edschweppe: A closeup of my face, taken at Star Island during the All-Star II conference in 2009 (Default)
Yes, I took many pictures during my recent trip to Transylvania.
Yes, I got back a week ago.
Yes, it's taken a long time for me to get those pictures onto the Web.

But here they are, on Flikr:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskvSBjBp
edschweppe: A closeup of my face, taken at Star Island during the All-Star II conference in 2009 (Default)
Friday was the vernal equinox, and it snowed. Not much, but it snowed.

Yesterday was the first full day of spring, and it snowed some more. Again, not much - maybe a bit over an inch between the two snowfalls, and it melted almost immediately - but, still, it snowed.

Tomorrow morning's National Weather Service forecast is calling for early morning air temperatures around 14F and wind chills around 3F in my neck of the woods. Which really sucks for late March, waiting on the platform for the commuter rail.

And said commuter rail still hasn't recovered from the seven-plus feet of snow we got this winter. Keolis (the French outfit that took over the contract last summer) has put out a schedule that includes most of the pre-snowpocalypse trains, but that's a far cry from actually meeting said schedules. Over the last five weeks, I have only once had a commute where both my inbound and outbound trains were on time (Wednesday, March 11th). If I count the times when the train was less than five minutes late (which means Keolis doesn't face a fine for it), I can add four more round trips (2/27, 3/2 and 3/12) to the list. Overall, of my 42 total rides since President's Day [1], only 16 have qualified as "on-time" by the less-than-five-minutes rule, for an on-time percentage of 33%.

Which, to put it mildly, sucks, even worse than normal. Keolis is supposed to maintain a 95% on time percentage. The Boston Globe Magazine ran a story back on February 22, Will the MBTA commuter rail ever run on time?, which noted that the November 2014 OTP for the Fitchburg line was only 66%. Even a 95% OTP means that someone who rides five days a week can expect a late train about once every other week.

At least last week I didn't have any trips where the lights and heat died mid-trip; I'd had three of those in the three previous weeks.

And today's offertory in church was Sydney Carter's Julian of Norwich (aka Bells of Norwich), which is always good for lifting my spirits. "All shall be well again, I know."

[1] There were several days where I just plain didn't go into Boston for various reasons, and a couple where I had to drive in because the train wouldn't get me out in time for important appointments.
edschweppe: A picture of my church (church)
Another day, another few inches of snow. Fortunately, the freezing rain stayed well to my south and west, so the driving wasn't that terrible. And the temperatures even got (slightly) above freezing!

"The Storm Is Passing Over" (written by Charles Albert Tindley, arranged by Barbara W. Baker) was the offertory anthem today at church. Appropriate, what?

Of course, we're back into the deep freeze tonight and early next week. Tomorrow night has wind chill advisories up, with forecast air temperatures below zero Fahrenheit. And the MBTA commuter rail has once again signally failed to meet even its miniscule weekend schedule, which bodes poorly for its performance tomorrow morning. But no point in worrying too much about that tonight.
edschweppe: Karl Jenkins "The Peacemakers": Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama (karl jenkins peacemakers)
The Master Singers of Worcester and the American Guild of Organists Worcester Chapter present The Peacemakers: A Musical Celebration of Peace by Karl Jenkins, for one performance only on Sunday, March 30 at 4:00 PM at Mechanics Hall in downtown Worcester, Massachusetts.

The 72-minute work is based entirely on the theme of peace, utilizing a wide range of texts from a variety of languages, religions, and authors including texts by Rumi, Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, Shelley, Terry Waite, Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank, Bahá’u'lláh and St. Seraphim of Sarov, as well as quotations from the Qur’an, the Bible and the Ordinary of the Mass.

This concert will be the New England premier of this work, and is part of a series of events celebrating the 150th anniversary of Mechanics Hall's 3,504-pipe Hook Organ. Performers will include the Master Singers of Worcester, the Worcester Children’s Chorus, the Worcester Polytechnic Institute Orchestra, and the massed choirs of many area churches, including First Unitarian Church of Worcester, First Congregational Church of Shrewsbury, Wesley United Methodist Church, Trinity Church of Northboro, First Parish Church of Berlin, St. John’s Episcopal Church of Sutton ...

and the choir of the First Parish Church of Stow and Acton.

Including me, singing baritone.

(eep!)

In all seriousness, this is an impressive piece of work. And Mechanics Hall is a fantastic venue, originally built by the Worcester Mechanics Society before the Civil War. And I promise not to suck badly. So if you're interested in choral works, or in peacemaking, or in awesome concert halls, or even in hearing me singing as part of a massed choir, check it out. Tickets are $25 ($20 for seniors/students), and available online at http://www.mechanicshall.org/tickets/concertdetail/peace03302014.html

Yep.

Dec. 15th, 2013 10:09 am
edschweppe: A picture of my church (church)
Church cancelled this morning "due to the storm and the bad driving conditions." A bummer, as we were going to sing Distler's arrangement of "Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming" as an introit.

The snow has stopped here, with only about eight inches of accumulation. Our forebears would consider us wimps. On the other hand, our forebears would have had the minister living in the parsonage, not twenty-plus miles away over not-yet-plowed roads.
edschweppe: A picture of my church (church)
I have to admit, it's not the first thing I would think of, but this article makes a decent case for Steampunk and UUs going together:
The twentieth anniversary Riverside Dickens Fest was my entry into Steampunk. The church I was serving, the Universalist Unitarian Church of Riverside, California, had a longstanding fundraiser of serving Victorian-inspired food to the thousands of people attending the weekend festival. Food service in bonnets and vests had worn down the congregation over time, so we temporarily rechristened our congregation "The Society of All Souls Steampunk of Yesteryear" or "SASSY," and dove in.

We didn’t know much to start with beyond the goggles and gears image, but we did know Charles Dickens, his Unitarian values, and this enigmatic quote from John Clute in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction: "There’s no getting away from the man who invented Steampunk: Charles Dickens."
http://www.uuworld.org/ideas/articles/290433.shtml

I suppose, if nothing else, church steeples could be repurposed as dirigible mooring masts ...
edschweppe: A picture of my church (church)
Five years ago, one of my fellow basses in the choir was diagnosed with a particularly nasty case of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The doctor told him his odds of survival were 60/40 at best, and the treatment involved chemotherapy so massive that he needed an autologous stem cell transplant.

Tonight, at choir rehearsal, he announced that his latest CT scan came back completely clean.

There was much rejoicing. :-)

There's been far too much crappy news recently; I figured sharing something good was called for.
edschweppe: A picture of my church (church)
Ingathering Sunday, nice weather, fun music. (Offertory was a traditional Zambian piece called "Bonse Aba", the lyrics of which translate roughly to "all who sing the spirit have the right to be called the children of God") The organ (which just received a badly-needed overhaul over the summer) both looks and sounds great.

One downside: we've started construction of a connector building to link the mid-nineteenth century Sanctuary (see my user icon) and our late-twentieth century Fellowship Hall. This will be great in the long term; in the short term, it means (a) the area between the two buildings is now a construction site and (b) Coffee Hour has to be moved to the vestry below the sanctuary (since the main entrance to Fellowship Hall is now part of said construction site). The vestry is much smaller than Fellowship Hall, so actually getting one's coffee will be ... challenging ... for the duration of the construction.

It will be worth it, though. And I'm back in the swing of the choir, after having missed far too many Sundays last winter and spring due to exigencies of work.
edschweppe: A picture of my church (first parish)
Ferry Beach, specifically. My church held a retreat there this weekend. The weather this year was distinctly not-summery - sunny but chilly and windy. Not too bad during the day if you were both (a) in the sunshine and (b) out of the wind; much less pleasant otherwise. Alas, I missed the Friday part and the early part of Saturday due to generally having felt unwell most of the week. On the other hand, as I was walking back to my car at the Maine Turnpike service area, I happened to turn to my side and found another FPC member on her way up to the retreat as well! For all the vastness of the Universe, sometimes it's a really small world...
edschweppe: A picture of my church (church)
I'll be singing as part of the 9:00 PM service at the First Parish Church of Stow and Acton, in the center of Stow, Massachusetts. We're doing several particularly cool pieces, including Distler's "Lo How a Rose" and an arrangement of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" in which the bass and tenor sections get almost all the melody. (If you're not a chorister, you may not realize how rare that is. Or how much a baritone like myself appreciates it!)

The music actually starts at 8:45, and all are welcome to attend!
.
edschweppe: (amplifying your effectiveness)
... I heard the first spring peepers of the year [1]. This is a Good Thing.

I also signed up for the 2011 AYE Conference today. This is another Good Thing.

Too many other folk in my life have had Bad Things happen to them recently. The Good Things need to be celebrated.

[1] At least, the first ones that I've heard. They may have been out earlier and I just didn't hear them.
edschweppe: A closeup of my face, taken at Star Island during the All-Star II conference in 2009 (Default)
Last week pretty much stank. Particularly at the Current Paying Gig, where one of my1 units suddenly stopped working in production. It runs fine on my desktop, in the common development environment, and in the unit test environment. In production, though? Kaboom. I suspect the never-to-be-sufficiently-damned Microsoft Jet database drivers. However, there was plenty of other Bad Stuff going down elsewhere, including one of my fellow choristers being rushed to the hospital only to discover she had advanced leukemia. And let's not forget the folks on my friends list who are having issues of their own. Or the fact that the next episode of Shadow Unit was postponed "[d]ue to a personal emergency interference from the network relating to an ongoing news story in the public media."

The weekend, though, has been pretty darn good. Friday night, David Surette and Susie Burke played a gig at my church's coffeehouse, and I had a blast. Saturday night was the church services auction; the congregation made a boatload of money, and I bought a lot of seats at dinners over the next year. Plus, I got to be part of the impromptu group of folks leading the crowd in singing excerpts from The Pirates of Penzance while the auction volunteers tallied up the bills. Finally, today was a beautifully sunny and not-too-chilly day, which meant I had the moonroof open throughout my day's driving.

This upcoming work week may or may not contain suckitude. But this? Was a good weekend.

1 It's mine until the Powers What Be find somebody I can turn it over to. Based on historical trends2, the expected date for such turnover is somewhere around 2015.
2 Over the last year, said PWB have graciously permitted me to hand one such unit off to somebody else.
edschweppe: A picture of my church (church)
For this morning's service, my choir (and I) sang a choral introit, a sung meditation and an offertory, plus the three hymns, affirmation and sung benediction that the entire congregation sang.

And, once again, not only did people compliment the choir as a whole, but I personally received praise for how well I sounded.

Maybe I'm getting good at this singing stuff after all ...
edschweppe: A closeup of my face, taken at Star Island during the All-Star II conference in 2009 (Default)
Today rather sucked rocks for most of the day. Apart from various crappy news stories and several members of my f-list suffering from awful situations, a particularly unwise non-developer on my project decided to "fix" a broken SQL query in a module I originally wrote. Not only did the "fix" break things even more, but said non-developer also managed to:
(a) not test the "fixed" query
(b) not notice that the SSIS package that uses the query errored out when executed
(c) not notice that the output file that the SSIS package is supposed to generate didn't get generated
(d) declare that the "fix" worked
and (e) request that the "fix" be promoted to the pre-production environment!

However, this evening made up for today, for I got to see and hear Bob Franke perform live at the coffeehouse run by my church, the First Parish Church of Stow and Acton. He's a splendid singer-songwriter, well known for tunes like "Hard Love" and "For Real". He's also a tremendous performer, with a gorgeously smooth voice and complete comfort with his material.

And that's just what I needed after a truly crappy day: really good live music.

There's a hole in the middle of the prettiest life
So the lawyers and the prophets say
Not your father nor your mother
Nor you lover's gonna ever make it go away
And there's too much darkness in an endless night
To be afraid of the way we feel
Let's be kind to each other
Not forever but for real
edschweppe: (music)
I've been singing with my church's choir for a few years, now. Over those years, our music director has been gradually increasing the difficulty of the works we perform for the annual Music Sunday service. This year, in conjunction with the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (Massachusetts), we put on Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms.

This, folks, was a bear and two thirds. The Wikipedia article linked above calls the Chichester Psalms "noted among performers for their musical difficulty", and that author ain't kidding. But we rehearsed them for the entire winter and spring. Judging from the congregation's reaction, we did pretty darn well.

We'll be singing them again on May 31st, at 10:00AM at the Arlington church (630 Mass Ave, and MBTA-accessible), in case any Boston-area folks are interested.

And I really have to wonder what our music director has up her sleeve for next year ...
edschweppe: A closeup of my face, taken at Star Island during the All-Star II conference in 2009 (Default)
- I think the clearest sign yet that the US auto industry is in trouble is the fact that I didn't see a single GM or Ford ad during the Super Bowl. I saw one Dodge ad, and all the rest of the auto ads were foreign brands such as Toyota, Lexus, VW, Audi and Hyundai(!). And the only pickup truck ads I saw were from Toyota.

- I'm impressed with my church choir. Our music director has been out for several days, which meant that we didn't have any choir practice last week and we had to get a replacement organist / choir director for today. Despite the almost total lack of practice (and despite some real flubs during warmups), we pulled off Copeland's "The Promise of Living."

- Today's Boston Globe Magazine included a long article on sex education, Let's Talk About Sex, which featured the Grades 7-9 version of the Our Whole Lives curriculum. And, yes, we do work hard at making OWL a safe enough place for youth to ask questions like "What is sex" without being ridiculed by their peers.

Snow day

Jan. 18th, 2009 10:21 am
edschweppe: A closeup of my face, taken at Star Island during the All-Star II conference in 2009 (Default)
Church services canceled today on account of snow:

Our Sunday morning worship service, religious education program and all other activities at First Parish are canceled this morning, The roads are slippery right now and the weather prediction is that the worst part of the storm will be taking place during church time and make traveling home difficult.


I suspect the hardy Massachusetts farmers who founded First Parish back in 1683 would laugh at such an event. On the other hand, they had sleighs. On the gripping hand, our minister just emailed his sermon to everyone in the congregation.
edschweppe: (UU chalice)
Or, at least, a new record coming into the world!

My church choir just wrapped up our recording sessions for a CD full of Christmas music. It's a wide-ranging repertoire, including tunes from medieval times, Africa, Spain, England, Germany, Bohemia and the US. And I'm one of the basses!

I am really looking forward to this. It was my first time making a "professional" recording, and was a lot of fun even though we had to stop every once in a while and wait for motorcycles to pass by. The one downside to singing in the choir is that I usually can't hear what the whole piece sounds like, since I'm buried in the back with the rest of my section.

The CD should be out later this year, simplifying my Christmas shopping no end ...
edschweppe: A closeup of my face, taken at Star Island during the All-Star II conference in 2009 (Default)
This year, my church's music director has come up with no fewer than seven pieces for the choir to perform at tomorrow night's Christmas Eve service:
  • In the Bleak Midwinter by Harold Darke
  • Brich an, o schönes Morgenlicht by Johann Sebastian Bach (from his Christmas Oratorio)
  • Lo! How a Rose E'er Blooming by Hugo Distler
  • Lullay My Liking by Gustav Holst
  • Glory to God by George Handel (from The Messiah, of course)
  • The Shepherds Farewell by Hector Berlioz (from his L'Enfance Du Christ, Opus 25)
  • In Dulci Jubilo by Michael Praetorius
Not to mention all the traditional carols.

The music will be wonderful. The parking - not so much. With better than a foot of snow still on the ground, there's no room for cars to overflow on the lawn. On the other hand, we in the choir will start rehearsing around seven thirty (for a nine PM service), so at least we'll be able to find places to park.
edschweppe: (owl)
I was too brain-fried to blog about this when I got home, but we did this year's Our Whole Lives parent orientation session last night. It looks like we may have as many as thirty youth this year for the Grades 7-9 course - not quite the mob we've had other years, but a crowd nonetheless.

This will be the fourth year running that I've facilitated OWL. The previous three times, we'd covered the curriculum in roughly four months, by running two sessions per Sunday night and having several Friday - Saturday overnight meetings that covered four sessions each. We're trying something different this time around; we'll do one session each Wednesday night from October through April (skipping school vacation weeks) with a couple of Saturday morning double sessions. The original "plan" for this time had been to do single Sunday night sessions; that went out the proverbial airlock once it turned out that our church only had one facilitator (me) who could do Sunday nights. (Two others begged off this year and the other two had already committed to other Sunday activities.) Just to make life even more interesting since our church's DRE [3] left over the summer, and our interim DRE just started a couple of weeks ago. So specific dates, times, locations, etc. are still in a state of flux.

Meanwhile, our choir sang Randall Thompson's Alleluia as the offertory yesterday. We sang it for the first time a couple of years ago as the big highlight of Music Sunday. As I mentioned at the time, it's a seriously tricky piece for an utter amateur such as myself, and we spent a couple of months rehearsing it. Frankly, I thought our music director was nuts for trying to do it on such short notice this time around - but after a mere two weeks of practice, we blew the socks off the congregation. We are getting pretty dang good, if I do say so myself.

[1] With apologies for mangled pseudo-Tolkien. [2]
[2] Well, maybe not that many apologies.
[3] Director of Religious Education, for the non-UUs in the audience.
edschweppe: A closeup of my face, taken at Star Island during the All-Star II conference in 2009 (Default)
I just got back a little while ago from my church's annual Battenkill River canoe trip. The Battenkill was running pretty low this time, and I spent most of the trip in a kayak that I suspect wasn't quite big enough for someone of my poundage - so I ran aground an inordinate number of times in the shallow, rocky stretches. Worse, many times I couldn't push off against the rocks; I had to get out of the boat, walk it downstream a ways and get back in. Of course, this wasn't one of those "sit-on-top" kayaks; it was a whitewater boat that is not particularly easy to get into or out of. So there was a lot more in the way of aerobic and anaerobic exercise on this trip than I'd expected.

I also managed to run my car battery flat; I'd been powering my CPAP machine via an inverter off the cigarette lighter both Friday and Saturday nights, and didn't run the car on Saturday to recharge after Friday night. Good thing I keep a set of jumper cables in the car.

Despite those frustrations, however, it was a good time. The Friday night sky in particular was wonderfully clear, and we could easily see the Milky Way (a frustratingly rare sight in the Boston suburbs). Saturday was just about perfect - warm, low humidity, and sunny for most of the day. The traditional Saturday evening cookout was its usual success, even if we did run low on hamburger buns and had to substitute hot-dog rolls.

And I managed to get all packed up before the first thunderstorms rolled in Sunday morning ...
edschweppe: (vote at your own risk)
The effort to ban gay marriages in Massachusetts has been soundly defeated in the Legislature. From boston.com:
A proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was swiftly defeated today by a joint session of the Legislature by a vote of 45 to 151, eliminating any chance of getting it on the ballot in November 2008. The measure needed at least 50 votes to advance.

The vote came without debate after House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, Senate President Therese Murray, and Governor Deval Patrick conferred this morning and concluded that they have the votes to kill the proposal. Cheers echoed in the State House when the vote was tallied.

"In Massachusetts today, the freedom to marry is secure," Patrick told reporters after the results were official.

The three leaders - along with gay rights activists - spent the last several days intensely lobbying a dozen or more state representatives and state senators who had previously supported the amendment but signaled that they were open to changing their positions.

Because fewer than 50 of the state's 200 lawmakers supported the amendment, it will not appear on the 2008 ballot, giving gay marriage advocates a major victory in their battle with social conservatives to keep same-sex marriage legal in Massachusetts.

Opponents of gay marriage face an increasingly tough battle to win legislative approval of any future petitions to appear on a statewide ballot. The next election available to them is 2012.
Frankly, I suspect that the amendment would have lost at the polls if it had gotten on the ballot; gay marriage has been legal here for three years and the world has signally failed to end. Today, however, the Legislature did its job and kept a very bad proposal off the ballot. Congratulations to the Great and General Court, as well as to my married friends, fellow church members and neighbors.
edschweppe: A closeup of my face, taken at Star Island during the All-Star II conference in 2009 (Default)
Today's sermon in church was delivered by a Hampshire College anthropology professor, who just happens to be the daughter of one of the oldest members of the congregation. She was discussing Buddhism in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, and that was reasonably interesting. Her closing, though, struck a powerful chord within me. She was relating a conversation she'd had with an old friend regarding her career choices:
"I thought you wanted to be an activist."
"I am. I teach."
That really resonated with me, especially since tonight was the first night of this year's Our Whole Lives class. Forty-some youth (mostly eighth-graders) have set forth on this journey into fact-based, comprehensive sexuality education, with a dozen facilitators (including yours truly) helping to illuminate the way. I know that there are going to be some frustrating moments ahead, and some awfully long nights. But the payoff is worth it: for the youth, for the adults, and for myself.

I am an activist. I teach.
edschweppe: A closeup of my face, taken at Star Island during the All-Star II conference in 2009 (Default)
According to the Associated Press, via the Boston Globe:
BOGOTA, Colombia --A western Colombian city councilman wants to require everyone in town 14 or older to carry a condom to prevent pregnancy and disease, outraging local priests.

William Pena, a councilman in Tulua, said Wednesday he will present a formal proposal to force all men and women -- even those just visiting -- to always carry at least one condom. Those caught empty-pocketed could pay a fine of $180 or take a safe sex course, he said.

"Sexual relations are going on constantly," Pena told The Associated Press by telephone. "If you carry a condom, chances are you'll use it during the day. It's not going to be there forever."

Tulua has one of the highest rates of AIDS in Colombia, he said. The proposal will be debated by other town leaders and could go into effect by March, he said.

This'll be an interesting story to watch - especially since I'm about to start facilitating another session of Our Whole Lives, where I provide fact-based sexuality education to local eighth graders.

Full story here.
edschweppe: A closeup of my face, taken at Star Island during the All-Star II conference in 2009 (Default)
http://www.fpc-stow-acton.org/

Although perhaps the term should be UURL, we being a Unitarian Universalist congregation and all.
edschweppe: A closeup of my face, taken at Star Island during the All-Star II conference in 2009 (Default)
I mentioned last week that my church was going to hold a Flower Communion service, and that the local paper ran a story about what the service was going to be like.

Well, this week the paper reported on the actual service. Read more... )

After some of the awful things I read about today, it was good to be reminded of the good parts of the world. It's often too easy to forget the good stuff when it feels like I'm drowning in crap.
edschweppe: A closeup of my face, taken at Star Island during the All-Star II conference in 2009 (Default)
Flowers bring message of tolerance, diversity
More than half a century after Unitarian Universalist minister Norbert Capek was executed in the Nazi concentration camp of Dachau, a local church will keep his message alive June 5 by celebrating the Flower Communion service Capek first invented to promote tolerance and celebrate diversity.

That "local church" is my own First Parish of Stow and Acton.

more details )
The June 5 ceremony will include a dramatic presentation about Capek performing the Flower Festival with prisoners at Dachau, a choral performance in Czech, and responsive readings written by Kafka during his own ministry.

We rehearsed the Czech hymn again last night. It's a beautiful piece of music, despite the challenge of getting through the thickets of consecutive consonants.
And, just in case anyone is interested, the service is this Sunday at 10:00AM at the First Parish Church of Stow and Acton, 353 Great Road, Stow, Massachusetts.

Alleluia!

May. 23rd, 2005 09:56 pm
edschweppe: A closeup of my face, taken at Star Island during the All-Star II conference in 2009 (Default)
Yesterday was Music Sunday at my church. It's an annual event, with lots of choral pieces all centered on a common theme. The theme this year was "Alleluia"; this being a Unitarian Universalist congregation, we naturally had an eclectic mix of "Alleluia" pieces. Our introit was the traditional Hebrew round "Havanah Shirah". We closed with a medieval French piece named "Alle Psallete Cum Luiya", where we were actually expected to sound like we were singing through bagpipe chanters. In between these bookends, we threw in an African traditional Alleluia along with brief excerpts from the works of Berlioz and Mozart.

Our main work, though, was Randall Thompson's Alleluia. I'd never heard the piece before we started rehearsing it. It's a very challenging piece (at least for an amateur such as myself); each of the four vocal parts weaves in and out, the dynamics range from barely audible to full blast, and the lyric is simply "alleluia" constantly repeated! (Which, of course, meant that I couldn't cue off the text when I got lost.)

During rehearsals I was far too busy trying to master the bass line to really wonder why it was so slow and wistful. The one really energetic part of Thompson's Alleluia seems more defiant than ecstatic. The joyous celebration of Handel's famed Hallelujah Chorus is completely missing from Thompson's piece. But it wasn't until I heard the sermon, where our minister told the story behind the piece, that I understood why.

Randall Thompson wrote his Alleluia in July of 1940 - bare weeks after the Nazis smashed their way into Paris and chased the Royal Army into the Channel surf. The collapse of France shook Thompson badly, and it clearly affected his composition. Yet - instead of an elegy, or a requiem, or some other traditionally sorrowful form - Thompson chose to write an Alleluia. After hearing the sermon, and after a fair amount of reflection, I think I understand why.

"Alleluia!" isn't merely something to shout when everything is joyous and wonderful. We, as terribly fallible and shortsighted humans, need to keep an awareness of the beautiful parts of the world even when that whole world seems to be collapsing around our ears. The miserable weather of the last month hasn't done anything good for my disposition; neither has this awful cold that refuses to clear out of my lungs; neither has the interminable nitwittishness that passes for political leadership in Washington.

There is truly too much going on in my world for me to feel like singing alleluias to the Universe. Yet, as the minister's sermon rather bluntly said, these are the kinds of times when we most need to sing alleluias. These are the times when we need to remind ourselves that the good, the beautiful, the worthy and lovely are still here, all around us.

So. It's cold and rainy outside. The phone still doesn't work. My current contract involves twenty-five miles each way on highways which average at least three miles of backups a day. And my car is rapidly approaching the mileage level where the timing belt needs replacement.

But I won't let all that rule my life. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
edschweppe: A closeup of my face, taken at Star Island during the All-Star II conference in 2009 (Default)
Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that he has received a communique from an organization calling itself ... Unitarian Jihad:
Startling new underground group spreads lack of panic! Citizens declare themselves "relatively unafraid" of threats of undeclared rationality. People can still go to France, terrorist leader says.


My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Brother Gatling Gun of Warm Humanitarianism.
Get yours.

(Courtesy of Sister Garrote of Courteous Debate, known to LiveJournal as [livejournal.com profile] riba_rambles and to the blogosphere as as Lis Riba. And, for the record, Brother Gatling Gun of Patience and I are not the same individual.)

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edschweppe: A closeup of my face, taken at Star Island during the All-Star II conference in 2009 (Default)
Edmund Schweppe

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