Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Surviving Mozart ~ Barely

 In recent years I have come to enjoy listening to the Mozart “Clarinet Quintet in A, K 581.” I appreciate the finesse and musicality of the performers, the contrasting moods of the several movements, the tight-knit construction of the piece and its overall charm.  It is, after all, by Mozart ~ one of his superb mature works. But it was not always so. For many years I cringed whenever it came on the radio and even avoided attending concerts on which it was programmed.  Why did I feel such antipathy to this outstanding example of the chamber music repertoire? Let me tell you a cautionary tale.

Back when I was still a performing member of the Lancaster Musical Arts Society ~ it must have been in the mid- to late 1980s ~ a well-known Lancaster violist called me with a request.  A clarinetist in the organization, wanting to fulfill a lifetime dream of performing the Mozart Quintet, had asked the string quartet which she led to play with him on a Musical Arts program the following spring.  Unfortunately, their first violinist would be out of town on the chosen date. Would I be their sub? Learning a major new work at that particular time was not something I was eager to do, but she had baled me out a couple of times when I needed a viola on short notice, so I said Yes.

Thursday, April 23, 2020


A half century ago Earth Day was a new and intriguing concept. Space exploration had given us our first images of our planet as a whole ~ a beautiful blue orb, a jewel in the cosmos. Yet many of us were painfully aware of the terrible damage our species had done and was doing to that gem.  Earth Day was an opportunity for consciousness raising, for calling attention to what needed to be done, for banding together to organize for change.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Counterpoint to Wonder - song and slideshow

The refugees and asylum seekers fleeing violence in Honduras are much on my heart these days.  Through Project Via Crucis, a Central Pennsylvania ministry of accompaniment with the churches and people of El Salvador, I was privileged to participate in five PVC delegations during the early to mid-1990s.  Walking and worshiping with the faithful, oppressed people of Central America irrevocably changed my understanding and perspective. This blog post and the video it references are my response to the present day suffering of Hondurans and to the terrible misinformation about them that our government officials want us to believe.
From photographs of El Salvador and other meaningful locations I have created a video slideshow set to the song “Counterpoint to Wonder” by Carolyn McDade.  The song, with its challenge to each of us to choose with whom we stand, grew out of Carolyn’s own experiences in Nicaragua in the 1980s.  Here is the link to view the video on YouTube: Counterpoint to Wonder. What follows are thumbnail images of the slides with identification of location and relevance to the words of the song.  I invite readers to view the video first, then return to this blog post to learn about the images, then view the video a second time, keeping this information in mind.

Friday, August 31, 2018

To Be a Christian

What does it mean to be a Christian now, in this present time and place? It is a question I have been asking myself with increasing urgency in recent years. Safely within the four walls of the church I attend we sing “They’ll know we are Christians by our love” and “Christian hearts in love united,” and the pastors preach of Jesus’ love for the whole world. Then I go home and read the news, and so much of what is identified as “Christian” is very far from what I know of Jesus’ teachings.
As a member of a mainline, ecumenically active Protestant denomination, I’m inclined to hold a generously broad view.  If person or group identifies themselves as Christian, I’m willing to take their word for it without applying any test of doctrine or practice.  But when I observe their words and actions, I have to wonder – if that is Christian, then what am I?
Jesus taught his followers, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-16a) Examining the fruits of those who claim to be Christian, then, is a Christ-approved way of discerning whose example we should imitate and whose we should reject.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Demonizing Other Gods

In the history of human migration and conquest certain patterns repeat themselves endlessly.  One of these is the practice of invaders to demonize the gods of those whom they have subdued and displaced.  There are numerous stories of this kind of struggle in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, told both from the viewpoint of the triumphant conquerors and of the resistant conquered.
In the Old Testament books of Joshua and Judges the military eradication of the indigenous tribes of the Jordan valley by the Israelites is firmly linked with destruction of their places of worship.  The indigenous gods, called Baals, are mocked and denounced.  The Israelite understanding of what their god requires of them is exemplified by Judges 2:1-5, in which an angel of The Lord calls them disobedient and calls punishment on them for failing to tear down all the altars to local gods.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Salvadorans Will Suffer from TPS Revocation

In early January United States Federal authorities announced that they were revoking Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nearly 200,000 Salvadoran natives who currently live, work, and raise their families in the U.S.  The status was originally granted by the George W. Bush administration after two devastating earthquakes hit El Salvador in early 2001 and has been extended repeatedly by both the Bush and Obama administrations.  While much of the infrastructure that was damaged by the earthquakes has been rebuilt and repaired, for many the country remains a very dangerous and inhospitable place in which to live.
In the years since receiving TPS Salvadorans in our country have worked hard to be productive residents.  According to analysis by the Center for Migration Studies, 88 percent of Salvadoran beneficiaries of TPS participate in the labor force.  They are parents to 192,700 American-born children who now face separation either from the parents they love or from the only friends, culture, and country they have ever known.  And they send several billion dollars annually to family members still in El Salvador.  Ending this support will significantly increase the suffering of those who depend on it to supplement their meager living.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas Vigil at Lititz Moravian

Some years ago I researched and wrote this history of the Christmas Eve service at Lititz Moravian Church and have updated it as needed.  In recent weeks I've had occasion to share it with several folks and have decided that the easiest way to make it available is to post it here on my blog.

The History of the Lititz Moravian Congregation records that, just a few months after the village was named in 1756, the small group of Lititz brothers and sisters living in the Pilgerhaus celebrated Christmas Eve by holding a Lovefeast.  From that humble beginning has evolved an elaborate worship service beloved by all who participate and attend.  The congregation presents the service six times each year during the weeks before Christmas as a gift to the community.
Research into the history of the service, popularly termed the Christmas Vigil, yields fascinating results.  More than thirty odes (the order of service with hymns, anthems, and scripture readings) designated for Christmas Eve can be found in the church archives.  The earliest, dated 1765, is an eight-page printed folder detailing portions to be sung by two different choirs, soloists, children, and congregation.  The congregation’s sections are quite short, with most of the music provided by choirs and soloists.
This pattern continues through the remainder of the eighteenth century, with the children given an increasing role as the years go on.  And it is the children who, in 1792, sing for the first time in English.  One of the verses they sang, “Hail Infant new-born, whom the angels adore,” is familiar to our present choir in an anthem setting by Moravian composer David Moritz Michael.  This anthem is not, however, part of our current Vigil ode.