Friday, January 20, 2006

Union Gospel Mission Men's Chorus

Some of the best hymn singing in the greater Seattle area goes on at the Union Gospel Mission every night before dinner. Homeless men come in for a chapel service about 5:00 PM and the hymn books come out. I first volunteered to lead singing many years ago when I was working as delivery truck driver for a piano retailer in downtown Seattle. A salesman, who was also organist at Ballard Baptist, asked if I'd like to help him out at the Mission. Even then, when most churches still sang from hymn books, I was astonished by the singing at Union Gospel. I was even more surprised when they started calling out hymn numbers. We sang and sang, and the singing hasn't diminished in power and enthusiasm since then because the hymn books are still in the battered pews.

When the men from 1st Avenue and the waterfront sing, they SING!. With a little work I could make a sailors chorus for Wagner's Flying Dutchman. "Steuermann, Hey! Steuermann Ho!"

I wish you could still walk into any church on Sunday and sing like the guys at Union Gospel.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Meditation on Thaïs

What do you think is going on in the opera Thaïs during this famous violin solo?
Listen. Imagine!
In five minutes everything will be different.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Day of Wrath

Day of wrath, O Day of mourning!
Earth to ashes now returning!
Gather, by the millions, burning!
Cleansed at last by His returning

Butchered rhyme and battered rhythm
Neopagan narcissism!
On the day, Lord, when thou comest,
And our dreadful hymnals thumbest,
Smite the ugliest and dumbest.
Smite them, Lord, yet of thy pity
Take their songsters to thy city:

Even Haugen, Haas, and Schutte.
Spare them on the stern condition
That they feel a true contrition
for the Worship III edition.
Doom them not to loss and ruin
While the darker storm is brewing!
They didn't know what they were doing.

On that day when Palestrina
Dares not touch a celestina,
Will that Sister Ballerina
With her eyes that pierce like lances
Still her heathen silly dances?
And her flirting with Saint Francis?

Purge us of the prim and prissy,
Ditties fit for Meg or Missy,
Not for Francis, but a sissy.
Cantors who thought nothing grander
Than a sheaf of propaganda
Writ like office memoranda,
Raise them to thy room to bide in
Where their hearts and ears may widen
To the strains of Bach and Haydn.

Let their hearts within them falter,
Hearing, as they near thine altar,
Seraphs sing the Scottish Psalter.
Seize those devils set to pen
a Hymnal neutered of its men-ah,
Fling 'em all to black Gehenna!
Fling them one and all to mangle
Their pronominals, and wrangle
Lest a participle dangle!

Who held manhood in derision,
Preaching double circumcision,
Suffer now their own revision.
Though their songs of Hell are naughty,
None by Handel or Scarlatti,
At the least they'll have castrati.

Pitch, O Lord, the bald and raucous
Slogans of a leftist caucus
Down to Sheol, or Secaucus!
Save their singers,
though, restore them
To a silent sweet decorum,
Saecula per saeculorem.

Various are the throngs of heaven:
Some were lump, and some were leaven,
Some as lame as six or seven.
When the demons hear thy curses,
And this world's dense fog disperses,
Heal the hobbled; ban their verses.

Hush me too, Lord, when I grumble:
In thy mercy make me nimble,
Lest On Turkey's Wings I stumble.
While Haugen sings Hosanna! evermore,
Save me, Lord, but keep me near the door.

~Author Unknown and Unrepentant

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Church Triumphant

Trinity Parish Church
Seattle, Washington; Christmas Day 2005

Photo by Paul Hannah