Eternal Father

Something for the weekend.  Eternal Father (1861) seems very appropriate for a Memorial Day weekend, as we remember those who paid the ultimate price for the freedom we cherish.  Written in 1860 as a poem by William Whiting in England, the music to accompany the lyrics was composed by John B. Dykes in 1861.  The moving hymn has always been a favorite of those who serve in the military:

Eternal Father, strong to save,

Whose arm hath bound the restless wave, 

Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep  

Its own appointed limits keep;  

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, 

For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard

And hushed their raging at Thy word,  

Who walkedst on the foaming deep,

And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,  

For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood

Upon the chaos dark and rude,

And bid its angry tumult cease,

And give, for wild confusion, peace;  

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,  

For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!

Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;

From rock and tempest, fire and foe, 

Protect them wheresoe’er they go;

  Thus evermore shall rise to Thee

Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

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Published in: on May 23, 2020 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Folsom Prison Blues

Something for the weekend.  Folsom Prison Blues (1953) by the incomparable Johnny Cash, since Illinois is a lockdown state now due to the virus hysteria.  Cash was inspired to write the song after seeing the movie Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison (1951) which he was serving in the Air Force in West Germany.

Published in: on March 21, 2020 at 5:07 am  Comments Off on Folsom Prison Blues  
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What’s the Matter Stephen Foster?

The Civil War probably killed Stephen Foster.  The most notable American composer of his time, in a day when copyright enforcement was nil, Foster always just managed to scratch out a precarious living.  As the beginning of the song indicates, with the coming of the War many of the songs he had written in peace were no longer in demand.

Broke and suffering from a persistent fever, deserted by his wife who had taken their daughter to live in Pittsburgh in 1861, Foster fell in his hotel room in New York City on January 10, 1864 and gashed his head on a wash basin.  He was admitted to Bellevue and died three days later, at age 37.  Ironically his most successful song, Beautiful Dreamer, was published a few months after his death: (more…)

Published in: on January 10, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Battle Hymn of the Republic

 

Something for the weekend.  Battle Hymn of the Republic in the ending sequence of Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), John Ford’s look at Lincoln as a young lawyer.  Lincoln is shown walking into a thunder storm, a foreshadowing of the Civil War.  Out in the country in Central Illinois thunderstorms tend to brew up quickly and can be awe-inspiring/terrifying, especially if a tornado might be in the offing.  Henry Fonda was a native Nebraskan, so I am sure he appreciated the power of that scene.  My family and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Lincoln sites in Springfield yesterday, and more on that in a later post.  The song of course would not be written until 1861 by Julia Ward Howe.    Lincoln loved the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  After he first heard it performed, he asked, with tears in his eyes, that it be sung again.  Fittingly, it was sung at his funeral.

 

 

 

Published in: on July 6, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Battle Hymn of the Republic  
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Stars and Stripes Forever

 

Something for the weekend.  For a weekend following Flag Day Stars and Stripes Forever seems called for.  Beyond a doubt the best known composition of John Philip Sousa, it is the National March of the United States.  Sousa wrote it on Christmas Day 1896 and it proved massively popular, especially when it was played during the Spanish-American War.  My Family and I, visited the Sousa Archives at the University of Illinois last week, go here to read about the Sousa Archives, which houses the papers of John Philip Sousa.  The grad student on duty gave us a first rate presentation on Sousa and his music, and he brought out for us original sheet music used by Sousa and his band, which sent shivers down my spine.  Writers do what they can, but a truly great composer effortlessly touches hearts and souls long after he is dust.

 

 

Let martial note in triumph float
And liberty extend its mighty hand
A flag appears ‘mid thunderous cheers,
The banner of the Western land.
The emblem of the brave and true
Its folds protect no tyrant crew;
The red and white and starry blue
Is freedom’s shield and hope.

Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom’s nation.

Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.

Let eagle shriek from lofty peak
The never-ending watchword of our land;
Let summer breeze waft through the trees
The echo of the chorus grand.
Sing out for liberty and light,
Sing out for freedom and the right.
Sing out for Union and its might,
O patriotic sons.

Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation,
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom’s nation.

Hurrah for the flag of the free.
May it wave as our standard forever
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray,
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.

A “unique”, yes that is what we will call it, muppet rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever, hosted by Sam the American Eagle, who is the answer to the question, “Don, if you were a muppet, which muppet would you be?”

 

 

Vladimir Horowitz was one of the greatest pianists of the last century.  He was also a refugee from the Soviet Union.  He became a naturalized American citizen in 1944, and, like many naturalized American citizens of that era, he was intensely patriotic, giving many concerts in support of the war effort.  Here is his immortal rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever from 1945.

Published in: on June 15, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Stars and Stripes Forever  
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Fanfare for a Common Soldier

Something for a Memorial Day weekend.  Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland.  Composed in 1942, it was Copland’s reaction to the US entering World War II. This song brings back memories to me from 43 years ago.

Back in the summer of 1976 I was on vacation between my freshman and sophomore years at the University of Illinois.  My father ran the steel shears at a truck body plant in Paris, Illinois.  They were hiring summer help and I got a job working on the factory floor.  Although I liked the idea of earning money, I was less than enthused by the job.  The factory floor was not air-conditioned, and the summer was hot.  Additionally I had never worked in a factory before, had no experience with heavy machinery and did not know what to expect.

I was placed under the supervision of a regular worker at the plant.  He looked like he was a thousand years old to me at the time, but I realize now that he was probably then around six years  younger than I am now at age 62.  I would assist him at a press in which we would manhandle heavy sheets of steel and use the press to bend them into various shapes.  Before we began he pointed to a little box and said that if I lost a finger or a part of a finger as a result of the press, I should toss it in the box and proceed with the job.  Thus I was introduced to his macabre sense of humor.

I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but he was engaged in a rough and ready form of instruction.  He had to take a completely green kid, and teach me various tasks, all the while keeping up with the jobs the press was assigned.  He did it pretty skillfully, and I learned.  I never got to like the job, but I learned how to do it.  I also learned to grudgingly respect my mentor.  He obviously wasn’t well read, but he was handy with machinery, and under his tutelage I learned how to operate the press without losing one of my digits, or costing him one of his.  He kept me out of trouble at the factory, and included me in his conversations with his fellow veteran workers.  All in all I probably learned more that summer of future value for me in life, than I learned from any of my courses in college.

One day during the half hour we had for lunch, I asked him if he had served in World War II.  I was in Army ROTC at the University, and I had a keen interest in military history.  He told me that he had been an infantryman in the Army and that he had participated in Operation Torch.

 

Operation Torch, the landings of which began on November 8, 1942, were the liberation of French North Africa then controlled by the Vichy government.  These landings by British and American troops would seize Morocco and Algeria and allow the Allies to attack Rommel’s Afrika Korps in a pincer movement, between American and British troops from the west and the British Eighth Army moving from the east from Egypt after the British victory over the Afrika Korps at El Alamein, which concluded on November 4, 1942.

Operation Torch was the largest American amphibious operation up to that time and taught valuable lessons as to improvements needed for future landings.

I was impressed that my fellow factory worker had taken part as a young man in such a momentous event.  He, on the other hand, did not make much of it, a reaction similar to what I have found with most World War II veterans.  They had a job to do for the country, they did it, and then they came home, took off their uniforms and went on with their lives.  Normally they didn’t talk much about the War unless they were with fellow veterans.  If asked they would talk about it, but it obviously was not foremost in their minds.

At the end of my summer, my mentor and I went our separate ways.  When my father died in 1991, he was part of the American Legion honor guard.  We chatted a bit.  I learned that he was retired, and he learned that I was married and an attorney.  That was the last time I saw him.

Of the over 16,000,000 Americans who put on their country’s uniform during World War II, slightly under a half million are still alive.   348 of them die on average each day.  Soon, sadly, World War II will pass from the living memory of the men  who fought it.  I hope my mentor is still alive and in good health, he would now be near the century mark if he is still alive, and when the 77th anniversary of Operation Torch rolls around in November, I hope someone will remember to give him a salute for a job well done.

Published in: on May 25, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Fanfare for a Common Soldier  
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Flights of the Bumblebee

 

Something for the weekend.  Flight of the Bumblebee (1900) by Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov. (I have a hive of bumblebees above my backdoor, so you can blame them for all this!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on May 18, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Flights of the Bumblebee  
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May the Fourth Be With You

 

 

Something for the weekend.  The Saga Begins by Weird Al Yankovich.  Bonus, hattip to my bride:

Published in: on May 4, 2019 at 3:25 am  Comments Off on May the Fourth Be With You  
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Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring

 

 

 

Something for a weekend in Lent.  Jesu Joy of Mans Desiring by Johann Sebastian Bach.  Written in 1723 few pieces of music better celebrate the desire of Man for Christ the Savior.

 

 

 

 

Published in: on April 6, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring  
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Fly Me to the Moon

 

Something for the weekend.  Fly Me to the Moon seems appropriate for a year in which we observe the 50th anniversary of Man first setting foot on our celestial neighbor.  Written in 1954 by Bart Howard, and originally entitled In Other Words, it was first sung by Kaye Ballard who passed away only last month at age 93.  The most famous rendition was that by Frank Sinatra in 1964.

 

Published in: on February 23, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Fly Me to the Moon  
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