"Better new friend than an old foe."

- Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene
Song for Maundy Thursday

Talking Hymns with Kevin Twit

Kevin Twit of Indelible Grace, at Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham, Alabama, with Matt Schneider.

The Importance of Being Bernstein

"One of the keys to interpreting Bernstein’s career thus seems to involve the importance of music education—not just playing band in high school, or hearing a few minutes of Bach on the radio as you drive home from school, but actually studying the mechanics of music and appreciating its fruitful historical unveiling."

Bernstein drew many people into his music and helped them appreciate higher arts in general.

The Kellys by Mick Moloney

Here's a fun song about how there are too many Irishmen in the world. I first heard this on a cassette many years ago. For our younger readers, a cassette was like a hard drive made from black tape, which was held in a tape deck that would play non-digital audio that sounded way better than anything we have today. It was as if you were in the room with the musicians.

New Christmas Carols from Peterson and Getty

"Who’s writing the new Christmas carols? Andrew Peterson and Keith Getty talk about the new songs celebrating Christ’s birth."

Peterson says, "I grew up on Pink Floyd records and these rock albums that told stories. I loved that idea that if you sat and listened to a 45-minute record it would take you somewhere. I still try to make my albums that way so that they’re not a bunch of singles stacked up. But with this, the attempt was to try and convey the epic nature of the story of Christ coming into the world with new songs. I love Christmas music, but I also know that we’ve heard the songs enough to where they’ve lost their wonder for us."

"Hark, the Herald Angels Sing"

A blessed Christmas to you all. Here's Sissel with what I think is my favorite Christmas hymn. We sang it in church tonight, complete with the old lyrics: "Pleased as man with man to dwell," "Born to raise the sons of earth," and all that. I felt like I'd gotten a Christmas present. I punch those lyrics when I sing them.

Somebody Talkin' 'Bout Jesus

Merry Christmas.

The Christmas Eve Reel

For your Christmas Eve, an Irish reel recorded in a pub. Ken Doyle is on flute and Mark Pitner plays bouzouki.

The Reason Lecrae Changed His Tune

Musician Lacrae has taken some heat for switching from writing explicitly Christian songs to writing songs on themes with broader appeal. He has appeared with artists and on shows that have drawn criticism from those who think the right thing to do is stick with people who claim to follow Christ.

But Lacrae says another believer, Andy Crouch, changed his mind a few years ago. Jemar Tisby explains, "Crouch says in his book, Culture Making, 'If culture is to change, it will be because of some new tangible (or audible or visible or olfactory) thing is presented to a wide enough public that it begins to reshape their world.' He proposes that instead of condemning, critiquing, copying, or uncritically consuming culture, something new has to displace the old. It appears Lecrae has been making new music in an attempt to do just that."

The tension point for this idea will be at the place where those who want to change people apply their cultural creations. I'm sure many will continue to create things that won't get anywhere near the people they want to influence, and they will say they are making new culture, but it isn't changing anyone. They're making Halloween candy in hopes of changing Christmas.

Bach's Metaphors of Instrumentation in St. Matthew Passion

Barrymore Laurence Scherer writes about the beautiful oratorio, St. Matthew Passon by J.S. Bach:

For more tender contemplations Bach employs the softer veiled tone of the oboe d’amore, pitched a third below the oboe. In the soprano aria “I will give Thee my heart,” a soothing pair of oboes d’amore help suggest Christ’s loving relationship with mankind.

But Bach scores one of his most telling effects by eliminating certain instrumentation: Whenever Jesus sings his portions of the narrative, his bass voice is enveloped in a gleaming tissue of sustained triads played by two violins and viola, known as a “halo of strings.”
(via Prufrock)

Lecrae: 'Christian is my faith, not my genre.'

Musican Lecrae has some good thoughts on Christians as makers of culture in this interview with Eric Geiger from last year. He says he doesn't want to be labeled Christian by his claims of faith, but by his practice of faith. The interview is 20 minutes long. For an hour long take on music and Lecrae in particular, see this post with Ed Stetzer.

Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay Apologizes, Offers Context

The lead singer of Jars of Clay, one of my favorite bands, cannonballed the Twitter pool repeatedly this week with commits and questions on gay marriage. Dan Haseltine asked if ruling out gay marriage was really as bad as many say it is. I'm tempted to reenact the drama for you. I got caught up in it somewhat. I saw Dan's tweet splash down: "I don’t particularly care about Scriptures stance on what is “wrong.” I care more about how it says we should treat people," and my heart sank.

But yesterday, Dan explained the context of his tweets, what he was trying to say, and how he messed it all up. He says he came from a panel discussion on gay marriage in Australia last week where many things were said that provoked him. He hadn't thought about it much before, so on Twitter, not the best platform for this, he wanted to ask questions outside of his own box, to assume he didn't have all the answers and to wonder where his blind spots were, if any. And he said things that easily misrepresent his views.

It's encouraging. I like this guy and his music. One of his recent songs says we "don't know enough about love, so we make it up." It seems to call our current sexual chaos into question. Some of us talk love but we don't know anything about it. In one of his books, Jared C. Wilson notes that God is love, but love is not God. We can't define love however we feel is right and then say that's god. It doesn't work that way.

I feel we're in a similar situation with homosexuality and the civil marriage debate. Read the rest of this entry . . .

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.

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