Patriotic Country Music

Courtesy Wayne Glowka, notice of an interesting WWII-era country music song, Elton Britt, “There’s A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere.” I discover it’s popular enough to have its own Wikipedia entry. Lyrics, from Lyricsfreak:

There’s a star spangled banner waving somewhere
In a distant land so many miles away
Only Uncle Sam’s great heroes get to go there
Where I wish that I could live someday.

I see Lincoln, Custer, Washington, and Perry,
Nathan Hale and Collin Kelly too,
There’s a star spangled banner waving somewhere
Waving over the land of heroes brave and true.

In this war with its mad schemes and destructions,
Of our country fair and our sweet liberty
By the mad dictators, leaders of corruption,
Can’t the U.S. use a mountain boy like me?

God gave me the right to be a free American,
For that precious right I’d gladly die,
There’s a star spangled banner waving somewhere
Fhat is where I want to live when I die.

Though I realize I’m crippled, that is true sir,
Please don’t judge my courage by my twisted leg,
Let me show my Uncle Sam what I can do, sir,
Let me help to bring the Axis down a peg.

If I do some great deed, I will be a hero,
And a hero brave is what I want to be,
There’s a star spangled banner waving somewhere,
In that heaven there should be a place for me.

I love the references not only to Valhalla, but to the story of Ephialtes too. (Presumably the author would not betray America, though, even if he was still passed over for military service.)

Merry Christmas from First Floor Tarpley

Courtesy Tim Furnish, an article on a theme of mine:

Keep the X in X-Mas

The abbreviation offends 6 in 10 evangelicals, but its history is deeply Christian

Though the demand for “more Christ in Christmas” seems to be losing momentum, most evangelicals still believe the holiday—and its seasonal greetings—should more explicitly reference the Savior….

Over the years, LifeWay found the abbreviation “X-mas” to be just as controversial as “Happy holidays” or more, with 42 percent of Christians and 33 percent of Americans saying it was offensive in this year’s survey.

Nearly 6 in 10 of those with evangelical beliefs (59%) find the use of “X-mas” instead of Christmas offensive.

The great irony in the distaste for the term “X-mas” is that it is thoroughly Christian, rather than an effort to remove the word Christ from the holiday.

The “X” in X-mas is not really an “X” at all. It’s chi, the Greek letter at the start of the word Christ, or Christos (Χριστός). Since the earliest era of political Christendom, “X” has been used as a shorthand for Christ, as LifeWay’s own Facts & Trends pointed out.

Constantine, the first emperor to convert to Christianity and whose Edict of Milan sought to free Christians from persecution, instructed his soldiers to inscribe the letter on their shields before the landmark Battle of Milvian Bridge. The chi “X” was paired with “P,” representing the Greek letter rho, the first two letters of and a signifier for the name Christ. Legend has it, the chi rho symbol came to Constantine in a vision.

Using “X” as an abbreviation for Christ is also thought to have appeared in many Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.

Even incorporating “X” into an English-language abbreviation for Christmas dates back a millennium. In the year 1021, an Anglo-Saxon scribe condensed Christmas to “XPmas,” and eventually the “P” was dropped to shorten the term even further, First Things noted.

According to the Christian Research Institute, the church was substituting “Christ” with “X” in the middle of the fifteenth century to save space and money when using newly invented printing presses, and Webster’s dictionary recognizes “X-mas” as a common term by the sixteenth century….

“People seem to express chagrin about seeing Christ’s name dropped and replaced by this symbol for an unknown quantity X. Every year you see the signs and the bumper stickers saying, ‘Put Christ back into Christmas’ as a response to this substitution of the letter X for the name of Christ,” he said.

“There’s a long and sacred history of the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ, and from its origin, it has meant no disrespect.”

And from a while back now, a blog post from writer Blair Thornburgh on Christmas carols, with which I heartily agree:

I love Christmas carols. HOWEVER: I do NOT love what most of the idiot world considers to be a Christmas carol. Songs about sleighs, Santa, sugarplums, etc., are NOT carols, they are garbage that deserves to rot on the side of the street like so much crumpled wrapping paper.

No, the truly best Christmas carols fall into at least one of the following categories:

1. Songs in Latin
2. Songs about food
3. Songs about Hell and/or avoidance thereof
4. Songs about decidedly non-canonical adventures of Jesus, Mary, and/or Joseph
5. Songs that use the word “flesh”
6. Good King Wenceslas

Bonus points are awarded if the song was clearly hastily Christianized with a few macaronic verses or if it sounds good played on the bagpipe.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman

This is the only mainstream Christmas carol that mentions Satan, and IN THE FIRST VERSE, no less. (It was also my favorite as a kid for this self-same reason.) This is metal as heck.

The Holly and the Ivy

Two plants get uppity about which is better; also, Jesus was born. This carol gets major points for terrible rhymes (blood/good, grown/crown) which as we all know is a favorite territory of mine. I also like to think that this carol is directly responsible for the absence of ivy from conventional Christmas decorations.

The Cherry Tree Carol

If you do not know the lyrics to this one, go look them up, for verily they are BONKERS. A preggo Mary is wandering around and sees a bunch of delicious cherries growing on a tree. Being incapacitated due to her expectatory state, she asks Joseph to pick some for her, but he’s like “eh, why don’t you let the FATHER OF YOUR CHILD pick them” and then Jesus FROM INSIDE THE WOMB commands the tree to reach its branches down to Mary. I’m about 70% sure this didn’t actually happen in the Bible, but it probably should have.

In the Bleak Midwinter

This one is actually really annoying and smarmy (obviously, the lyrics are by Christina Rossetti) but it DOES contain the titillating phrase “a BREAST full of MIIIIILK” at which I challenge not to snort when the tenor soloist sings it plangently. (Tenors are always singing plangently.)

More at the link. Merry Christmas everybody!

The Irish in America

The Wikipedia category “Irish emigrants to the United States (before 1923)” contains some 872 entries – that is, people notable enough to merit a Wikipedia article. This is really quite remarkable. Two of them have recently been brought to my attention, and deserve to be better known. From Wikipedia:

Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore (1829-1892) was an Irish-born American composer  and bandmaster who lived and worked in the United States after 1848. Whilst serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, Gilmore wrote the lyrics to the song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” This was published under the pseudonym Louis Lambert in September 1863…

In many ways Gilmore can be seen as the principal figure in 19th-century American music. He was a composer, and the “Famous 22nd Regiment March” from 1874 is just one example of his work. He held the first “Promenade Concert in America” in 1855, the forerunner to today’s Boston Pops. He set up “Gilmore’s Concert Garden”, which became Madison Square Garden. He was the Musical Director of the Nation in effect, leading the festivities for the 1876 Centennial celebrations in Philadelphia and the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in 1886.

Ron Good adds (having heard RTE’s P.S. Gilmore: Ireland’s First Superstar):

He made adjustments to the inclusion of instruments in bands (i.e. the addition of woodwinds) which resulted what we know today as concert bands. He also used anvils specially made in England which gave off sparks when struck with the hammers of dozens of faux blacksmiths.  Also used artillery pieces to add excitement.

Also from Wikipedia, we have notice of:

Thomas Francis Meagher (“Marr”; 1823-1867) was an Irish nationalist and leader of the Young Irelanders in the Rebellion of 1848. After being convicted of sedition, he was first sentenced to death, but received transportation for life to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) in Australia.

In 1852 he escaped and made his way to the United States, where he settled in New York City. He studied law, worked as a journalist, and traveled to present lectures on the Irish cause. He married for a second time in New York. At the beginning of the American Civil War, Meagher joined the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of brigadier general. He was most notable for recruiting and leading the Irish Brigade, and encouraging support among Irish immigrants for the Union. By his first marriage in Ireland, he had one surviving son; the two never met.

Following the Civil War, Meagher was appointed acting governor of the Montana Territory. In 1867, Meagher drowned in the swift-running Missouri River after falling from a steamboat at Fort Benton.

What a fascinating character.

O Canada

Watching the opening ceremonies of a Toronto Maple Leafs game last night reminded me of something that might end up being Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s most lasting legacy: a slight change in the lyrics of the Canadian national anthem to make it less sexist. The second line used to be “True patriot love in all thy sons command”; as of February of this year it is “True patriot love in all of us command.” I don’t have anything against this change on principle, although the new version is less poetic and will take some getting used to.

But I’m sure I will get used to it, because this is not the first time that such change has occurred. The English lyrics to “O Canada” were only officially standardized in 1980, when I was in grade four. Prior to that time there were a number of versions sung throughout the land. The one we sang went like this:

O Canada! Our home and native land
True patriot love in all thy sons command
With glowing hearts we see thee rise
The true north strong and free
And stand on guard, O Canada
We stand on guard for thee
O Canada, glorious and free
We stand on guard, we stand on guard for thee
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee

The version sung by Roger Doucet prior to Montreal Canadiens’ games featured “We stand on guard for rights and liberty” as the penultimate line. We would sometimes sing this at school to show what great hockey fans we were.

The version unveiled in 1980 goes like this. Changes are boldfaced.

O Canada! Our home and native land
True patriot love in all thy sons command
With glowing hearts we see thee rise
The true north strong and free
From far and wide, O Canada
We stand on guard for thee
God keep our land glorious and free
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee

This version is better insofar as it has fewer redundancies, but by introducing a reference to “God,” it guaranteed resentment in certain quarters. And although they’ve dropped “all thy sons,” we still have the word “native,” which is now claimed as exclusive property by Canada’s First Nations people – and is alienating to immigrants anyway. So the national anthem is still slightly dodgy.

Still, though – “True patriot love“! “With glowing hearts“! “True north strong and free“! “Stand on guard for thee“! These expressions have entered the Canadian vernacular and echo down the years. I wipe away a tear just contemplating them.

But there is a further detail that needs to be mentioned. As you may be aware, Canada is officially bilingual, with a full quarter of its population speaking French as its native tongue. This is the Fundamental Divide in Canadian politics and society. The original lyrics to “O Canada” were composed in French, for a Francophone holiday – la fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste – in 1880. English lyrics were published in 1906, and the song eventually became the de facto Canadian national anthem (I guess the centennial of the song in 1980 prompted the government to make it official). So it turns out that, like the beaver and the maple leaf, the national anthem was a Francophone thing that the Anglos simply appropriated, forcing the Québécois to find substitutes (the fleur de lys and “Gens du pays” come to mind).

The fact that the original French lyrics of “O Canada” were not translated directly into English is supposedly symbolic of how divided the country is. Here is what the French lyrics mean:

O Canada! Land of our ancestors
Your head is crowned with glorious jewels
Because your arm knows how to carry the sword
It knows how to carry the cross
Your history is an epic
Of the most brilliant exploits
And your valor, steeped in faith
Will protect our hearths and our rights
Will protect our hearths and our rights

These lyrics really illustrate the song’s Francophone origin. You can see the Catholic (cross, faith) and ethnic-nationalist (ancestors, hearths) content in it – whereas the English is a little more deist and geographical.

But I do think that national symbols (anthems, flags, etc.) should actually be saved for when national teams play other national teams, and shouldn’t appear before mere professional games.

The Temple Church

After our Irish trip, I spent some time in London with my family. I had visited London many times before, and even lived there on a couple of occasions. But for all the time I’ve spent in that great city, I had never visited the Temple Church until now. It is in the (square-mile, capital-C) City of London, between Fleet Street and the River Thames. It dates from the late twelfth century and it was once the London church of the Knights Templar until that order was dissolved by Pope Clement V in 1312. 

Outside the church, a monument to its original owners: a sculpture of two knights riding a single horse, taken from the Templar seal.

What really marks this church as Templar, however, is its shape. The order derived its name from the Temple of Solomon, the site of which has been occupied since the seventh century by the Dome of the Rock, and in reference to this “Temple,” most Templar churches were round.

I do not know how the round church functioned liturgically, however, and as can be seen from this scanned postcard, a longer, rectangular chancel was added to the original building some time later (note the difference in arches – romanesque to the left, gothic to the right).

The round part does hold the grave of a famous occupant: William Marshal, a powerful political figure of the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, who acted as regent for England for the first three years (1216-19) of the reign of the young King Henry III. Throughout his career he admired and supported the Templars and took membership vows on his deathbed, thus his burial here and not (say) in Westminster Abbey. 

Here is an interior view of the chancel looking toward the east (which had to be reconstructed after serious damage sustained during the Blitz).

A close-up of the altar, with its decidedly post-medieval reredos, featuring classical detailing and the Protestant emblems of the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer.

The altar frontal features two coats of arms, one comprising a cross of St. George with a golden Agnus Dei at the fess point, and the other a white pegasus on a blue field. These are the arms of the Middle Temple and the Inner Temple respectively, which are two of the four Inns of Court, professional associations for barristers in England (the other two are Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn).

Composite coat of arms of the Inns of Court: 1. Lincoln’s Inn 2. Middle Temple 3. Inner Temple 4. Gray’s Inn. Wikipedia.

Following the dissolution of the Templars in 1312, King Edward II granted the site to the other major crusading order, the Knights of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, i.e. the “Hospitallers.” They in turn leased it to two colleges of lawyers, which evolved into the Inner Temple and Middle Temple, named after the grounds they occupied (did the Hospitallers themselves occupy the “Outer Temple”?). King Henry VIII, in turn, dissolved the English chapter of the Hospitallers in 1540, and in 1608 King James I granted the church to the lawyers on a permanent basis, on the condition that they maintain it. This they have done ever since.

This is a device used by the church, showing both the Agnus Dei and the Pegasus, separated by a musical staff (in medieval notation), in honor of the musical tradition at the Temple Church.

Of course, following the appearance of the Temple Church in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, it has become rather popular with a certain type of tourist, and the church sells a pamphlet addressing the issues raised by the book. But I was far more interested in their display about Magna Carta.

Hymns

From Ponder Anew, a blog on Patheos (via my friend Bill Campbell):

No, the melodies of our beloved hymns weren’t borrowed from drinking songs, bar tunes, and tavern music. I’ve had about ten comments on my blog posts this week alone trying to use the bar song myth as their smoking gun in the case for commercial worship. It’s an argument many love to make, but it didn’t happen.

Those most often implicated in this myth are Martin Luther and the Wesleys. Luther did use German Bar form, a musical style in an AAB pattern having nothing to do with the suds. There is no indication John John and Charlie ever suggested such a thing, and knowing their position on imbibing and the importance placed on proper text/tune pairing, it’s unlikely the would have even considered the idea. Tunes were occasionally borrowed from existing folk songs, but they weren’t simply extracted from whatever people were singing at the local watering hole and paired with jesusy poetry. And even if they were, it was not, as commercial worship apologists are wont to say, in an effort to borrow from culture for the purpose of evangelism or getting butts on the stools…er…in the pews.

This rumor has been thoroughly debunked by both scholars and laypeople. So why do people still believe it? I’m not entirely sure, but it seems like the “Grassy Knoll” theory of Christian hymnody. There’s no evidence for it, but dang it, it’s just more interesting than the truth.

Irresponsible? Yes, absolutely.

Difficult to suppress? You bet.

Some Twitter exchanges promoting the idea follow.

Paul is Dead!

Like the Satanic Panic noted below, another rumor I recall learning about in the 1980s (although its origins were earlier, of couse), was the notion that Paul McCartney, bassist and lead singer for the rock band The Beatles, had died and was replaced by a lookalike named Billy Shears from Ontario, Canada, who had been given additional plastic surgery and voice training so that he was indistinguisable from the original Paul. You could search for clues explaining this situation in the Beatles’ song lyrics and on the covers of their albums. A newly-made friend in junior high school expanded my universe by explaining some of them to me; I was no longer in grade school, for sure.

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ seminal album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band, here is an image of the gatefold picture, featuring all four Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper’s uniforms – and one of the clues:

Wikipedia.

The patch on Paul’s left shoulder, I’ve read in several places, reads “O.P.D.” – allegedly a Canadian abbreviation for “Officially Pronounced Dead.” But it in fact reads “O.P.P.” and is the shoulder flash of the Ontario Provincial Police.

Wikipedia.

The patch, according to Wikipedia, had been “given to John Lennon the day after their 1966 concert in Toronto by a summer student working in the garage of the OPP Headquarters (The group was being transferred to a police van for the trip to the airport).”

But the Ontario origins of the patch doubtlessly contributed to the notion that Paul’s replacement was from that particuar Canadian province.

Le Sacre du Printemps

It’s over three years old now, but I missed it at the time: a significant anniversary noticed in The Verge:

100 years ago today, ‘The Rite of Spring’ incited a riot in a Paris theater

It began with a bassoon and ended in a brawl.

One hundred years ago today, Russian composer Igor Stravinsky debuted The Rite of Spring before a packed theater in Paris, with a ballet performance that would go down as one of the most important — and violent — in modern history.

Today, The Rite is widely regarded as a seminal work of modernism — a frenetic, jagged orchestral ballet that boldly rejected the ordered harmonies and comfort of traditional composition. The piece would go on to leave an indelible mark on jazz, minimalism, and other contemporary movements, but to many who saw it on that balmy evening a century ago, it was nothing short of scandalous.

Details surrounding the events of May 29th, 1913 remain hazy. Official records are scarce, and most of what is known is based on eyewitness accounts or newspaper reports. To this day, experts debate over what exactly sparked the incident — was it music or dance? publicity stunt or social warfare? — though most agree on at least one thing: Stravinsky’s grand debut ended in mayhem and chaos.

The tumult began not long after the ballet’s opening notes — a meandering and eerily high-pitched bassoon solo that elicited laughter and derision from many in the audience. The jeers became louder as the orchestra progressed into more cacophonous territory, with its pounding percussion and jarring rhythms escalating in tandem with the tensions inside the recently opened Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.

Things reached a near-fever pitch by the time the dancers took the stage, under the direction of famed choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky of the Ballets Russes. Dressed in whimsical costumes, the dancers performed bizarre and violent moves, eschewing grace and fluidity for convulsive jerks that mirrored the work’s strange narrative of pagan sacrifice. Onstage in Paris, the crowd’s catcalls became so loud that the ballerinas could no longer hear the orchestra, forcing Nijinsky to shout out commands from backstage.

A scuffle eventually broke out between two factions in the audience, and the orchestra soon found itself under siege, as angry Parisians hurled vegetables and other objects toward the stage. It’s not clear whether the police were ever dispatched to the theater, though 40 people were reportedly ejected. Remarkably, the performance continued to completion, though the fallout was swift and brutal.

More at the link and, if you’re interested, in Modris Eksteins’s wonderful book Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age (1989).

New Student Induction Ceremony

Last evening the New Student Induction Ceremony took place in the Falany Performing Arts Center here at Reinhardt. I always like this one: it is a serious occasion, but a good vibe tends to prevail. Students take the Reinhardt Honor Pledge, and sign a large poster of it, which gets hung in the Lawson-Tarpley atrium. For the record, here it is:

Honor_Code

I believe in this, and not just because I was on the committee that devised it some twelve years ago now. I cannot claim that I have never indulged in cynicism or irony, but there are times for moral exhortation and aspiration, and I am glad that we sponsor this one.

We also sang the University Anthem, which was unveiled at Dr. Mallard’s inauguration last year. The original music is by Ken Berg, and the lyrics by Michael Berg and Reinhardt’s VPAA Mark Roberts:

1
Reinhardt, Reinhardt, O place of honor!
Beacon of learning may you shine
Through all the days of your sons and daughters
Guiding in wisdom throughout our lives.

Chorus
Reinhardt, Reinhardt,
May you be strong and bold,
Reinhardt, Reinhardt
We sing to the blue and gold.

2
By your lead and faith enabled
To take flight as one whole heart.
Finding within our learning passion
Purer science, deeper art.

Chorus

This I also like – it certainly compares very favorably to Reinhardt’s Alma Mater.

After the ceremony, all students got on the stage for a group photograph, taken by Jeff Reed ’16, who has been hired as the University Photographer this year.