Sunday, December 20, 2015

"Christmas in the Ashram," a gentle spoof on Western, Eastern spiritual traditions, irony and ecumenicism

Heard tonight on WUIS-FM while returning from Galesburg, "Christmas in the Ashram" by singer-songwriter Chris Rosser of Ashville, N.C., covered here by Tom Prasada-Rao and Cary Cooper, two other accomplished singer-songwriters, at a gig in Dallas. The one I heard on the radio had a couple of Ravi Shankar-like riffs on a sitar -- or a Western instrument tuned and played to sound a little bit like a sitar. This one is awfully nice, too.

"Christmas in the Ashram" performed in 2012 at Center for Spiritual Living Dallas

The indispensible Mudcat Cafe forum has lyrics, etc., at It's clearly a satire on Western seekers after Eastern spirituality -- who travel from "California to Bombay," in Rosser's words, "in search of peace" and get homesick at Christmas time. But the satire is gentle -- to my ears, at least -- and I think there's a lovely sense of the nostalgia so many of us are prone to at this time of year.

It seems well informed on Eastern religions, too, at least to my inexpert years. The chorus mixes and matches them with ecumenical abandon:

Singing Om Alleluia - Hare Hare Krishna
In Excelsis Deo - Rama Bolo Rama Bolo
Gloria Gloria - Govinda Gopala
Om Noel - Jay Siya Ram

And the verses are full of images of Eastern spiritual practice and California-style holiday cheer, of "tinsel in Vishnu's crown," of Christmas "egg nog in the black spice tea" and "red / Santa hats on shaven heads."

The last verse:

They sang Gospels and Upanishads
Psalms and Vedas praising God
Maybe Christ and Krishna are amused
When humans get a little bit confused

The song was first recorded to Rosser's 2000 album "Holy Fool." I don't know who recorded the arrangement I heard of the radio -- I think it was Rosser.

Prasada-Rao has also made the song his own, recording it as the title cut on a CD called Christmas in the Ashram in 1998. He's of Indian heritage himself, born in Ethiopia of Indian parents and raised in Washington D.C. According to his website, he now spends much of his time on the road.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Worship set, 3rd Sunday in Advent, Dec. 19, Atonement-Faith-Luther Memorial Church, Springfield


Here is the worship plan for this weekend. I tried not to incorporate anything new this weekend since we have a good chunk of music to work on for Christmas Eve. We are doing a jazzed up version of "Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee" -- please listen to the YouTube version by Michael W. Smith that I've attached. I'd like to try to replicate the feel of that one (I'm trying to find the actual sheet music for the band so we'll have the actual version, but I've not found it yet -- I'll not give up!!).

Gathering Music - piano

Worship Set:

Prayer - led by praise team member


Special Music: Mary Did You Know - Rob (with piano only - no band)

sung creed - Because We Believe

sung Lord's Prayer

Sending Song: Light of the Stable

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Vom himmel hoch -- Martin Luther's Christmas song, with some family lore on Johann Walther and Luther's chorales in general


Music kind of runs in my father's family, and my grandmother used to say we were descended from a 16th-century German musician named Johann Walther, or Walter in modern German, who was a cantor (choir director) in Wittenberg and arranged the music for Martin Luther's first hymnal. So when I was asked to play during the offertory at the contemporary worship service in our new "blended" ELCA parish in Springfield, I thought a moment and decided on "From Heaven Above," a Christmas carol that Luther wrote for his family.

When I mentioned it to my cousin, who is also kind of a church music geek, he emailed back, "I noted with pleasure your inclusion of Vom Himmel Hoch (the German tune name) into the Service. Good show! ... That hymn was written by Luther for his children to sing as they acted out the Christmas story. My understanding is that Walter convinced him to modify the hymn for congregational usage."

Which means my great-great- (I counted it up once and there must be nine or 10 "greats") grandfather could have collaborated with Luther when he first set the carol to the tune of a popular love ballad of the day. That arrangement, first published in 1535, didn't last long. The text is a first-person account of the Nativity story, and apparently Luther's congregations thought it was a little too risque for the Christ child to be singing a love ballad. So in 1539 they switched over to the melody we now use in 1539.

I guess contemporary worship music has always had its ups and downs!

Anyway, my cousin wrote:

Don't know what's in the ELCA hymnal, but LCMS uses all of the original 15 verses in their hymnal (even the new one). That hymn was written by Luther for his children to sing as they acted out the Christmas story. My understanding is that Walter convinced him to modify the hymn for congregational usage.

I got the Pastor at Messiah to incorporate verse 13 into every Advent and Christmas Service - in most cases the choir sang it - as the last prayer within the structure of the Prayers for the Church. As children, we were taught it for our evening prayers.

Traditional translation
Ah, dearest Jesus, Holy Child
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber, kept for Thee.

Particularly at home, but even in a small church, Luther used the lute to lead the singing, so strum away. at has a public domain PDF file with five verses, as harmonized by Bach, set to the 1539 melody.

CPDL ChoralWiki has a three-part motet by Walther at,_da_komm_ich_her_(Johann_Walter). It was first published in Geistliches Gesangbüchlein, Part I (1551), and I don't know if it is the 1535 melody.

BACKGROUND at -- The following notes in Hymns and Carols are from John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1892, 1907), pp. 1227-1228.

Of the origin of the German hymn, Lauxmann, in Koch, viii. 21, thus speaks:—

"Luther was accustomed every year to prepare for his family a happy Christmas Eve's entertainment.. . and for this festival of his children he wrote this Christmas hymn. Its opening lines are modelled on a song, 'Aus fremden Landen komm ich her;" and throughout he successfully catches the ring of the popular sacred song. It is said that Luther celebrated the festival in his own house in this original fashion. By his orders the first seven verses of this hymn were sung by a man dressed as an angel, whom the children greeted with the eighth and following verses."

We may add that Luther took the first stanza almost entirely from the song, which begins:--

“Ich komm aus fremden Landen her,
Und bring euch viel der neuen Mahr,
Der neuen Mahr bring ich so viel,
Mahr dann ich euchy hier sagen will.”

From the rest of the song Luther did not borrow anything.

In Klug's G.B., 1535, it is set to the melody of “Aus fremden Landen,” or rather, as F.M. Bohme, in his Aldeutsches Liederbuch, 1871, No. 271, gives it “Ich komm aus fremden Landen her.” In the Geistliche Lieder, Leipzig, V. Schumann, 1539, this was superseded by the beautiful melody still in use, which is sometimes ascribed to Luther, and is set to this hymn in the Chorale Book for England, 1863 (set also to No. 57 in Hymns Ancient & Modern, 1875).

A very nice comment on the song in Clement A. Miles, Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan. 1912, at -- in the second paragraph quoted below:

* * *

Before I close this study with a survey of Christmas poetry in England after the Reformation, it may be interesting to follow the developments in Protestant Germany. The Reformation gave a great impetus to German religious song, and we owe to it some of the finest of Christmas hymns. It is no doubt largely due to Luther, that passionate lover of music and folk-poetry, that hymns have practically become the liturgy of German Protestantism; yet he did but give typical expression to the natural instincts of his countrymen for song. Luther, though a rebel, was no Puritan; we can hardly call him an iconoclast; he had a conservative mind, which only gradually became loosened from its old attachments. His was an essentially artistic nature: “I would fain,” he said, “see all arts, especially music, in the service of Him who has given and created them,” and in the matter of hymnody he continued, in many respects, the mediaeval German tradition. Homely, kindly, a lover of children, he had a deep feeling for the festival of Christmas; and not only did he translate into German “A solis ortus cardine” and “Veni, redemptor gentium,” but he wrote for his little son Hans one of the most delightful and touching of all Christmas hymns—“Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her.”

[extended quotation in German omitted]

“Vom Himmel hoch” has qualities of simplicity, directness, and warm human feeling which link it to the less ornate forms of carol literature. Its first verse is adapted from a secular song; its melody may, perhaps, have been composed by Luther himself. There is another Christmas hymn of Luther's, too—“Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar”—written for use when “Vom Himmel hoch” was thought too long, and he also composed additional verses for the mediaeval “Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ.” ...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

En stjärna gick på himlen fram - A star is moving through the sky


Swedish psalm for epiphany to the tune of the medieval German carol A child is born in Bethlehem/Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem/Puer natus in Bethlehem -- melody is perhaps best known to Americans through Praetorius' setting ... old, old medieval German and Latin macronic hymn. Details at on the Bach Cantatas website. It was one of the first hymns, beginning as early as the 1200s, in which the congregation played a role.

In Sweden, it was moved from Christmas to Epiphany. Words attributed to Johan Olof Wallin, who compiled the hymnal and translated many of the hymns from the German.

Barebones melody on keyboard by Jens Fredborg at

En stjärna gick på himlen fram - Maria Magdalena Gospel

MMG Maria Magdalena Gospelkör, Stockholm -- ?? on YouTube, other information lacking

En stjärna gick på himlen fram. Wikipedia [Swedish]

En stjärna gick på himlen fram är en trettondagspsalm, ursprungligen latinsk julsång från 1300-talet. De två sista verserna (nr 6 och 7) är "ståverser". Psalmen bearbetad av Laurentius Jonae Gestritius och trycktes efter hans död första gången 1619. Psalmen översattes troligen eller bearbetades av Jesper Svedberg 1694, till en psalm med tolv verser och titelraden "Ett barn är födt af jungfru reen, af jungfru reen" för 1695 års psalmbok. Bearbetning inför tryckningen av 1819 års psalmbok har ingen angiven upphovsman, men i 1937 års psalmbok uppges att Johan Olof Wallin bearbetat texten 1816 till en psalm med sju verser och ny titelrad. Inför 1987 års psalmbok bearbetades den av Anders Frostenson 1977 och medverkan av tidigare upphovsmän anges inte längre.

[Google translation:] A star was in the sky until a Epiphany hymn, originally Latin Christmas songs from the 1300s. The two last verses (No. 6 and 7) is "ståverser". Psalm processed by Laurentius Jonae Gestritius and printed after his death the first time in 1619. The hymn was translated likely or processed by Jesper Svedberg, 1694, into a hymn of twelve verses and the title line "A child is born of the virgin reen, of virgin reen" the 1695 Act hymnbook . Processing of printing of the 1819 Act hymnbook has no specified originator, but in the 1937 hymnal stated that Johan Olof Wallin processed text 1816 to a hymn with seven verses and a new title bar. Prior to the 1987 hymnal was processed by the Anders Frostenson in 1977 and the participation of previous authors no longer sets.

Puer natus in Bethlehem. CPDL ChoralWiki.

This Christmas hymn was especially popular during the ancient period. Its author is unknown. The oldest Latin text found so far is contained in a Benedictine book dating from the beginning of the fourteenth century. The Latin text, which is found in many different redactions ranging from six to twelve stanzas, has, very likely, been composed by several authors. Consequently, it has undergone many changes due to omissions, revisions, and additions. “Puer natus” was translated into German in 1439 by Heinrich von Laufenberg. Later on a number of German versions appeared. In the old German, Danish, and Swedish hymnals a translation in the vernacular was inserted immediately after each Latin stanza. It has been surmised that the choir sang the Latin and the congregation sang translations of the same. The German rendering most extensively used was that found in Val. Babst’s Gesangbuch, 1545: “Ein Kind geboren zu Bethlehem.” This contains ten stanzas with the German translation inserted after each stanza except the second. The English version included in The Lutheran Hymnary was made by Philip Schaff and was printed in his Christ in Song, 1869. There are at least eleven other English translations.

In regard to the third stanza, Skaar quotes from the hymnological works of Daniel: “On many early medieval paintings representing the nativity of Christ, as well as in Christmas hymns, are found an ox and an ass. This practice has been ascribed to a faulty rendering of the passage, Hab. 3:2: ‘In the midst of beasts make known’; for ‘In the midst of the years make it known.’ They concluded from Is. 1:3 that the two ‘beasts’ referred to were the ox and the ass: ‘The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master’s crib.’ These passages are taken to be the Biblical basis for the old Christmas stanza: ‘Cognovit bos et asinus, quod puer erat Dominus, Halleluja’ (The ox and the ass knew that the Child was the Lord).” Nutzhorn claims that the expression is rather. an “innocent desire for free poetic representation of the circumstances surrounding the nativity of Christ.” [Dahle, Library of Christians Hymns]

Praetorius (Montiverdi Choir and Monteverdi Ensemble, dir. Matthias Beckert, Neubaukirche Würzburg, 2010) ...

Bach (Cantata BVW 65 -- Camerata Vocal "Bella Desconocida" & Orquesta de Cámara, dir. Jorge L. Colino Sigüenza, Iglesia Conventual de San Pablo, Palencia, Spain, 2004)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Praise team sets, Dec. 12 contemporary service, Atonement-Faith-Luther Memorial Church

Call to Worship:

Worship Set:

Special Music: God With Us (Adam)

Because We Believe

Lord's Prayer

Sending Song:

Dandy Dulcimer -- passages about an itinerent dulcimer player in The Black Baronet by William Carleton

Excerpts from The Black Baronet; or, The Chronicles of Ballytrain (1881), in Project Gutenberg's Stories And Tales Of The Irish, by William Carleton --

[Two passages in Chapter XIII give detailed accounts of a strolling hammered dulcimer player in early 19th-century Ireland, at a time and place where the instrument was uncommon. The novel’s plot is convoluted, but we don’t have to pay attention to it; only these two scenes, and a couple of scattered references elsewhere, have anything to do with dulcimers. The first scene is set in Ballytrain, a fictional village in Ulster, where a mysterious stranger hires the musician, named “Dandy Dulcimer,” to accompany him on a mail coach to Dublin on a confidential mission. In this scene, when Dandy meets the stranger at the inn in Ballytrain, he tells how he was inspired by another itinerant musician, also named Dandy Dulcimer, after his family lost their farm and their livelihood.]

On the evening of the same day the stranger desired Paudeen Gair [a servant of the innkeeper in Ballytrain] to take a place for him in the "Fly," which was to return to Dublin on that night. He had been furnished with a letter from [the village priest] Father M'Mahon, to whom he had, in Mr. Birney's [a local attorney’s office], fully disclosed his name and objects. He felt anxious, however, to engage some trustworthy servant or attendant, on whose integrity he could fully rely, knowing, or at least apprehending, that he might be placed in circumstances where he could not himself act openly and freely without incurring suspicion or observation. Paudeen, however, or, as we shall call him in future, Pat Sharpe, had promised to procure a person of the strictest honesty, in whom every confidence could be placed. This man's name, or rather his nickname, was Dandy Dulcimer, an epithet bestowed upon him in consequence of the easy and strolling life he led, supporting himself, as he passed from place to place, by his performances upon that simple but pleasing instrument.

"Pat," said the stranger in the course of the evening, "have you succeeded in procuring me this cousin of yours?" for in that relation he stood to Pat.

"I expect him here every minute, sir," replied Pat; "and there's one thing I'll lay down my life on—you may trust him as you would any one of the twelve apostles—barring that blackguard Judas. Take St. Pettier, or St. Paul, or any of the dacent apostles, and the divil a one of them honester than Dandy. Not that he's a saint like them either, or much overburdened with religion, poor fellow; as for honesty and truth—divil a greater liar ever walked in the mane time; but, by truth, I mane truth to you, and to any one that employs him—augh, by my soul, he's the flower of a boy."

"He won't bring his dulcimer with him, I hope."

"Won't he, indeed? Be me sowl, sir, you might as well separate sowl and body, as take Dandy from his dulcimer. Like the two sides of a scissors, the one's of no use widout the other. They must go together, or Dandy could never cut his way through the world by any chance. Hello! here he is. I hear his voice in the hall below."

"Bring him up, Pat," said the stranger; "I must see and speak to him; because if I feel that he won't suit me, I will have nothing to do with him."

Dandy immediately entered, with his dulcimer slung like a peddler's box at his side, and with a comic movement of respect, which no presence or position could check, he made a bow to the stranger, that forced him to smile in spite of himself.

"You seem a droll fellow," said the stranger. "Are you fond of truth?"

"Hem! Why, yes, sir. I spare it as much as I can. I don't treat it as an everyday concern. We had a neighbor once, a widow M'Cormick, who was rather penurious, and whenever she saw her servants buttering their bread too thickly, she used to whisper to them in a confidential way, 'Ahagur [a personal term of endearment – see Note 1 below], the thinner you spread it the further it will go.' Hem! However, I must confess that once or twice a year I draw on it by way of novelty, that is, on set days or bonfire nights; and I hope, sir, you'll admit that that's treating it with respect."

"How did you happen to turn musician?" asked the other.

"Why, sir, I was always fond of a jingle; but, to tell you the truth, I would rather have the same jingle in my purse than in my instrument. Divil such an unmusical purse ever a man was cursed with than I have been doomed to carry during my whole life." "Then it was a natural love of music that sent you abroad as a performer?"

"Partly only, sir; for there were three causes went to it. There is a certain man named Dandy Dulcimer, that I had a very loving regard for, and I thought it against his aise and comfort to ask him to strain his poor bones by hard work. I accordingly substituted pure idleness for it, which is a delightful thing in its way. There, sir, is two of the causes—love of melody and a strong but virtuous disinclination to work. The third—" but here he paused and his face darkened.

"Well," inquired the stranger, "the third? What about the third?"

Dandy significantly pointed back with his thumb over his shoulder, in the direction of [the baronet’s mansion at] Red Hall. "It was him," he said; "the Black Baronet—or rather the incarnate divil."

"That's truth, at all events," observed Pat corroborating the incomplete assertion.

"It was he, sir," continued Dandy, "that thrust us out of our comfortable farm—he best knows why and wherefore—and like a true friend of liberty, he set us at large from our comfortable place, to enjoy it."

* * *

[Soon after he goes to work for the mysterious stranger whom he met in Ballytrain, Dandy accompanies him on a night coach to Dublin. Sharing the coach are a spirited kitchen girl named Alice (Alley) Mahon whom Dandy will marry when all the loose ends are tied up in the novel’s last chapter; the runaway daughter of the Black Baronet of Ballytrain, who has hired Alley as a servant and companion; and an affable but increasingly drunken grazier, or livestock farmer, named Jemmy Doran. The farmer is never mentioned again after they arrive in Dublin.]

The farmer […], in truth, as we have said, he was naturally one of those men who wish to hear themselves talk. In this instance, however, he found, after having made three or four colloquial attacks upon the stranger, but without success, that he must only have recourse either to soliloquy or silence. He accordingly commenced to hum over several old Irish airs, to which he ventured to join the words—at first in a very subdued undertone. Whenever the coach stopped, however, to change horses, which it generally did at some public house or inn, the stranger could observe that the grazier always went out, and on his return appeared to be affected with a still stronger relish for melody. By degrees he proceeded from a tolerably distinct undertone to raise his voice into a bolder key, when, at last, throwing aside all reserve, he commenced the song of Cruiskeen Lawn, which he gave in admirable style and spirit, and with a rich mellow voice, that was calculated to render every justice to that fine old air. In this manner, he literally sang his way until within a few miles of the metropolis. He was not, however, without assistance, during, at least, a portion of the journey. Our friend Dandy, who was on the outside, finding that the coach came to a level space on the road, placed the dulcimer on his knees, and commenced an accompaniment on that instrument, which produced an effect equally comic and agreeable.

And what added to the humor of this extraordinary duet—if we can call it so—was the delight with which each intimated his satisfaction at the performance of the other, as well as with the terms in which it was expressed.

"Well done, Dandy! dang my buttons, but you shine upon the wires. Ah, thin, it's you that is and ever was the wiry lad—and sure that was what made you take to the dulcimer of course. Dandy, achora [my friend], will you give us, 'Merrily kissed the Quaker?' and I ask it, Dandy, bekaise we are in a religious way, and have a [silent] quakers' meetn' in the coach."

"No," replied Dandy; "but I'll give you the 'Bonny brown Girl,' that's worth a thousand of it, you thief."

"Bravo, Dandy, and so it is; and, as far as I can see in the dark, dang my buttons, but I think we have one here, too."

"I thank you for the compliment, sir," said Alley, appropriating it without ceremony to herself. "I feel much obliged to you, sir; but I'm not worthy of it."

"My darling," replied the jolly farmer, "you had betther not take me up till I fall. How do you know it was for you it was intended? You're not the only lady in the coach, avourneen [sweetheart]."

"And you're not the only gintleman in the coach, Jemmy Doran," replied Alley, indignantly. "I know you well, man alive—and you picked up your politeness from your cattle, I suppose."

"A better chance of getting it from them than from you," replied the hasty grazier. "But I tell you at once to take it aisy, achora; don't get on fire, or you'll burn the coach—the compliment was not intended for you, at all events. Come, Dandy, give us the 'Bonny brown Girl,' and I'll help you, as well as I'm able."

In a moment the dulcimer was at work on the top of the coach, and the merry farmer, at the top of his lungs, lending his assistance inside.

When the performance had been concluded, Alley, who was brimful of indignation at the slight which had been put upon her, said, "Many thanks to you, Misther Doran, but if you plaise we'll dispense wid your music for the rest of the journey. Remember you're not among your own bullocks and swine—and that this roaring and grunting is and must be very disagreeable to polite company."

"Troth, whoever you are, you have the advantage of me," replied the good-natured farmer, "and besides I believe you're right—I'm afraid I've given offince; and as we have gone so far—but no, dang my buttons, I won't—I was going to try 'Kiss my Lady,' along wid Dandy, it goes beautiful on the dulcimer—but—but—ah, not half so well as on a purty pair of lips. Alley, darlin'," he proceeded now, evidently in a maudlin state, "I never lave you, but I'm in a hurry home to you, for it's your lips that's—"

"It's false, Mr. Doran," exclaimed Alley; "how dare you, sir, bring my name, or my lips either, into comparishment wid yourself?

You want to take away my character, Mr. Doran; but I have friends, and a strong faction at my back, that will make you suffer for this."

The farmer, however, who was elevated into the seventh heaven of domestic affection, paid no earthly attention to her, but turning to the stranger said:

"Sir, I've the best wife that ever faced the sun—"

"I," exclaimed Alley, "am not to be insulted and calumnied, ay, an' backbitten before my own face, Misther Doran, and take my word you'll hear of this to your cost—I've a faction."

"Sir—gintleman—miss, over the way there—for throth, for all so close as you're veiled, you haven't a married look—but as I was sayin', we fell in love wid one another by mistake—for there was an ould matchmaker, by name Biddlety Girtha, a daughter of ould Jemmy Trailcudgel's—God be good to him—father of the present strugglin' poor man of that name—and as I had hard of a celebrated beauty that lived about twelve or fifteen miles down the country that I wished to coort—and she, on the other hand, having hard of a very fine, handsome young fellow in my own neighborhood—what does the ould thief do but brings us together, in the fair of Baltihorum, and palms her off on me as the celebrated beauty, and palms myself on her as the fine, handsome young fellow from the parish of Ballytrain, and, as I said, so we fell in love wid one another by mistake, and didn't discover the imposthure that the ould vagabond had put on us until afther the marriage. However, I'm not sorry for it—she turned out a good wife to me, at all events—for, besides bringin' me a stockin' of guineas, she has brought me twelve of as fine childre' as you'd see in the kingdom of Ireland, ay, or in the kingdom of heaven either. Barrin' that she's a little hasty in the temper—and sometimes—do you persave?—has the use of her—there's five of them on each hand at any rate—do you undherstand—I say, barrin' that, and that she often amuses herself—just when she has nothing else to do—and by way of keepin' her hand in—I say, sir, and you, miss, over the way—she now and then amuses herself by turnin' up the little finger of her right hand—but what matter for all that—there's no one widout their little weeny failin's. My own hair's a little sandy, or so—some people say it's red, but I think myself it's only a little sandy—as I said, sir—so out of love and affection for the best of wives, I'll give you her favorite, the 'Red-haired man's wife.' Dandy, you thief, will you help me to do the 'Red-haired man's wife?'"

"Wid pleasure, Misther Doran," replied Dandy, adjusting his dulcimer. "Come now, start, and I'm wid you."

The performance was scarcely finished, when a sob or two was heard from Alley, who, during this ebullition of the grazier's, had been nursing her wrath to keep it warm, as Burns says.

"I'm not without friends and protectors, Mr. Doran—that won't see me rantinized in a mail-coach, and mocked and made little of—whereof I have a strong back, as you'll soon find, and a faction that will make you sup sorrow yet."

All this virtuous indignation was lost, however, on the honest grazier, who had scarcely concluded the "Red-haired man's wife," ere he fell fast asleep, in which state he remained—having simply changed the style and character of his melody, the execution of the latter being equally masterly—until they reached the hotel at which the coach always stopped in the metropolis.


Note 1: “Ahagur” appears to be a personal term of endearment, perhaps a dialect synonym for jewel used in Carleton’s youth. I am unable to find it in Irish-English dictionaries, but a Google keyword search turns up several instances of its use – most of them in Carleton’s fiction, and each in a direct quotation in which one of his characters is addressing a friend or relative. In a sketch titled “The Poor Scholar,” he quotes and translates the following bit of dialogue about a country priest’s sermon:

“Ellish, avourneen, gho dhe dirsha?” – Ellish, my dear, what is he saying?”

“Och, musha niel eshighum, ahagur – ta sha er Purgathor, ta barlhum.” – Och, I dunna that, jewel; I believe he’s on Purgatory.”

Perhaps related is the usage in “The Blind Beggar’s Daughter,” a song collected for the Inishowen Song Project in County Donegal. In that ballad, as sung by Mary Ann Canny, one of the girl’s wooers calls her “his jewel his joy his machree” [heart]. The tune, incidentally, is the same as “Sweet Betsy from Pike.”

Sunday, December 06, 2015

"In Spite of Ourselves" -- wedding song leaves big old hearts dancing in aging hippie's eyes

Normally weddings are something I endure -- rather than anything I'd cross the street to watch if I didn't know the people involved. But over Thanksgiving our niece Nichole, her husband Justin and their children, Jonny, Jackie and Jonah, celebrated their marriage in the lodge at Hudson Gardens, a snow-covered park ablaze with Christmas lights just off the main drag in the Denver suburb of Littleton, Colorado.

Highlight of the wedding -- for me, at least -- was when Nichole and Justin chose "In Spite of Ourselves" by Iris Dement and John Prine for their first dance. Here's the official video:

I'd never heard it before, but I want to learn that song.

And there's amateur footage of the first wedding dance here. It may lack some of the crisp professionalism of the official video, but some moments just cry out to be recorded.

After the bridal couple danced, it was the kids' turn. Lots of kids. Too many kids to keep up with. Moving way too fast to shoot. A couple of pix are posted below, tho' ... note the Christmas lights in the background through the windows. Moments like this cry out to be recorded, however inexpertly.

Iris DeMent has been around for at least 25 years, but I know her mostly for her 2004 CD Lifeline, a gospel album that featured old-fashioned Southern gospel songs she knew from growing up in a Pentecostalist family. Her performance of "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" brought her briefly into the national limelight, when it was picked up in the Coen Brothers' movie O Brother Where Art Thou" in 2000, but mostly she's had a low-key -- but solid -- career in the market niche where, gospel, folk and Americana intersect.

Singer-songwriter John Prine has also been around forever. His 1971 song "Paradise," about the Peabody Energy Corp. strip mines servicing the TVA's Paradise Steam Plant in western Kentucky was kind of an anthem for environmentalists in East Tennessee. (Yes, there were a few of us.)

"Daddy, won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County? ...
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking,
Mr. Peabody's coal train has hauled it away."
But I lost track of him when I moved up north more than 30 years ago. Turned out he's had an equally solid career in the same niche market as Iris DeMent.

And their duet in "In Spite of Ourselves" is pure magic.

Written by Prine and performed with DeMent as the title track in his 1999 CD In Spite of Ourselves, alternative music critic David Cantwell of No Depression said it was the best song in "a solid collection of country duets, and if nothing else, it proves that Prine has great taste in old country songs ... not to mention great taste in what used to be called 'girl singers'."

Lyrics and chords in C available online at Looks like they'd transpose up to D in a heartbeat.

And the lyrics are sheer magic, too. A quick sampler (toned down a little):

She looks down her nose at money / She gets it on like the Easter Bunny ...

* * *

He ain't too sharp but he gets things done / Drinks his beer like it's oxygen ...

And so on. Describing what's got to be an ideal couple, well, ideal in that market niche.

In spite of ourselves
We'll end up a'sittin' on a rainbow
Against all odds
Honey, we're the big door prize

Each verse ending with a chorus, repeated at the end. "There won't be nothin' but big old hearts / Dancin' in our eyes." Yep. It left big old hearts dancing in my eyes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Vaughan Williams, "Song of Thanksgiving"


Capitol Fax, a blog covering Illinois government and politics owned and operated by Rich Miller,

also have a personal tradition of listening to Ralph Vaughn Williams’ “A Song of Thanksgiving.” I still get chills when the children start their part of song, imagining what it was like for the war-weary people to hear them in the aftermath of WW2:

Teach us the strength that cannot seek, By deed, or thought, to hurt the weak; That, under thee, we may possess Man’s strength to comfort man’s distress. Teach us delight in simple things, The mirth that has no bitter springs; Forgiveness free of evil done, And love to all men ‘neath the sun.

Robert Zimmerman, free-lance writer and blogger of the Washington, D.C., area, who recommends, "Go here for the full lyrics. It is absolutely worthwhile to print them out and read them as you watch this video. The images and words work together with amazing force, and illustrate well the importance of giving thanks on this day.

The BBC asked RVW to write a "thanksgiving anthem" to mark the end of World War 2 and this is the result. Originally called "Thanksgiving for Victory", it was later re-named and has been recorded several times. A lesser composer might have regarded such a commission as a mere 'job-of-work' - an occasional piece that would be performed once or twice and then forgotten; but Vaughan Williams, of course, gave it his all and came up with a work of poignant sincerity and emotional power; patriotic but never jingoistic or triumphalist. He selected the text himself from the bible, Shakespeare and Rudyard Kipling.

This performance is to be found on a DUTTON disc. Sir Adrian Boult conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Luton Choral Society and members of Luton Girls' Choir. The soprano soloist is Betty Dolemore and the speaker was Robert Speight. It was recorded at the Abbey Road Studios on 18th December 1951.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Johann Walter Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn (1537)

Johann Walter, Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn [Wittembergisch Geistlich Gesangbuch von 1524 zu drei, vier, und fünf Stimmen]. 1537. Otto Kade, ed. Publikation älterer praktischer und theoretischer Musik-Werke, Vol. 7. Berlin: T. Trautwein'sche Buch- und Musikalienhandlung, 1878.,_Johann)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Contemporary service music, Nov. 22, Atonement-Faith-Luther Memorial Church -- Saturday before Christ the King Sunday

Here is the music line up for this coming weekend. Central theme of the worship set this weekend is the kingdom of God.

Scripture this week is John 18:33-37.

Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Opening Song: That's Why We Praise Him - Jessica, Adam, Jamie, band

Worship Set:

-- Here I Am To Worship --

-- He is Exalted (I think most everyone will know this one) --

**we will do the sharing of the peace here (at least that's my plan) - band will continue to play while sharing goes on, we'll come back in on He is Exalted after the sharing

-- Lord Most High (this is new, but it is an echo song - congregation should be able to follow easily) --

Sung Lord's Prayer

Sending Song: Shout to the North --

Monday, November 16, 2015

"Deck Us All With Boston Charlie" -- by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross

A holiday classic performed by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross

So I'm scrambling around printing out lead sheets/dulcimer tab for the Clayville-Prairieland Strings' annual Advent performance, and I blunder into the Walt Kelly classic, "Deck Us All With Boston Charlie." As everyone d'un certain age no doubt remembers, it was sung by Pogo the possum and his compères in the Okefenokee Swamp of Kelly's imagination in the comic strip Pogo, to the tune of "Deck the Halls With Boughs of Holly."

I've tried several times in recent years to explain Pogo's appeal to people who didn't live through the 1960s reading it every morning, and I've come up short each time. (I guess you had to be there?) So I'll just link to Wikipedia at, which says it "combined both sophisticated wit and slapstick physical comedy in a heady mix of allegory, Irish poetry, literary whimsy, puns and wordplay, lushly detailed artwork and broad burlesque humor."

Like all good things, Pogo didn't last long enough. It went out of production with Kelly's death in 1973. I guess you could say it was the "Calvin and Hobbes" of its day.

So this afternoon I'm on the Internet looking for the lyrics to "Deck Us All With Boston Charlie." Last year John Wiseman brought in a set of lyrics -- hat tip to John, by the way -- but I've misplaced them, and I know I won't find them again till January or February, well after Christmas in any event.

And I found a recording on YouTube by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. They were a talented group of jazz singers in the early 60s that specialized in scat, a vocal technique of singing improvised vocables or nonsense syllables to a melody (details on the group at,_Hendricks_%26_Ross and the technique at The appeal of Walt Kelly's nonsensical Christmas song to Lambert, Hendricks and Ross is obvious -- and very, very lucky. Their arrangement is every bit as whimsical and well executed as the comic strip.

Lambert, Hendricks and Ross only sing one verse, and there are those of us who would argue there's really only the one verse. It goes:

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley'garoo!
Don't we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby lilla boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

But there are several others verses on the Lyrics Mania website. As I recall, they were suggested by other characters from time to time. But that first verse, with Nora freezing on the trolly in Walla Walla, Wash., is the one that appeared on the funny pages every year. The others are available on line at:,_hendricks_and_ross.html

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Matt Redman "10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)"

Heard today at services for our next-door-neighbor John Robert Holderread, June 3, 1943-Nov. 8, 2015, at Staab Funeral Home:

Music video by Matt Redman performing 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord). (P) (C) 2012 sixstepsrecords/Sparrow Records. All rights reserved.

Article on evangelism [formerly] on ELCA's website

Editor's note [June 9, 2016]. In November, when Springfield's blended congregation now known as Peace Lutheran Church was first organizing an evangelism committee, I had no idea what "evangelism" meant -- other than a suspicion it sounded preachy and a vague notion it might have something to do with public relations. So I Googled it, and I found an article by Jennifer Phelps Ollikainen, titled "Worship and Evangelism," in Living Lutheran magazine on the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's website. It made so much sense, I posted some excerpts to my blog for future reference.

Then, when I came back to them, I discovered ELCA has taken the article down.

But I still have the excerpts. Here they are:

Jennifer Phelps Ollikainen

Worship is evangelism. Evangelism is worship.

When we look at the definitions of these two practices, it is clear that they are intertwined.

Christian worship forms the Christian community into the body of Christ proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ in word, sacrament, song and prayer.

Evangelism strategies look to share this good news intentionally with those who have yet to experience it.

Unfortunately, ELCA congregations have often fallen into practices for both worship and evangelism that separate the essential intertwining of the two.

Established worshiping communities often forget that worship is not just about proclaiming the good news for those already in the congregation. Proclamation reaches beyond the walls of the sanctuary to those who have not yet come to believe.

* * *

Understanding the foundational center of worship and evangelism as the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ for the sake of the world leads the congregation to ask hard questions that get to the core of our faith:

- How deeply do we believe that what happens in worship in the community of Christ is the living, transformative encounter with the gospel of Jesus Christ? How do we show this belief to those who are outside of worship?

- Into what do we invite people through our evangelism efforts? How do we make clear that it isn’t about membership into a particular congregation or attendance in worship but rather deep transformation in our lives on account of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Responses to these questions will lead to practical implications for the congregation that seeks to shepherd the transforming and far-reaching proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ through worship.

Jennifer Phelps Ollikainen. "Worship and Evangelism." 2013. Living Lutheran. Formerly available at [dead link]. Ollikainen, of Allentown, Pa., is the southeast Pennsylvania congregational coordinator for Lutheran Congregational Services, an affiliate of Liberty Lutheran Services.

Evangelism in action

Here's a screen shot of the error message I got when I tried to Google into Ollikainen's article.

This year Living Lutheran and The Lutheran Magazine consolidated into one print and online publication, and I imagine the online back issues of Living Lutheran were taken down when that occurred. I thought the error message is pretty classy, anyway. Note especially the invitation in the lower left-hand corner: "This is Christ's church. There is a place for you here ..."

Now that's what I call evangelism.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Joni Mitchell -- BBC telecast from 1970 w/ dulcimer

dulcimer at 16:15 ( 29:38)

AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger

A bootleg this may be, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a better early live half-hour video of Joni Mitchell, done for the BBC on October 9, 1970. Performing solo on guitar, piano, and (most interestingly, on "California") on zither, Mitchell presented seven songs from her first four albums. The sound and image are excellent (and in color), and Mitchell looks happy and at ease as she delivers the material in fine voice, though she oddly notes near the end that her pipes are going. Though a few of the songs are among her most famous early compositions ("Chelsea Morning," "Both Sides Now," "Big Yellow Taxi"), for the serious fans there are also some less celebrated early album cuts ("Cactus Tree," "My Old Man," "For Free," "California"). The only mild complaints to offer are that it's too short (her comment to the audience that her voice wouldn't have allowed her to sing much longer notwithstanding), and that there's a time code strip on the screen. That latter problem would presumably be fixable if this could somehow be cleared for official release.

my FB feed "California" (Live) by Joni Mitchell (1970) — For more videos like this, please follow (Like) the Official Facebook Page of Sydney Urshan! The instrument that Joni Mitchell plays in this video is an Appalachian dulcimer... Sydney Urshan Happy 72nd Birthday Joni Mitchell! (born November 7, 1943) "Both Sides, Now" (Live) by Joni Mitchell (1970)

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

"Rock the Cradle Joe" (Joseph?) and a playlist for the Clayville-Prairieland jam session group's annual Advent performance at Atonement-Faith-Luther Memorial

Don Pedi, at left, joins in playing "Rock the Cradle Joe" in Athens, Ala.

Saturday's video

... shows my dulcimer teacher, Don Pedi of Madison County, N.C. (at left), jamming on one of the tunes I want to play at our jam session from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 7, in the barn at Clayville Historic Site, Ill. 125, Pleasant Plains.

We'll practice our selections Saturday for the annual soup supper gig. It's the third Wednesday in Advent this year, Dec. 16 (exact time TBA). Then we'll go around the room and call for tunes, songs -- or whatever -- we want to play. I've always wanted to sneak "Rock the Cradle Joe" into the Christmas program, maybe calling it "Rock the Cradle Joseph" in honor of the season? But I've always been overruled on that.

Playlist for Dec. 16

Here also, for convenient reference, is the music for Dec. 16. Links are to dulcimer tab w/ guitar chords available on line. But these songs are pretty standard, and the chords -- as always -- can be varied as you see fit. The songs are:

-- I Saw Three Ships -- (we'll play as an instrumental)

-- Cherry Tree Carol -- (lyrics and chords on "DAA" tab)

-- What Child is This -- (dulcimer tab with lyrics and chords) (in E minor, a key that dulcimers can play in DAD tuning).

-- Joy to the World -- (dulcimer tab with lyrics and chords)

-- Silent Night -- (melody and chords)

-- Silent Night -- (lyrics and chords in D) --

They're all in "D for dulcimer," except "What Child is This" in Em.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

"God Himself is Present" -- a postcolonial Lutheran chorale for Reformation Day 2015

Jumala on läsnä [God Himself is Present] by Narrow Way

Jumala on Läsnä #KatajainenKansa

"Otu li moipafi, yakalunga ketu..."

"God, reveal your presence: gladly we adore you..."

"Jumala on läsnä, Häntä rukoilkaamme..."

"Gott ist gegenwärtig, lasset uns anbeten..."

The hymn is by 17th- and early 18th-century German Reformed mystic Gerhard Tersteegen, sung to a chorale melody by Joachim Neander. [1] It is widely sung in both the Reformed (Calvinist) and Lutheran traditions, and it has been translated variously. I know it as "God Himself is Present" (LBW 249) from singing it at Atonement Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Springfield, and today I came across it in a post by the Rev. Marjaana Toiviainen of Helsinki on a Lutheran World Federations website.

When I went looking for the hymn on YouTube, I found the interpretations embedded above.

  • One is by Narrow Way, a gospel choir made up of African members of the Joensuu Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in Joensuu, a city in eastern Finland. [2]

  • The other is a very cool version by Katajainen Kansa, a Christian reggae band of Helsinki. [3]

For a 350-year-old song, "God Himself is Present" certainly gets around.

That's interesting in itself, for a guy who's up to his neck in a historical analyis of cultural hybridity and creolization in Swedish-American hymnals. Tersteegen hailed from a part of Germany where political and cultural boundaries were fluid in the 17th and 18th centuries, as were relations between the Reformed and Lutheran faith traditions of the day. His hymn spread widely in northern Europe, and I even found a variant melody called TYSK (the Swedish word for German) that attributes to "a chorale sung at Stockholm, 1718; Psalm und Choralbuch, 1719" -- a mystery to look into later when I get the time.

But Marjaana Toiviainen has concerns on her mind that are much more immediate.

A pastor in an inner-city mission in Helsinki and a doctoral candidate at Lund University in Sweden, she was inspired by hearing "God Himself is Present" as a delegate at LWF's "Global Perspectives and the Reformation" this month in Namibia. she wrote in an Oct. 29 post to the LWF's Faith in Action Worldwide weblog [3]:

The hymn resonated through my body and onto the walls of the church at Paulinum United Lutheran Theological Seminary [in Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia]. An impressive range of languages surrounded us and the Namibian sky echoed the words with the power of lightning and thunder. It was raining and we thanked God for that.

To Toiviainen, a lot of things came together in that moment -- the languages, the rain toward the end of the dry season in a drought-stricken nation that consists largely of desert, the community of church people "gathered together to reflect how to approach the Reformation anniversary in 2017." And what it means to live one's faith as a Lutheran -- a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or a follower of any other faith tradition in a broken, increasingly globalized world. She said:

In his sermon, Bishop emeritus Zephania Kameeta [of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Nambia] reminded us what it is to be liberated by God's grace in that manner. Our faith lets us stand up in a healing community. But this faith does not only help us love and act, but also get lost and dirty. It forces us to take a cross and carry it. So we are not here to write or read theology. We are here to live theology, not hide it in the archives. Theology that is not afraid to be fragile and vulnerable. Theology that is lived, experienced and embodied.

In her doctoral studies at Lund, Toiviainen is concentrating on post-colonial theologies, global Christianity and inter-religious relations. On the way to the conference in Nambia, an independent republic in southwestern Africa [5], she was forcefully reminded what it means to exist in a broken, globalized world:

Just before leaving Helsinki, my home city, I had met a Syrian woman with her three children. She had lost her husband in Germany and they were not allowed to be reunited. They were oh so close to one another, but were not allowed to be together. And then I took off for Namibia. The flights had been booked and paid for, the seats arranged, the vaccinations organized and no visa was needed. To get to the other side of the world I had to do nothing but sit still and watch some movies on the plane. When one smiled at me at the security check, I could only think of the Syrian family and their struggle. The world sure is not fair.

During our opening worship I realized once again that the only way we as a community can tackle this unfair reality is through listening to everyone's story: different perspectives, reflections from our contexts, the world and Lutheranism as we see it. We have all been shaped by different issues, insights and events. Let us remember to listen to those stories, for they are where the Reformation of today arises from.

No happy endings here. Just more work to do. And more songs to sing.


[1] "God Himself is Present," to give it its name in the Lutheran Book of Worship (No. 249), is usually matched with the tune ARNSBERG (called WUNDERBARER KÖNIG in Lutheran hymnals), according to Calvin College's website at It is found today in 50 hymnals of all denominations. The alternate tune, TYSK, appears at, and a sound file is available at, along with this note: "The tune TYSK, which appeared in Stockholm in 1718, derives its name from the Nordic word for 'German,' evidently referring to a German church? style? - or perhaps hinting at an earlier tune for the text God himself is with us, which tune (ARNSBERG) was composed 40 years earlier by Joachim Neander - a name synonymous with German hymnody. In the English-speaking world, TYSK appears in very few hymnals at the moment - Epsicopal, Anglican, and Reformed almost exclusively."

[2] Narrow-Way, according to its Facebook page,

... is a musical group under Joensuu Evangelical Lutheran Congregation. The group is composed of Africans currently resident in Joensuu, Finland. The group was established in March 2013 to provide more variety of music in the Christian music landscape. Narrow-way thus specializes in rhythmic African music and acapella. Our music encompasses local African languages, English and Finnish compositions.

Our mission is to inspire, encourage and motivate our audience about the Christian faith.

Narrow-Way. Joensuu, Finland.

[3] Katajainen Kansa (which means something like "juniper nation" in English), combines "Jamaican rhythms, world music and plaintive accordion" in exprssing the "Christian beliefs and spiritual heritage of our people," according to the band's website

[4] Marjaana Toiviainen, "My Story and Our Story," 29 October 2015. Faith in Action Worldwide, Lutheran World Federation.

[5] Namibia, known from 1884 to 1920 as German South-West Africa, was ruled by South Africa after Germany lost its colonies in World War I. Located along the Atlantic coast in southern Africa, it was incorporated into a British mandate in South Africa and known as Southwest Africa. It became an independent republic in 1990. During the protracted struggle against apartheid and South African rule, the Lutheran churches were heavily involved. German missionaries were active in what is now Namibia from the 1880s onward, and about half its population of 2.1 million is Lutheran (see Katherine Caufield Arnold's honors thesis "The Transformation of the Lutheran Church in Namibia", William and Mary, 2009).


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Messiah @ Bethany College, Lindsborg, Kansas

Verbatim excerpts:

Bethany College. "Messiah Festival of the Arts: The Tradition."

Dr. Carl Aaron Swensson succeeded [Olof] Olsson as pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church in 1879. Bethany College was founded in the sacristy of the church on October 15, 1881, when ten children of the immigrant families began their higher education. The founding of Bethany College brought remarkable energetic people and ideas to this part of the Great Plains instilling both college and community with deep appreciation for music and art.

The Bethany Oratorio Society was founded in December 1881, when 40 parishioners were welcomed to the parsonage of Pastor Swensson and his wife Alma to learn the words and music of Messiah. Almost all of them were immigrants from Sweden who still lived in a pioneer world of sod houses. Alma Swensson, an accomplished musician, worked with the singers throughout the winter and spring in helping them learn the music as well as the English words. The first performance by the Bethany Oratorio Society was on March 28, 1882, in Bethany Lutheran Church. Every Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday since, the College and the people of Lindsborg have come together to perform Handel’s great oratorio. The annual tradition continues today as the oldest continuous annual performance of the Messiah in the United States.

Beccy Tanner. "'Messiah' is an Easter tradition in Lindsborg." Wichita Eagle, April 10, 2011

LINDSBORG — When the opening strains of Handel's "Messiah" are sounded this Palm Sunday, it will mark one of the oldest Lenten traditions in North America.

Each year — often for nearly three months in advance of Easter — local farmers, homemakers, college students and business owners gather twice a week to rehearse the three-hour piece.

The end result is a 200-person chorus with a full-volume organ — one of the largest in the Midwest — and a class-act, nimble-fingered orchestra.

* * *

In 1879, 22-year-old Carl Aaron Swensson and his wife, Alma, arrived in Lindsborg and he became pastor of the Bethany Lutheran Church. Within two years, he started Bethany College for the immigrant children of the parish to receive a higher education.

Swensson had been a graduate of Augustana Seminary in Rock Island, Ill. When he returned to Rock Island for the spring graduation, Swensson saw a local church's rendition of the "Messiah" and vowed to produce it in Lindsborg.

That winter, Alma Swensson, a gifted singer, began working with Lindsborg parishioners to learn the "Messiah."

It was an ambitious undertaking.

"She taught people a phrase at a time, both notes and English words," said Jim Ruble, vice president of advancement at Bethany College.

On March 28, 1882, the Bethany Oratorio Society performed the "Messiah" in Bethany Lutheran Church as a fundraiser for the new college.

It was such a success, Alma Swensson took the show on the road, "in lumber wagons along dusty Kansas roads, to the neighboring towns of Salemsburg, Salina and New Gotland," Time magazine reported in 1939 when it featured Lindsborg's "Messiah."

Read more here:

Bethany College. "Messiah Festival Proudly Announces Our 135th Season."

Kicking off the Festival will be the Bethany Theatre Department’s production of Lucas Hnath’s “The Christians” on March 18 and 19, directed by Professor Greg LeGault, who brought the incredible “Jesus Christ Superstar” production to last year’s Festival. Bethany’s Theatre Department is, at this time, one of a small number of non-professional/educational theatres nationwide to acquire production rights to the play, which made its New York City premiere on September 18, 2015, at Playwrights Horizons. A talk-back session will be scheduled in conjunction with the production. This performance will take place at Burnett Center on the campus of Bethany College both nights, and tickets are $15 regular admission, and $12 for students & Bethany faculty/staff.

Good Friday, March 25, sees the 86th annual performance of the Bethany Oratorio Society’s“Passion According to St. Matthew” by J.S. Bach

The 135th Messiah Festival will conclude with the historic performance of Handel’s “Messiah” on Easter Sunday, March 27, at 3 p.m. in Presser Auditorium, by the Bethany Oratorio Society and four of today’s brightest operatic talents, also directed by Dr. Lucas. The foundational event of the Messiah Festival of the Arts, this concert has long been an incredible musical experience for thousands of patrons every Holy Week since 1882. The performance will begin at 3 p.m. in Presser Auditorium. Tickets are $22 and $25, and will go on sale Jan. 1.

Hilton Als, "Divine Intervention: The Strange World of Lucas Hnath." New Yorker Sept. 7, 2015

He is an artist whose particular brand of American strangeness grows along with his strengths, many of which—a sense of high drama, and a deep understanding of how the patriarchy wants to hold on to just that—are not immediately apparent in his minimal scripts, which look, on the page, less like dialogue than like poems.

from Orlando, MFA New York University

Michael Paulson, "Lucas Hnath’s ‘The Christians’ Tackles a Schism Among the Flock" New York Times, Sept. 3, 2015

But Mr. Hnath (pronounced nayth) is not going there himself. He has written an essay for the theater’s website, and the show’s program, explaining that he is choosing not to discuss his own beliefs or practices, believing that audiences need to decide for themselves how to respond to a play that depicts a typical American megachurch fractured by a dispute over salvation and damnation. Mr. Hnath, 36, is happy to talk about his upbringing — he went to Christian elementary and middle schools, helped out with youth ministry, tagged along with his mother to seminary classes — but his religious life after high school is off limits, leaving it up to theatergoers to ponder whether “The Christians” is fundamentally sympathetic to, or critical of, the kind of community it depicts.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Outline of my creolization paper for the Illinois Historical Journal

Posted here because it's likely to be the most complete outline I come up with for my article in the Illinois Historical Journal, and I don't want to lose it in all the cat videos, daily updates from "Bloom County," selfies and political memes on my Facebook page:

Atonement-Faith-Luther Memorial worship music, Saturday, Oct. 31

LIFE Today: Phillips Craig and Dean "Your Love is Amazing"

This week's scripture is Mark 12:28-34:

One of the scribes came near and heard [Jesus and the Sadducees] disputing with one another, and seeing that [Jesus] answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.


During communion: What Kind of Love is This? - Adam & Michele & band

Sending Song: Love the Lord by Lincoln Brewster - send 'em out with one of the main points from the scripture. Below: Lincoln Brewster talks about "Love The Lord" off his new album 'Today Is The Day' - Available Now from Integrity Music.

Lincoln Brewster - Love The Lord - Song Story

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Worship set, Saturday, Oct. 25, Atonement-Faith-Luther Memorial

"Open the Eyes of My Heart," Paul Baloche

  • Open the Eyes of My Heart
  • You Are My King (we did this a couple of weeks ago - no medley with Word of God this time though)
  • Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus - CHORUS ONLY
  • Trading My Sorrows


Open the Eyes of My Heart -- Paul Baloche --

You Are My King -- Billy J. Foote --

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus -- Helen H. Lemmel --

Trading My Sorrows -- Darryl Evans --

"Trading My Sorrows," Darryl Evans

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Shakespeare's songs -- podcast from Folger library

Folger Shakespeare Library. Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 33

David Lindley, professor emeritus of literature and music at the University of Leeds, is our guest for this episode of Shakespeare Unlimited. His book, Shakespeare and Music, appeared in 2006 in the Arden Critical Companions series. He is interviewed by Neva Grant.

This episode is called “Ay, prithee, sing.”

From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. © October 7, 2015. Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Of the Chicago Cubs, the Communion of Saints and the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

A fine piece on the Daily Beast website at", by the Rev. Nathaniel Katz, an Episcopal priest in California. The web address, which is also the headline, sums it up better than I could.

Mike Royko, back when the Chicago Tribune pretended to be a real newspaper, had a similar column. He said growing up on the Northwest Side and cheering for the Cubs was a spiritual discipline, kind of like having Lent all year around. I'm pretty sure I saw it in the Rock Island Argus in the fall of 1984.

Katz' column in the Daily Beast was similar. He said he finds a commonality between being a Cubs fan and being a Christian.

"Fundamental to both," he said, "is the deeply held belief that someday all the pain and suffering we have experienced in this life will come to an end through a great act of reconciliation. Cubs fans anticipate the moment when their dreams of a World Series title will be realized. Christians anticipate the return of Christ, when God will 'wipe every tear from [our] eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more,' as is promised in one of my favorite scriptural passages found in the book of Revelation."

Katz said he's a fourth-generation Cubs fan, beginning with his great-grandmother Edna Blaesing, who "was born in Chicago in 1900, among the first generation of her German immigrant family to be born in the United States." He added:

She came of age as jazz and prohibition arrived in the Windy City. She joined the thousands who marched through her city’s streets demanding that women be granted the right to vote. And in the midst of all that, she came to love a baseball team that made its home on the north side of town—a team that brought glory to the city in her childhood by winning a World Series title."

In time the family moved to Michigan, and Katz never knew his great-grandmother. But he grew up with stories of her "devotion to the church where my mother had been baptized, and where my grandmother served as organist for decades," and of "her devotion to the Cubs." He added, "It was the telling and re-telling of these stories that shaped my own identity — both as a Christian and a Cubs fan."

Katz said the last game of this year's World Series, should it go to five games, will be Nov. 1, which is also All Saints' Day in the Episcopal liturgical calendar. He added:

... All Saints’ is a feast day that celebrates a time of nearness to those saints who have touched our lives — those who have nurtured us and shaped our ability to recognize ourselves, and one another, as children of God.

On this All Saints’ Day, I will lead an evening prayer service for students and young adults that I was given the honor of establishing just over a year ago at the Episcopal Cathedral in Los Angeles. We will gather in the darkness to read scripture and offer prayers by candlelight. That light will remind us of the constant presence of God’s radical and unconditional love—a love that dares to shine in the darkness and guides our way through life’s uncertainty.

Toward the end of the service, we will read the names of those women and men whose lives have taught us that we are recipients of God’s radical and redeeming love. Among the names that will be read that night is Edna Blaesing.

I believe that I will feel my great-grandmother’s nearness that night, as I have felt it many times before. And, who knows? This time we may find ourselves united in a new way — as Cubs fans who have witnessed our team crowned as World Series champions. Whether that reconciliation should happen this year or in a fall classic yet to come, it will have been worth the wait.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Darlene Zschech and Michael W Smith -- "Shout to the Lord" and "Agnus Dei" live in Alabama

Shout To The Lord (Darlene Zschech) and Agnus Dei (Michael W Smith). A cut on Zschech's Revealing Jesus CD featuring Darlene Zschech, Michael W. Smith (Keyboard and Vocal) and Alabama School of Fine Arts Strings

Comment by jaxbus3000 conveys something important: "I saw Darlene and Hillsong at a rather small church in San Diego about 9 years ago. First thing she said was we don't do concerts, we do church. She was so humble and yet had such talent backed by a strong faith, you just felt it. Needless to say it was a fantastic experience. "

Review at on the Huntsville (Ala.) Times' website:

A new CD/DVD released today by Darlene Zschech, the Christian singer-songwriter and speaker, has several Birmingham connections. Recorded live at Church of the Highlands on Sept. 28-29, 2012, "Revealing Jesus: A Live Worship Experience," was arranged and conducted by UAB [University of Alabama Birmingham] Professor Henry Panion III and features string players from Alabama School of Fine Arts.

Review by Abraham and Natasha at

Revealing Jesus was released at March 19th, 2013 worldwide and recorded live at the Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 28 and 29 of last year. Produced by Grammy Award Winning producer Israel Houghton, Darlene was accompanied by New Breed and some famous song writers, Dove Award 2013 Winner Kari Jobe and Michael W. Smith.

And this, by Abraham:

One of the reason why I like Hillsong's song in Darlene era is because the unity, when they play a song. It's like a unison of a team that worshiping God, in a way that even their music style is simple, I can still feel a complicated reason behind their style. In this Revealing Jesus album, I can feel the same unison and complicated style. The same reason why I like Hillsong, I find it here; especially all of the Worship songs.

Full track list in Modern Jamming review.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Contemporary service music, Saturday, Oct. 17, Atonement-Faith-Luther Memorial blended congregation

"Rise Up & Praise Him," Gary Sadler & Paul Baloche

"Rise Up and Praise Him" -- Sadler and Baloche

Call to Worship/Opening: Rise Up & Praise Him (Gary Sadler & Paul Baloche) -

Worship Set:
-- Let Everything That Has Breath (Matt Redman)
-- Shout to the Lord (Darlene Zschech)
-- sharing of the peace (band plays Shout underneath)
-- Agnus Dei (Michael W. Smith) - this will come in right after sharing, connected from Shout to the Lord

After the message: Make Me a Servant (Kelly Willard) (will start with flute & guitar, then Jessica sings, then all praise team and congregation join)

Sending: Cry of My Heart (Terry Butler)

YouTube videos:

Michael Smith's Agnus Dei in live performance (10:15 min.):

Another performance (featuring Smith with Catalonian Choir) at Franklin Graham Festival de la Esperanza in Barcelona, May 2, 2015:

Monday, October 12, 2015

Dandy Dulcimer mentioned in Chapters XV and XXXVI

Chapter XV.[DD and the stranger leave Dublin, return to Ballytrain]

There was nothing further now to detain the stranger in town. He accordingly posted it at a rapid rate to Ballytrain, accompanied by Dandy and his dulcimer, who, except during the evenings among the servants in the hotel, had very little opportunity of creating a sensation, as he thought he would have done as an amateur musician in the metropolis.

Chapter XXXVI. Contains a Variety of Matters
—Some to Laugh and some to Weep at.

She was sitting on a lounger as she spoke, and the poor affectionate girl, who loved her as she did her life, threw herself over, and leaning her head upon her mistress's knees wept bitterly.

"Sit beside me, Alice," said she; "whatever distance social distinctions may have placed between us, I feel that the truth and sincerity of those tears justify me in placing you near my heart. Sit beside me, but compose yourself; and then you must assist me to bed."

"They are killing you," said Alley, still weeping. "What devil can tempt them to act as they do? As for me, miss, it's breaking my heart, that I see what you are suffering, and can't assist you."

"But I have your love and sympathy, your fidelity, too, my dear Alice; and that now is all I believe the world has left me."

"No, miss," replied her maid, wiping her eyes, and striving to compose herself, "no, indeed; there is another—another gentleman, I mean—as well as myself, that feels deeply for your situation."

Had Lucy's spirit been such as they were wont to be, she could have enjoyed this little blunder of Alice's; but now her heart, like some precious jewel that lies too deep in the bosom of the ocean for the sun's strongest beams to reach, had sunk beneath the influence of either cheerfulness or mirth.

"There is indeed, miss," continued Alice,

"And pray, Alice," asked her mistress, "how do you know that?"

"Why, miss," replied the girl, "I am told that of late he is looking very ill, too. They say he has lost his spirits all to pieces, and seldom laughs—the Lord save us!"

"They say!—who say, Alice?"

"Why," replied Alice, with a perceptible heightening of her color, "ahem! ahem! why, Dandy Dulcimer, miss."

"And where have you seen him? Dulcimer, I mean. He, I suppose, who used occasionally to play upon the instrument of that name in the Hall?" "Yes, ma'am, the same. Don't you remember how beautiful he played it the night we came in the coach to town?"

"I remember there was something very-unpleasant between him and a farmer, I believe; but I did not pay much attention to it at the time."

"I am sorry for that, miss, for I declare to goodness, Dandy's dulcimer isn't such an unpleasant instrument as you think; and, besides, he has got a new one the other day that plays lovely."

Lucy felt a good deal anxious to hear some further information from Alley upon the subject she had introduced, but saw that Dandy and his dulcimer were likely to be substituted for it, all unconscious as the poor girl was of the preference of the man to the master. "He looks ill, you say, Alice?"

"Never seen him look so rosy in my life, miss, nor in such spirits."

Lucy looked into her face, and for a moment's space one slight and feeble gleam, which no suffering could prevent, passed over it, at this intimation of the object which Alley's fancy then dwelt upon.

"He danced a hornpipe, miss, to the tune of the Swaggerin' Jig, upon the kitchen table," she proceeded; "and, sorra be off me, but it would do your heart good to see the springs he would give—every one o' them a yard high—and to hear how he'd crack his fingers as loud as the shot of a pistol."

A slight gloom overclouded Lucy's face; but, on looking at the artless transition from the honest sympathy which Alley had just felt for her to a sense of happiness which it was almost a crime to disturb, it almost instantly disappeared.


Dandy Dulcimer and Alley followed the example of their master and mistress, and were amply provided for by their friends, with whom they lived in confidential intimacy for the greater portion of their lives.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Miscellaneous links for Thursday's Clayville-Prairieland slow jam and song-learning session -- "Wild Mountain Thyme," "Hard Times" and our Advent playlist

Blast email sent out this evening to everyone on the Clayville-Prairieland Pioneer Academy of Music electronic mailing lists.

Somehow the third Thursday of the month came sneaking up on me when I wasn't looking. (OK, OK, it's because Oct. 1 fell on a Thursday. It happens every seven months or so, and I should have been looking out for it.) Anyway, our "third Thursday" Clayville-Prairieland slow jam and song learning session is this Thursday, Oct. 15, at our usual location, Atonement-Faith-Luther Memorial Church, 2800 West Jefferson. Same place, new name.

Rather than introduce a new tune this week, I'm linking you to to lyrics, guitar chords (in D), lead sheets and dulcimer tab for a couple of songs we've done in the past -- "Wild Mountain Thyme" and "Hard Times Come Again No More." I'm also linking to performances I found on YouTube that were posted from the BBC-4 television series "Transatlantic Sessions," that brought together roots musicians from Ireland, the UK and the US (especially Nashville) in 1996. Both performances are stunning.

And I'm posting links to dulcimer tab for our holiday performance. In the past, we have played at Atonement's Advent soup supper in December as our way of saying thanks for the use of the building, and I will keep you posted as plans develop for the new blended parish.

Lots of links this time -- you can either save this email message or go to my blog where I will copy this message and embed the videos at: [this location]!


At our last session, we decided on the music for our annual holiday performance. Links are to dulcimer tab w/ guitar chords available on line. But these songs are pretty standard, and the chords -- as always -- can be varied as you see fit. The songs are:

-- I Saw Three Ships --

-- Cherry Tree Carol --

-- What Child is This -- (in E minor, a key that dulcimers can play in DAD tuning).

-- Joy to the World --

-- Silent Night --

If you have other sheet music, I'm sure it will work just as well.


As performed by Dick Gaughan, Emmylou Harris, The McGarrigles and Rufus Wainwright on BBC-4's Transatlantic Sessions.

Mountain dulcimer tab. has three sets of tab. We want the one posted by RL Walker -- in DAD and DAA -- because it has lyrics and suggested guitar chords:

Lyrics and chords. This song is usually in G -- I don't know who could possibly sing it that high. Sopranos? Men who had had an unfortunate accident? -- but the website has it in D. When you go to print out a copy, click on "font size" a time or two (I did it three times) to enlarge it. Link here:


Kate & Anna McGarrigle and friends (Rufus Wainwright - son of Kate -, Emmylou Harris, Mary Black, Karen Matheson, Rod Paterson) perform Stephen Foster's Hard times come again no more during the Transatlantic sessions.

Shelley Stevens

Steve Smith

Guitar chords

Friday, October 09, 2015

"Bonnie Brown Girl" -- links and documentation

"My Pretty Fair Maid"

Also known as An Cailin Deasdonn, Óró Bog Liom Í, The Pretty Brown Girl.

Five settings in abc notation with PDF and MIDI files by user Caoimhin -- " am a fiddle player living in Springfield, Ohio. I am the founder and organizer of the Dayton Session as well as other various Irish Trad music events in the Dayton area." added tunes 12 to 2 years ago -- all are up-tempo similar to O'Neill's melody.

Documentation: Sean Williams of Evergreen State College in Washington state, who studied under storyteller Joe Heaney and knows a thing of two about Irish song traditions, says “The Pretty Brown Girl” is one of a number of “upbeat, somewhat salacious, Irish-language songs” in 6/8 time that deal with sex and love readily granted, in the context of humor.” (181-83).

Irish singers, Williams says in her introductory college textbook Focus: Irish Traditional Music, have an expression – “say a song, tell a story” (179). It means that “the important relationship between story and song cannot be overstated.” That’s true even with a confection like “The Pretty Brown Girl.”

Thursday, October 08, 2015

"Kiss My Lady" -- English country dance tune [?] in Black Baronet

Traditional Tune Archive has several notated variants at One, from Northamptonshire in ENgland, has this note: "Source: John Clare,Poet,Helpstone (1793-1864)Notes: A kissing dance with kissing in the first bar would give everyincentive for the tune to linger a little, as here. CGP.No TS in MS."

John Clare was a village fiddler in England, compiled 2 ms. books of fiddle tunes ... John Clare - poet and fiddler, 1793-1864

John Clare left behind him a fascinating insight into what it was like to be a village fiddler, in his poems, his writings and his tune collections. The first book contains 74 different tunes, some in different versions, while the second book is much more extensive.

Following our publication of both books of his fiddle tune collection, I shall gradually add notes on this page on some of the tunes as they emerge from my investigations. One aspect that has particularly grabbed me is the way very similar, or indeed identical, versions of his tunes appear in other manuscript tune books of the time - same key, same slurs, even same note groupings, and I have tried to locate the common ancestor - presumably a printed source. What is remarkable is the range of music represented in his collection: songs his parents sang, popular songs from operas, tunes he learnt from the various Gypsy families that camped near Helpstone, as well as country dances, jigs, reels, folk songs of the time as well as Scottish and Irish tunes.

Camel Music: Tony Urbainczyk was Head of Strings and Assistant Director of Music at Sherborne Girls from 2003 and retired (early!) from this post in August 2013, to branch out into more playing, private teaching and publishing. Rose Urbainczyk studied at Homerton College, Cambridge, and later morphed into a Technology teacher. She gained her MEd with the OU, made Tony a viola and is his No.1 fan.

John Clare bio at

John Clare (13 July 1793 – 20 May 1864) was an English poet, the son of a farm labourer, who came to be known for his celebratory representations of the English countryside and his lamentation of its disruption.[1] His poetry underwent a major re-evaluation in the late 20th century, and he is now often considered to be among the most important 19th-century poets.[2] His biographer Jonathan Bate states that Clare was "the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced. No one has ever written more powerfully of nature, of a rural childhood, and of the alienated and unstable self".[3]