Arimathea
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In Greek mythology, the muses were the daughters of Zeus the king of the gods and Mnemosyne the goddess of memory. The muses inspired men to create what we commonly call the fine arts. In this digital realm, you will find music of both high and low culture, from literature to the visual arts to what we narrowly call music in English. Enjoy and be grateful for being human; for the muses have richly blessed our race.
Sunday, December 28, A.D. 2008
Coventry Carol for the Holy Innocents

Here is another English carol for you folks on the Roman calendar, where the feast of the Holy Innocents falls on December 28. The Orthodox Church remembers the children slain by Herod on December 29 (currently January 11 on the Gregorian calendar). Evidently, the “Coventry Carol” was part of a series of English mystery plays—the Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors.

The lyrics are . . .

Lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child.
By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters, too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day;
This poor Youngling for whom we sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Herod the King, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day;
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young, to slay.

Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For Thy parting, nor say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Regardless of when you remember the holy innocents, keep in mind the slain children of today. Human sin, avarice, and selfishness are still at work, and the weak and defenseless are ever their victims. In a related story, read about a surprising move by the Latin diocese of Buffalo that opened a chapel dedicated to the Holy Innocents in a former abortion facility.

Posted by Joseph on Sunday, December 28, Anno Domini 2008
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Tuesday, December 23, A.D. 2008
Adestes Fideles

A standard carol that I have always loved is “Adestes Fideles” both in Latin and in English.

Enjoy the carols, and remember to celebrate Christmas for the whole season. Festivities should begin, not end, on the Feast of the Nativity.

Speaking of which, I found this odd article in an odd place: “How to Avoid Christmas Depression: The Eastern Orthodox Nativity Fast May Prevent Post-Holiday Blues” at a site’s “Alternative Religions” corner. It is nice to know that we are alternative. Retro alternative, I suppose.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, December 23, Anno Domini 2008
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Monday, December 22, A.D. 2008
American Carols

I like several American carols, but perhaps my favorite is “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Noël Regney was born in Alsace, but he moved to the U.S.A. and his co-writer wife Gloria Shayne Baker was an American. Here is Bing Crosby’s version:

Naturally, I also like “White Christmas”—though Irving Berlin was born in Russia. Here is Crosby, again, with Marjorie Reynolds in Holiday Inn:

My favorite Christmas pop in general has to be from the Carpenters. Their Christmas works are wonderfully American—simple, fun, and sincere—with that necessary dose of a bit too much sentimentality. The Europeans and classicists hate us for it, but it is who we are. Besides, I love Karen Carpenter’s voice. Unfortunately, I could not find any good videos of the Carpenters’ Christmas specials from the 1970’s.

For a Christmas pop single, I think that John Lennon’s rather pacifistically deluded but nonetheless endearing and catchy “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” stands above the rest:

Coming from an Elvis-loving household, I always heard “Blue Christmas” every year during the holidays, and I eventually came to like it:

Merry Christmas!

Posted by Joseph on Monday, December 22, Anno Domini 2008
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Sunday, December 21, A.D. 2008
The Holly and the Ivy

Another of my favorite English carols is “The Holly and the Ivy”—the roots of which reach pagan times. Here is King’s College Chapel, Cambridge:

[The original but now defunct video was of Winchester Cathedral.] Like most English cathedrals, Winchester Cathedral is quite lovely. Jane Austen is buried there.

The lyrics are . . .

The holly and the ivy,
Now both are full well grown.
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.

Oh, the rising of the sun,
The running of the deer.
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the quire.

The holly bears a blossom
As white as lily flower;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our sweet Savior.

The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good.

The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas day in the morn.

The holly bears a bark
As bitter as any gall;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all.

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.

The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

Posted by Joseph on Sunday, December 21, Anno Domini 2008
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Saturday, December 20, A.D. 2008
Once in Royal David’s City

When I was studying at the Sorbonne, I frequently had bouts of homesickness, which I would treat in various ways. Sometimes, I would go to see an American film in the original language at the cinema; at other times, I would stroll past an American establishment, like the American Embassy. I even took trips to La Défense to surround myself with the lifeless forms of modern architecture, which reminded me of American cities. Yes, the dog returns to its vomit.

My cultural nostalgia even prompted me sometimes to visit an English-speaking Protestant church in Paris—the American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. I was there once for a Christmas concert when I heard the Anglican carol, “Once in Royal David’s City.” Though I had never heard it before, I immediately fell in love with it.

Though confused about so many things, you have to credit the Anglicans with a great sense of style. A discontinued video that I had posted earlier featured Saint George’s Chapel, in Windsor, England. My brother Adam and I attended an evensong service there once in the choir (quire). It was clearly the most beautiful Protestant service that I have ever attended. It must have struck Adam, as well, as he told me afterward that he had never witnessed a mass so beautiful.

Adam had not experienced many French masses, though. I think that while the English have the loveliest Protestant services, the French perform mass in the most solemn, beautiful manner. As far as Orthodoxy is concerned, some might charge me with phyletism when I, without hesitation, claim that the Russians worship the best. Well, they do . . .

(The replacement video is from the Chapel at King’s College in Cambridge. Adam and I visited it, as well, and we loved Cambridge.)

Posted by Joseph on Saturday, December 20, Anno Domini 2008
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Monday, December 8, A.D. 2008
Guess Who

One of my favorite rock bands is also perhaps the most under appreciated group in popular music—The Guess Who. Perhaps they were dogged by being Canadian, which is no slight disadvantage in life, or perhaps people got them confused with Britain’s rebellious superstar band, The Who. Maybe, Randy Bachman took all the fame to B.T.O. Regardless, they have not garnered the acclaim that they deserve.

As with many bands, I do not have a favorite song by them, though “Laughing” is a fine ditty.

I like Burton Cumming’s voice, as well as the group’s harmonization.

The Guess Who’s most well known hit is either “These Eyes”:

Or “American Woman”:

For the less charitable, there is “No Time”:

It’s misanthropic, but I find it rather catchy. The fan video is annoying, as they almost always are.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, December 8, Anno Domini 2008
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