Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas in Bethlehem 2014

O little town of Bethlehem, / How still we see thee lie …

Although we like to imagine the "deep and dreamless sleep" of a little village while "silent stars go by," Bethlehem today is a crowded tourist destination of 28,000 in the West Bank territories administered by the Palestinian Authority. While its tourism has been adversely affected by the troubled political situation in the Middle East, it has been a Christian shrine since 327 AD when its Church of the Nativity was commissioned by the Roman Emperor Constantine.

So it should come as no surprise that a recent flash mob video commissioned by the Bank of Palestine and the Bethlehem Development Foundation would be a lively, upbeat, professionally edited marketing piece. Its production values compare well with American ad agency work, and it pictures Bethlehem as people in Bethlehem might wish to be pictured.

The music is pretty darn good, too, on a par with the best gospel and Christian contemporary in Europe and the United States.

How silently, how silently / The wondrous gift is given!

Instead of the pastoral quiet of "O Little Town of Bethlehem," the video shows a polished performance by Fouad Moubassaleh and other Palestinian pop singers of "Oh Happy Day" and the Christmas carol we know as "Angels We Have Heard on High," both in Arabic, in Manger Square. Located between the Church of the Nativity and the Mosque of Omar, with the Bethlehem Peace Center on a third side of the square, it is a focal point of Christian ceremonies -- and therefore of the tourist industry.

Here's the video:

Bethlehem Christmas Hymns © تراتيل ميلادية في بيت لحم | Flash Mob. A flash mob that took place in the Manger Square in Bethlehem, Palestine, after the Sunday Mass Dec. 21 in the Church of the Nativity & Saint Catherine Church. [St. Catherine's is the Catholic church included in the Church of the Nativity complex.] Produced by H2 Media Studio of Bethlehem. Organized & Sponsored by:
Bank Of Palestine |
Bethlehem Development Foundation |

Amjad Khair | أمجد خير
George Thaljieh | جورج ثلجية
Steve Hana | ستيف حنا
Fouad Moubassaleh | فؤاد مبصلة
Jacob Shaheen | يعقوب شاهين

Music Production:
RJ Music Productions / John Handal | جون حنضل
Live Sound/PA:
Scottish Center/ Richard Hanania

Production: H2 Media Studios © All Rights Reserved 2014 | H2 Media Studios

H2 Media Studios (Philip Hihi and Francis Hihi) is a photographic equipment and services business located in Bethlehem. Facebook page at On Palm Sunday in April they did a similar flash mob performance in Manger Square. The song was in Arabic, and the melody wasn't familiar to me.

Promoting international tourism on the West Bank remains an uphill battle.

For a variety of reasons, tourism is way down this year. In an Associated Press color story filed Wednesday, Daniel Estrin of the AP's Jerusalem bureau said police and local officials estimated that 4,500 international tourists, "less than half last year's number," visited the Christmas eve celebration in Bethlehem this year:

The central Manger Square was decked out in white and yellow lights and a towering Christmas tree. On a cool, clear night, there was a carnival atmosphere: Vendors hawked corn, candied apples, watches, and balloons in the shape of cartoon characters.

Scout troops played bagpipes, horns and drums, and bands from around the world performed on a stage, singing Christmas carols and original Christmas rock ballads, mostly in English. A recording of "Feliz Navidad" blasted through the speakers, too. A Palestinian host welcomed members of Gaza's tiny Christian community, who were permitted to cross through Israel to the West Bank, eliciting whistles and applause.

Other reminders were not absent of: (1) Bethlehem's precarious political situation; and (2) the commercialization of Christmas.

Estrin of the AP added, "The Church of the Nativity, built over the grotto that Christians believe is the site of Jesus' birth, was flanked by the towering Christmas tree and a large poster in Arabic and English that read 'All I want for Christmas is justice'."

Turns out I've been posting Christmas clips to the blog ever since I visited Bethlehem in November 2012:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

"Din Klara Sol Går Åter Upp" on the prairie --

Carl Wilhelm Andeer. Augustana-folk: Några Bilder och Karaktärer ur vårt Kyrkliga Arbete. Rock Island: Augustana Book Concern, 1911. Google eBooks.

Title translates to something like this: Augustana people: Some pictures and character [sketches?] of our churchly work. So far I can't find anything on line about Andeer.

But, this on page 5, in the opening scene of the book …

Looks promising!

LATER: According to Arnold Barton, A Folk Divided, Andeer was an Augustana Synod minister who wrote short stories for Ungdomsvännen, returned to Sweden by 1915 (233, 375n53). 2nd ed. was reviewed in The Lutheran Companion, Nov. 21, 1914 [p. 12 Google eBooks]. "Augustana-Folk, Andriga Samlingen. Flere bilder och karaktärer ur vårt kyrkliga arbete. 10 stories, 137 pp. Board covers. Price, 35 cents. These sketches from our Swedish-American church life are both pleasant and profitable, always interesting, well told, with a style that makes its own appeal." Lutheran Companion in issue of June 12, 1920 [p. 379 Google eBooks] says he was at the time residing in Eskilstuna, Sweden. Luther League Review Vol 17 1904 {24 Google eBooks] lists Rev. Carl W. Andeer, E. Boston, Mass., among contributors to a building project in New York. He is in a picture of the graduating class of 1901 at Augustana Seminary. Ordained June 16, 1901, in Jamestown, N.Y.

The Swedish Element In Illinois [p. ___? Google eBooks -- ] lists among Augustana Book Concern authors: "The list of more than 500 different books and pamphlets published u]) to the end of the year 1916 comprises quite a number of original works by Swedish-American writers. In the field of j^oetry we find A. A. Sward. Ludvig Holmes, Jakob Bonggren, C. A. I^onnquist and John A. Enander. The collected works by Dr. Enander and by Dr. Olof Olsson have been published, besides books of stories, essays, remi- niscences and travels, by Birger Sandzen, C. W. Foss, Johan Person, Ernst A. Zetterstrand, C. A. Hemborg, Vilhelm Berger, K. N. Rabenius, Carl W. Andeer, Anna Olsson, S. J. Kronberg and others."

Some background on the hymn/psalm I scrabbled together tonight:

Again Thy Glorious Sun Doth Rise / Din Klara Sol Går Åter Upp Hymnal and Order of Service: for churches and Sunday-schools‎ #170 -- this is Augustana's 1901 hymnal

By Johan Olof Wallin [trans. 1901 J.E. Anderson]

appeared in American hymnals from 1899 [?] to early 1950s -- 11 instances cited, all Lutheran or Swedish, e.g. Mission Covenant church


Attributed to Johann Georg Christian Störl (1710), traditionally and in the 1901 hymnal. But Wikipedia says it is now identified in more general terms as "German, 1710" (tyskt ursprung 1710).

Text per

Again Thy glorious sun doth rise,
I praise Thee, O my Lord;
With courage, strength, and hope renewed,
I touch the joyful chord.

2 On good and evil, Lord, Thy sun
Is rising as on me;
Let me in patience and in love,
Seek thus to be like Thee.

3 May I in virtue and in faith,
And with Thy gifts content,
Rejoice beneath Thy covering wings,
Each day in mercy sent.

4 Safe with Thy counsel in my work
Thee, Lord, I’ll keep in view,
And feel that still Thy saving grace
Is every morning new.

Jens Fredborg (piano): Din klara sol går åter opp - Nun danket all und bringet Ehr

But cf. Med tacksam röst och tacksam själ - Nun danket all und bringat Ehr at I wish I could hear the resemblances in these tune families!

More on Hogfiddle at:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Misc. Chicago links and quotes: Psalmodikon in Chicago's Swedish American Museum; notes on first Swedish congregation in Chicago; "Swede town" on Near North Side

Excerpt from self-guided tour booklet at Swedish American Museum:

The foldable organ and music (Mönster Kyrkan, "The Model Church") were both donated by J.L. Hultgren.

On the wall hangs a psalmodikon, like the foldable organ, a portable instrument. Many religious congregations did not have a dedicated building in their early years, so they would use the parlors of their members for services and transport these instruments from house to house.

The psalmodikon has been called "the poor man's Organ" (fattigsmans orgel). The string is played with a bow; the notes are made by pressing on the frets.

The Dream of America: Swedish Immigration to Chicago. Self-guided Tour of our Permanent Exhibit. Chicago: Swedish-American Museum, n.d.

Eric Norelius quoting history of Immanuel congregation in Korsbaneret, 1881, which in turn quoted a letter from T.N. Hasselquist dated Monday, Jan. 17, 1853, narrating the formation of the congregation:

Yesterday morning I preached for the Norwegian congregation, and in the afternoon for the Swedes. At the latter I preached on 'Christian caution with regard to unfamiliar religious bodies.' After I had spoken a few words based on Jeremiah 6:16, Pastor Paul Andersen with a view to the important matters before us, offered a gripping prayer which brought tears to the eyes of most. Then both of us went within the altar rail and submitted to the Swedes three resolutions concerning organization, the basis of acceptance into membership, and the Lutheran character of the congregation. Members subscribed their names, a resolution was made to call a pastor, whereupon the service was closed with prayer, benediction, and the singing of Psalm (Hymn) 412:6 in the Swedish Psalmbok. (149)

Sung to tune of N:o 55

Vår tid är ganska flyktig här -- a new year's psalm,_o_Gud,_vår_tid_förgår

N:o 412, 6th verse:

O Gud! ditt ord och sakrament
Låt aldrig bliva från oss vändt.
Sjelf din församling skydda.
Vår kri steliga öfvhet
Gif helsa, lycka salighet;
Bevara slott och hydda.

Låt sist, O Krist!
Oss i friden, Rätta tiden
Til dig fara:
Evigt nyår shall der vara!

1892 psalmbook assigns to: (? -- [tysk], J. Svedberg, J.O. Wallin) -- parentheses and brackets in original, p. 289

Google trans.:

O God! your word and sacrament
Let never be turned back from us .
Herself protect your congregation .
Our crystal steliga öfvhet
Gifs healthfulness , happiness bliss ;
Preserve Castle and hut.
Let Finally , O Christ !
Us in peace, the right time
Til you go :
Eternally New Year der Shall be!

Title Chicago's 'Swede Town': Gone but Not Forgotten
Author Beijbom, Ulf

Publisher Swedish Pioneer Historical Society Date of Issue October 1964 Issue v.15, no.4 Extent p. 144-158

No really Swedish center has existed in Chicago since the disappearance of Swede Town. Neither the throng of Swedes who at one time concentrated at Belmont and Clark, nor the large colony around today's "Swedish Cor- ner" at Foster and Clark, has succeeded in creating the same genuinely Swedish milieu as that which, in the third quarter of the last century welcomed the tens of thousands of Scandinavian immigrants who came to Chicago, some to stay for good but some merely to find a short wayside rest during their historic trek to the colonization of a new land. (158)

Cite on Illinois State University Springfield: "For a description of Illinois State University, see Harry Evjen, "Illinois State University, 1852- 1868," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, XXXI (March, 1938): 54-71; Paul M. Angle, "Here I Have Lived" : A History of Lincoln's Springfield, 1821-1865 (Springfield, 111., 1935), 202-3.

Monday, December 15, 2014

"Hosianna Davids Son" -- a favorite Swedish hymn for Advent

One of the hymns we sang -- in Swedish! -- at the service for the Festival of Sankta Lucia at Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Chicago was "Hosianna Davids son." It wasn't in the 1819 psalmbook, but 19th-century Swedish immigrants knew it and it was commonly sung as a choir anthem [need to locate this reference] -- and Lars Paul Esbjorn has an elaborate four-part arrangement of it in siffernoter in the Esbjorn Family Papers at Augie.

Worth learning for Jenny Lind Chapel workshop. Some clips:

Uploaded by YouTube user benedicte5928 -- "swedish christmas song - chant de noël suédois" -- Berlaymont Dec. 15, 2010 -- in Brussels [?] -- apparently part of an international Christmas program

Hosianna Davids son performed by Gardeskapellet from The Swedish Army Band. From a Christmas concert on Swedish television (STV) 24 December 2009. Recorded live 16 December 2009.

There's also a clip on Hogfiddle at of its being sung at the summer meeting of the Swedish Lutheran charismatic movement Oasrörelsen in Borås in 2009.

From service folder at Ebenezer church.

The Evangelisk-lutherska kyrkan i Finland has music on line in its Swedish psalmbook (No. 1) -- lyrics, in Swedish, and melody in G. You can print it out in Microsoft Word by clicking on logo captioned Psalm1.doc.

The best account of the song's background is the commentary in the Finnish hymnbook:

Georg Joseph Vogler (1749–1814) var född i Würzburg och son till en violinbyggare. Ibland kallas Vogler för "abbé Vogler", eftersom han var katolsk präst. Trots att Vogler var präst, blev han ändå mera känd bl.a. som organist och orgelbyggare, kompositör, lärare och kapellmästare. Vogler arbetade som kapellmästare vid Kungliga Teatern i Stockholm i tretton år, och under den tiden blev Hosianna till. Hans sätt att leda musik var mycket engagerande och någon har också påstått att hans orgelkonserter hade något av cirkus över sig. Den 20 mars 1796 gav Vogler en konsert i S:ta Clara kyrka i Stockholm med ett verk som skildrade Kristi lidandes historia, där Hosianna ingår i andra satsen av tio. Det skulle förmodligen bli en kulturkrock om man sjöng Hosianna i våra kyrkor på palmsöndagen, så pass mycket förknippas denna sång med advent och jul. Sången är inte alls känd i kompositörens hemland. Det är i Sverige och Finland som den används och har en mycket stark ställning bland allmänheten. [Google trans.: Georg Joseph Vogler (1749-1814) was born in Würzburg and the son of a violin maker . Sometimes called Vogler for " Abbe Vogler ," because he was a Catholic priest . Although Vogler was a priest , he became still more known among other things, organist and organ builder , composer , teacher and conductor . Vogler worked as a conductor at the Royal Theatre in Stockholm thirteen years, and during that time became Hosanna to . His way of leading music was very engaging and someone has also stated that his organ concerts had something of a circus over him . On March 20, 1796 Vogler gave a concert in St. Clara Church in Stockholm with a work depicting the Passion story, where Hosanna included in the second batch of ten. It would probably be a culture clash if you sang Hosanna in our churches on Palm Sunday , so much associated this song with Advent and Christmas. The song is not at all known in the composer's homeland. It is in Sweden and Finland are in use and has a very strong position among the public.]

Emory Lindquist. "A Swedish Immigrant Woman Views Her Home in Kansas, 1870-1881: The Letters and Diary of Ida Nibeius Lindgren." Swedish Pioneer Historical Society 16.1 (January 1965) 3-17.

However, there were times of joy for Ida Lindgren amidst the austerity of life. The first Christmas in Kansas was spent in the home of Ida's brother, Magnus Nibelius, and his wife, Johanna. They sang familiar Swedish psalms and the well known Christmas anthem, Hosianna. Ida was surprised and pleased to receive a rocking chair from her husband. Included among her other gifts were two vegetable dishes, three dozen clothes pins, a pair of gloves, a knitting bag, and some cloth to cover a small sofa belonging to the children. Ida gave her hosts a soft pillow and two pictures of Gustaf Vasa which had been brought from Sweden. The relatives also received two drinking glasses, some [8] clothes pins, and miscellaneous items. A group of Swedish people celebrated New Year's Day at the Lindgrens. Ida really wondered how they had been able to house and pro- vide meals for sixteen people with their limited facilities.

Christmas 1873 was a festive occasion for the Lindgrens when they were joined by Magnus and Johanna Nibelius. After drinking coffee during the afternoon of Christmas Eve, the Christmas tree, cut from nearby woods, and dec- orated with the Swedish flag at the top and twenty-four candles, was lit. The tree was also adorned with apples, nuts, candy, and raisins. Magnus furnished accompaniment for the Christmas songs on his harmonica. There were only a few gifts that Christmas but spirits were high.(7-8)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Misc. notes on Sankta Lucia celebration in Chicago


Sankta Lucia girls (right center) singing in Andersonville business district

Chicago free-lance writer Matt Beardmore had a Dec. 10 pre-story headlined "In Chicago, Lights for St. Lucia" on a New York Times blog linked to the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce's Facebook page:

“The crowning of the Lucia girl and the procession would usually take place the same day, but with Dec. 13 being on the weekend this year, it will take place over two days,” said Karin Moen Abercrombie, executive director of the Swedish American Museum in Andersonville and a native of Gothenburg, Sweden.

The celebration in Chicago begins Friday morning in Daley Plaza, where one of the “Lucia” hopefuls (all unmarried women between 16 and 24 years old and sponsored by a Swedish or Swedish-American organization or company) will be chosen to wear the crown of lights.
And this:

They, along with children dressed as Pepparkaksgubbar (gingerbread men), Tomtar (Santas) and Stjarngossar (star boys), will sing songs, including the traditional “Lucia Song,” as business owners along the route typically will stand outside with a candle, Ms. Abercrombie said.

* * *

When the procession returns to the museum, the participants will perform a 30- to 45-minute program, which will include, as the Swedish American Museum website says, “the telling of a Lucia legend, family entertainment by Dream Big Performing Arts, and Swedish holiday treats including traditional ‘pepparkakor’ ginger snaps.” The cost of admittance is $1 or a canned good. The group will then perform the same program at 7 p.m. at the Ebenezer Lutheran Church, which was organized by Andersonville’s Swedish immigrants in 1892., an informational website maintained by the Swedish Institute\, Business Sweden, VisitSweden and the Swedish government, has this background: "The custom did not become universally popular in Swedish society until the 1900s, when schools and local associations in particular began promoting it. The old lussegubbar custom [sort of like English wassailing, but drunker -- cf. Hallowe'en pranks] virtually disappeared with urban migration, and white-clad Lucias with their singing processions were considered a more acceptable, controlled form of celebration than the youthful carousals of the past. Stockholm proclaimed its first Lucia in 1927."

Ebenezer Lutheran Church 1650 W. Foster Ave., has an interesting history of the neighborhood and its transformation from an ethnic enclave to a multicultural neighborhood open to different ethnicities and lifestyles:

Ebenezer Lutheran Church was organized as a congregation of the Augustana Lutheran Synod on January 20, 1892 by the Swedish immigrants of Andersonville (Edgewater). At the height of the immigration period of the twentieth century, the congregation grew to nearly 2000 members. At that time the congregation was a center of religion, culture, and family activity for this new Swedish community. The present sanctuary was completed in 1908 and the additions were added in 1929. The congregation continued as a member of the Lutheran Church in America in the early 1960’s and subsequently as a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America when it was formed in 1988. During the pastorate of Theodore Matson, during the mid-1950’s, the mission and ministry of the congregation began to perceive that its mission and ministry extended beyond the Swedish community.

This new direction was enhanced, as Andersonville became less Swedish and more multi-cultural. …

* * *

The Sunday worship is a lively expression of the Christian tradition utilizing original music and music from around the world, a variety of instrumentation, and intentional lay leadership alongside the pastor. Currently the Swedish heritage of the congregation is maintained primarily during December. On December 13th, the Swedish-American community meets in the evening to observe St. Lucia Day. A Julgudstjanst, or Christmas service in Swedish,is held in the afternoon the Sunday before Christmas in partnership with the office of the Consulate General of Sweden.

Kevin Pang, "Christmas at Svea: Lutefisk and a song." Chicago Tribune December 22, 2011. From interview w/ Tom Martin, then 79, proprietor in 2011:

A hundred years ago, Chicago was home to more Swedes than any city outside Stockholm, and many immigrants lived in Andersonville. These days, restaurants along the 5000 block of North Clark Street represent Japan, the Middle East, Carolina Lowcountry and whatever Swedish remnants of yore remain in a handful of delis, bakeries and diners. The Svea space had been a restaurant as far back as the 1930s.

Martin was retired when the opportunity to own a restaurant suddenly presented itself. Martin called it a career in 1994 after 36 years working for a railroad company. In retirement, he became so bored at home he was organizing his wife's Tupperware for fun. The same year, his son Scott bought Simon's Tavern, an Andersonville staple since 1934. At his wife's urging to get out of the house, Martin became a daytime bartender at Simon's.

Martin befriended Kurt Mathiasson, who opened Svea in 1972 and was the founder of the Swedish American Museum across the street. Their friendship was strong enough that when Mathiasson was dying of cancer, he offered to sell the restaurant to Martin for a good price because he didn't want Svea — it means Mother of Sweden — to close. It has been almost 12 years since Martin took over.

"It's a fluke," Martin said. "But do I regret it? No way."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A last Christmas tune for Clayville-Prairieland jam sessions: "Cherry Tree Carol" -- and some thoughts on improvising

After some of us started playing and singing "The Cherry Tree Carol" from memory last week at the Clayville Christmas party, I went looking for it on line. It was that song about Joseph, Mary, the Christ child and the cherry tree. And I found some tab by dulcimer historian Ralph Lee Smith and Maddie MacNeil, founding editor-publisher of Dulcimer Players News.

Ralph is a nice guy, an inspiring teacher and author of the standard history of the Appalachian dulcimer. And his version of "Cherry Tree Carol," collected in Kentucky in 1914, is a lovely piece of music. The song, one of the "Child ballads" (No. 54) collected in the 1800s by Francis James Childs, is much older than that -- it was being sung in England as early as 1400 AD on the feast of Corpus Christi. We know it in the US as one of the southern Appalachian ballads with origins in English folksong that Cecil Sharp collected a hundred years ago.

The dulcimer tab, with backup chords and the melody in standard notation, is in Folk Songs of Old Kentucky, published by Mel Bay. Click on Click here to open and click on link at top that says, "Print This Article (PDF)."

While the song has been covered by numerous artists since Joan Baez recorded it in 1961, I'll only link you to three YouTube clips -- two vocals and an instrumental by the Mark O'Connor bluegrass band that got me to thinking about improvising, which is sometimes just a fancy word for playing by ear.

Here's the Mark O'Connor band:

Jerry Rockwell, a dulcimer builder of southeastern Ohio who has written some good stuff on music theory for mountain dulcimer, has an essay on "Improvisation" that makes improv accessible to us all. He relates to the noodling around he did as a teenager:

So after many, many hours of spinning vinyl, and a few hints from friends; I began to get the hang of playing by ear -- I learned to copy note-for-note the guitar solo in the Kingsmen's Louie, Louie, as well as all of George Harrison's lead parts. Something else started happening at the same time, though: I began to "noodle" with my guitar. With a sense of childish curiosity, I began to run some melody notes right through a chord position -- just to see how it would sound. Or I would go on extended melodic excursions way up the fingerboard; back down and around: all the time having NO CLUE what I was doing! I did waste alot of time noodling like this, but I gained something very important: I got a direct connection to the guitar as a means of expression. After a while, it felt very natural to pick up the guitar and just start to make music: a blues line would emerge, giving rise to another one, and so on.

This experiential time with the guitar was absolutely critical to my early development as a musician(and remains in first place to this day, whether I'm playing dulcimer, 5th-tuned guitar, standard-tuned guitar, or whatever), and the best news of all is that it is GREAT FUN! I highly recommend this undisciplined, exploratory style of music-making: Its a sort of "communion" with the soul, where you can touch some deep and wonderful -- and occasionally tumultuous -- areas of yourself.

Listen to the Mark O'Connor band again. Notice how they swap out on melody, rhythm and harmony riffs and how they blend it all together. O'Connor writes classical symphonies and concertos in addition to bluegrass, and I would not call his arrangement here improvised. But it's grounded in the same noodling Jerry Rockwell did when he learned the chords to "Louie Louie." We can do it, too.

The first vocal is by Jean Ritchie, now of Berea, Ky. She's one of very few people who has contributed more to the Appalachian dulcimer revival than Ralph Lee Smith, and here she sings "Cherry Tree Carol" a cappella in the old Appalachian style. In the 1950s she got a Fulbright scholarship to collect British and Irish variants of songs she knew from her family heritage in Kentucky. Picture shows Paddy Clancy of the Clancy Brothers (with concertina), Jean Ritchie (standing in back), Tom Clancy (sitting in front of her) and Robin Roberts (with guitar) at Jean Ritchie's New York City apartment, in 1954.

Jean Ritchie is an accomplished musician, but her a cappella singing here is very traditional, the way she bends notes and freely adapts the melody to the cadence of her words -- she isn't counting strict time here, 1-2-3, 1-2-3 like a metronome. This is the way our music sounded when it came over from the British Isles.

Finally, here's a performance by the English rock musician Sting, live in Durham Cathedral in 2009. His accompaniment couldn't be any more minimalist, but listen for how much three little notes can add to a piece of music:

Ralph's and Maddie's version of "Cherry Tree Carol" was collected in 1914 by Josephine McGill. Ralph's discography is available at

Douglas D. Anderson's website The Hymns and Carols of Christmas has detailed notes on the "Cherry Tree Carol" and its history from the 15th century on. Included is this reminiscence of the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould, an English hymn writer and classical musician, in 1884 -- "while teaching carols to a party of mill-girls, [he] began to relate the carol by Dr. H. J. Gauntlett, 'Saint Joseph was a-walking,' ... when they interrupted him, saying 'Nay! we know one a deal better nor yond'; and, lifting up their voices, they sang, to a curious old strain …"

* * *

In January, we'll meet Saturday, Jan. 3, in the Batterton Cabin at Clayville, and Tuesday, Jan. 6, at Atonement Lutheran CHurch in Springfield. In addition to being the feast of Epiphany, Jan. 6 was known as "Old Christmas" in the southern Appalachian mountains where the present calendar that was adopted in the 1700s was greeted with hostility and suspicion. Kids used to get their presents on Old Christmas, and it was considered the end of the holiday season. (More here in the Dictionary of American Regional English.) In the last verse of "Cherry Tree Carol," the Christ child says:

Then Joseph took Mary all on his left knee:
“O tell me, little baby, when Thy birthday will be?”

The sixth day of January my birthday will be,
When the stars in the elements shall tremble with glee.

So it all (kinda) fits together.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

** A R C H I V E ** Last year's Road Scholars talk on Dwight Moody and the Fisk Jubilee Singers

Editorial note -- Since I went off the Road Scholars roster in November, I am removing this blurb from the pages linked to the header of my blog Hogfiddle. I am archiving it here -- with references to last year's participation in Road Scholars deleted -- and I am still available to present the material for a negotiable fee. Information about Road Scholars program is available at:


"Swing Low: Dwight Moody, an Original American Crossover Artist

Beginning in November, I'll be offering a program through Road Scholars, a speakers' bureau of the Illinois Humanities Council. My working title: "Swing Low: Dwight Moody, An Original American Crossover Artist." By explaining the origin of Moody's gospel hymns, playing the dulcimer and inviting my audience to sing along, my talk is designed to bring alive this deeply 19th-century American art form. While the roots of this music are in the past, its sound is still heard today, not only in gospel and Christian contemporary, but also secular genres including jazz, blues, country, rock and hip hop. Details on how to book a Road Scholar program and general information about the IHC speakers' bureau, including an FAQ page, are available at:

American music has always been a hybrid art form, and often it's been at its most vibrant when artists ranging from Stephen Foster, Ives and Gershwin to Louis Armstrong and Bruce Springsteen have blended the sound of different cultural genres into something all their own and uniquely American. Chicago evangelist Dwight Moody and his music director Ira Sankey no doubt would be surprised to hear themselves described as crossover artists, but their revivals were an important musical crossing place, one of those intersections where the music crossed over its cultural boundaries.

"Swing Low" will focus on three occasions when music from America's camp meetings, slave quarters and log cabins crossed over to create gospel music as we have come to know it today ... and a fourth occasion several years later, when it was apparent how much a part of the American spirit the music had become:

  • June 1870, Indianapolis. In town for a YMCA convention, Moody sets up a dry-goods box on a street corner and preaches while Sankey leads a Sunday school song typical of the camp meeting tradition. Sankey later recalled, "When he had spoken for some twenty-five minutes, he announced that the meeting would be continued at the Opera House, and invited the people to accompany us there. He asked me to lead the way, and with my friends sing some familiar hymn. This we did, singing as we marched down the street, 'Shall we gather at the river?' The men with their dinner-pails followed closely on our heels instead of going home, so completely were they carried away by the sermon from the store-box." It is the beginning of their long association.

  • June and July 1862. Port Royal, S.C. Lucy McKim (Garrison), a 19-year-old Philadelphia abolitionist visiting the Union Army lines in South Carolina with her father, hears "Roll Jordan, Roll" sung by newly freed slaves and African American soldiers in the Union Army. "It swelled forth like a triumphant anthem," she says in an important article for Dwight's Journal of Music. "That same hymn was sung by thousands of [N]egroes on 4th of July last, when they marched in procession under the Stars and Stripes, cheering them for the first time as the 'flag of our country.' A friend writing from there said the chorus was indescribably grand; 'that the whole woods and world seemed joined in that rolling sound.'"

  • November, 1873, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. The Fisk Jubilee Singers, on their first European tour, join forces with Moody and Sankey. Opening for a revival meeting, they sing the camp meeting song "There Are Angels Hovering 'Round" and their signature African American spiritual "Steal Away to Jesus." Blown away by the experience, an English cleric writes, "It was like a snatch of angelic song heard from the upper air as a band of celestials passed swiftly on an errand of mercy." He adds, "Nor are these all our obligations to our beloved friends. They have gone in and out the churches, Sunday-schools, and mission-rooms, singing for Jesus. Such services to souls and Christ have opened wide the people's hearts, and the Jubilees have just walked straight in, to be there enshrined for evermore."

  • May 7, 1915, on an "L" platform in New York City. Composer Charles Ives is waiting for a train the day after the Lusitania was torpedoed, with the loss of 1,198 lives, when a busker plays "In the Sweet Bye and Bye" on the street below. "Some workmen sitting on the side of the tracks began to whistle the tune, and others began to sing or hum the refrain," he recalled. "A workman with a shovel over his shoulder came on the platform and joined in the chorus, and the next man, a Wall Street banker with white spats and a cane, joined in it, and finally it seemed to me that everybody was singing this tune, and they didn't seem to be singing for fun. ..." Deeply moved by the experience, Ives incorporates it in his orchestral set From Hanover Square North, at the End of a Tragic Day, the Voices of the People Again Arose.
When they joined the Moody-Sankey revivals at Newcastle-upon-Tyne and other English venues, the Fisk University singers helped popularize a thoroughly American style that drew on a common heritage of Anglo-Celtic folk hymns and camp meeting songs, as well as the “sorrow songs,” shouts and folk spirituals of their West African heritage. Its influence was so pervasive that Swedish immigrants who came to the Midwest were surprised to hear the Americans singing a familiar tune they knew from the old country as O, hur saligt att få vandra. It is “Shall We Gather at the River."

Like Sankey’s gospel hymns, the Jubilee Singers' spirituals xxx While there are clear differences between the Anglo-Celtic and African-American traditions, their pentatonic harmonies, syncopation and call-and-response choruses blended into an emerging style of accessible, emotional gospel hymn singing.

XXX Plans are to announce the Road Scholars lineup for 2013-2014 in August.

"The songs of the Civil War era were beautiful and formative, but they were also a sign of a chaotic time when a whole segment of the population was undervalued and stereotyped. That was the bittersweet theme of Peter Ellertsen's presentation at the Decatur Public Library. ... 'I want people to get a sense that this historical stuff is still with us,' Ellertsen said. 'Our history determines who we are.'" Decatur Herald & Review, March 8, 2010.

In addition to my latest Road Scholars gig, I give talks on various musical and historical subjects to schools, libraries and other community organizations for a negotiable fee. And I was on the Road Scholars roster once before, from 2001 to 2004. I like to get my audiences singing along, and I play the Appalachian dulcimer, related European/immigrant folk zithers and the psalmodikon, a monochord that Swedish pastors used to keep country church choirs singing on key in four-part harmony.

For more information on my talks, check out the following webpages:

  • My resume lists talks on a variety of subjects I've tailored to the interests of different audiences over the years (click here and scroll down to "Presentations and articles").
  • In June I spoke with Kevin Kelly of WILL-FM in Urbana about "creolized," or culturally blended, 19th-century American music on his "Live and Local" show (click here to listen).
  • In 2010 the Herald & Review covered my talk "Years of Jubilee: Music from the Civil War Era" at the Decatur Public Library (click here for staff writer Kenneth Lowe's report).
  • In 2001 correspondent Harriett Gustason of the Freeport Journal- Standard wrote up my Road Scholars talk on "Ballads, Bobby Burns and Fiddle Tunes" (click here to read it).

"Dr. Peter Ellertsen came from Springfield to tell the folks how the ethnically diverse settlers of northwest Illinois mixed and matched the music of their heritage with the native folk tunes, hymns and ballads on this side of the Atlantic. ... Pianos and organs were a little too bulky to transport in covered wagons, so the settlers had to devise their own methods of creating rhythm and melody. Ellertsen himself played a 'paint-bucket Stradivarius' to join [local musicians] in the toe-tapping hoedown of strummin', pickin' and pluckin' which preceded his easy-going talk. The improvised bass fiddle cost him $3.19 for a bucket, a broom handle and a stretch of plastic line. There was fun going on, both off stage and on. The musicians were giving it all they had, the speaker spiced his talk with humor and an attentive audience was appreciating it all." -- Freeport Journal-Standard, Nov. 4, 2001.

Augustana liturgy -- miscellaneous notes

In discussion of new pericopes introduced first Sunday in Advent, 1865, in Chicago : "… The hymn for the day was sung immediately afar the Apostole's Creed. When hymn 24, v. 1, was sung, the congregation arose and remained standing during the collect and reading of the text, and the Apostle's Creed." Footnote 4: Erl. Carlsson, Korsbaneret, 1881, pp. 101-102.

Emory Lindquist, Shepherd of an Immigrant People: The Story of Erland Carlsson (Rock Island: Augustana Historical Society, 1978), 52.

Wallin 24, "Allena Gud i himmelrik / Må lof och pris tillhöra" -- Hilarius + 368, N. Decius. J.O. Wallin. Wikisource: "En trefaldighetspsalm. Latinska förebilden Gloria in Excelsis Deo, av biskop Hilarius i franska Poitiers, bygger på Lukas 2:14. … Översättning av Nicolaus Decius tyska text Allein GOTT in der Höh' sey Ehr."

Monday, December 08, 2014

En stjärna gick på himlen fram (Wallin 67) / Ett barn är födt i Bethlehem / Puer natus in Bethlehem

A Swedish version of a very old German carol.

Melody is same as "A child is born in Bethlehem" (Ett barn är födt i Bethlehem in Svedberg's 1697 koralbok].ärna_gick_på_himlen_fram. Not in Esbjorn's ms. but a beloved carol throughout northern Europe during Advent, Christmas and/or Epiphany that dates back to pre-Reformation Germany -- and one I already know in a minor key!

Sound files:

A haunting vocal rendition from Estonia, where the song went into oral tradition.

En stjärna gick på himlen fram med ULV. En stjärna gick på himlen Trad Swedish Christmashymn from Estonia with ULV Agnethe Christensen, Lena Susanne Norin and Elizabeth Gaver

Uploaded on May 30, 2010
Medieval ballads and hymns from Scandinavia

Ulv is a new ensemble performing Nordic ballads and chorales with both the earliest known melodies and new melodies shaped from the special melodic language of the repertoire, telling the stories from the sagas and songs as they could have been heard in earlier times.

With many years of experience in the performance or early music, in theatre productions, as educators, and also with a background in folk music, Ulv presents this folk music repertoire heard from a medieval perspective.

Recorded in Söderköping Sweden

Agnethe Christensen -soprano, bells and kantele
Lena Susanne Norin - mezzo soprano
Elizabeth Gaver - fiddla and song

Sunday, December 07, 2014

"I Jesu Navn skal all vr gjerning ske" -- Norwegian psalm in untitled psalmodikon notebook in Esbjörn papers

In Lars-Paul Esbjörn's untitled manuscript notebook of siffernoter: Norska Ps No. 19 – “I Jesu namn skall all vår Gerning skee”

Lars Paul Esbjörn. Untitled notebook. Esbjörn Family Papers, MSS 1, Box 10, File 4, Special Collections, Tredway Library, Augustana College.

No. 71 in Lindeman, J. A., Choral-Melodier for Psalmodicon : til de i Kingos, Guldbergs og den evangelisk christelige Psalmebog forekommende Psalmer (Christiania : Hoppes Forlag, 1841

Noe av innholdet er filtrert bort. Hvis du vil, kan du gjenta søket med de utelatte resultatene. (Google: Some of the content is filtered out. If you want, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.)

pages 46-50 (?), Nos. 68-74 missing

BlixBlog: Ein vevlogg tileigna salmediktaren, bibelomsetjaren, lingvisten og politikaren Elias Blix (1836-1902).

Loggskrivar: Anders Aschim, e-post:

Attende til konfirmasjonen. Altarboka som var gjeldande gjennom det meste av 1800-talet fortel at konfirmasjon skal foregå slik: Før Confirmations-Acten synges:
I JEsu Navn skal al vor Gjerning skee.
Kom Gud Skaber, o Hellig Aand.

LATER: In Danske Salmbog (1973), No. 195 (pp. 126-27).

Gammel norsk salmebok no. 081 - I Jesu navn skal all vår gjerning skje

'Tis the season for viral videos -- USAF Band flash mob plays Bach chorale, "Greensleves" and "Carol of the Bells" at Smithsonian

If you've ever wanted to get a sense of what it's like to be in a flash mob -- and to be surrounded by the music of a Bach cantata or a brass band playing Christmas carols -- the U.S. Air Force Band has put up flash mob videos for two years running now. Last year's rapidly went viral, and this year's is likely to as well. It's flawlessly produced, and it gives you a sense of the precision of a military band. Here it is, on the band's YouTube channel:

The USAF Band - 2014 Holiday Flash Mob. Published on Dec 3, 2014. The USAF Band Holiday Flash Mob 2014 at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

This year's performance is a medley that begins with "Greensleeves" and "What Child is This" (to the same melody), and segues into "Carol of the Bells" (which begins with a segue at 3:09). It prompted The Christian Science Monitor to run an article with links to a sort of hit parade of flash mobs. One of their links, to a 2010 performance of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" at a food court in Ontario, is dead, but I linked it to a blog I kept for my communications students back in the day at Benedictine. (Scroll down to the second paragraph, past the assignment for final exams.) It's a classic, well worth watching again and again.

This month's flash mob follows the band's performance, at the same time last year, of Bach's "Jesu Thou Joy of Man's Desiring" and "Joy to the World" at the Smithsonian. "Jesu Thou Joy of Man's Desiring" is actually part of a larger work, Bach's cantata Herz und Mund und Tat ind Leben (BWV 147). As usual, Wikipedia has the details. "Joy to the World" is -- well, it's "Joy to the World." Everybody knows it.

Here it is the Air Force Band's website:

A first-person blog post by Tech Sgt. Kristen Bowers titled "Flash Mob! -- A blog from beginning to end" gives a detailed first-person account of the rehearsals and the 2013 performance itself. Here are some excerpts:

11:20 a.m.: Five buses arrive outside the National Air and Space Museum. Musicians file off, attempting to conceal their instruments and uniforms under civilian coats. As they enter the museum, they quickly make their way into designated "hiding spots." …

At 11:53: The Air and Space Museum is buzzing with excitement. The United States Air Force Band members disguised in civilian coats roam the museum, acting as tourists. Observing a sign stating that there will be filming in the area, a group of tourists asks an employee what is being filmed. "Something big is happening in here in seven minutes--stick around!" the employee replies. …

12 noon: A man walks to the center of the museum carrying just one chair and places it in an open area. Nobody seems to notice. Suddenly, one cellist removes a civilian coat to reveal his ceremonial uniform. He sits down and begins to play "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." A few close spectators turn and begin to listen. The cellist is joined shortly by the Band's commander and conductor, Col. Larry H. Lang, as well as a bassist and a handful of winds and strings who are each presented with their instrument by a member of the United States Air Force Honor Guard. The small group slowly turns into a mass of airmen musicians, each adding a new texture to the tune. … The music fills the National Air and Space Museum and lights the faces of the audience members. At the conclusion of the performance, the final triumphant brass chord lingers in the museum long after the musicians have stopped playing. The audience erupts into applause. …

There's lots more. If you've ever wondered what it's like to be in a flash mob, Sgt. Bowers' post is the place to find out!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

British TV ad recalling WWI, "Christmas in the Trenches" goes viral

The Christmas truce, or Weihnachtsfrieden in German, at the beginning of World War I is the subject of a powerful and impeccably produced British supermarket chain's institutional advertisement for the Christmas season. It's going viral, and, I think, deservedly so. Nathalie Tadena reported today on the Journal's website::

Sainsbury’s four-minute ad is based on the 1914 Christmas Truce, in which British and German soldiers dropped their guns and met in no-man’s land on Christmas Eve. In the ad, the soldiers of the two armies leave the trenches to play a game of soccer. At the end of the video, a German soldier discovers that a British soldier has left him a chocolate bar from home in his pocket. Sainsbury’s is selling the chocolate bar featured in the ad at its stores and will donate profits to the Royal British Legion.

Since the campaign’s launch on Nov. 12, the ad has been viewed more than 9.5 million times and received more than 383,000 social interactions, according to Visible Measures.

Sainsbury's is a chain of supermarkets and convenience stores in the UK. And, yes, they do sell chocolate. Although that's probably not the point of this ad, which is a example of institutional advertising designed to promote goodwill toward the corporation. The Royal British Legion, analogous to the American Legion in the US, is a veterans' assistance and advocacy group.

Sainsbury's has posted the video to YouTube:

True story. Even the football (soccer) game in no man's land, although accounts vary. And "Silent Night/Stille Nacht" is one of the songs the British and German troops sang that night. I also hear the American gospel tune "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" in the background during the football game beginning at 2:10. Not sure that's historically accurate, at least I've not heard before that it was sung that night, but I think it's appropriate to the ad's message.

Wikipedia, typically, has the most balanced, complete and judicious survey of fraternization up and down the front lines. Equally authoritative, although it doesn't quote as many German and French sources, is an article by Malcolm Brown, a historian at the Imperial War Museum, las month in the Guardian. Here's Brown's take on the iconic moment:

… the devil is often said to be in the detail, but not in this story. On Christmas Eve at Plugstreet Wood [Ploegsteert Wood, in Flanders], Germans put Christmas trees on the parapet of their front-line trench and sang Stille Nacht (Silent Night), then largely unfamiliar to British ears but instantly acknowledged as a carol of extraordinary beauty. Moved to respond the territorials [British troops, equivalent to our National Guard] opposite struck up with The First Noël. So it continued until, when the British sang O Come, All Ye Faithful, they heard the Germans joining in with the Latin words Adeste Fideles. Recalling the event many years later, one former soldier commented: "I thought this a most extraordinary thing - two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of the war."

In the clip below, Sainsbury's PR people give more background:

In all, a classy way to sell chocolates. Or corporate goodwill (same difference).

Singer-songwriter, activist and storyteller John McCutcheon tells of the same incident in one of his most requested songs He wrote it in 1984 and included it on his 1985 album (that's what we called them back then) Winter Solstice. Here he is singing it in concert in 2011 in Gainesville, Fla., preceded by a delightful account of the time he met Frank Buckles, the last surviving veteran of World War I (who corrected him on several inaccuracies in the song). The singing begins at 8:25:

I knew John in the 1970s when he was music director of the Epworth Congregation/Jubilee Community Arts, an ecumenical inner-city ministry near the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville. A recent graduate of St. John's University in Minnesota, he was a folk singer in the mold of Pete Seeger, and he'd come south to learn Appalachian traditional music. He's still fighting what he believes to be the good fight all these years later.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Martin Marty defines pluralism -- and substance of his work -- in 2006 ACLS "Life of Learning" lecture

The "Life of Learning" lectures are an annual series sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies in which scholars are asked to "to reflect on a lifetime of work as a scholar and an institution builder, on the motives, the chance determinations, the satisfactions (and dissatisfactions) of the life of learning, to explore through one's own life the larger, institutional life of scholarship." Toward the end, church history professor Martin Marty sums up one of the key themes of his historical writing:

The question of substance -- voiced as "what was and what is your historical work about?" -- receives a simple answer. It is telling a story of American religion, a story that has continued unfolding in new contexts and with new emphases through 50 years. Decades ago, during a long strenuous slog on a Manhattan avenue during a snowstorm, cabs that day having been unresponsive to hailing, my publisher-to-be asked about my plot: what did I think American religion was about? "Pluralism," I responded between a huff and a puff, while thinking of America's unmatched varieties of faiths and polities. He snorted: "You couldn't be more wrong! That is what social scientists think, but religious people themselves have other things beside abstractions on their minds." Those odd "other things" turned out to be the lure for my re- search, even if they have to be accounted for under the abstract blanket of "pluralism." (18)

Martin Marty. "A Life of Learning." Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecture for 2006. ALCS Occasional Paper No. 62. American Council of Learned Societies.