Second Sunday of Advent 2018

My favorite Advent hymn. It dates back to at least the 12th century, though some say the 9th.

The Latin version is the one I learned as a child…at least the alto part. In Latin. But plainchant is better without harmony, especially for such an ancient hymn.

There are many versions of this on YouTube, lots of them with all the verses. This young man chose only a few but I settled on his rendition because of his unusual voice.


Oh, come, Oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Oh, come, Oh, come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from that Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people you will save
And give them victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Oh, come, Oh, come, Thou King of David, come
And open wide your heavenly home:
Make safe the way that leads us on high
And close the path of misery, by and by.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Sunday Contemplation While Sweden Votes

I came across this music for the first time at Belmont Club:

[The lyrics begin half-way through but the combination of music and visuals prior to that should be heard/contemplated.]*

The video served as a coda for an essay from July, one in which Wretchard described “localism”:

What links the cosmological and localist human models is the way they handle information. Linbeck notes in his paper Localism in America that its advantages, much like our quantum entanglement example, are due largely to the greater information efficiency of managing complexity through components. First, it allows society to limit the amount of information that must be moved between levels instead of repeating it, as a centralized system trying to manage everything would.

[Links are at the URL]

Among other things, the oboe is a grand instrument. The “other things” lie in the long thread of comments following Wretchard’s essay. Contemplations abound.

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*[I’ve since listened to this music a number of times. I happened to find it not long after my friend, Chris, died of lung cancer all of a sudden. So suddenly there was no chance to say goodbye.

Chris’ was a death he predicted many times as he’d light up another cigarette.

The hole left by his abrupt exit still haunts me and is forever entangled in the last time I saw him. He’d come over to help me bury our cat as I couldn’t dig in the thick clay soil and the Baron was away when Lulu shuffled off this mortal coil.

I miss them both deeply, but Chris’ death is the essential loss. Sometimes I have to stop myself from calling him to ask a question. His death closed a door of knowledge he always opened for me.]

Gershwin’s “Summertime” (in Norway)

Angelina Jordan Astar’s first public rendition of Gershwin’s song, when she was eight years old, won Norway’s talent contest. She has sung it often, usually wearing those customary flower garlands in her hair. That must be a Norwegian thing, given how short the season is there.

This version is from 2014. There are other, later ones, but this has the best of all the various elements required to pull this off, Norwegian-style. Just look at the wonderful light. Besides, it’s the most jazz-like rendition I could find. [I started it at 30 seconds in, to leave out the Norwegian bumpf. I’m sure the announcer is very nice, but my Norwegian is non-existent.]

Angelina Jordan captures Gershwin well, especially considering her age; by the time she’s an adult she’ll have all the complexity and nuance this song from Porgy and Bess requires. Or maybe she’ll be sick of it by then.

“Porgy and Bess” remains a perennial favorite, but it must be difficult to perform now, give the hollow “Black Lives Matter” screeching.

Pennies From Heaven, For a Whole Week

This post was first posted on July 30 and was a “sticky” feature for a week. Scroll down for more recent posts, including death threats for a Dutch Muslim mayor, the latest repression of the Copts in Egypt, coverage of Tommy Robinson by the Hungarian media, “cuddly justice” in Germany, a report on Muslims in northeastern India who are being made stateless, and last night’s news feed.

Summer Fundraiser 2018, Day Seven

Dymphna’s Sunday Update: What Is Love’s Worth?

Okay, y’all. Time to step up to the plate and hit one out of the park. Inflation will be here any minute (or so they tell us), so might as well part with your denarii while they’re still meaningful, right? That’s one way of looking at twisting your arm.

[Here’s the new direct PayPal link.]

Tip jarAs we come to the final day of the Summer Fundraiser, it’s good to see a mixture of new people among the old faithfuls (and some not so old, just enduring contributors). Our golden oldies’ contributions are heartening, and the newbies encourage us to believe that despite the Baron’s decrepitude, we’re still putting subjects and predicates together in a way that’s meaningful. Me? I’m Gates of Vienna emeritus.

I am also encouraged that our reach remains global. Two people in Virginia wielding keyboards on a less-than-speedy connection can still find Aussies and Kiwis and Eastern Europeans, plus the more ‘usual’ folk who’ve always come here. When we begin seeing new donors from New York City (as we have this time) we know we’re hitting all the right notes.

Or maybe they’re saying, “All right, shut up already.”

I will make a promise to all our donors: when any given quarter meets the previous quarter’s goal (plus inflation), we’ll quit at that point. I’ve realized it doesn’t need to be a whole week if our goals have been met. And yes, the B has spreadsheets galore to show me comparisons from previous quarters any way you care to slice it. He’s the numbers guy. But successful or not (and we always have been so far), when it’s over it’s over. We close up our sideshow and get back to whatever atrocity awaits all of us.

[But before we close entirely, it is always my great pleasure to send Vlad Tepes our quarterly tithe. The subject line is “Funny Munny” and I always admonish him not to spend it all in one place. Yeah, he thinks I’m real amusing… The funniest part is that he never remembers that we’re in the process of our quarterly, so the PayPal donation always surprises him. I like dependable people, and Vlad is definitely that, in more ways than I could name.]

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The song I chose for my final Fundraiser update has a back story. Be patient; the nuances are complicated.

When I was five years old, I went to live in a girls’ “home”. St. Mary’s Orphanage was set up after the Influenza Epidemic of 1918, but by the time I arrived generations later, it had long since morphed into an institution for girls whose parents couldn’t keep them for one reason or another. It was the end of May when I got to St. Mary’s and it would be five years before I went home for good in August of the year I magically turned ten. Ten is the legal age for being a latchkey kid.

Yes, it was a long, long time, but it was the best my mother could do in the circumstances. As an immigrant, she wasn’t entitled to welfare. As a middle-class Irish woman, I don’t know if she could have borne the (self-inflicted) humiliation, but the law precluded her having to make that choice. And by the time she put me in Saint Mary’s we’d been through nightmares of temporary placements.

Back then, Florida had a small Catholic population at somewhat less than two percent. The nuns and priests were mostly from Ireland: what American would live in Florida’s climate and what Irish clergy/nuns could resist the temptation of living in America? So they came and suffered. Thus the majority of professed religious people I knew growing up sounded more or less like my mother. The few times I heard an American accent coming from one of them, I was certain they weren’t kosher.

St. Mary’s was part of the city parish which served Catholics mostly of Italian descent, and, during the week, working people who dropped in for daily Mass on their lunch hour. There was a school going all the way to 12th grade for the whole parish not just St. Mary’s, and a church with the number of priests needed for a full regimen of Masses, plus a rectory to house the priests. The teaching nuns from the school lived at St. Mary’s and took their turns raising us while they were at it. This whole plant took up a square block.

When I was six, a Dublin-born priest came to live at the rectory. I thought of Father Doyle as quite elderly, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. When you’re six, most adults look old. At any rate, he took a particular shine to me because I was so obviously Irish to the bone — to the freckle, that is, many of which dotted my face and arms. Like my mother, Father Doyle was Dublin-born-and-bred. Like my mother, he enjoyed making me laugh — I was usually searching for a reason to laugh. I was a perfect audience.

Father Doyle found out my weakness for Waldorf salad, so he’d have the rectory housekeeper fix it for me. Oh, heaven! The nuns, of course, didn’t approve of this “special” relationship, but a priest outranks a nun, so there you go: Waldorf salad on Wednesdays after school. And Saint Valentine’s Day cards with little girls with freckles on the front. [No, there wasn’t any funny stuff. Just a lonely old man homesick and longing for home but unable to afford the fare, so I was the substitute.]

The good father liked American popular music, though he was a better listener than performer, but his lack of talent wasn’t an impediment. He’d often sing along with the Big Girls (any girl over the age of ten was officially a Big Girl). Back then, genres weren’t so rigid as they are now; “country” music and “pop” were played on the same stations. One song he used to sing to me was “If I Had a Nickel”. He only ever sang the first few lines, since they were the most entertaining.

One cold, overcast morning — January 18th, to be precise — the nuns told us in chapel that Father Doyle had died in his sleep during the night. I was inconsolable for days. Not all the threats of punishments could quell my tears. No threats they could devise compared with my utterly bereft sense of loss. Children are resilient and eventually I quieted, but I never forgot Father Doyle. Every January 18th I recall our brief friendship, healing on both sides. He was only forty-seven when he died, and it would be many years before I considered that “too young”.

The first two lines of his song stayed with me, too, but it wasn’t until the advent of YouTube that I found the song, in its earliest versions:

If you read the comments on that song, you’ll notice that many people came looking for it because they remembered its fragments the same way: a song their father or grandfather sang, one they thought had been made up especially for them. It is a child’s song, I think, because of its simplicity.

I’ll bet each of my children remember that song. I sang it to them as babies — it makes a good lullaby. Maybe that’s why some of them became musicians?

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Saturday’s denarii arrived from:

Stateside: Hawaii, Massachusetts, North Dakota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia

Far Abroad: New Zealand, Sweden, and the UK

Canada: British Columbia and Ontario

That’s it for the Summer Fundraiser! Sometime tomorrow the Baron will include an overall summary in the wrap-up post.

Summer Fundraiser 2017, Day Five

The Baron’s Saturday Update: I shoulda learned to play them drums

This was supposed to be Dymphna’s update, but she’s feeling poorly this morning, so I’m filling in. Part of the reason for her indisposition is Tommy Robinson’s situation — since she suffers from PTSD, Tommy’s suffering resonates with her to the point that her symptoms flare up.

For today’s money-themed video, I’m using the one she would have posted herself if she were well enough. But before I get to that, I’ll recapitulate what we’re doing here for readers who had to work all week and are just checking in for the first time this weekend.

This is our quarterly effort to wheedle you into donating money to help keep this site alive for three more months. Inflation is a scourge: what began as “Pennies from Heaven” on Monday became dollars by midweek, and they’re now twenties, as can be seen from the graphic at the top of this post. What will the image be tomorrow…?

[An aside: During the reign of Hussein it was announced that Andrew Jackson’s gloomy mug was to be removed from the twenty-dollar bill and replaced with the face of some politically correct chick of color — Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Maya Angelou, somebody like that. Does anyone know what became of that innovation? Obviously Mr. Trump will not be replacing Mr. Jackson anytime soon. But maybe The Donald was able to put the brakes on the Modern Multicultural $20 Bill.]

Anyway, your job is to drop a Trump or two (or six! Live dangerously) into the tip cup on our sidebar. Or, if you prefer, you can use this new direct PayPal link.

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Cole Porter on An Oslo Rooftop

Cole Porter’s spirit lives!

Angelina Jordan is one of my favorite singers. In this clip from 2016, she’s ten years old. As you can hear, she has perfect pitch; after listening to everything she’s published, for clarity and interpretation, there is still nothing that reaches this level of delivery. Her guitarist here ‘gets’ her music and complements it wonderfully. I always look forward to what she does with his backing.

Ms Jordan was born in Norway and at least one of her parents is of Iranian extraction…other than that I don’t know much about her, except that she moved to Los Angeles, plus that she performs in her bare feet. Oh, and that she was in Norway recently to sing with the state band…not so good. Nothing like the previous summer’s work with a back-up band at festivals, what with her long underwear peeking out, and those cools licks from the brass in the background…hunky Norwegian guys.

While she was still too young to do “Porgy and Bess” well in 2016, no doubt her voice has matured by now and will continue to do so. Gershwin was urbane, even when he wasn’t trying.

This Is How They Rule Ya

A Brit subtitled this; otherwise I’m not sure it would be intelligible. The un-subtitled version has unfortunate audio problems and thus quickly becomes a desert flower…

I had gotten on YouTube to find some distraction and instead this was suggested. Owen Benjamin is an American, a right-wing (I think) comedian. But this effort, written a few days ago, wasn’t meant to amuse.

Leonard Cohen won’t mind. He’s past minding anything now.

You’ll Find That You’re in the Rotogravure

Hum along while Mark Steyn explains the origins of the only secular Easter song I know…

Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade” has its beginnings in a very obscure chin-up song from the Great War written in 1917. In this audio special, Mark traces its origins as a First World War morale booster to its re-emergence a generation later as the American Songbook’s only Easter standard. Along the way, we’ll also explore the long languished tradition of Easter parades, the meaning of the word “rotogravure”, and whether anyone actually could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet.

There are lots of old versions out there; this one is the earliest I could find. Notice that it keeps the original foxtrot cadence:

So were you ever curious about that word “rotogravure”? I was…

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Good Friday 2018

This is from 1950. A cultural artifact, for sure:

This hymn may be the first crossover to the mainstream from a long tradition of black Christian music. Is it the best or most authentic version? Lord, no; it’s white bread all the way through. However, as history, it’s worth a listen especially when you get to the end when Mr Waring uncomfortably shills for his sponsor.

On Good Friday 2018, Palestinians are storming the borders of Israel. As it happens, there is a confluence here: Passover begins at sundown, Christians observe Good Friday, and PoorPalis go on a rampage. Hmmm…maybe they didn’t want to be left out so they performed the ritual they know best.

Sunday Offering

From the YouTube information:

“A Simple Song” is a hymn song from the musical theatre work composed by Leonard Bernstein with text by Bernstein and additional text and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.

This Version is performed by Czech singer Jakub Hübner and it’s contained on Hübner’s album “Jakub Hübner” (2017).

Piano: Daniel Wunsch
Flute: Kateřina Macourková
Mix & mastering: Jakub Hübner
Photo: Denisa Grossová Photography
Graphic and video design: Jakub Hübner

Music To Go With Your Wassail

Our English correspondent Seneca III sends this eclectic medley of music for your enjoyment as we approach Christmas morning.

I’ve embedded the first video, a Celtic version of “O Holy Night”. The other selections are linked below, after Seneca III’s message

Amidst all the Turmoil and Uncertainty Feast, Your Ears, Your Heart and Your Mind on What it Really Means to be Human

— Seneca III, wishing you all a Christmas of love and understanding of what we are from Middle England, this 24th day of December in the year of our Lord 2017.

Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

Reading the poignant note from Egri Nök that was posted at Vlad Tepes last night made me think of Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen, which we sang in church today in the English-language version, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”.

So, in honor of the Third Sunday of Advent, and of Germany-That-Was, here are The King’s Singers performing Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen:

No wonder it makes the Germans sad to see the East — that’s what they used to have, but they threw it all away. Western Europeans have sold their birthright, and they didn’t even get a mess of pottage in return, just a pocketful of scorpions.

Here’s what Egri had to say:

“Prague is Like it Used to be With Us” – A Berliner’s Thoughts in Festive Prague

By Egri Nök

A friend who lives in Berlin sent this note from Prague:

Tonight, I strolled home from a bar, between 4 and 5 in the morning, for half an hour, alone, across the city. The city was quiet. No rubbish, no screaming. At important buildings, there was the occasional police officer, not paying attention to me. At the access road to the old city, there was another police officer, freezing and bored in the middle of the road, but he was there. Scattered party-goers came my way, with civilized behavior. An elderly man walked his dogs on a leash. I felt safe on the whole way, I had nothing* in my pockets, I dilly-dallied and enjoyed the Christmas decorations at the castle hill. All of it was simply enchanting, peace in freedom. Precious Christmas decorations were fixed even on the outside of the ground floor windows, little trees with balls, and mangers stood directly on the pedestrian walk, or on the doorsteps. Apparently, no one here is expecting theft, vandalism, riots.

Prague is like it used to be with us.

There had been only nice, civilized people in the bar, most of them Czech, and a single black person among them who was eager to be the nicest person, too. Earlier this night a friend had told me about Mannheim, where, as a woman, you don’t go anywhere alone at night anymore. And WE are lecturing the Visegrad states? On what? Spare your words!

(* translator’s note: no pepper spray)

To add to this bittersweet note, below are photos taken yesterday evening in a Christmas market in the Hungarian town of Székesfehérvár, where Viktor Orbán grew up and went to school. No soldiers carrying automatic weapons, and not a Merkel Lego in sight:

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Second Sunday in Advent 2017

As many of our readers know, the Baron is a devoted fan of Bach. He went straight from The Grateful Dead to Johann Sebastian without a pause for breath. (Well, that’s an exaggeration, but still…) So when the future Baron was but a wee sprite, he learned enough of Bach to play the organ for our church on Sundays.

This work, Wachet Auf (“Sleepers Wake”, in full Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140), was an inevitable part of his Advent repertoire. [Being singularly Irish-disabled in learning foreign languages (a deformation no doubt due to learning too much Latin too soon), I referred to this piece as “Whacked Off” — the closest I could come to pronouncing the German title.]

There are, of course, much longer versions of Wachet Auf, complete with the choral parts. See this one from Amsterdam.