Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

And a Happy Boxing Day to you, Garrison Keillor!

December 26, 2009

I must have been doing a spectacularly poor job wasting time over the last week, because only today did I see Garrison Keillor’s Christmas rant:

Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that’s their perfect right, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong to rewrite “Silent Night.” If you don’t believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn “Silent Night” and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism and we Christians have stood for it long enough. And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write “Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we’ll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah”? No, we didn’t.

Golly. For the record, he also says bad things about Lawrence Summers and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and unaccountably refers to the good people of Cambridge, MA, as “Cambridgeans.”

One has to wonder exactly how serious this is intended to be. On the one hand, Keillor is a professional humorist and satirist. He’s also an inveterate rewriter of lyrics, Christmas lyrics not excepted. On the other, well… it isn’t very funny, now is it?

I’m leaning towards thinking it’s satire, or at least thinking that he thinks it’s satire. I am hardly Garrison Keillor’s biggest fan1—I find A Prairie Home Companion both precious and grating, not to mention endlessly, mindlessly, numbingly repetitive—but I don’t think he’s stupid. I can easily imagine him being sufficiently egotistical to blast the UU’s for rewriting lyrics even as he does it himself (possibly by distinguishing “serious” and “humorous” rewrites). I can’t imagine him being so ignorant of musical tradition as to think that lyrics haven’t been rewritten continually since there were lyrics to rewrite. Or that Christmas music was universally wonderful and timeless until those Unitarians and Jews had to go and spoil it all.

I think he’s adopted a sort of vaguely anti-Semitic (and anti-Unitarian (and heck, while we’re at it, homophobic)) curmudgeonly Andy Rooney persona, full of misty nostalgia for those good old days that never existed. Perhaps he’s also kidding on the square.

And this wouldn’t be the first time Keillor’s attempted satire was taken more seriously than he claims to have intended. Here’s his apology, in the context of Dan Savage’s response to same, for the above-linked column.

FWIW, I looked up the offending Godless Silent Night. I’m not sure which of the two versions in the UU hymnal so offended Garrison. The first is just like the one he’s used to, except that it replaces “son of God” with “child of God” and ends each stanza with “Sleep in heavenly peace”—no Sons or Lords here. The second is a much more literal translation of two of the original German verses, very mildly Unitarianized so as to avoid the word “savior.”

Lots of responses to this on the internets, of course. Here‘s one from folk-singer-(pretty good folk singer, in fact)-turned-Unitarian-minister Fred Small, whose church it was that Keillor was talking about. This piece includes links to other Unitarian-Universalist responses (some of which seem angry and wounded—UUs, like “Cambridgeans,” are natural Keillor fans). Here‘s something pretty icky from Powerline, the gist of which is that Keillor must be sublimating his anger at the Jews (isn’t it really the atheists, and those who like the First Amendment?) who have so rudely driven Christmas from the Public Square.


1. Garrison Keillor’s biggest fan is Garrison Keillor.


Me In Concert

November 4, 2008

In case some early music fan in the greater Boston area happens to stumble on this in the next few days: the group I sing with is having concerts this weekend. The other singers are generally better than I am, so I expect it to go well—

Concordia Consort & Ars et Amici vocal ensemble
   “Sweet Harmony / Dolc’ Armonia”
Sacred & secular vocal & instrumental music from England & Italy
*  anthems by Gibbons, Tallis, Byrd
*  madrigals by Byrd, Morley, Verdelot, Arcadelt, Gabrieli
*  motets by Marenzio, Scarlatti, Palestrina
*  instrumental works by Dering, Tye, Byrd, Bertali, Gesualdo

Ars et Amici
        Eileen Cecilia Callahan & Beth Spaulding, sopranos
        Sheila Beardslee & Sue Delaney, altos
        Craig Thomas & Jody Wormhoudt, tenors
        Michael Lauer & John Nesby, basses
Concordia Consort   Sheila Beardslee, Christine Alderman, Janet Gibson,
        George Mastellone & Brian Warnock, recorders
Two performances:

Friday, November 7 at 8:15 PM
    Trinity Episcopal Church, 81 Elm Street, Concord
    $15 suggested donation; $10 students, seniors & R/EMM members
    Info:  978/264-0584  or
Sunday, November 9 at 4 PM
    Wakefield Town Hall Opera House, 2 High Street in Sanbornville NH
    $15 suggested donation; $10 students, seniors
        Proceeds benefit ongoing Opera House restoration
    Info:  603/522-0126 or 603/522-6349

Say it Ain’t So, Alice!

May 24, 2008

From today’s Boston Globe (can’t find a link to the story)—Alice Cooper is a golfer. “I took up golf 26 years ago when I quit drinking…I just traded one addiction for another.” Well, as long as it’s an addiction, I guess it’s OK…

But here is Alice as I prefer to think of him: with Muppets:

Jesus Christ Superstarrr

May 19, 2008

I went to Boston last weekend to see the touring Jesus Christ Superstar. Starring Ted Neeley, who’s been Jesusing for a long time. I fear he is now a tidge too old for the part, but what the hey; for a 64-year-old guy he still has a pretty impressive set of pipes.

The real standout was Corey Glover as Judas. Apparently I would have heard of him and his band Living Colour had I listened to 80’s funk metal, or if I had paid more attention to Guitar Hero 3. Maybe I’ll seek out one of their albums, or at least play GH3 again. What’s up, though, with so many black Judases? Random chance? Subtle racism? The part is just too cool for white guys to play?

The rest of the cast was generally good as well, although much more Broadway than Neeley and especially Glover. Broadway is fine and all, but JCS is among the least Broadwayish of shows—the first recording was after all not staged at all, and had a cast of decidedly non-Broadway (or West End) actors and singers. And really I think Broadway gloss gets in the way of the panic and terror and chaos of the story. These are people who are scared and confused and don’t really know what they’re doing—and it’s hard for me to believe that in someone who has the self-assurance and practiced confidence of a Broadway singer. Give me a cast of strung out hippies and roadies, I say! Well, maybe that’s just me. And in any case Glover’s rock-star affect, and voice, made up for much.

And something else that bothered me (and explains the title of this post): everyone except Glover really seemed to be emphasizing their r’s. They sounded like Brits imitating Americans. What’s up with that? Am I so used to pretentious English choral style that I can’t take good old American singing voices?

Polish and r’s aside, I don’t mean to dis the rest of the cast here, because as I said they really were good. Tiffini Dodson (a Tennessee girl!) as Mary Magdalene and Craig Sculli as Pilate especially so.

I was struck by something that should have been completely unsurprising: how much this production sounded like the show’s various earlier incarnations. Having gone through a bit of Webber/Rice phase (how gay is that? and don’t get me started on Evita), I still pretty much have the whole thing mostly engraved in my brain, and at only one point did I experience even the slightest dissonance between the soundtrack in my head and the one on the stage. The instruments could have been canned, using tracks from the original production, and I’d never have noticed. Neeley was of course in the movie. Even Glover had a bit of a Murray Head thing going, I thought. Only Herod’s song was reworked, with a bit of a Latin beat (and some spoken dialog, the only spoken lines in the show). I’m told that productions often rework Herod a bit; it’s the only bit of levity in the show, and everyone wants to make the most of it.

I went with a largish group, and it was interesting to see various people’s reactions. Several people who didn’t know the show—these including my wife and daughter—hated it. Those of us for whom it loomed large in our formative consciousnesses loved it. One complaint I heard was that people couldn’t understand the words. I didn’t notice that, but then, I knew them all already.

Maybe people were confused by the plot as well. I’ve always thought the central conceit of the show—that Judas betrayed Jesus because he feared that Jesus’s followers were getting too noticeable, and that the Romans would step in and crush them—never made much sense to me. I just never much cared. I figured young Andrew and Tim just needed some Judas story to hang songs on, and settled for the first thing that seemed to work at all.

And one last almost-unrelated note: I see in Tim Rice‘s Wikipedia article that his marriage broke up when he had an affair with Elaine Page. I did not know that!

Preludes from Parthenia

February 12, 2008

I transcribed a couple of pieces from Parthenia this weekend. The Bull is a particularly neat little thing; I like the way it can’t decide whether it’s major or mixolydian (if I’m using those terms more or less correctly).

Dr Bull, by the way, seems to have been a bit of a Jack-the-Lad, frequently in trouble for adultery, presumably with unwisely chosen women. He looks decidedly Satanic in the wonderful painting at the wikipedia article.

I’m a CPDL contributor now

December 16, 2007

I’ve submitted all my Billings scores to the CPDL. Years of guilt about using all that free stuff without contributing anything in return are now assuaged!