Something for the weekend. Palm Sunday Gregorian Chants. Holy Week is our lives writ in Eternity. We begin with a burst of joy in our birth, and as sure as we were born we die, with the sorrow that death inevitably brings. Thanks to Our Savior Christ, that is not our end, and we can share with him the everlasting joy of Easter.
Something for the weekend. Pontifical Anthem, sung in Latin, of course. Written in 1869 by Charles Gounod, who also wrote Ave Maria, for the silver jubilee of Pio Nono. Continue reading
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.
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.
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
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
Something for the weekend. With all the recent furor over the Second Amendment, I thought the theme from one of the my favorite childhood friends, The Rifleman, was appropriate. Broadcast from 1958 to 1963 The Rifleman featured Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain, the eponymous star of the show, and his son Mark McCain, portrayed by Johnny Crawford. Unlike almost all westerns of the time, the title character, Lucas McCain, was not a sheriff or gunfighter, but rather a widowed farmer raising his son near the town of Northfork. Each of the shows was a skillfully done morality play focusing on the human condition. Many of the episodes had plots drawn from the Bible and placed in a western setting. McCain’s modified Winchester 73 almost always came into play, but simple gun play and violence was not the focus of the series. Continue reading
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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%.
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
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