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Sunday surprise, the selfsame song

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — whether willed by the brain or torn from the heart, the one, same cry for mercy — in chant, by Bach, and by Ray Charles & BB king ]
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A stranger in my Twitter-stream just tweeted a link to a current Australian report on an opening window for rescue operations for the boys trapped in that cave in norther Thailand, two and a half miles under ground:

[ the video in this tweet is from a continually updated news feed — at time of writing, the rescue op was just beginning ]

Fate may be fate, prayer may or may not influence events — perhaps prayer may only help us, the watching world ouiside that cave, those circumstances, that peril — the urge to pray is no respecter of particular religions, Christians, Buddhists, Atheists, we all may feel the instinct to pray.

The prayer is the most basic cry, as we shall see in three versions: the timeless Gregorian chant, the beauty of the Erbarme Dich from Bach‘s Matthew Passion, and that selfsame song as Ray Charles sings it with BB King.

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Gregorian chant:

Kyrie XI [ Lord, Have mercy ] from the choir of St Pierre de Solesmes, my favorite haunt when I was seventeen, with the greatest chant scholars and choir in the world:

That floating, swooping melody is characteristic of the chant.

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Erbarme dich, mein Gott [ “Have mercy Lord, My God, for the sake of my tears” ] by JS Bach

If we lose have mercy, Lord from our conceptual vocabulary, we lose a higher octave of hope, of the necessity of surrender.

Erbarme Dich may be the single sweetest moment in Bach‘s The Matthew Passion, itself arguably the greatest piece of church music ever written — a monumental, gloriously beautiful, grief-stricken work.

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Pure blues: Sinner’s prayer, Ray Charles and BB King:

If neither Bach nor the chant speak to you, perhaps the blues will — and if all three touch you, how wonderful the variety of expressions of the one prayer:

Lord please have mercy .. have mercy if you please..

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Footnote: Other unforgettable versions:

  • JS Bach, Kyrie from the B Minor Mass
  • WA Mozart, Kyrie from the Requiem Mass
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    Lord have mercy on the boys in the cave — knowing that the rescue task will be arduous, we ask mercy with hope and a readiness to surrender, to greet whatever outcome with our hearts flung open to grief or joy as the case may be.

    Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) et sequentes

    Sunday, April 15th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — luther et seq., where the sequentes are james comey and rod rosenstein ]
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    Martin Luther, he who nailed his theses to the door, said it first: Here I stand.

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    Kudos to Julia Ainsley for spotting the twin occurrences of the Martin Luther quote on the pages and lips of James Comey and Rod Rosenstein respectively:

    Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein tells confidants he is prepared to be fired:

    Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has struck a stoic and righteous tone in private conversations he has had this week about the fate of his job as President Donald Trump has launched public criticism against him and considered firing him, according to three sources who have spoken to Rosenstein.

    In those conversations, he has repeated the phrase, “Here I stand,” a reference to Martin Luther’s famous quote, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Coincidentally, former FBI Director James Comey, whom Rosenstein fired, repeated the same phrase to President George W. Bush in a conversation that has been widely reported and that Comey describes in his forthcoming book.

    To which I can only reply “A mighty fortress is our God”.

    **

    If Martin Luther is able to take so firm a stand for his beliefs, it is only because his God is so mighty a fortress protecting him, as he vociferously declared in this hymn — for which he composed both the words and the melody:

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    That’s a bit blunt to be sure, but the pious Lutheran JS Bach has much of the true spirit of the thing in this chorale rendering of Luther’s hymn:

    For Jim Gant, On the Resurrection, 01

    Monday, April 9th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron –with breath, thinking this through ]
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    It seems to me that there are two chewable questions in all seriousness:

    Does God Exist?

    To which it seems to me that the only answer would be something along the line of this:

    A roaring silence, in other words, which somehow worked itself out like this in the mind of one Franz Liszt — and he must have been pretty shaken by the end of it..

    For the record, it’s my sense that if St Gregory of Nyssa had had a taste for Liszt and access to YouTube, he might have said much the same.. One cannot predicate existence of God, but one can experience revelation, eh?

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    Question #2 is the real shaker, though..

    Did the Resurrection really happen?

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    Music and the Friday curiously called Good

    Friday, March 30th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — ffor whom the music lingers longest in the soul ]
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    Yesterday, Maundy Thursday in the western ritual calendar, the Christ washed the feet of his disciples after the Last Supper, and instructed them to do likewise. Today, the day called Good Friday, the Christ, scourged and bone-weary from dragging the wood chosen for his cross uphill to a place called Golgotha or Skull, is finally nailed, hand and foot, hands and feet. and raised up with a mocking inscription above his head proclaiming him King of the Jews in three languages -– and in his almost final gesture on earth, forgives the soldier who has just applied hammer to those terrible nails. He dies – “gives up the ghost” – and then the three days of a prophesied and clearly impossible return from the tomb open before us – a cliff-hanger like no other.

    The suspense!

    Our western civ loses a lot if we are unable to have, in the cycle of our 24/365 lives, such a moment of suspense, which IMO cuts deeper than any doctrine. Deeper than doctrine, too, is music, which reaches far beyond the bounds of verbal belief. Thus one of western music’s greatest treasures: Bach’s telling of Christ’s passion, as written by Matthew in his gospel. Pause a moment – pause a couple of hours – pause at least long enough for Bach’s great finale – and then wait, if the Christ story can still move you, wait with aching, with dread even – or as Bach suggests, rest with the resting Christ, take consolation in the promise of his resurrection.

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    Bach’s finale, Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder, WIki explains:

    The work is closed by a grand scale chorus in da capo form, choir I and II mostly in unison for the first part Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder (We sit down in tears), but in dialog in the middle section, choir II repeating Ruhe sanfte, sanfte ruh! (“Rest gently, gently rest!”), choir I reflecting: “Your grave and headstone shall, for the anxious conscience, be a comfortable pillow and the resting place for the soul. Highly contented, there the eyes fall asleep.” These are the last words (before the recapitulation), marked by Bach himself: p pp ppp (soft, very soft, extremely soft).

    Bach’s complete Matthew Passion, a Lutheran choral setting for today’s evening service:

    **

    And the end, in Matthew’s telling:

    And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.

    Christ born again, wishing you each & every blessing this holy tide

    Monday, December 25th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — wishing to avoid the excesses of piety and secularism, to get once more to the heart of the Christmas message, refreshed ]
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    How shall we get past the tired commerical imagery of 80% off, the pious religiosity of religious hucksters, and cleanse our image of the Christ-Mass to seee him afresh?

    One way I have found is to travel abroad:


    Mughal Madonna and child attributed to Manohar or Basawan

    Seen with fresh eyes, the ancient image of the sacred, royal child and pure mother shines anew.

    Or take this Ethiopic image of the flight into Egypt — unusual to our eyes, yet utterly appropriate for the flight to Egypt to be represented to us by a Ethiopic artist..


    Ethiopic, flight into Egypt

    And how gently, with a finger’s touch, this angel from Autun cathedral wakes the three wise men (magi), here shown as three kings:

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    Ah, music!

    Perhaps JS Bach’s Christmas Oratorio BWV 248 can carry conviction where a statement of faith, constructed entirely in words and lacking the flourishes of trumpets, must always fail to push past our secular sensibilities into glory:

    Or a very different voice, declaring the humble birth in a stable outside an inn — yet with its own indubitable trumpets:

    Mahalia!

    **

    Hell — heaven! I personally wish all those who read this post on Zenpundit a happy / blessed Christmas..

    I’m thinking of you Jim Gant, Tim Furnish, J Scott Shipman, Mark ZP, Grurray, PR Beckman, David Ronfeldt, Howard Rheingold, Mark Osiecki, Kate Gilpin, Anne and Tom Merino, David and Emlyn Cameron, Susan Uskudarli — so many of you..


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