Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent 2014

Grant unto us, O Lord, we beseech thee: so to wait for thy loving-kindness in the midst of thy temple; that in readiness of heart and mind we may hail the coming feast of our redemption.
Post-Communion Prayer - Advent I
Saram Rite Anglican Missal
Today is the First Sunday in Advent, that period when in many Christian church preparations are made spiritually for the coming Christmastide.  A minor penitential period, it is meant as a time of reflection and mediation - and also as a build up to the second greatest feast of the Christian calendar.  The readings, introits, graduals, prayers and hymns all point to the coming birth and the redemptive nature of that birth.  I have written in the past about both the religious tradition of the Advent Wreath and the more secular Advent Calendar that are connected with the season of Adventtide.

Once again I'm lighting my virtual Advent Wreath and as I did last year including an Advent Carol to mark the day.  In other posts I have spoken of the tendency to think of carols as being a Christmastide form but they were originally intended for use outside the church - in processions or even dances to celebrate the various joyous feasts of the Church calendar. 

Given that so many of the Christian Advent traditions stem from the Lutheran church it is seems appropriate to begin the season with an old Lutheran carol.

A memorial to Frans Michael Franzén,
poet and clergyman, in his hometown of
Oulu, Finland.  
Set to an old Swedish folk melody that dates circa 1560, Prepare the Royal Highway (Bereden väg för Herran) was written by Frans Michael Franzén, a Swedish-Finnish Lutheran clergyman, teacher and poet.  A member of the Swedish Academy and one time Bishop of Härnösand, he provided the lyrics for some twenty or more hymns in the Swedish Lutheran hymn book.

The tune  first appeared in Swenska Psalmboken a hymnal published in Stockholm in 1697; Franzén's lyrics were added in the 1812 edition.  It became a favourite and has appeared in almost every Lutheran hymn book since.  It appears that the original 6/8 meter was considered too secular at one point and it was changed to 4/4 in many Lutheran publications, including as I understand it, the Lutheran Service Book published in 2006*.  Fortunately more recent practice - including this arrangement with a tambourine by Timothy Shaw - has returned it to its joyful dance-like origins - more befitting of a true carol.


As well as the wreath and carols a tradition of my virtual observance of the season for the past seven years has been to open a window on my friend Larry's Advent Calendar.  In previous years he has revealed the often hidden sights of Rome, his adopted city - doors, windows, fountains, angels.  This year he's opening the stable door, as it where.  A left click on the picture below will take your directly to his Advent Calendar for 2014.

I'll be posting a link on my sidebar so that should you wish you may join me in opening another window each day leading up to December 25th.

The design for my Advent wreath was adapted from an icon on the website of the Convent van Betlehem in the Netherlands.  The sisters have been a presence in Duffel since they took refuge there during the religious wars in the 1600s.  Unfortunately I've not been able to find out much about the order in English but their history looks to be a fascinating one and I must try and do some research at a later date.

November 30 - 1786: The Grand Duchy of Tuscany, under Pietro Leopoldo I, becomes the first modern state to abolish the death penalty (later commemorated as Cities for Life Day).

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Santa Claus is Coming to Town 1953 - V

As mentioned in previous year's the Eaton's parade was a Christmas highlight in Toronto, Winnpeg and Montreal.  Winnipeg had their own stock of floats and costumes but the Monday after the Toronto parade (Sunday was a day of rest at Eaton's)  flatbed and freight cars were loaded and the entire parade was taken by rail to Montreal.  After FLQ bomb threats in 1969 Eaton's cancelled the Montreal parade citing security concerns.  It was another 27 years before Santa would be seen riding down rue Sainte Catherine but in 1995 local business people revived the tradition.  The parade is now in it's twentieth consecutive year and as popular as ever.

Seven years before Lindbergh landed in Paris Eaton's Santa Claus made the trip from the North Pole to Toronto's Leaside Areodrome on Eglinton Avenue in the far north-west of the city.   The air field  had been used for fighter pilot training but by 1919 was serving more commercial purposes.  That was also the year of the never to be repeated lions versus horses debacle.  In future parades Santa would ride over rooftops but only in in a sleigh with eight tiny reindeer.
Sainte Catherine Street West
Sainte Catherine Street West

This year's colouring book has brought out some tidbits from friends who recall those glorious parades of yore.  Judy - who you may remember appeared in many of the parades - remembers having a tête-à-tête with Santa behind the scenes before he mounted his throne in Toyland.  And Vicki tells me that her husband's Great Uncle not only worked on the floats as a carpenter but one year was one of the two Santas in the parade.

Two Santas?  Yes there were always two Santas - the one we saw cheerily waving at us and wishing us a Merry Christmas and another hidden in a car that followed behind with blacked out windows.  I guess they had learned from Miracle on 34th Street to always have a jolly old man in reserve.  I wonder just how they would have made the switch?

The moment we all had waited for - oh sure seeing Punkinhead, Cinderella and Mother Goose had been a pretty big deal but Santa!  Now that was the real thing!  That's why we had lined up in the early hours of the morning to get a good curb seat and endured the cold, sometimes snow and once the rain.   Christmas had now begun.

And it was off to Toyland - to the little railway that took you through a magic forest, the fish pond, a glimpse into Punkinhead's den and finally snaking through the candy cane ropes to meet up with the big man himself.  A few whispered words, an assurance that all would be well and a reminder to tune in to CFRB and it was over for another year.  Time to head over to Diana Sweets for a hot chocolate and a sticky bun.

The Archives of Ontario have the 1953 Parade on video - just in case you want to see how you're colouring scheme compared to the real one.  I always thought the icy floats looked better crayoned pink or blue - even at 7 I had the soul of an artiste.

November 27 - 1895: At the Swedish–Norwegian Club in Paris, Alfred Nobel signs his last will and testament, setting aside his estate to establish the Nobel Prize.

Happy Thanksgiving

to all my American family and friends.

November 27 - 1835: James Pratt and John Smith are hanged in London; they are the last two to be executed for sodomy in England.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mercoledi Musciale

It's often mere serendipity that sends us off on wild goose chases in the Celtic knot that is the Internet.  And such is the case with this lovely version of an oft performed favourite of the Irish diaspora, Oh Danny Boy.   My friend Richard drew my attention to it and remarked on the sensitive singing of John Brancy and the lovely piano accompaniment by Peter Dugan

Of course this led to me searching the origins of this most Irish of ditties - only to find that the lyrics were penned by an Englishman and a lawyer to boot!  Though his profession was that of a barrister Frederic Weatherly's legacy is the over 3000 lyrics he wrote for hymns, ballads and popular songs.  His first success was in 1892 with The Holy City - a much beloved anthem that I recall singing in my boy soprano days.   Weatherly was also the lyricist for many popular songs during the First Great War including the lovely Roses of Picady.

When Weatherly first penned the lyrics of Danny Boy in 1910 it was set to a melody other than the familiar Londonderry Air.   It was only after he had been sent a copy of the Irish folk melody by his sister-in-law Margaret, Irish-born but residing in the United States, that he adapted the lyrics to fit the familiar melody's meter.

The melody of what is now called The Londonderry Air has been used in many forms - folk song, hymns, pop and love songs.  It's appeared in symphonic suites, movie scores, cartoons and, I'm told, a video game.  The originals have been much discussed and are briefly outlined in the Wikipedia entry and more exhaustively in Brian Audley's study for the Royal Music Association.

Whatever it's origins it still can bring a lump to the throat particularly when sung and played so beautifully as it is here.

As a side note Mr Brancy will be singing Figaro in the Marriage of said character here in Ottawa with Opera Lyra in March.

November 26 - 2004: The last Poʻouli (Black-faced honeycreeper) dies of avian malaria in the Maui Bird Conservation Center in Olinda, Hawaii, making the species in all probability extinct.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Santa Claus is Coming to Town 1953 - IV

Leafing through the pages of the parade and comparing them to  a few clips of this year's parade I wonder if children would even know this nursery rhyme?  The theories (yes there are entire books of the meaning behind various childhood rhymes) about who the lady is are many - Good Queen Bess? Lady Godiva? a local Banburian beauty? - an in some versions she becomes an old lady or has even had gender-realignment and is Young Johnny or Tommy.  I remember this was the little song that accompanied many a leg-horsy ride when I was a tot.

My friend Judy tells me she was a participant in the parade for ten years starting in the 1952 parade. She says " (I) gradually worked my way up from a little kid sitting on a float, to walking for miles (usually with something outlandish on my head) to the 'crowning' glory of bring one of the major characters with a huge skirt and tiara."  So she was one of those lucky kids I was so envious of!!

Though she didn't show up in the 1953 Colouring Book, Mother Goose has appeared in more parades than any other fairy tale character.  Her first appearance was in 1917; the huge goose float that she first road on in 1930 was used for the next thirty years.  Each year the goose would get a fresh colour of paint - some years white, others pink, blue or yellow.
Despite a depression and two world wars the parade was an annual event - perhaps more needed in those dark times than any other.  In 1930 CFRB began to broadcast daily progress updates tracing Santa's progress from the North Pole to Toronto - culminating in a vivid description festive march on the big arrival day itself.  It was a bright break in a time when news was anything but.

With Cinderella riding in a sparkling slipper this year there was no point in letting a perfectly good pumpkin go to waste.  A fresh coat of paint, new livery for the horses and Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater and his wife had an almost new way of getting down the parade route.  Ingenious solutions and recycling was nothing new for the parade craftspeople - after the imposition of rationing during the Second World War they had resorted to making new costumes out of paper.

Just a few more pages left to colour until the main event of the day:  Santa arrives!

November 25 - 1120: The White Ship sinks in the English Channel, drowning William Adelin, son and heir of Henry I of England.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lunedi Lunacy

I'm not sure how I missed this one. Disney meets Kander and Ebb? Well why not?

November 24 - 1815: Grace Darling, a lighthouse keeper's daughter who was to become  a national heroine in Great Britain is born.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Santa Claus Comes to Town 1953 - III

Every year there were surprises - new floats, new clowns (though the handwalkers were always my favourtes - how did they do it all that way?) but there were certain givens. I mean you just knew that Cinderella would be in the parade; last year she was in her pumpkin coach so there was a bit of a surprise this year she arrived perched on her slipper - and this was long before Priscilla Queen of the Desert!

From that one wagon with Santa and all the little Eatons in 1905 the parade has expanded to over 25 animated floats.  That handful of Eaton's employees (proudly declaring themselves Eatonians) in those first years has grown to a total of 2000 marchers - all volunteers.  Many are children from Toronto schools who don't seem to mind the early morning start or, in some years, the cold Canadian weather.  And the parade route has gradually expanded and now is over 6 kilometers long they have a bit of a way to go before they match that 48 kilometer, two day march from Newmarket to Union Station in the early 1900s.

Horse or man power were the main methods of propelling the floats through the city streets in those early years - it must have appeared a trifle strange to have the eight reindeer pulled along by a team of horses but then suspension of disbelief is always important at Christmas.  In 1919 the handlers for the team pulling Santa's float were dressed as lions - unfortunately this spooked the horses and they had to jettison the elaborate costumes.

When I was a young 'un the floats were pulled by bright red tractors proudly bearing the name of Massey Ferguson - the premiere maker of farm equipment in Canada.  Today the website proclaims that KIA is the official vehicle of the parade and some very sleek mini-SUVs pull the floats. 

Though traditionally the floats featured nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters any theme from childhood was fair game for the creative design teams that worked on the parade.  Many of today's floats have a more commercial aspect and may feature Barbie, Ronald McDonald and even Swarovski crystal.

And turning the pages leads us to the next colourful floats ....

November 22 - 1935:  The China Clipper, the first plane to offer commercial transpacific air service, takes off from Alameda, California, for its first commercial flight. It reaches its destination, Manila, a week later.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Santa Claus Comes to Town - 1953 - Part II

In November 2012 I did get as far as this in the colouring book - hey I'm not a very fast reader okay! 

I've been a little late in getting to work on my Santa Claus colouring book but I've had a bit of a time finding a good old fashioned box of crayons. These days they have colours like Fairy Princess Blue and Little Girl Pink - I mean come on guys I want a box of crayons not clothes from the GAP!!!!

But here I am, crayons at the ready - let the parade begin!

I seem to recall that the parade always began with the Toronto Police Band - not a Metro entity in those days - playing "Jingle Bells". On can only think that after 2 hours of that cheerful little ditty that a dash to the Pilot Tavern was more favoured than dashing through any snow.

First appearing in the Toronto Parade in 1947 Punkinhead became a fixture for the next two decades.  He was the creation of Charles Thorson, one of the early Disney animators, who hailed from Winnipeg.  Thorson created Bugs Bunny amongst other famous cartoon characters, Patricia Atchison tells us the origins of the wool-haired bear and his colourful creator.  Note that even back then the marketing people were busy and any true bloody Canadian kid has hounded their parents into buying them a Punkinhead doll, watch, puppet, bedside lamp or, for the real die-hard Punkinhead aficionado, PJs.   As I recall the books were often free as gifts at the Punkinhead Fish Pond or as you disembarked from the Punkinhead Express that took you on a tour of Toyland.

One can only hope that the mermaids, mermen and good King Nepture himself were all well insulated under their scales and tails.  Taking into consideration the cold that could hit the Queen's City in the middle of November the costumes were made one size larger so that they could be worn over warm winter woolies.

The children of Eaton's employees and students selected from various schools appeared on the floats as flowers, fairies, elves and Snow White's seven.  If you appeared in the parade you had to endure fittings, some rehearsing and showing up at the Christie Pits marshaling area at 0630 on parade morning.   Over the years thousands of children were more than happy to do exactly that for the honour of welcoming Santa to town.

So let's flip the pages and see who shows up next.

November 21 - 1386: Timur of Samarkand captures and sacks the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, taking King Bagrat V of Georgia captive.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Santa Claus Comes to Town 1953 - Part 1

This was originally posted on November 24, 2012 and was the first in a series of five or six uncompleted posts that were intended to thumb through the Eaton's Santa Claus Parade Colouring Book from 1953. I'm reposting it as an introduction to the series - which I am finally getting to finish off. Trying to win some points from Santa?

 I'm not sure why I thought they were holding the annual Santa Claus Parade in Toronto early these days but the date in mid-November struck me as strange until I read a posting on JB's Warehouse & Curio Emporium. A right click on the advertisement for the 1918 edition of the parade will take you to his Notes on a parade that came right on the heels of the Armistice celebrations the week before. Santa was particularly welcome that year - but not as welcome as the boys who returned home in the weeks that followed.

So once again last weekend (November 15) as he has for the past 109 years, Santa made his way through the streets of Toronto.  His route took him along a familiar path - though he no longer stops at his old home at Eaton's - lined with cheering children and a good many nostalgic adults.   And many of the old favourites that most of us remember from our childhood were there but this year was not time-warp parade - there was an APP to follow Santa's progress, a Santa Cam that took pictures of the kids following the Big Guy's float and posted them on a website for download and Celebrity Clowns carried giant frames and invited kids to get behind the frame with them to snap photos with their smart phones or cameras.

Mind you we had technology in 1953 that was nothing to sneer at:  CFRB had daily dinner time radio broadcasts leading up to the parade, CBC televised it locally (okay so these days it's broadcast worldwide) and we had the annual colouring book that any true aficionado had ordered, along with a new box of crayolas, weeks before from Eaton's.

So in the spirit of 1953 here's two links (Part I Part II) to a film made of that transmission (it was distributed to schools in the more remote areas of the country so children everywhere could welcome Santa to town.)  A bonus - for me at least - is one of those voices that I grew up with - Byng Whittaker reading 'Twas The Night Before Christmas.

Whittaker was the host of The Small Types Club,  a lunch hour children's program ( we all went home for lunch in those days) - introduced by The Teddy Bears' Picnic he'd read us stories as we munched our egg-salad sandwiches and slurped our tomato soup.  And when Byng said, “Out to play, back into bed for a nap, off to school or whatever mother tells you.  Now sssssscoot!” we knew it’s time to go.

And of course there was that colouring book.  I'm pretty certain I had mine and no doubt used a fine design sense to stay between the lines and give vibrant colour to the floats, clowns and bands.   |'m not sure if I would have mutilated the book by cutting out the Punkinhead puppet - after all I had a Punkinhead doll and a Punkinhead puppet - yes even then parents gave into to advertising pressure.

Over the next few days I'll be flipping through the pages of that 1953 colouring book - secretly wishing I had my box of crayolas to fill in the white with all the colours that I imagine delighted me when I finally had the chance to see them on the big parade day.

In previous years I've thumbed through the pages of the 1951 and 1952 colouring books - all of which were at one time available on the Archives of Ontario website for downloading and colouring.  I say "at one time" because it appears they have been removed along with much of the Eaton's Christmas memorabilia.

So let's flip to the first pages right now.

19 November - 1695: Zumbi, the last of the leaders of Quilombo dos Palmares in early Brazil, is executed by the forces of Portuguese bandeirante Domingos Jorge Velho.

Santa Comes to Town

.... for the 110th year.

I wasn't surprised to see that figure in the banner at the top of this year's Toronto Santa Claus Parade website.  For several years I wrote about the Parade and traced some of its history from when, in 1905,  Santa Claus arrived at Union Station and rode with the Eaton family to father Timothy's emporium.  For the next 77 years the Eaton Company proudly sponsored Santa's arrival in Toronto until in 1982 the financially troubled company could no longer afford to justify or manage the expense.   At that point it looked like Santa's only appearance in the city would be rather pathetic photo ops at local malls.

In 1913 eight reindeer were brought in from Labrador by boat and train  to "pull" Santa's sleigh.  
They were so badly spooked by the crowds and the noise that they weren't used in subsequent years.

However several people decided that something that was so much a tradition of Toronto life was not to be let go so easily.  Within days of the announcement from Eaton's Ron Barbaro and George Cohon formed an not-for-profit organization to find sponsorship and financing for the parade.  They rounded up 20 companies willing to sponsor floats and film director Norman Jewison came on board and arranged for television rights to assist in covering parade costs.  The following year a troupe of sixty celebrity clowns joined the parade as anonymous donors to assist with financing and help warm up the crowds along the parade route.  This year that number had grown to 200 and the parade will be broadcast around the world.

For some reason, known only to the parade planners, in 1919 Santa arrived at Eaton's
on a gigantic Silver Fish??? This shot is on Albert St behind the Old City Hall. archives
The Fish was to appear also in 1923 if the date on this photo is correct;  Santa had to clamber up two ladders
- no doubt cursing all the way - to reach the window into Toyland.  Being that Timothy Eaton was
tea-total it's doubtful that there was a stiff drink waiting for him at the end of the climb.
There are several silent movies of those early parades on YouTube including a repeat of Santa on a Fish in 1929.  The title card tell us that it's a sil'vry Arctic fish - which I guess explains it.  However by 1931 he was arriving in a more traditional manner and to the best of my knowledge in subsequent years he always arrived in a sleigh pulled by eight (papier-maché) prancing reindeer.

Happily the parade has continued  one of the great traditions of the old parade has disappeared:  the Santa Claus Parade Colouring Book*.   In previous years I have posted the first two from 1951 and 1952  and in looking over past entries realized I had started a series on the 1953 edition in 2012.  Somehow or other it got waylaid - life, work, laziness - and was never completed.  Well we should never "leave undone those things which we ought to have done" so I've decide to begin by reposting those first entries from 2012 and continue on thumbing through the memory pages in the next few days.

....   continued here.

*  The Santa Clause Parade website did provide a link to the replica of the 1952 colour book though the parade has changed mightily since there.

 November 20 - 1917: Ukraine is declared a republic.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mercoledi Musicale

To celebrate the delicate snow scene outside my window (oh joy! oh bliss!) and as a thank offering for not living in the Buffalo-Niagara area I offer up this small excerpt from Claude Debussy's  Children's Corner Suite. 

André Caplet and Claude Debussy
The Snow is Dancing is the fourth in the series of six piano pieces Debussy composed between 1905 and 1908.  They were meant to evoke scenes of childhood and when it was completed he dedicated the suite to his treasured "Chou-chou": his three year old daughter Claude-Emma.  Sadly, Chouchou passed away from diphtheria in 1919 at the age of 13, only a year after her father's death from cancer. 

Shortly after the piano score was published Debussy's friend André Caplet created a transcription for orchestra, as he was to do for several of Debussy's works.  Caplet was a composer in his own right whose career was cut short by the effects of a gas attack during the Great War.  He never completely recovered and died from a lung disease in 1925.

Though I would have difficult choosing between the two I find Caplet's transcription the more evocative of a snowy landscape and gentle swirls of snow dancing through the air.   The piano version seems to have the odd shard of ice hidden within its whirling flakes.  But I'll let you decide which you prefer..

Here's Jean-Yves Thibaudet playing Debussy's original piano piece.

 The Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal always had a special way with Debussy when Charles Dutroit was on the podium.

Even as I type this there are gentle swirls of snow outside my window - at this point it's almost possible to believe in Debussy's winter magic. Ask me how I feel about it in two months time.

November 19 - 1916:  Samuel Goldwyn and Edgar Selwyn establish Goldwyn Pictures.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Lunedi Lunacy

My friend Blake was just here for a visit - the HFH were ecstatic to see their Uncle Pervy - and he mentioned a TV programme that he's addicted to: Down Town Chapel. Well something like that - from the sounds of it I am reminded of a wonderful old British series called Upstairs Downstairs which I did so enjoy in the early days of PBS.  The gang at College Humour must watch this TV show also either that or they spied on our dinner at the New Eddie last week!

Thanks to my friend Greg for this one.

November 17 - 1810: Sweden declares war on its ally the United Kingdom to begin the Anglo-Swedish War, although no fighting ever takes place.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mercoledi Musicale

Until last week my only knowledge of the music of John Sheppard came from a recording by the Gabrieli Consort of his Messe Cantate written for Christmas in the Chapel Royal of Queen Mary and her husband King Philip.  Sheppard was one those composers,  who like Tallis and Tye, lived through the turbulent religious changes during the reign of the Tudors.  He composed for Catholic Cathedral and Protestant Chapel; for Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I however he died within the first few days of the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth, the last Tudor.

A Sarum missal created for Florence Chichele Darell circa
1418 and now in the collection at SMU. A left click will
take you to a larger view and a short history of the missal.
Much of his music was written for the Sarum rite celebrations that were common in the Catholic church in England of the time.  Established in the 11th century by St Osmund in Salisbury (Sarum) it was the standard liturgical practice (Use) for much of England, Wales, Ireland and eventually Scotland.  Osmund created very little himself but took what he saw as the best from the many Uses in the dioceses around him - each seemed to have its own way of doing things - and set them forth as the standard for the Divine Offices, Mass and the Church Calendar.  Though originally meant for his own diocese of Salisbury the usage spread and within a hundred years became the liturgical standard in most of England. 

The Sarum rite was more ritualistic than the Roman rite and certainly more elaborate in its ceremonies and its use of music.  Music - plainsong and polyphony - were central to the form of worship.  Many parts of the Offices and Mass were sung:  collects, antiphons, canticles, psalms and responsories as well as prayers, litanies, invocations and at Festal masses even the consecration.  The ability to sing was much valued in a priest or for that matter in a parishioner - even when he was Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas More sang in his Chelsea parish choir at Evensong.  More than one wealthy patron saw to that his local church had the monies to employ "an able priest, and in especiall a syngynge man yf he may be gotten"*. 

The rite disappeared under Edward but was re-instituted when Mary came to the throne.  It was during this brief five year period that Shepperd wrote many of his most complex masses and motets.  I was unable to find a date for this Lenten motet which Christopher Hossfeld used as inspiration for the conclusion of his In Pace premiered by the Cantata Singers last week but it is possible that it was written during his time at Magdelen College.

In Pace In Peace
In pace, in idipsum dormiam et requiescam.
Si dedero somnum oculis meis,
et palpebris meis dormitationem,
dormiam et requiescam.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.

In peace and into the same I shall sleep and rest.

If I give slumber to my eyes

and to my eyelids drowsiness,
I shall sleep and rest.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son,
 and to the Holy Spirit.
The first line is from Psalm 4:9, and the second two lines are from Psalm 132:4, both in the Vulgate version.
With the advent of Elizabeth the Sarum rite disappeared from use however it's influence can be seen in the Book of Common Prayer and also in the musical tradition of the Anglican Church.  The rite also strongly influenced the founders of the Oxford Movement and many of the practices within the Anglo-Catholic church can trace their roots to the traditions instituted by St Osmund. 

*From a bequest in the will of John Lang of Lincolnshire in 1516.  He also requested that the priest be able in plainsong at the least but suggested that someone also skilled in "pricksong" or polyphony was preferable.

November 12 - 1439: Plymouth, England, becomes the first town incorporated by the English Parliament.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Call to Remembrance

Today we call to remembrance all our women and men who fought and did not return; those who returned wounded in body; and those who returned wounded in soul.

My friend Joe took this photo and made the following comment:

"This is the Canadian War Cemetery at Beny-sur-Mer, Normandy, June 4, 2014. The boys and I paid our respects there that day. Very moving when you see that all the ages are 18-24 years and a few older."

I have written previous posts on other Remembrance Days and once again as I reread them I am aware of how fortunate I am.   Despite it's problems I live in a country where we still have freedom to live our lives as we choose, to worship as we choose and to love whom we choose.  One of the ways those freedoms were gained was through the sacrifices of women and men in wars over the past one hundred-fifteen years.  Though it was not the only path to those freedoms and rights it is one that must always be held to remembrance. 

Lest We Forget - 2008

Lest We Forget - 2009

Lest We Forget - 2010

Lest We Forget - 2012

Lest We Forget - 2013

November 11 - 1918: Józef Piłsudski assumes supreme military power in Poland - symbolic first day of Polish independence.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lunedi Lunacy

In Oh What a Lovely War director Richard Attenborough captured the lunacy that was the 1914-1918 War.  The bumbling ineptitude of men like Douglas Haig, John French and William Robertson in sending men to certain death using outdated methods of engagement for minimal gains is brought home in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways.   The Aussie allies in this little clip are not impressed with their Allied Commanders.

November 10 - 1975: The 729-foot-long freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald sinks during a storm on Lake Superior, killing all 29 crew on board.

Friday, November 07, 2014

On the Wire

A left click on the cover of this first
edition of Rhymes of a Red Cross Man
will take you to the complete collection.
Last Sunday the Cantata Singers of Ottawa presented the premiere of a work written by conductor/composer Christopher Hossfeld in commemoration of the centenary of the beginning of the First Great War. As the text for his In Pace Hossfeld choose On the Wire  a poem by Robert Service from his Rhymes of A Red Cross Man.  Woven between the stanzas of this verse (a term Service used for his work which he did not regard as poems) were the various Lenten versicles, responsory and prayers from the Office of Compline,  The contrast between Service's harrowing cry of a wounded young soldier caught on the barbed wire at the Front and the liturgy's quiet reassurance of untroubled sleep,  and the final choral chant In pace, in idispsum dormiam et requiescam* alternating with an early music wind ensemble was both unsettling and immensely moving.  It's a work I hope to hear again as I, personally, found it a very emotional experience.

But as often happens it went beyond being a musical experience and led me to investigate something that was new to me:  the War verses of Robert W. Service, the British-Canadian poet.  I would think that most people who know of Service today think in terms of his two best known works from Songs of a SourdoughThe Shooting of Dan McGrew and The Cremation of Sam McGee.  That first book of verse proved to be his serendipitous road to fame and fortune.  Between 1907 and 1912 he wrote three books of verse based on life in the Yukon and the Gold Rush.  In 1912 he moved to Paris and after the outbreak of war the 41-year old Service attempted to enlist but was turned down.  In 1916, after a brief stint as a war correspondent for the Toronto Star,  he became a stretcher bearer and ambulance driver for the American Red Cross.  During a period in convalescent hospital he wrote his next book of verse and dedicated it to his brother Lieutenant Albert Service who had been killed in august of that year.   Rhymes of A Red Cross Man is unlike any of the Great War poetry I had read previously - even in their bitterness Graves, Sassoon, Owen et al had a certain elegance, I might even say romantic tone, that is foreign to Service.  There are verses that are boldly satirical as well as many that have a stark brutality about them that hide nothing of the horror that he saw or was told about by those around him.  Many seem to start off rather light-heartedly like The Little Piou-Piou but turn deadly serious; others such as A Song of Winter Weather reflect the obstacles the ordinary soldier faced beyond the enemy.  Over the Parapet takes a wry little twist right at the end with an audacity that is typically Service and  Afternoon Tea takes the mickey out of officers and the leaders who led some many men to the slaughter. 

On the Wire

O God, take the sun from the sky!
It's burning me, scorching me up.
God, can't You hear my cry?
'Water! A poor, little cup!'
It's laughing, the cursed sun!
See how it swells and swells
Fierce as a hundred hells!
God, will it never have done?
It's searing the flesh on my bones;
It's beating with hammers red
My eyeballs into my head;
It's parching my very moans.
See! It's the size of the sky,
And the sky is a torrent of fire,
Foaming on me as I lie
Here on the wire . . . the wire. . . .

Of the thousands that wheeze and hum
Heedlessly over my head,
Why can't a bullet come,
Pierce to my brain instead,
Blacken forever my brain,
Finish forever my pain?
Here in the hellish glare
Why must I suffer so?
Is it God doesn't care?
Is it God doesn't know?
Oh, to be killed outright,
Clean in the clash of the fight!
That is a golden death,
That is a boon; but this . . .
Drawing an anguished breath
Under a hot abyss,
Under a stooping sky
Of seething, sulphurous fire,
Scorching me up as I lie
Here on the wire . . . the wire. . . .

Hasten, O God, Thy night!
Hide from my eyes the sight
Of the body I stare and see
Shattered so hideously.
I can't believe that it's mine.
My body was white and sweet,
Flawless and fair and fine,
Shapely from head to feet;
Oh no, I can never be
The thing of horror I see
Under the rifle fire,
Trussed on the wire . . . the wire. . . .

Of night and of death I dream;
Night that will bring me peace,
Coolness and starry gleam,
Stillness and death's release:
Ages and ages have passed,—
Lo! it is night at last.
Night! but the guns roar out.
Night! but the hosts attack.
Red and yellow and black
Geysers of doom upspout.
Silver and green and red
Star-shells hover and spread.
Yonder off to the right
Fiercely kindles the fight;
Roaring near and more near,
Thundering now in my ear;
Close to me, close . . . Oh, hark!
Someone moans in the dark.
I hear, but I cannot see,
I hear as the rest retire,
Someone is caught like me,
Caught on the wire . . . the wire. . . .

Again the shuddering dawn,
Weird and wicked and wan;
Again, and I've not yet gone.
The man whom I heard is dead.
Now I can understand:
A bullet hole in his head,
A pistol gripped in his hand.
Well, he knew what to do,—
Yes, and now I know too. . . .

Hark the resentful guns!
Oh, how thankful am I
To think my beloved ones
Will never know how I die!
I've suffered more than my share;
I'm shattered beyond repair;
I've fought like a man the fight,
And now I demand the right
(God! how his fingers cling!)
To do without shame this thing.
Good! there's a bullet still;
Now I'm ready to fire;
Blame me, God, if You will,
Here on the wire . . . the wire. . . .

Service was honoured with medals for his service during the war: the 1914–15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal. It is interesting, if not a surprise, that, like Vera Brittain's, his is a name that is missing from the memorial to poets of the Great War in Westminster Abbey.  Though popular with the public his book was less so with the government and military of the time.

And Service ends his verses with a stanza that perhaps sums up his view of that Great War to end all Wars:
Oh spacious days of glory and of grieving!
Oh sounding hours of lustre and of loss!
Let us be glad we lived you, still believing
The God who gave the cannon gave the Cross.
Let us be sure amid these seething passions,
The lusts of blood and hate our souls abhor:
The Power that Order out of Chaos fashions
Smites fiercest in the wrath-red forge of War. . . .
Have faith! Fight on! Amid the battle-hell
Love triumphs, Freedom beacons, all is well.

* In peace and into the same I shall sleep and rest.

**Envoi: the usually explanatory or commendatory concluding remarks to a poem, essay, or book; especially :  a short final stanza of a ballad serving as a summary or dedication.

Previous Posts on Poetry and War:
                          Poems of War and Loss
                          The Poetry of War

November 7 - 1919: The first Palmer Raid is conducted on the second anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Over 10,000 suspected communists and anarchists are arrested in 23 different U.S. cities.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Mercoledi Muscicale

Back in my high school days I was fortunate to have several teachers who encouraged my interest in music, theatre and literature.  Doug Livingstone was our music and drama teacher - yes boys and girls we had music and drama classes.  He desperately attempted to teach me how to read music but had the good sense not to allow me any where near an instrument.  But he did allow me to try my hand at acting - the annual school play, assembly appearances and, just for the joy of it, exploring plays in Drama Club.

One year a drama club exercise was a reading of Under Milk Wood,  that remarkable evocation of life in Llareggub*, a fictional seaside town in Wales by Dylan Thomas.   Being a bit pompous - a bit? - I had started to read the introduction in my best poetic manner when Mr Livingstone stopped me and said,  "Just read the words in your normal voice".   Being a brash little bastard I probably sniffed with that "what does he know" adolescent sniff.  But as I simply read it in my natural voice I found that the rhythm of the lines, the portmanteau words,  the alliteration and the simple beauty of the language produced a voice of it's own that was almost like singing.  

To this day I dare anyone to read that passage out loud and not end up sounding like they are singing:
To begin at the beginning:
It is Spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters'-and- rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea. The houses are blind as moles (though moles see fine to-night in the snouting, velvet dingles) or blind as Captain Cat there in the muffled middle by the pump and the town clock, the shops in mourning, the Welfare Hall in widows' weeds. And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are sleeping now.
Though Thomas's words provide music of their own a chance mention by a friend of one of the characters in Under Milk Wood led me to this lovely Anglican chant setting of the Reverend Eli Jenkins' Morning Prayer.

Every morning when I wake,
Dear Lord, a little prayer I make,
O please do keep Thy lovely eye
On all poor creatures born to die

And every evening at sun-down
I ask a blessing on the town,
For whether we last the night or no
I’m sure is always touch-and-go.

We are not wholly bad or good
Who live our lives under Milk Wood,
And Thou, I know, wilt be the first
To see our best side, not our worst.

O let us see another day!
Bless us all this night, I pray,
And to the sun we all will bow
And say, good-bye – but just for now!

In this frightening age of absolute  I find that third verse reassuring that there is a middle ground and, God willing, not just in Llareggub.

* Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru (the National Library of Wales) has a map that Thomas sketched of his fictional town.   By the way Llareggub has no special meaning other than being "bugger all" spelled backwards.

05 November - 1872: In defiance of the law, suffragist Susan B. Anthony votes for the first time, and is later fined $100.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Lunedi Lunacy

There was an Old Derry down Derry,
who love to see little folk merry;
So he made them a book,
and with laughter they shook
at the fun of that Derry down Derry

I'm not at all sure if children still read Edward Lear (I'm sure some must) but I always found his word play enchanting.  He conjured up such pictures of Jumblies, floating Owls and Pussycats, and various old men and ladies of sundry places whose strange habits made for wonderful limericks.

I thought I'd start off my week by revisiting a few of my favourites.  However since I didn't have one of his many books at hand I thumbed clicked through the videos on YouTube and came up with these two very different but fun animations of classic Lear stories.

Well I guess that little tag end answered my question about children still reading Lear.

There is a wonderful website devoted to Lear and his various writings, drawings and creations.  As well they have some fun examples of early limerick books for slightly before Lear's time.

November 3 -  1793: French playwright, journalist and feminist Olympe de Gouges is guillotined.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

May the Souls of All the Faithful Departed

Through the mercy of God
Rest in Peace.

Pie Jesu Domine
dona eis requiem.
 Gentle Lord Jesu
 grant them rest.
Pie Jesu Domine
dona eis requiem.
 Gentle Lord Jesu
 grant them rest.
Pie Jesu Domine
dona eis requiem
 Gentle Lord Jesu
 grant them rest

Messe de requiem (1947)
Maurice Duruflé

Though today should be a day to remember all the departed today in my own heart I remember especially Mebs, Stephen, Rollande, Joe, Lily, Isabella and Ab. 

November 2 - 1951: Korean War: A small platoon of 28 Canadian soldiers defend a vital area against an entire battalion of 800 Chinese troops in the Battle of the Song-gok Spur.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

These Like Stars Appearing

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Hebrews 12:1 (KJV)

When I've entered an Orthodox cathedral or church I have been struck by that phrase "so great a cloud of witnesses".   So often not just the iconostasis  but the walls, ceilings and sometimes even the floors are aglow with icons, enamels, mosaics portraying the many witnesses or saints of the faith.  Whither it be by candle or sunlight the effect can be almost overwhelming.   To commemorate the second day of this Allhallowstide I went through photos from our trip to the Baltic and thought I'd share one or two places that made that passage from Hebrews come to life for me.

Uspenski Cathedral in Helsinki is the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe and is dedicated to the Dormition of the Blessed Mother.  It was built between 1862-68 with bricks that came from the Bomarsund fortress in Aland, which had been destroyed during the Crimean War in 1854.

The present Saint Issac's Cathedral is the fourth church to be built on the site in St Petersburg.  Construction took over forty years to complete at the astronomical cost of one million gold roubles. 

The Cathedral of the Resurrection in St Petersberg is better known as the Church of Our Savoir on Spilled Blood.  It was built to the memory of Czar Alexander II on the spot where he was assassinated on March 13, 1881.  Unlike most of the churches in St Petersberg Spilled Blood echoes  the Medieval Russian style rather than the Baroque or Neoclassical.  

In searching for something appropriate for the Feast of All Saints I was surprised that, given it is a major feast in the church calendar, no major classical composer appears to have written a mass specifically for the day.  And even more surprised that the 1959 Anglican hymnal lists only four specific hymns for the second commemoration of Allhallowstide.  Of these one was the standard For all the saints - a hymn which I love; however also one that I have posted before on this day.

Who are these like stars appearing was translated by Frances E. Cox in 1841 from a 1719 German text by Theobald Heinrich Schenk.  The music setting is Old All Saints from the Geistreiches Gesangsbuch (Spiritual Songbook) of Johann Anastasisu Freylinghausen; this was a collection of some 1500 hymns and spiritual songs published in 1704.  It was expanded and republished every two or three years from 1714 until the mid-1730s.  Frances Elizabeth Cox was well-known as a translator of German hymns and published two collections during her lifetime.

November 1 -1512: The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo, is exhibited to the public for the first time.