"Interesting is easy; beautiful is difficult."

- Gustav Mahler
Yes, Even When He Is Silent



Here we have the St. Olaf Choir with Conductor Anton Armstrong performing "Even When He Is Silent" by Kim André Arnesen. It was recorded at Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway on June 16, 2013

The piece was commissioned by the St. Olaf Festival in Trondheim, Norway (Olavsfestdagene), using a text was found in a concentration camp after World War II:

"I believe in the sun, even when it's not shining.
I believe in love, even when I feel it not.
I believe in God, even when He is silent."

But, Lord, do not be silent or allow us to be deaf.

The End of This Story Brought Me to Tears

Polish musician Ignace PaderewskiA friend asked me to read an illustration of God's faithfulness yesterday morning. Perhaps, you've read or heard it. Here's the start of one version.

A mother took her small child to a concert by Paderewski to expose him to the talent of the great pianist. She hoped as she did to encourage her son in his piano lessons, which he had just begun.

They arrived early at the concert and were seated near the front. Standing alone on the stage was a marvelous Steinway grand piano. As they waited for the concert to begin, the mother entered into a conversation with the people beside her.
Her boy had wandered up to the stage and began to play "Chopsticks" (or "Twinkle, Twinkle" in other versions). Members of the audience called out to get the boy off the stage and asked who was responsible for him, but then Polish pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski hurried out to the piano. He leaned over the boy and whispered, "Keep playing, son. Don't stop." The master reached around him and improvised a piece worthy of the concert audience.

The story illustrates God's faithful encouragement to his people. The version I read was in a Charles Swindoll book, which elaborated on God's words to us. Keep going. Don't give up. That's the part where I teared up.

The story isn't true, unfortunately. It's a good illustration and has a bit of the variations you see in common among urban legends. Truth or Fiction says it may have been inspired by a poster for a Polish Relief event, showing Paderewski encouraging a young Polish boy at the piano.

But since we're talking about urban legend types, you may have seen the one about Read the rest of this entry . . .

'A Thousand Christmas Candles Now Are Lighted'



Sissel singing a beautiful Swedish Christmas hymn from her first big breakthrough album in Norway. Gives me goosebumps still.

A blessed Christmas to one and all.

"Mitt hjerte altid vanker"



I have been dilatory in my responsibility to provide you with Sissel Christmas videos on this blog. Here is the greatest singer in the world in concert in Iceland, doing what I believe is her favorite song, a Swedish Christmas hymn called "Mitt Hjerte Altid Vanker" (My Heart Always Wanders).

Behind "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

A bit of the story behind "Do You Hear What I Hear?" It involves warfare and missiles in Cuba.

Vitae Lux



Today is St. Lucie's Day, celebrated every year in Scandinavia (especially in Sweden) with morning processions of young girls, led by one special "Lucia" who wears a crown of candles. The video above is from Sissel's televised Christmas concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir a few years back. Unfortunately for you, this is the Norwegian TV version, so her introduction is dubbed in Norwegian, which you probably can't understand. But trust me, she's talking about St. Lucie's Day. The video's also a little misleading, because the song she does here isn't the traditional song for the ceremony, "Santa Lucia" (yes, the Italian one). But it'll give you some idea of the thing. And it's always nice to hear Sissel sing, whatever she does.

Happy Luciadagen!

Heart-Warming Songs from Early America

Autumn always gets me thinking of early America. Maybe it seeps out from Thanksgiving, that thoroughly Pilgrim holiday. So I offer you this music which, though in theme is slightly off-season, in tone is perfectly placed. As Hawthorne said, "She poured out the liquid music of her voice to quench the thirst of his spirit."

Nature Meditation: Crickets



Here's a recording of crickets, played in two tracks. One track is normal; the second is slowed. The beautiful result makes a good meditation on God's creative genius. (via Jeffrey Overstreet/Facebook)

The Unused Score for 2001

Perhaps Alex North's musical score for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey wasn't right for the movie, but that doesn't change the fact that North put everything he had into that score, working with the belief that it would be used. But Kubrick never intended to use it. He wanted the public domain music he selected himself for the temp track.

North's daughter-in-law, Abby North, writes, "As all composers know, directors fall in love with temp tracks. It is often next to impossible for even the most talented and skilled composer to replace the temp tracks with new music cues that elicit the same feelings initially felt with the temp tracks. Unfortunately for Alex, Stanley Kubrick loved the grandeur of Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra and the "poetry of motion" of Johan Strauss's The Blue Danube in the context of 2001: A Space Odyssey."

For a bit of context, see this piece on Kubrick's use of European music in The Shining. "[A]lmost the entire score is made up of music by the best European composers of Kubrick’s time," writes Hope Lies, Béla Bartók's music in particular.

Rest Within His Sanctuary

The final figures on our free offer of Hailstone Mountain yesterday show upwards of 1,000 downloads, which strikes me as pretty good. We’ve gotten a fair number of sales in the backwash today as well.

So in a mood of thanksgiving, I offer the video below, the best version I could find of a Christian song that (in my opinion) has never gotten the attention it deserves, Rest Within His Sanctuary.



You can also download the MP3 from Amazon here, which I did. This professional version, also, is not quite up to the original I remember from the radio some years back. I’m pretty sure it was recorded by the Lillenaas Singers (Haldor Lillenaas, by the way, was born in Bergen, Norway. Just thought you’d like to know that).

If you sometimes wonder what makes me smile, well, the answer is that few things do. But this song does. I endorse it even though I strongly suspect its purpose is to promote the schismatic Calvinist doctrine of Eternal Security.

Broad-minded, that’s what I am.

This is what you're getting or St. Patrick's Day, and you'll take it and like it!

Under protest, it goes without saying, because I'm afraid of the power of the Irish Lobby, I offer the following clip of the redoubtable Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem. It's a song I'm particularly fond of -- the kind that might not impress you on first acquaintance, but sticks in your mind after a couple repeats. I particularly like the line, "Castles are sacked in war, chieftains are scattered far -- truth is a fix-ed star...."



Now an Anthony Sacramone update: He sneaked back into his blog last week, tiptoeing with his shoes off, and did a post. Then he did another yesterday. So we've got that. He also links to the web page of the Intercollegiate Review, where he's got a very amusing cover story right now:

Empire builders and revolutionaries, reformers and moral scolds, civil libertarians and uncivil prohibitionists—all believe History is on their side. Beware anyone who imputes to History an inevitable, self-directed, Forward march, as if it were as fixed as a bar code, as predetermined as male-pattern baldness, as sovereign as any voluntaristic deity. Most risible are atheists, old or new, who act as if the expanding energies of a supposedly random and causeless Big Bang could even possess an ultimate purpose....

"Akk Mon Min Vei Til Kanaan"

Merry Christmas, God Jul

"What Child is This?"

Long, long ago, when I used to sing solos in Christmas programs, my standard was "What Child is This?" I made a point of doing all three variant choruses. I'm happy to note that the divine Sissel does the same (no doubt she was a fan of mine).



A blessed Christmas to you and yours.

Not an Icelandic Saga

Related to Lars' American Spectator post on the sagas, here's a classic western song with a bit of backstory.

The Piano Guys: Bourne Vivaldi

Memorial Day, 2012

I have only known one person in my life who died in war, that I'm aware of. His name was Gordon Gunhus, he graduated from high school with me, and he died in Vietnam. We weren't particular friends, but I have every reason to believe that the life he laid down was a life of considerable promise. Blessed be the memory.

When in doubt, there's Sissel

I don't have anything on my mind tonight, so I'll fall back on a YouTube video. This clip captures a definitive moment in the career of Sissel Kyrkjebø (the Greatest Singer in the World). It was 1986, and she was selected to sing an "interval" number during the Eurovision Song Contest, which is a big deal over there every year. She dressed in the traditional bunad (folk costume) of her home city, Bergen, and sang Bergen's official anthem, "Jeg Tok Min Nystemte Cithar i Hende" ("I Took My Newly Tuned Zither in Hand"). This was her first introduction to a wider European public, though she was already pretty famous in Norway. I think you'll understand why she was a hit.



Have a good weekend.

In the Night: Good Friday Music



Thanks to Andrew Peterson for his great music.

Modern Irish Hymn: "In Christ Alone"

Happy St. Patrick's Day. I may spend the day in the kitchen, making Irish soda bread and tomorrow's lunch, but you go have fun or something.

We are wonderfully blessed to have a Northern Irish couple writing music for modern church. Songs like "In Christ Alone" and "The Power of the Cross" are contemporary songs worthy of the hymnal for their lyrical richness and musical flow. See the rest of Keith and Kristyn Getty's music on their site. I see they are holding a St. Patrick's Day sale on their website, 17% discount.

Morten Lauridsen, a Great Living Composer



Terry Teachout writes about a composer whom Dana Gioia says: "one of the few living composers whom I would call great."

Says Mr. Lauridsen: "There are too many things out there that are away from goodness. We need to focus on those things that ennoble us, that enrich us." The musical language in which he embodies this simple belief is conservative in the best and most creative sense of the word. His sacred music is unabashedly, even fearlessly tonal, and his chiming harmonies serve as underpinning for gently swaying melodic lines that leave no doubt of his love for medieval plainchant. Nothing about his music is "experimental": It is direct, heartfelt and as sweetly austere as the luminous sound of church bells at night.

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!"

Sissel and the MTC again. A short version, but they haven't PC'd the lyrics.



Merry Christmas to you all.

A Hymn for Thanksgiving

Stephen Paulus' "Pilgrims' Hymn" from his 1997 opera, The Three Hermits.

And they all think just the same



This morning, while driving to work, Malvina Reynold's song "Little Boxes" popped into my mind.

And I pondered it it. All that snide condescension toward people who live unexciting lives, and are able to own houses, however small.

Malvina Reynolds, of course, was a socialist, so she dreamed of something better for the masses. And it occurred to me to wonder, "What kind of life would she wish for ordinary people?"

I have to assume the glorious Soviet Union must have been her model. Delightful accommodations like those pictured above, where the happy workers shared a fulfilling communal existence.

And so I wrote my own version of the song, which you may read below the fold: Read the rest of this entry . . .

Deep, Beautiful Music

That's what being a Christian musician is about.

A Word to Hymn-Writers

The great musician Fernando Ortega gives a bit of advice to hymn writers: happy church songs don't stick to your ribs. Work on that next hymn in the light of some specific imagery or drama from the Scriptures. Ortega notes: "It’s easy to write a chorus that says:

God, you are a Holy God
I need your grace to see me through
I need your mercy to make me new
Let me live each day for you.
I just made that up in two minutes and there’s nothing wrong with it. It might fit easily and competitively among the hundreds of worship songs that are available to choose from. But compare those lines to the third stanza from the above hymn:
Let holy charity mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part,
And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing."

Innerst I Sjelen

Today, dear readers, is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, which I'm sure you have been celebrating since midnight. Because ruthless pirates are truly misunderstood dreamers who have poorly chosen ways to work out their pain over dashed hopes, I post the following beautiful Norwegian song by a little known but incredibly gorgeous singer (do we know who this is?) as a way of soothing the savage pirate in us all.

Springsteen Releases Sci-Fi Concept Album of Martian Miners

"These are songs about growing up on a tough planet," said Springsteen, telling reporters that when the idea of humans and aliens working side by side in an extraterrestrial labor colony first occurred to him, he immediately knew he "had to tell their story." "The Martians aren't trying to run away from their lives or make excuses. They're proud of what they do and where they're from, even if the high-impact ion-compression carbonate mining industry isn't what it used to be," the Onion New Network reports.

Hits you deep. Hmm.

A Little Bach Is Always Appropriate

The first Rose of springtime

It feels like spring. It looks like spring.

Which makes me confident we've got at least one more big snowstorm coming.

I'll let you know.

One more Irish song, you say? Well, if you insist.



This isn't the greatest video, and it's got a big slug of dead air at the end, but I couldn't find one I really liked. Beautiful song. There's a romantic back story, complete with class differences, Protestant-Catholic enmity, and parental opposition...

One night beneath the pale, silvery moon William asked Mary to marry him. However, William's family disapproved of him seeing Mary, the broguemaker's daughter who lived in a small peasant house in the middle of town. Whilst Mary loved William, she knew that their union could never be, as it would force him to turn his back on his family and he would begin to regret the day he'd ever met her. She declined his offer of marriage.

...but it seems to me just about three inches too romantic to be true. Wikipedia attributes the words to C. (or E.) Mordaunt Spencer and the music to Charles William Glover.

Anyway, it's an Irish love song, and (as Phil could have told us) it's sad as all the world's tears.

Have a good weekend.

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