Nearer, My God, To Thee

Saturday, May 20, AD 2017

Something for the weekend.  Nearer, My God, to Thee, sung by Mahalia Jackson.  Written in 1841 by Sarah Fuller Flower Adams, it retells the story of Jacob’s Dream.  A hymn of surpassing power in time of grief and loss, it was played by Confederate bands after Pickett’s Charge, and was sounded while the Rough Riders buried their dead.  Its title was the last words said by a dying President McKinley and the band on the Titanic ended their heroic service by playing the hymn as the ship sank beneath the waves.

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One Response to The Girls Would Cry Shame and They’d Volunteer

The Army of the Free

Saturday, November 9, AD 2013

Something for a Veteran’s Day weekend.  The Army of the Free, one of the more rousing of the Civil War songs, set to the tune of The Wearing of the Green.    It is sung by the immortal Tennessee Ernie Ford, who, like so many natives of The Volunteer State, had ancestors who fought on both sides of the War.

And here is another rendition, sung by Bobby Horton, who has waged a one man crusade to bring the music of the Civil War to modern audiences.

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2 Responses to The Army of the Free

Stonewall Jackson’s Way

Saturday, May 4, AD 2013

“And Thou knowest O Lord, when Thou didst decide that the Confederacy should not succeed, Thou hadst first to remove thy servant, Stonewall Jackson.”

Father D. Hubert, Chaplain, Hay’s Louisiana Brigade, upon the dedication of the statue of Stonewall Jackson on May 10, 1881 in New Orleans

Something for the weekend.  After the 150th anniversary of Chancellorsville only Stonewall Jackson’s Way, sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford, seems appropriate.  The song is a fitting evocation of the man, who, if he had not been mortally wounded at Chancellorsville, might well have with Lee brought about a war ending victory for the Confederacy at Gettysburg.  I fully agree with Father Hubert that the death of General Jackson was probably a necessary factor in the defeat of the Confederacy.  As a military team he and Lee were able to accomplish military miracles and with his death the Confederacy could still rely upon the endless courage of their ragged warriors and the brilliance of Lee, but the age of military miracles in the Civil War ended with the passing of Jackson.

The song was taken from a poem found on the body of a dead Confederate sergeant after the First Battle of Winchester, May 25, 1862:

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3 Responses to Stonewall Jackson’s Way

  • On songs:
    There’s a very good modern bluegrass tune by David Davis about Chancellorsville. I can’t find a lyrics link, but there’s this (click sample for a start) :

    If you ever get to visit; I have found the Fredericksburg/Wilderness battlefields to be the most fulfilling of the various sites. I had a friend (now deceased) who was a USMC officer, and while stationed in VA, they visited as part of their studies. An attempt to learn to fight like Jackson/Lee apparently.
    (He eventually owned a farm nearby, where he was buried last August).

  • “L’audace! L’audace! Toujours l’audace.”

    My (largely unread) “take” on Jackson is that he could wield his entire corps to achieve maximum effect while other corps CO’s seemed to send in their divisions/regiments by dribs and drabs.

    And, I seem to remember Jackson’s corps was known to route march so far and so fast that they were called, “foot cavalry.”

    Both Lee and Jackson seemed (when they succeeded) to attack where they had numbers superiority in the sector, even when they were heavily outnumbered elsewhere.

    I recently visited Shiloh National Military Park. It was like Gettysburg, not as large, and I couldn’t tie in the various sections of the field as well as at Gettysburg. It’s basically flat and sectors separated by forests. I had toured Gettysburg with the children. The Irish Brigade memorial was of interest to me. Next time, I’ll spend more time and go after “reading up.” Antietam and Fredericksburg also are on the list . . . if ever I pack it in.

  • “And, I seem to remember Jackson’s corps was known to route march so far and so fast that they were called, “foot cavalry.”

    “All old Jackson gave us was a musket, a hundred rounds and a gum blanket, and he druv us so like hell”

    One of Jackson’s men picked up by the Sixth WI

O Holy Night

Saturday, December 22, AD 2012

Something for the weekend.  A powerful rendition of O Holy Night by Tennessee Ernie Ford and Gordon MacRae. The poem on which the hymn is based was written in 1847 by Placide Chappeau de Roquemaure at the request of his parish priest.  Chappeau asked his friend Adolphe Adam, a French composer, to set it to music.  In 1855 Unitarian minister John Sullivan Dwight created an English version of the carol which has been immensely popular in America ever since.  In 1906 the carol was the second piece of music to be broadcast on radio.

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8 Responses to O Holy Night

  • Tennessee Ernie Ford was always one of my favorites. I once wrote a poem celebrating his career, and received a very gracious response from him that I treasure. Singing along with him and Gordon brought tears to my 85-year old eyes. Thank you so much Donald. What a Christmas blessing!

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  • Very good.
    I have always liked Gordon MacRae, from his years in the 1950’s and 60’s musicals – from memory, “Oklahoma” in particular I enjoyed.
    I also like Celine Dion’s version of this hymn -( although some don’t like Celine whatever she sings )

  • I like this in both French and English. It really needs the full operatic treatment. Adolphe Adam, best known for the ballet Giselle, was more Andrew Lloyd Webber than Hector Berlioz, but he sure had a hit here!

  • The song eloquently rings forth the joy of Christmas and that the world after the birth of Christ was forever changed.

  • Actaually, Adolphe Adam, who was Jewish, composed the music to O Holy Night.

    Adam was a friend of Placide Chappeau de Roquemaure. It was Chappeau who was asked by a parrish priest to write a poem for Midnight Mass Service. Chappeau called his poem, Minuit, Chrétiens. and liked it so much that he asked Adam to compose music for it.

    Sullivan’s English translation from the French, although quite beautiful, leaves much to be desired. It’s probably due to his Unitarian beliefs.

  • You are correct Vicky as to Chappeau being asked by a priest to compose the poem. I have corrected the post to reflect that. As for Adam being Jewish, although some sources assert that it seems unlikely. It is certain that Adam received a Catholic burial.

  • Sorry. That first sentence in the last paragraph should read Sullivan Dwight’s English translation…

O God Our Help in Ages Past

Saturday, November 10, AD 2012

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:

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7 Responses to O God Our Help in Ages Past

  • You are a gem, Don.

  • Thank you Mike! Tennessee Ernie Ford had an unforgettable voice and hearing him belt out this hymn never fails to raise my spirits.

  • when a bit discouraged- just a bit– I have sighed o God and then realized my sighed expression was in the same interval of those notes of this song– and then of course happily and naturally go on to our help in ages past

  • An an apt morning and night Hymn for the American Catholic Faithful at this time when all seems lost.

  • That’s what our adversaries would like us to think Mary. We have lost a battle not the war. The political pendulum will swing back as it normally does, and much sooner than the doomsayers think.

  • You are the eternal optimist, Donald. I again pray your prognostication is correct.

  • You are spot on Paul. Donald is absolutely right. Always remember the Scandal of the Cross which became the Key to our Salvation. The Catholic Church is strongest when She appears defeated. The Church Triumphant is “in the trenches” as I write this to rescue the Church Militant

3 Responses to North Dixie

  • One derogative version that I have heard starts:

    Look away down South to the land of cotton;
    My feet stink, but yours are rotten.

  • In the Tennessee Ernie Ford version at 1:40, he sings swear upon your country’s “altar”. What does that mean?

  • The lyrics containing this are:

    Swear upon your country’s altar
    Never to submit or falter–
    To arms! To arms! To arms, in Dixie!
    Till the spoilers are defeated,
    Till the Lord’s work is completed!
    To arms! To arms! To arms, in Dixie!

    A common phrase at the time was “to offer myself on the altar of my country”, meaning a soldier would risk his life for his country. It has a quasi-religious connation sound, but that was not probably the intent of whoever penned the lyrics to the Confederate war song variant of Dixie. Additionally. literate people tended to read a good deal more classical history at that time than we do today, and it may be a reference to an act like Hamilcar Barca, who, after Carthage lost the First Punic War, had his son Hannibal, the great Carthaginian general of the Second Punic War, swear upon an altar ever lasting enmity to Rome. If this was the allusion, it was an unfortunate one for the Confederacy, since Carthage lost the Second Punic War.

6 Responses to Shenandoah

Hannibal and 16 Tons

Saturday, January 29, AD 2011

Something for the weekend.  A song about Hannibal to the tune of 16 Tons.   Hattip to Hank at Eclectic Meanderings.  I have read quite a bit about the Punic Wars, but I have never seen information on them conveyed more fetchingly than when sung by “Anna Domino”, as she does her dance of the elephant veil and sings her song.  What a hoot!  This is one of a series of videos put together by history for music lovers, and long may they prosper!

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3 Responses to Hannibal and 16 Tons

  • Thanks,

    What a hoot!

    If I remember, Hannibal’s generalship and Carthaginian disciplined valor tore up large Roman legionary armies in at two major fights in Italy.

    Ancient sources state that Cato the elder ended all his Senate speeches with “Cartago delenda est” – Carthage must be destroyed.

    “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Plato (I think).

    In 2011, same truth: “another day older and deeper in debt”; only now, you owe your soul to the government.

  • Donald

    Thanks for the link!

  • Thank you Hank for introducing me to the wonderful videos of History for Music Lovers!

The Vacant Chair

Saturday, January 15, AD 2011

Something for the weekend.  The incomparable Kathy Mattea singing the Civil War song The Vacant Chair.  Originally written in 1862 to commemorate Second Lieutenant John William Grout, 15th Massachusetts, who was killed at age eighteen at Ball’s Bluff, one of the early battles of the War, it proved immensely popular North and South as the nation eventually mourned approximately 620,000 vacant chairs.

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6 Responses to The Vacant Chair