At Chorale. About ninety of us crowded into the choir room at the church where rehearsals will be held. As we signed in, we received ten pieces of choral music, arranged in alphabetical order by title. The young, enthusiastic director showed me where the bass section was, and I met the father of the director, beside whom I sat. We read through the ten pieces, with only a couple of stops for the director to explain rhythmic concerns, “so it won’t be so frightening when we rehearse the piece.” “This for me is therapy,” he said. “I teach middle school, and so I need it.” He kept the atmosphere relaxed and congenial but allowed for no laxness. Following the reading, we gathered in another room for food and drinks. A member of the church choir in which I sang, approached me and asked, “Isn’t it nice to sing with other men who read music.” (In my church choir I’m the only bass who reads music.) I said, “Yes, I could tell that many men read music well.” A sharp-tongued woman with likewise sharp facial features opposite me in line asked, “What did you say?” She did not hear the context of my remarks. I repeated to her what I said and her response was, “Well, yes, there are any number of our group of both genders who read well.” She must be proud of the group or a feminist. I did not try to explain my exclusion; I said, “That’s one of the things that makes the group strong then.” She huffed the reply, “Yes.”
At Mass. It was the first Mass for our new priest. He did not have a homily. He instead talked about himself so that we could get to know him. He has served on important committees and boards. He has taught at prestigious schools. He likes to learn; he has three MA degrees and a PhD, all earned from Jesuit institutions. “I’m a Franciscan who thinks like a Jesuit.” He opened the time for our asking him questions. When a child asked him his favorite food, he answered, “Chicken wings, Buffalo style, with a pitcher of beer.” He did not emphasize, or perhaps even mention, pastoral opportunities he has had, no projection of his work at our church. Perhaps he is here to learn to be a pastor I was glad to hear about his achievements, but I wanted to hear a homily. I will learn of him spiritually through his homilies.
Listening. It was fun to listen to Mendelssohn’s complete incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, op. 21 (overture), and op. 62 (1826). My recording is the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Andre Previn, with Soprano Lillian Watson, Mezzo-Soprano Delia Wallis, and the Finchley Children’s Music Group (Colin Howard, choirmaster) EMI Records, 1977
Mendelssohn captures the magic and charm and conflicts of the play by Shakespeare in this piece, written to accompany the performance of the play. Instrumental music expertly rendered in Romantic style with classical form is combined with choral interludes. There are a choral rondel, a brilliant scherzo, a famous wedding march (was it performed at your wedding?), an ironic funeral march, a hilarious bergomask (accompanying the silly play, the wedding entertainment provided by the rustics), and a nocturne. My favorite movement is the nocturne, with melody carried by horns. Listening to the music is a relaxing way to spend an hour, especially if your imagination is open to a good time.
Reading. Nonfiction. Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster, I Don’t Care If We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever. Grove Press,2014. I like baseball, though I did not watch or attend a single game last season, and I like road trips, though mine lately have been limited to overnight trips. When I was browsing in the baseball section of a book store, I came across this book, bought it, and read it. It’s an amusing and engaging narrative of two friends in their 20’s who decide to take on the challenge of the adventure related in the subtitle. Suspense is provided because of time restraints and imposed rules of their own making, including being there for the first pitch, staying the entire game, regardless of overtime innings, and not excusing a game become of a rain cancellation. Just as interesting is the story of the friendship. One of the men doesn’t like baseball and is going along for the challenge and for the opportunity of seeing the US from coast to coast. I enjoyed their narrations of stops along the way: at the baseball museum in Cooperstown, at the Louisville Bat Factory in Kentucky, at the home of the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania so that one of them could run bases there, and at times when they are pulled for speeding. I also enjoyed the philosophic discussions about “New Mexico’s existentially troubled signs,” such as “Dust storms may exist” I enjoyed their discussion about the values of close reading of literature with the conclusion at least by one of them, that it’s a waste of time. Suspense is guaranteed because of 17-hour (or more) drives, possibility of rain, possibilities of overtime innings. It’s a fun book. I recommend it.
Reading. Scripture. Daniel. Daniel is my favorite character in the Old Testament. I don’t know another more genial. From early years, I remember stories of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, and in adult years, I went back to the scripture to re-read the story of Susanna’s unjust accusation by the elders, on which Carlyle Floyd based his opera, set in the Appalachian Mountains, Susannah. And throughout our culture are references to the handwriting on the wall, which Daniels is able to interpret. Daniel throughout is clever and successful, in interpreting dreams, in escaping from the lions’ den (twice), and in proving to judges the innocence of Susannah. Daniel’s success, of course, is attributed to his faith and service to God. Other memorable situations include episodes involving the slow learning King Nebuchardnezzar , the burning of the furnace attendants as they throw victims in and also the burning of other attendants who try to increase the heat. On this re-reading I paid particular attention to the great paeans in Chapter 3. The should be set to choral music.
Thank you for reading. I hope things are going well for your and yours.