heston is magnificent as Michelangelo, but Rex Harrison steals the movie as Pope Julius II.  Harrison plays the soldier Pope with a force and a wry sense of humor that dominates every scene in which he appears.  Julius is shown, with all his flaws, as a man completely dedicated to God and His Church.

Continue Reading

18

Theme From Lawrence of Arabia

Something for the weekend.  In the middle of winter it is no accident, as the Marxists used to say, that I have chosen for our musical selection the theme song from Lawrence of Arabia (1962).  One of the last great historical epics, the film tells the tale of Colonel T.E. Lawrence’s involvement in the Arab uprising.  It is largely historically inaccurate, although a magnificent story.  One reason for the historical inaccuracy, other than the usual transmogrification of history in the hands of filmmakers, is that it relied too heavily on Lawrence’s war memoir Seven Pillars of Wisdom.  Lawrence was a brilliant writer and a talented leader of guerrilla forces, but he never let a little thing like truth stand in the way of a good yarn.  Continue Reading

5

Theme From El Cid

Something for the weekend.  The forgiveness song from El Cid (1961).  I have always loved this retelling of the legend of El Campeador, starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren, who purportedly despised each other during the filming.  I think the etchings of the intro capture something of the spirit of believing Spain, always waiting for the next great Crusade.

Here is my favorite sequence from the film: Continue Reading

5

As With Gladness, Men of Old

Something for the weekend.  As With Gladness, Men of Old seems appropriate  for an Epiphany weekend.  It was written by William Chatterton Dix in 1859 on Epiphany.  By profession Dix was the manager of a marine insurance firm.  He wrote many hymns during his lifetime.  He started to do so when he was confined to his bed as a young man suffering from a near fatal illness.  Out of his depression he fastened his faith on the Alpha and the Omega, his hymns being a lasting testament to that faith. Continue Reading

10

Immaculate Mary

Something for the weekend.  There can only be one song on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception:  Immaculate Mary.  A Lourdes hymn, it was probably first sung in 1873.  No one really knows who wrote the lyrics of the hymn although it has been attributed to  Abbe Gaignet, a priest of Lucon.  The melody is from a traditional Pyrenean song.  It has long been a favorite hymn of Catholics in America.

The belief that Mary was conceived without the taint of original sin had its champions long before it was proclaimed as dogma of the Church in 1854  and some of the supporters, er, are unexpected! Continue Reading

7

O God Our Help in Ages Past

Something for the weekend.  After the election results this week, I suspect that O God Our Help in Ages Past, sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford, will be of consolation to many of us.  Written by Isaac Watts in 1719 it is a magnificent hymn based on Psalm 89. (Psalm 90 in Protestant Bibles.)  The hymn is sung to the tune of Saint Anne written in 1708 by William Croft.  Here is the text of Psalm 89 which reminds us of the omnipotence of God in spite of the transitory events of this life that preoccupy us: Continue Reading

10

Rodger Young

Something for the weekend.  The Ballad of Roger Young.  Born on April 28, 1918 in Tiffin, Ohio, Rodger Young had a happy childhood until in a basketball game in high school he received a head injury which affected his hearing and his eyesight.  He dropped out of high school in his sophomore year because he could not hear the teachers and could not see the blackboards.

A small man physically, along with his hearing and eyesight problems, Young would have seemed to have been totally unsuited to be a soldier.  Nevertheless, Young joined the National Guard in Ohio in 1938.  He made a good soldier and rose to the rank of Sergeant. He was assigned to Company B of the 148th Infantry Regiment.  With the coming of World War II his regiment was assigned to fight on New Georgia.

Shortly before his unit arrived in New Georgia Young took a voluntary demotion to private.  He was by now almost completely deaf and his eyesight was worse and he didn’t think under these conditions he could perform the duties of a squad leader.  With these disabilities his commanding officer wanted to send Young to the hospital.  Young pleaded his case to remain with his unit with such passion, that he was allowed to stay with Company B.

A week after his unit landed in New Georgia, Young was part of a 20 man patrol near Munda that ran into a Japanese ambush.  What he did next earned Young the Medal of Honor and cost him his life.  Here is the text of his Medal of Honor citation: Continue Reading

11

Fanfare for the Common Soldier

Something for the weekend.  Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland.  Composed seventy years ago, it was Copland’s reaction to the US entering World War II.  Watching the video above, a salute to the soldiers of World War II, brought back memories from 36 years ago for me.

Back in the summer of 1976 I was on vacation between my freshman and sophomore years at the University of Illinois.  My father ran the steel shears at a truck body plant in Paris, Illinois.  They were hiring summer help and I got a job working on the factory floor.  Although I liked the idea of earning money, I was less than enthused by the job.  The factory floor was not air-conditioned, and the summer was hot.  Additionally I had never worked in a factory before, had no experience with heavy machinery and did not know what to expect.

I was placed under the supervision of a regular worker at the plant.  He looked like he was a thousand years old to me at the time, but I realize now that he was younger than than I am now at age 55.  I would assist him at a press in which we would manhandle heavy sheets of steel and use the press to bend them into various shapes.  Before we began he pointed to a little box and said that if I lost a finger or a part of a finger as a result of the press, I should toss it in the box and proceed with the job.  Thus I was introduced to his macabre sense of humor.

I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but he was engaged in a rough and ready form of instruction.  He had to take a completely green kid, and teach me various tasks, all the while keeping up with the jobs the press was assigned.  He did it pretty skillfully, and I learned.  I never got to like the job, but I learned how to do it.  I also learned to grudgingly respect my mentor.  He obviously wasn’t well read, but he was handy with machinery, and under his tutelage I learned how to operate the press without losing one of my digits, or costing him one of his.  He kept me out of trouble at the factory, and included me in his conversations with his fellow veteran workers.  All in all I probably learned more that summer of future value for me in life, than I learned from any of my courses in college.

One day during the half hour we had for lunch, I asked him if he had served in World War II.  I was in Army ROTC at the University, and I had a keen interest in military history.  He told me that he had been an infantryman in the Army and that he had participated in Operation Torch. Continue Reading

7

September 22, 1862: Lincoln Issues Notice of Emancipation Proclamation

Something for the weekend.  Give us a Flag, the unofficial anthem of the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War, written by a private serving in the 54th Massachusetts.

Today is the 150th anniversary of the issuance of the notice by Lincoln of the Emancipation Proclamation, to take effect on January 1, 1863, Lincoln doing so after the Union victory at Antietam on September 17, 1862.  Reaction was, to say the least, mixed.  In the North the abolitionists were enraptured.  Most Northern opinion was favorable, although there was a substantial minority, embodied almost entirely in the Democrat party, that completely opposed this move.  Opinion in the Border States was resoundingly negative.  In the Confederacy the Confederate government denounced the proposed Emancipation Proclamation as a call for a race war.  Today, almost all Americans view the Emancipation Proclamation as a long overdue ending of slavery.  At the time it was very much a step into the unknown, and the consequences impossible to determine.  Lincoln had converted the War for the Union into a War for the Union and against Slavery.  It remained to be seen as to whether the War, whatever its objectives, could be won.  Here is the text of Lincoln’s announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation: Continue Reading

11

Obama, Can You Spare a Dime?

Something for a weekend.  A variant on the song of the First Great Depression, Buddy Can You Spare a Dime.  It seemed timely in regard to the terrible economic news that came out this week:

1.  AA- -Credit rating firm reduced the United States Credit Rating to AA-.  Here is why

Egan-Jones said it believes the Fed’s third round of quantitative easing,  which sent stock prices surging on Thursday, “will hurt the U.S. economy and, by  extension, credit quality.”

The firm said that while the program should boost equity markets, issuing  additional currency and depressing interest rates through purchasing  mortgage-backed securities will hurt the value of the U.S. dollar and cause a  painful increase in commodity prices.

“In our opinion, QE3 will be detrimental to credit quality for the U.S.,” Egan-Jones said.

At the same time, Egan-Jones warned that the cost to finance U.S. debt will “slowly rise” as the global economy rebounds and the Fed scales back on its  purchases of Treasury securities.

The ratio of U.S. debt to gross domestic product soared to 104% in recent  months from 66% in 2006 and will likely increase to 110% in a year, the firm  said. By comparison, Spain’s debt-to-GDP stands at 68.5%.

2.  Median IncomeUnder Obama Median income per household has fallen to $50,054.00.   When adjusted for inflation this is the lowest median income per household since 1995.

3.  Industrial Production-Down-US industrial production fell 1.2% in August pointing to a slowing economy.

4.  Unemployment-Fed analysts estimate that unemployment will not reach 7% until 2014. Continue Reading

2

Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!

Something for the weekend.  After a fortnight of political conventions I thought it was appropriate to have one of the more popular campaign songs in American political history featured for our weekend song, Tippecanoe and Tyler Too, written by Alexander Coffman Ross, and sung endlessly by the Whigs during the 140 presidential campaign.  Perhaps one of the more vacuous campaigns in our nation’s history, the Whig’s rode to victory on William Henry Harrison’s status as a war hero at the battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 and during the War of 1812, and the poor economy presided over by Democrat Martin Van Buren.  Ironically John Tyler, who was as much an afterthought on the ticket as he is in the song, would serve out the term of Harrison after Harrison died after only 32 days in office.  John Tyler was a Democrat who had only recently converted to the Whig party.  As president he returned to his Democrat roots and had dreadful relations with the Whigs, who would certainly have impeached him but for their losing control of the House in the 1842 elections.  Astoundingly Tyler still has two living grandchildren.

Here is a rock version of the song: Continue Reading

5

Plaisir d’amour

Something for the weekend.  Plaisir d’amour, “The Pleasure of Love”.  Written in 1780 by Jean Paul Egide Martini, it was orchestrally arranged by Hector Berlioz.  The haunting melody has always been a favorite of mine.

Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment.

 chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie.

  J’ai tout quitté pour l’ingrate Sylvie.

 Elle me quitte et prend un autre amant.

  Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment.

 chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie.

  Tant que cette eau coulera doucement

 vers ce ruisseau qui borde la prairie,

  Je t’aimerai me répétait Sylvie.

 L’eau coule encore. Elle a changé pourtant.

  Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment.

 chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie.

The pleasure of love lasts only a moment

 The pain of love lasts a lifetime.

  I gave up everything for ungrateful Sylvia,

 She is leaving me for another lover.

  The pleasure of love lasts only a moment,

 The pain of love lasts a lifetime.

  “As long as this water will run gently

 Towards this brook which borders the meadow,

  I will love you”, Sylvia told me repeatedly.

 The water still runs, but she has changed.

  The pleasure of love lasts only a moment,

 The pain of love lasts a lifetime. Continue Reading

2

Fireworks Melody

Something for the Weekend.  I always find the Handel composition Music For the Royal Fireworks (1749) to be stirring.  It was written to celebrate the ending of the War of the Austrian Succession and the signing of the peace of Aix-La-Chappelle in 1748.  It turned out to be merely a truce before the start of the Seven Years War, the big war of the Eighteenth Century, known as the French and Indian War in America, and initiated by a 22 year old George Washington!  Counting the fighting in America which began in 1754, it should properly be known as the Nine Years War. Continue Reading

8

Cabin Fever

(Guest post by Don’s wife Cathy:)

Ever feel like the extreme heat & humidity this past week (across most of the USA) was driving you nuts – not to mention being cooped up (in air-conditioned splendor, but still . . .) that whole time?  Apparently this was also a problem for the intrepid-but-becalmed ship’s crew in Muppet Treasure Island!  Thankfully, by the time you see this, the temperatures will have dropped to more reasonable levels (approx. 85 degrees Fahrenheit/30 degrees Celsius) in our part of the country – although readers of this blog on the US East Coast will still have to suffer for a day or two. Continue Reading

5

Fortnight For Freedom Day 3: Chester

 

Their blood flowed as freely (in proportion to their numbers) to cement the fabric of independence as that of any of their fellow-citizens: They concurred with perhaps greater unanimity than any other body of men, in recommending and promoting that government, from whose influence America anticipates all the blessings of justice, peace, plenty, good order and civil and religious liberty.

John Carroll, first American bishop, on American Catholics in the Revolution

Something for the weekend.  Chester,  America’s unofficial national anthem during the American Revolution.   This fits in well with the Fortnight of Freedom proclaimed by our Bishops in resistance to encroachments by government on our religious liberty.

Written by William Billings in 1770, he added new lyrics to the song in 1778 and transformed it into a battle hymn for the Patriots in their war for independence.  The song reveals the strong religious element that was ever-present on the American side of the conflict, with most Patriots viewing the war as a crusade. Continue Reading

6

They Will Shoot Me on Tuesday

I die but God does not die!

Blessed Anacleto González Flores before his martyrdom, April 1, 1927

Something for the Weekend. El Martes Me Fusilaran.  (They will shoot me on Tuesday.)    A  song performed  by Vicente Fernández Gomez celebrating the fight for the Church and religious liberty by the Cristeros in Mexico in the twenties of the last century.  This seemed appropriate on the day when my family and I will be seeing For Greater Glory.  Go here to read my post on the film and the historical background on the Cristero War.  Here are the lyrics of the song translated into English: Continue Reading

8

Eternal Father

Something for the weekend.  Eternal Father seems very appropriate for a Memorial Day weekend, as we remember those who paid the ultimate price for the freedom we cherish.  Written in 1860 as a poem by William Whiting in England, the music to accompany the lyrics was composed by John B. Dykes in 1861.  The moving hymn has always been a favorite of those who serve in the military:

Eternal Father, strong to save,

Whose arm hath bound the restless wave, 

Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep  

Its own appointed limits keep;  

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, 

For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard

And hushed their raging at Thy word,  

Who walkedst on the foaming deep,

And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,  

For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood

Upon the chaos dark and rude,

And bid its angry tumult cease,

And give, for wild confusion, peace;  

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,  

For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!

Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;

From rock and tempest, fire and foe, 

Protect them wheresoe’er they go;

  Thus evermore shall rise to Thee

Glad hymns of praise from land and sea. Continue Reading

24

O Say Can You See?

Something for the weekend.  The Star Spangled Banner.  Often assailed by critics as unsingable, too war-like and on other grounds,  I love it and I am proud that it is our National Anthem.   It is an interesting song for a national anthem in that the first stanza, the one we all attempt to sing, has an important question at the end of it:  Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?   That particular question has to be asked by each generation of Americans, ours no less than the generations who came before us.

Here is a superb video giving the historical back ground behind the writing of The Star Spangled Banner:

Continue Reading

8

Come Cheer Up My Lads

 

Something for the weekend.  Heart of Oak.  Written by actor David Garrick in 1759, with music by Dr. William Boyce, the song is a rousing tribute to the Royal Navy.  Garrick penned the song during the Annus Mirabilis of 1759 when Church bells in Great Britain and America were constantly ringing in celebration of British victories, including the taking of Quebec, on land and sea.  The song was an immediate hit both in Great Britain and its colonies.

The video clip above is taken from That Hamilton Woman (1941) starring Vivian Leigh and Laurence Olivier.  In many ways simply a historical pot boiler common for films during the period, the film also celebrates British resistance to the tyranny of Napoleon which of course strongly resonated with British audiences in 1941.  It was Churchill’s favorite movie and he would frequently show it to guests during the War.

The playing of Heart of Oak at the beginning of the clip is not a conceit of the film.  When British ships of the line were sailing into battle the bands of the ship would strike up Heart of Oak, always a favorite of the sailors on board.  Serving in miserable conditions, sometimes pressed (“compulsorily volunteered” was the phrase), the song did reflect how the sailors perceived themselves.  They were almost all ardent patriots, as they demonstrated during the fleet mutinies at Spithead and the Nore in 1797, when the mutineers turned over to the government French agents who attempted to make common cause with them.  The leaders of the mutineers told the authorities that they were entirely loyal to England, and they simply wanted redress for their grievances, which the Admiralty eventually granted.  Admiral Nelson at Trafalgar, where he smashed the combined French and Spanish fleets and established British naval supremacy for a century, understood the patriotism of the common seaman, which is why he sent the fleet the message, “England expects every man to do his duty” prior to sailing into the fight.

Nelson in the film is shown as saying of the decorations that he wore in the engagement, “I won them in battle?  Then I’ll wear them in battle.” although he of course realized that this made him a prime target for French snipers.  Nelson had previously lost a right arm and a right eye in prior engagements.  At Trafalgar his luck ran out and he was killed by a French sharpshooter.  However, his stance was not foolhardy.  To direct a fleet action in the early Nineteenth Century an admiral needed to be on deck, and Nelson understood that the attribute prized above all others by the men he led was physical courage.  Nelson was a complete cad in his personal life, but he had in abundance that quality.  The men would fight much harder if they saw their officers coolly displaying complete contempt for death in action, and therefore it was necessary for Nelson to do so.  Additionally, throughout his career he had struggled for better conditions for the men under his command, and they fought their hardest when led by him. Continue Reading

2

The High Chapparal

Something for the weekend.  The theme song to my favorite television western of the Sixties, The High Chapparal.  Broadcast on NBC from 1967-1971.  Set in the Arizona territory in the 1870’s the series was well acted by regulars Leif Erickson, Cameron Mitchell, Mark Slade, Linda Cristal and Henry Darrow.  The scripts were literate with a more realistic feel than was common at the time.  Here is a longer rendition of the theme song:

Continue Reading

2

Captain Buffalo

Something for the weekend.  The song Captain Buffalo from the 1960 movie Sergeant Rutledge (1960), John Ford’s salute to the regular army black soldiers who fought in the West in post Civil War America.  Called Buffalo Soldiers, the black troops made up the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry regiments.  While confronting the extreme prejudice of that time, the troops earned accolades for their courage and professionalism. Continue Reading

13

Witchita Lineman

Something for the weekend.  Witchita Lineman, the signature song of Glen Campbell, written by Jimmy Webb.  If you were alive in 1968 in the United States it was impossible not to have heard this song played endlessly.  I would not say that I like or dislike the song, but rather that it became imprinted upon my 11 year old unconscious that year and has stayed with me ever since.  However, the real reason that I am posting it is due to the classic filksong parody, which I have always been very fond of: Continue Reading

16

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Something for the weekend.  The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot.  I have featured this song before in one of my Saturday posts, but the superb video above that melds the song with information about the sinking of SS Edmund Fitzgerald compelled me to post it again.  Besides we can never have too much Gordon Lightfoot, one of the few musical brightspots in that vast musical wasteland of the last century known as the Seventies.

1

Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat

Something for the weekend.  Stubby Kaye gives a show stopping performance of Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat from the film adaptation of the play Guys and Dolls (1955).  My daughter’s high school is putting on the Guys and Dolls play this semester and my daughter has the role of the Salvation Army General Matilda B. Cartwright.  My wife and I viewed the film a few weeks ago.  It had been decades since I last watched it and I had forgotten just how much fun it is.  A better time in America’s cultural life. Continue Reading

1

Theme From Glory

Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters US, let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States.

                                                               Frederick Douglass

Something for the weekend.  The theme from the movie Glory (1989), which tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first black regiments raised by the Union in the Civil War;   a superb historical film and a long overdue salute to the black Union troops who helped preserve this nation. Continue Reading

6

Messianic Prophecies: Isaiah 7: 11-16 and 9: 1-7

Something for the weekend.  Lo How a Rose Ere Blooming.  Continuing on with our Advent examination of major Messianic prophecies, we come to Isaiah 7: 11-16:

11 Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the  depth, or in the height above.

12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.

13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?

14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.

16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

and Isaiah 1-7:

1Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.

2The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

3Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

4For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

5For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.

6For 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, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

7Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria commented upon this passage: Continue Reading

7

Messianic Prophecies: Wisdom 2: 12-20

 

 

 

Something for the weekend.  O Come, O Come Emmanuel.  We start Advent tomorrow, and my thoughts have been turning to the many messianic prophecies in the Old Testament that are applicable to Christ.  I do not think there is adequate treatment in contemporary catechesis of the remarkable string of prophecies in the Old Testament that find their completion in Christ.  All Catholics need to be familiar with these prophecies, for they are an anchor for our Faith.  One example is Wisdom 2:12-20: Continue Reading

Chester

Something for the weekend.  Chester,  America’s unofficial national anthem during the American Revolution.  Written by William Billings in 1770, he added new lyrics to the song in 1778 and transformed it into a battle hymn for the Patriots in their war for independence.  The song reveals the strong religious element that was ever present on the American side of the conflict, with most Patriots viewing the war as a crusade.

Let tyrants shake their iron rods,
 And Slav’ry clank her galling chains.

We fear them not, we trust in God.
New England’s God forever reigns.


Howe and Burgoyne and Clinton, too,

With Prescott
and Cornwallis joined,
Together plot our overthrow,
In one infernal
league combined.

When God inspired us for the fight,

Their ranks were broke, their lines were forced,
Their ships were
shattered in our sight,
Or swiftly driven from our coast.


The foe comes on with haughty stride,

Our troops
advance with martial noise;
 Their vet’rans flee before our youth,
And
 gen’rals yield to beardless boys.

What grateful

 off’ring shall we bring,
What shall we render to the Lord?
Loud
 hallelujahs let us sing,
 And praise his name on ev’ry chord! Continue Reading