A couple of my friends are in Israel right now; here are some pictures of Nazareth:
"The view of Jerusalem is the history of the world; it is more, it is the history of earth and of heaven." -Benjamin Disraeli
I believe in the sun even when it is not shining And I believe in love, even when there’s no one there. And I believe in God, even when he is silent. -Author Unknown- (Found written on a cellar wall in Cologne Concentration Camp)
It's Holocaust Memorial Day and it seems especially poignant this year as we see anti-semitic attacks on the rise worldwide. Even more alarming, it's not just random racists; political leaders such as sleazy Jeremy Corbyn of Britain's Labour Party -and his henchpeople- are unapologetic antisemites and fear no repercussions for this, due mainly to the wobbly-kneed fecklessness of the UK Conservative Party. If the people of Britain have any sense left, they'll toss that terrorist-loving degenerate out on his ear, and his shameless myrmidons after him. Antisemitism has no place in civilized society, but we've gone from saying "Never again" to having to say, "It's got to stop." It's insanely evil.
We started our 2019 choral season last night and were given our music packet for the spring concert. The theme of the concert is 'Journeys' so all of the songs involve that topic in some way. One of the pieces which we're going to be singing is the jazz standard Route 66. The lyrics and the music for Route 66 were written in 1946 by Bobby Troup. Troup was a talented singer and jazz pianist who had experienced some success writing songs while in college. This was interrupted by World War II; Troup served as a Marine and was deployed to Saipan. After the war, he and his wife decided to try their luck in Hollywood so packed their belongings in their car and headed west. They traveled along two roads to get there- US 40 and US 66- and it was on the ten day journey along Route 66 that Troup wrote this song.
The song is basically a list of a lot of the towns and places along the historic Route 66 which is one of the original roads of the US Highway system, having opened in 1926. It's 2,443 miles long and for many years was the main route of anyone heading west to California. "Highway 66" figures prominently in John Steinbeck's Depression era novel The Grapes of Wrath, the path of many trying to escape the dustbowl. Route 66 was removed from the highway system in 1985 as it was replaced with interstate highways.
For those of who, like me, enjoy watching old TV series, it might interest you to know that Bobby Troup had a prominent role in one of my favourites: Emergency! This was a show which ran from 1972 to 1977 on NBC and was about the adventures of two paramedics with the Los Angeles Fire Dept. Bobby Troup starred as one of the doctors at the local hospital- Dr. Joe Early. Incidentally, Troup's wife Julie London also had a role in the show, as head nurse Dixie McCall. The version of Route 66 which our choir is singing is an arrangement by Dick Averre. Here's a vocal group singing this arrangement a few years ago:
My glass is filled, my pipe is lit, My den is all a cosy glow; And snug before the fire I sit, And wait to feel the old year go. I dedicate to solemn thought Amid my too-unthinking days, This sober moment, sadly fraught With much of blame, with little praise.
Old Year! upon the Stage of Time You stand to bow your last adieu; A moment, and the prompter’s chime Will ring the curtain down on you. Your mien is sad, your step is slow; You falter as a Sage in pain; Yet turn, Old Year, before you go, And face your audience again.
That sphinx-like face, remote, austere, Let us all read, whate’er the cost: O Maiden! why that bitter tear? Is it for dear one you have lost? Is it for fond illusion gone? For trusted lover proved untrue? O sweet girl-face, so sad, so wan What hath the Old Year meant to you?
And you, O neighbour on my right So sleek, so prosperously clad! What see you in that aged wight That makes your smile so gay and glad? What opportunity unmissed? What golden gain, what pride of place? What splendid hope? O Optimist! What read you in that withered face?
And You, deep shrinking in the gloom, What find you in that filmy gaze? What menace of a tragic doom? What dark, condemning yesterdays? What urge to crime, what evil done? What cold, confronting shape of fear? O haggard, haunted, hidden One What see you in the dying year?
And so from face to face I flit, The countless eyes that stare and stare; Some are with approbation lit, And some are shadowed with despair. Some show a smile and some a frown; Some joy and hope, some pain and woe: Enough! Oh, ring the curtain down! Old weary year! it’s time to go.
My pipe is out, my glass is dry; My fire is almost ashes too; But once again, before you go, And I prepare to meet the New: Old Year! a parting word that’s true, For we’ve been comrades, you and I -- I thank God for each day of you; There! bless you now! Old Year, good-bye!
Good King Wenceslas Good King Wenceslas looked out On the feast of Stephen When the snow lay round about Deep and crisp and even Brightly shone the moon that night Though the frost was cruel When a poor man came in sight Gath'ring winter fuel
"Hither, page, and stand by me If thou know'st it, telling Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?" "Sire, he lives a good league hence Underneath the mountain Right against the forest fence By Saint Agnes' fountain."
"Bring me flesh and bring me wine Bring me pine logs hither Thou and I will see him dine When we bear him thither." Page and monarch forth they went Forth they went together Through the rude wind's wild lament And the bitter weather
"Sire, the night is darker now And the wind blows stronger Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer." "Mark my footsteps, my good page Tread thou in them boldly Thou shalt find the winter's rage Freeze thy blood less coldly."
In his master's steps he trod Where the snow lay dinted Heat was in the very sod Which the Saint had printed Therefore, Christian men, be sure Wealth or rank possessing Ye who now will bless the poor Shall yourselves find blessing.
Yesterday was, of course, Boxing Day, but it was also the Feast of Stephen which, according to legend, is when King Wenceslas went on his errand of mercy through the snow (see above). The song is actually based on Duke Wenceslaus of Bohemia who lived from 907- 935. Politics at that time in Bohemia- and everywhere else- was messy and violent. Wenceslaus' grandfather had converted to Christianity, and Wenceslaus was raised as a Christian although his mother Drahomira was the daughter of a pagan chief. Wenceslaus' early education was overseen by his paternal Ludmila until he was sent away to school. His father died when Wenceslaus was thirteen and Ludmila was appointed regent until he came of age. Drahomira, however, resented the influence which Ludmila had over Wenceslaus and arranged to have her mother-in-law murdered. She then appointed herself regent and immediately started persecuting Christians. When Wenceslaus came of age, he had his mother exiled and reinstituted priests and the Latin mass. The Bohemian duchy was subjected to raids and attacks by various outside forces such as the Magyars and Franks. As it turns out, however, the greatest danger was inside Wenceslaus' own borders. His younger brother Boleslaus hungered for power and when he came of age, Wenceslaus had granted his brother a large portion of the country to control in order to prevent trouble with him. It seems, though, that this wasn't enough for Boleslaus and in 935 he invited Wenceslaus to a feast in his territory. While this was going on, three of Boleslaus' compatriots jumped the Duke and stabbed him to death. As Wenceslaus fell, Boleslaus came forward and ran his brother through with a lance. Wenceslaus was almost immediately considered to be a saintly martyr and the Holy Roman Emperor at the time- Otto I- posthumously conferred on him the title of King, which is why he's referred to as "Good King Wenceslas" rather than "Good Duke Wenceslas". Meanwhile, his brother went down in history with the moniker "Boleslaus the Cruel", so there is that.
Within a few decades of his death, there were a number of biographies written about Wenceslaus; one of these is referenced by Bohemian historian Cosmas of Prague in his writings from the year 1119: "But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched." Pius II, who was Pope in the mid-1400's, confirmed this account as accurate and then imitated it, walking 10 miles barefoot through the snow as an act of piety.
The carol Good King Wenceslas was written by English hymnist John Mason Neale in 1853. He based it on the 1847 story Sankt Wenceslaw und Podiwin, written by Czech poet Vaclav Alois Svoboda. The melody of the carol is Tempus adest floridum (It is time for flowering) which is a 13th century tune which was first published in the 1582 Finnish song book Piae Cantiones, a collection of medieval songs compiled by clergyman Jacobus Finno. In 1853, Neale and his music editor Thomas Helmore produced Carols For Christmas-tide, which was a collection of twelve christmas songs using music from Piae Cantiones. Then in 1854, they published the follow-up collection Carols For Easter-tide and it was, oddly enough, in this songbook that Good King Wenceslas first appeared. It has, of course, become a very popular standard, played and sung the world over at Christmas time. When I joined the school band program in grade five, it was one of the first songs I learned to play, for the Christmas concert that year. It's a rousing good tune.
"Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." -Matthew 1:23
Every Christmas morning for as long as I can remember my family has gathered together to read the Biblical account of the birth of Christ before beginning the day's festivities. I love this part of our family's tradition, as it quietly focuses us on the true wonder of Christmas before we get caught up in the fun, fellowship, and food which the day will bring. Happy Christmas, and may God truly be with you.
We had our concert last night and it went really well- and I did manage to get into the Christmas spirit for it: music has a way of doing that to me. Though I have to say, from the distance that this picture was taken, you can't really see the grey ombre of the new scarves and the older white ones would have been perfectly serviceable... Not that I'm bitter, or anything.
One of the fun songs we did last night was Noel, a piece by Todd Smith written in Kituba, an African dialect. Here are the lyrics and their English translation:
Noel, Noel Yesu me kwisa ku zinga ti beto Noel,Noel Yesu me kwisa ku zinga ti beto
Kana nge zola ku zaba mwana Nge fwiti kwisa ku fukama Kana nge zola ku zaba mwana Nge fwiti kwisa ku fukama
Translation: Noel, Noel Jesus has come to live with us Noel, Noel Jesus has come to live with us
If you want to know the child You have to come kneel If you want to know the child You have to come kneel
And here's the song being performed by a mass choir a few years ago:
This is a picture of a Christmas wallhanging I sewed a couple of months ago:
You may notice that it displays the title from the Christmas/winter song Baby It's Cold Outside which has yet again come under attack from the usual po-faced suspects: the extreme umbrage brigade. Recently a radio station in Cleveland removed the song from its playlist after a complaint from ONE listener, calling the lyrics "problematic". The station then ran a poll asking listeners their opinion: 94% of the responders wanted the song to be played on the air. Despite this, the song remains banned because in the wimpy world of sycophantic appeasement of the perpetually outraged, the squalling of a tiny minority whose pushiness is only exceeded by their ability to raise a stink counts for more than the wishes of the vast majority of normal people. Don't like a song? Don't listen to it. I personally have an aversion to John Lennon's Happy Xmas (War Is Over), as well as anything by the Chipmunks but I'd never go so far as to demand that they stop being played, because I'm not an hysterical autocrat. We'd all be a lot better off if the impertinent demands of a few whingeing twerps who won't mind their own business were treated with the scorn they deserve.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." - C.S. Lewis, God In The Dock
Kicked off the Christmas season by going to the drive-thru nativity at my sister's family's church. Their family was well represented- one of my nephews was a Roman soldier, a couple were shepherds, two of my nieces were students at the Hebrew school, and my sister and another niece were in the angel choir. We stopped by the tax collector's booth and paid our "tax"- some goods for the local food bank.
Two of the nieces, ready for Hebrew school:
Driving through "Bethlehem" made me think of one of the songs my choir is doing in our upcoming concert- See Amid The Winter Snow. Here it is performed by another choir:
These are the lyrics, written in 1858 by English clergyman Edward Caswell. The music was composed in 1871 by Sir John Goss, organist at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.
See amid the winter's snow, Born for us on earth below, See the tender Lamb appears, Promised from eternal years. [Chorus:] Hail, thou ever-blessed morn! Hail, redemption's happy dawn! Sing through all Jerusalem, Christ is born in Bethlehem. Lo, within a manger lies He who built the starry skies; He who throned in height sublime Sits amid the cherubim. [Chorus] Say, ye holy shepherds, say What your joyful news today; Wherefore have ye left your sheep On the lonely mountain steep? [Chorus] "As we watched at dead of night, Lo, we saw a wondrous light; Angels singing peace on earth Told us of the Saviour's birth". [Chorus] Sacred infant, all divine, What a tender love was thine, Thus to come from highest bliss Down to such a world as this. [Chorus] Teach, O teach us , Holy Child, By Thy Face so meek and mild, Teach us to resemble Thee, In Thy Sweet humility! [Chorus]
This Was My Brother This was my brother At Dieppe Quietly a hero Who gave his life Like a gift, Withholding nothing. His youth… his love… His enjoyment of being alive… His future, like a book With half the pages still uncut-- This was my brother At Dieppe-- The one who built me a doll house When I was seven, Complete to the last small picture frame, Nothing forgotten. He was awfully good at fixing things, At stepping into the breach when he was needed. That’s what he did at Dieppe; He was needed. And even Death must have been a little shamed At his eagerness! -Mona Gould
This poem was written by Canadian poet Mona McTavish Gould in memory of her brother Lt-Col. Howard McTavish, who was killed in the ill-fated Dieppe raid on August 19, 1942. The poem appeared in her 1943 collection Tasting the Earth.