Saturday, December 31, 2011

Music For Christmas 2011 - The Seventh Day

Sometimes there is Christmas music without instruments and singing. Here is A Child's Christmas In Wales, surely one of the finest pieces of prose ever written in the English language, ever spoken by its author:

My father read this piece to me when I was a young boy and I wondered why. When I became a man with distant Christmas memories, I understood, and read it to women I loved. Later, my children would hear it in loving memory of their great grandmother, Elizabeth Jones, born in the U.S. of parents who immigrated from Cardiff, Wales, around 1870.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Music For Christmas 2011 - The Sixth Day

The Boar's Head Carol dates from 15th century England. The presentation and feast it describes likely has pagan origins as do many of our Christmas traditions. In the U.S., restoration of this traditional whole pig roast, complete with apple, appears to be strong among churches and colleges. Here is a bold treatment of the carol by Steeleye Span and Maddy Prior:

The boar's head in hand bear I,
Bedeck'd with bays and rosemary.
I pray you, my masters, be merry
Quot estis in convivio (Translation: As many as are in the feast)


Caput apri defero (Translation: The boar's head I offer)
Reddens laudes Domino (Translation: Giving praises to the Lord)

The boar's head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all this land,
Which thus bedeck'd with a gay garland
Let us servire cantico. (Translation: Let us serve with a song)


Our steward hath provided this
In honour of the King of Bliss;
Which, on this day to be served is
In Reginensi atrio. (Translation: In the Queen's hall)


Lyrics: Wikepedia
Photo: Christ Church, Cincinnati

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Aviation in Film History: Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines

In 1965, movie mogul, Daryl F. Zanuck, produced Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines. Directed by Ken Annakin and starring Stuart Whitman, this humorous film featured several replicas of flying machines, both successful and unsuccessful. It consistently ranks as one of the best aviation films, providing viewers with over two hours of exceptional film making and solid performances from a first-rate cast of comedians.

Here's a trailer to whet your appetite for some good fun:

Music For Christmas 2011 - The Fifth Day

 Of the Father's Heart [Love} Begotten is a plainsong carol based on the 13th century setting, Divinum Mysterium,  and 5th century texts taken from the writings of the Roman poet Aurelius Prudentius.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Music For Christmas 2011 - The Fourth Day

Fantasia on Christmas Carols, by the timeless English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Music For Christmas 2011 - The Third Day

The concluding recitative, chorale, and chorus da capo from Bach's Christmas Oratorio, Part III, Music for the Third Day of Christmas.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Music For Christmas 2011 - The Second Day

The Sinfonia from Part II of Bach's Christmas Oratorio.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Music For Christmas 2011 - The First Day

Exult! Rejoice! Awake! Glorify the days! Praise what the All Highest has done today! Set aside fear, banish lamentation, swell full with joy and merriment! Serve the All Highest with glorious song! Let us worship the Lord!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Music For Christmas 2011

Quiet sounds as Christmas Eve surrounds us...

First, a carol by the English composer, Gustav Holst (1874-1934), with words by the poet, Christina Rossetti (1830-1894):

1. In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

2. Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

3. Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breast full of milk
And a manger full of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

4. Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

5. What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

...and second, a carol by the American modernist, Charles Ives (1874-1954), one of the nation's first internationally known composers:

Little star of Bethlehem!
Do we see thee now?
Do we see thee shining
O'er the tall trees?
Little child of Bethlehem!
Do we hear thee in our hearts?
Hear the angels singing:
Peace on earth, good will to men!

O'er the cradle of a King,
Hear the angels sing:
In Excelsis Gloria, Gloria!
From his Father's home on high,
Lo! For us he came to die;
Hear the angels sing:
Venite adoremus Dominum.

N.B. Ives wrote this piece in 1894 when he was twenty. Though it may sound conventional, a careful listen reveals bits and pieces of experimentation that he and his father, a bandleader, conducted with music. In time, the younger Ives would develop such an original style he would be virtually unknown and unappreciated in his lifetime.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sun Belt Resurgens

What kind of migration patterns could the United States experience once our economic downturn ends? Current data suggests that growth in the Sun Belt, excepting California, will resume with the big winners being Texas and Florida. You can read more about the Sun Belt comeback here at New Geography. The post has several interesting links for demographics junkies.

So who is leaving for fun in the sun? Here is a link at Gateway Pundit to a new study by the Illinois Policy Institute showing the state has lost one resident every ten minutes for the last fifteen years. And here is a link to the more complex story in California where numbers have stabilized in the last year, but the characteristics of the population continue to change significantly.

H/T: Instapundit, The Gateway Pundit

Music For Christmas 2011

Irving Berlin
It wouldn't be Christmas across the nation without some reference to Irving Berlin's White Christmas. Bing Crosby's recording of this nostalgic wish for home and family remains the #1 top selling - 50,000,000 - single record of all time. Mark Steyn has posted an informative look at the song in an audio interview with Berlin's daughter, Mary Ellin Barrett. Along the way, you'll learn plenty about American music history and hear some fine renditions of several songs. Your link to this thirty minute interview is here. Yes, it may be a bit long, but you can enjoy it while doing some light surfing on the electronic highway.

Bing Crosby on the 1959 reissue of his best selling single

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Music For Christmas 2011

From the brilliant American composer and conductor, Eric Whitacre:

calida gravisque
pura velut arum,
et canunt angeli
molliter modo natum.

warm and heavy
as pure gold,
and the angels sing softly
to the newborn babe.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Nation's Bellwether State Meets The Dark Ages

As a farmer, scholar, and writer grounded in reason and history, Victor Davis Hanson is one of our most significant interpreters of the contemporary American experience. His most recent essay appearing in National Review Online is a combination of beautiful, descriptive prose and urgent politics. The story involves Selma, California, and elsewhere in the Central Valley where  modern-day Vandals are destroying civility while the powers in the city-states on the coast sustain the policies that will surely undermine what gold is left in the Golden State.  California has been a reliable trend-setter for the nation over the last sixty years. That we have no reason to think this role will end makes Hanson's words important for the rest of us.

Music For Christmas 2011

The distinguished British composer conductor, John Rutter (b. 1945), is especially loved in the United States for his melodic purity and simple yet beautiful instrumentation. Here is one of his best loved compositions for the season:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Aviation In Film History: Strategic Air Command

Here is the second entry in our new series about airplanes and Hollywood.

In 1955, Jimmy Stewart - a celebrated United States Army Air Forces flyer and superb actor - and June Allyson starred in Strategic Air Command, a 1955 film best-known for its aerial sequences involving the Convair B-36 Peacemaker. This behemoth of an aircraft was powered by ten engines, six piston and four jet. It still holds several superlatives - largest, longest, first, and more - sixty years after entering service as an early weapon of the Cold War.

The B-36 dwarfed the B-29 Superfortress, the largest aircraft in service in World War II.

Only once did OTR see this magnificent aircraft in flight, but it left a lasting impression on a kid already fascinated with flying machines.

Here is the Peacemaker's takeoff sequence from the film:

And here's a brief video on the B-36 story:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens

Today, bloggers and pundits across the Internet are writing about the passing of Christopher Hitchens, certainly one of the most entertaining political writers of the last thirty years. He covered a broad range of the political spectrum in his own way, personally and professionally, over the years, becoming more pragmatic and conservative after the September 11, 2001 Islamist attack in New York. Whether readers loved or hated him, they had to admire his skill with both language and humor. Here is a sample of what others have said:

James G. Wiles at American Thinker
Ronald Radosh at National Review Online
John Derbyshire at National Review Online
Steven Hayward at Power Line

And here is a collection of "his most memorable bons mots" selected by editors at The Guardian. The column to the right of the article has links to additional commentary from his fellow Brits.

Central Planning

We in the U.S. will be suffering a long time from the unrealized expectations of universal homeownership brought to us by Freddie, Fannie, statists like Barney Frank, and the private sector porkers in the banking and real estate industries.  It is a mere shadow of things to come from an executive unschooled in the history of the failure of state-controlled or centralized planning. Here is an example of what a controlled economy can produce in terms of both infrastructure and potential social instability. The Chinese government is building scores of these empty cities in an attempt to grow its annual gross domestic product by 8%. The policy has fueled speculation to the point that only the wealthiest citizens can afford to live in them. But who would live in a city without an economy or even the smallest hint of community? Chinese leaders are about to learn the hard way that their "build it and they will come" policy comes without a guarantee.

Here is another link discussing the pop in China's property bubble.

It is interesting how history is there for the taking, how it is indeed cyclical, and how it is repeatedly ignored.

H/T Instapundit
Photo: Ghost city in China

Monday, December 12, 2011

Aviation In Film History: Flying Down To Rio

OTR grew up around airplanes. He was up close to the surplus Cubs from World War II and the small home-builts at the air park across the road from his family's summer cottage. He recalls how odd it was that he never flew in those planes. As for the larger aircraft, he had to settle for running out of the kitchen on hearing the roar of multi-engines at low altitude and looking up, astounded, at the B-36 Peacemaker cruising above the puffy cumulus. Wonderful. He so appreciated the endless aviation themed films about World War II and the new U.S. Air Force. In time, his interests broadened, but he never lost enthusiasm for movies about flying. Here's a brief scene from one of his favorites, Flying Down to Rio (1933), discovered long after childhood's end:

Hooray for Hollywood!

N.B. This film features Fred Astaire paired with Ginger Rogers for the first time, and is notable for its cast and music as well as the flying sequence.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Walt Disney, The Imagineer

OTR's made some efforts recently to get away from playing the role of aggregator on the Internet. On the other hand, he doesn't mind backsliding a bit when it comes to the subject of Walt Disney and his "world." Our friends at PJMedia have posted an entertaining article by Chris Queen that lists Disney's greatest innovations. Some are well-known, others not so.

One thing is certain: the Disney effect permeates art and entertainment today. Those of us who still have our Davy Crockett watches likely understand this impact. Younger readers probably know about the Disneyland-Disney World stories, but there is much more of the story they should know. The link, with its several short videos and links, is here.

H/T Instapundit

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Voyager I Enters Purgatory

In September 1977, NASA launched Voyager I, a cosmic traveler designed to explore the outer planets in our solar system, then accelerate beyond into space. Voyager has just now reached the edge of our system and entered what astronomers call a "cosmic purgatory" where the Sun's energy "wind" falls back on itself. So what is in store for this craft now that it is 11 billion miles from the Sun? For the next eight years, its instrument package will relay information on space itself.

After those years pass, Voyager will fall silent, but its journey will continue until ending in one of perhaps three likely scenarios. First, the craft could be a "cosmic mariner" for all time. Second, it could be destroyed either by any one of billions of objects in the universe or by an alien culture viewing it as a threat. Third, it could be discovered, recovered, and studied by a culture that viewed it more as a curiosity. They would not be disappointed.

Voyager I carries the Golden Record. It is "a twelve-inch gold plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on earth." We can only imagine their reactions to the sound of thunder, surf, wild dogs, a F-111 flyby, a human heartbeat, or to a diversity of music.  Here is the final selection from the Golden Record:

Seems quite fitting for our traveler - Voyager, drifting in emptiness, will not pass close to another planetary system for 40,000 years.

Note: Most of the audio selections from the Golden Record are available on YouTube. It's an interesting listen. For an explanation of the diagram, go here.

National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

This is the 70th anniversary of the Imperial Japanese Navy's attack on the U.S. Navy's base at Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor, October 30, 1941

Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Photo taken by a Japanese pilot during the torpedo attack on Battleship Row, visible on the far side of Ford Island.

There were almost 4000 casualties that day, including 1200 dead.

The attack led to a war effort that included 16,000,000 American men and women in uniform. The National World War II Museum in New Orleans writes that only 1,700,000 of these veterans survive and they are dying at the rate of 740 a day. Soon, the relics, memorials and ceremony will be all that is left to testify to America's greatest generation at war. If we are to survive, we need to remember them now and in the future for what they did to crush evil in the world.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Sacred Harp of Hoboken, Georgia

This past weekend, there was a Sacred Harp concert in a small church in Oxford, Georgia, a ten mile drive east of OTR's woods. Sacred Harp has nothing to do with a frame with strings. The only "instruments" are human voices singing four part harmony. Sacred Harp, a form of shape note singing, originated in 1844 with the publication of a songbook of the same name by Benjamin Franklin Wright (Harris County, Georgia) and Elisha J. King (Talbot County, Georgia).  Their work enabled untrained voices to worship with polyphonic, harmonious song. After a century and a half, the unusual cadence and harmony of the Sacred Harp survived only in a few places, mostly in the South and Midwest. Today it enjoys a resurgence - thanks in part to the Internet - and enables listeners to hear the past singing in the present. In the following videos, readers can hear Sacred Harp from Hoboken, Georgia.

And here is an example of how Sacred Harp has entered the world of entertainment:

For more information, visit this page at the Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Last Boy Scout

Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos quarterback, and former Florida Gators star, is a great passer, a savvy runner, and an unabashed Christian. The first two attributions fit quite well into the world of professional football and its fan base. The third item, especially Tebow's public demonstration of his faith on the field, doesn't sit so well. Some players have actually mocked him and others have expressed contempt for his "too good" lifestyle. Granted, Tebow is an anomaly in a violent sport world. That doesn't bother OTR. What does bother him is what Tebow's reception on the field, among the fans, and in the sports press says about what Americans have become in the so-called Post-Christian Era. National Review Online's Daniel Foster has some observations on Tebow and his impact that readers will find enlightening.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Season of Advent

Luke 1:46-55 records the wonderful Song of Mary, also known as the Magnificat. The song was the devotion at our Evening Prayer Service tonight. There are many setting for it, but Johann Sebastian Bach has in OTR's opinion left us with the music of Heaven here on Earth. Here is the first part of his Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243:

Magnificat anima mea Dominum

My soul glorifies the Lord

The remaining eleven parts of this performance by Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra are on YouTube.