27 November 2016 REVIVE US AGAIN #1 “Hallelujah, Thine the glory. Hallelujah, Amen, Hallelujah, Thine the glory. Revive us again!”
W. P. Mackay (1839-1885) in 1863 wrote that refrain in “We praise Thee O God.” I have yet to check out the context of the then times in Scotland, but I do know this Presbyterian preacher, author, songwriter, former physician, and former atheist, wrote many hymns.
“We praise Thee O God for the Son of Thy love. For Jesus who died and is now gone above.”
I’m looking at our times and place and season as reason to sing this hymn anew. Even alongside the darkness, soul-searching and expectation of Advent I’ll meditate on this song, too.
Season of music
Since my last blog we’ve heard the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra present its fall concert. We were fortunate that our motivation to attend was that our great niece, Iona Wagner, plays violin in the orchestra, so it included her grandparents and another niece whom we hosted for dinner before the concert. The concert featured composers Aaron Copland (1900-1990), Edward Elgar (1857-1934), Samuel Barber (1910-1981) and Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990).
The music ranged from Copland’s energetic, fiddle-tune, hoe-down Dance Episodes from Rodeo, to Elgar’s “Variations on an Original Theme, op 36,” Barber’s Adagio for Strings, and Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.
It was an exuberant concert, affirming life through struggle, passion, seriousness, playfulness, violence, and grace. I especially responded to the Barber piece. It was first performed in Rome on 5 November 1938. The program notes said, “The Adagio has since become emblematic of mourning, a finely-wrought tragedy in miniature, and as such seems a fitting companion to the West Side Story music that follows this evening.”
Of the music from West Side Story the notes referred “to the work remaining “a parable of our unsettled times, penned by an eloquent, lifelong activist for peace and social justice, who shortly after President Kennedy’s assassination, wrote, ‘This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.'”
It was such a pleasure to hear and see 101 student musicians and their director, Daniel Stowe, making rich music together.
Hard on the heels of the Notre Dame concert, I read an article in USA TODAY (18 November) “Orchestras are too important to fail.” Musicians from three orchestras have gone on strike (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Fort Worth). “”These communities and many others know the social, economic and artistic benefits that come with having an orchestra call it ‘home,'” wrote Jonathan Kaledin. Tightening finances and audiences that are aging and lack diversity create a disquieting picture. The writer makes the case for better support of orchestras as “icons of our society and cultural ambassadors for our nation.”
Topics galore, for another time
I’d love to wax on and on about other highlights of the week in Indiana and Ontario, such as extended time spent with family and friends, special events, reading, even shopping. I’ll spare you the details for now.
I’ll just mention a term I picked up from former astronaut Ron Garan. The term is “planetary perspective” that gives us a new definition of home. When he looked at earth from space he found the important order of things in this descending order: planet, society, economy.
In worship on Sunday the gathering litany said, ” We are overwhelmed with busyness and the compulsion to do. We have lost our way. O God, show us the way of your heart. The dawn is nigh. Show us the way.”
Revive us again. -John
Back home in Indiana