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The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: August 29, 2020 — Mostly Music Edition
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty!
Tomorrow is the Sunday for what is perhaps my favorite Bach cantata. The hymn represented here is certainly one of my most beloved praise hymns. In a post I wrote in 2017, when we were sharing a cantata each Sunday, I said:
One of Bach’s cantatas for Trinity 12 takes a different form. Cantata BWV 137 creates variations on the five verses of Joachim Neander’s great hymn,“Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren,” which English hymn singers know as, “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.”
This is one of my favorite hymns, so it is a special delight to meditate on Bach’s rendition. The overall impression of the piece is like that of a small stream that grows in depth and fullness as it moves toward the sea. The melody becomes more and more prominent as the cantata unfolds, until the chorale of the final verse, where the hymn is heard in all its glory.
Paul McCartney’s favorite song?
This week in 1966, the Beach Boys’ song God Only Knows peaked on the charts at #2 in the UK.
In an interview with David Leaf in 1990 Paul McCartney said, “I was asked recently to give my top 10 favorite songs for a Japanese radio station … I didn’t think long and hard on it but I popped that God Only Knows is on the top of my list. It’s very deep. Very emotional, always a bit of a choker for me, that one.”
Man, Brian Wilson can write beautiful songs.
Becoming Orthodox to the Sounds of Arvo Pärt…
I just learned that a friend, one of my teachers and mentors in my Lutheran journey several years ago, was chrismated into the Orthodox faith in May 2020 at St. Stephen the First Martyr Orthodox Church (an OCA parish) in Crawsfordville, Indiana. Dr. Robert Saler is a professor and dean at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Journey to Orthodoxy did an interview with him this week. Here were some of his comments.
I wrote my first book in 2012 on contemporary Protestant theologians who convert to Roman Catholicism, so the issue of conversion has always loomed large with me. My first concrete encounters with Orthodoxy came in the form of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, where I became involved with the Arvo Pärt Project in 2014 (Arvo Pärt is an Estonian composer of classical and religious music). I began to become more heavily involved in Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue via the International Orthodox Theological Association, where I chair the Ecumenical Observers group. I began making prayer pilgrimages to Orthodox settings, in particular the Mull Monastery of All Celtic Saints on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. Trips to parishes and monasteries in Romania, Estonia, and Jerusalem, usually connected to my academic work, were also vivid and definitive. I don’t draw very strong distinctions between my theological work and my personal spirituality, so the deeper I went into the one the more the other would emerge.
Is there one person who most influenced you in becoming an Orthodox Christian?
For a variety of reasons related to personal journeys of repentance, I became intrigued by the story of Moses the Black. In particular, I was fascinated by the accounts of his martyrdom, in which he willingly submits to the violent hands of those whom he must have recognized as images of himself in a previous spiritual state. The peacefulness and power of that image both stayed with me and guided me. I should say too that the privilege of working so closely with faithful and brilliant Orthodox theologians through IOTA and St. Vladimir’s also gave me visceral encounters with what it means to have one’s theology operate in service to the church, and to think within the church on the basis of matters that are firmly settled and issues that remain contested.
…What parts of Orthodox theology were most attractive to you?
As someone who has long wrestled with the question of discipleship (influenced perhaps by my teaching and writing about Dietrich Bonhoeffer), I became deeply struck by the ways in which the lives of the saints serve as a sort of “living exegesis” of the gospels. This may sound obvious to cradle Orthodox, but as a Protestant the idea that engaging Christ through the lives of the saints is more like a ladder than a barrier was new to me. To be clear, Luther and other Reformers thought that the lives of the saints were helpful models for the Christian life, but the more I walked alongside the saints in the path of discipleship the more I realized that I was not relating to their examples – I was relating to them. And it was a short leap from wanting to be in their company to wanting to share the same sacramental mysteries as them, especially the Eucharist.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in me, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me,
Christ with me.
Text from Saint Patrick’s Breastplate
45 years ago…
With their first two LPs—Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, both from 1973—Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band cemented themselves as masters of both contemplative singer/songwriter elegance and triumphant orchestral rowdiness. Despite the mostly positive critical praise they garnered, however, neither record reaped the financial success and mainstream devotion the group deserved. Understandably, this led to a lot of internal and external frustrations and doubts, so all parties involved knew that—as the saying goes—the third time had to be the charm.
Luckily, 1975’s Born to Run proved to be precisely that, launching Springsteen and company into the hearts and minds of virtually the entire world. All of its songs became beloved radio/concert/pop culture staples—thanks in part to a $250,000 marketing campaign by Columbia Records—and it ended up not only reaching the #3 spot on the Billboard 200, but earning praise from Rolling Stone, the New York Times and The Village Voice. Since then, its ability to bring new levels of poetic phrasing, symphonic instrumentation and heartfelt slice-of-life narratives (regarding blue-collar struggles, youthful romantic idealism and urban rebellion) to heartland rock has led many to deem it one of the greatest albums of all time.
Speaking of the Boss, if you haven’t seen this yet, I urge you to not miss it.
MLB play of the week and an original you may have never heard…
Sign him up for soccer!
The greatest guitarists in rock history…
This week in 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named its top 100 guitarists. Here are the top ten:
- Jimi Hendrix
- Eric Clapton
- Jimmy Page
- Keith Richards
- Jeff Beck
- B.B. King
- Chuck Berry
- Eddie Van Halen
- Duane Allman
- Pete Townshend
Other guitarists on the list: George Harrison (11), Stevie Ray Vaughn (12), Neil Young (17), Les Paul (18), Carlos Santana (20). Chet Atkins came in at 21st, Prince at 33rd, The Edge at 38th, and Mark Knopfler at 44th. At 46th was Jerry Garcia and Steven Stills followed at number 47. Muddy Waters shows up at number 49. The guitarist many point to as the root of most great blues/rock guitar, Robert Johnson, is ranked at 71.
Looks to me like mostly a roots/rock/blues list. There are some great jazz guitarists who aren’t represented.
Let’s get some feedback here. Check out the complete list at Rolling Stone. What do you think about the rankings, and where would you put your favorite guitarist?
I always thought this guy was right up there with the best of ’em myself…
Oh, and by the way…
R.I.P. Justin Townes Earle…
Justin Townes Earle, the singer-songwriter known for his mix of old-timey roots music and modern-day Americana, has died at age 38. A rep for Earle’s label New West Records confirmed the musician’s death to Rolling Stone, though a cause of death was not immediately revealed. [Later, police called it a drug overdose.]
Earle was raised in Nashville, but also lived in New York and, recently, in Portland, Oregon. According to a spokesperson, he died at his home in Nashville.
…Earle, a tall and gangly figure with a from-another-time aesthetic, was a captivating presence onstage, where he’d sometimes address the crowd in a carnival barker style. But it was his albums, like 2010’s soulful Harlem River Blues, 2017’s introspective Kids in the Street, and last year’s shuffling, ominous The Saint of Lost Causes that best summed up his man-out-of-time appeal. A favorite in Americana music circles, he was named Emerging Act of the Year at the 2009 Americana Honors & Awards, and nominated as Artist of the Year in 2012.
…Born January 4th, 1982, Earle was the son of the country-rocker Steve Earle, who named him after his friend, the songwriter Townes Van Zandt.
…Earle first came on the scene with the 2007 EP Yuma, and would release a string of albums on the Bloodshot Records label. The title track to his 2010 project for the label, Harlem River Blues, won Song of the Year at the 2011 Americana Honors.
This is my favorite song from his final album, The Saint Of Lost Causes.
How far will it go?
Only a fool would place such a bet
On which way the winds are blowing
‘Cause there’s no way of knowing
What the damage will be
We can’t just live on hope
We’ll never get out alone
No way it’s gonna miss us now
Don’t be frightened by the sound
Finally, some sounds for your summer evening…
Let’s conclude with a piece from my favorite jazz guitarist and his group when they were at the height of their Latin/South American period back in the late 1980s. This is the Pat Metheny Group from the album Letter From Home (1989).
This is summer to me.