Tag Archives: music

Advent: Don Oiche ud ImBethil

I first heard this song on the Bells of Dublin album by The Chieftains. The album is well worth purchasing as a whole. It holds quite a variety of songs, but this one is, I think, the most beautiful. In fact, I have never heard a version of this song that I like better, though nostalgia might have something to do with that.

My research, so far, has turned up nothing of this song’s origins. Its roots go deep into history, and if anyone has traced them back, I would love to know.

I cannot vouch for my Gaelic spelling, or the accuracy of the translation, but the words of both capture the quiet but thrilling joy that I associate with the birth of my Lord.

Don Oiche Ud I mBethil

I sing of a night in Bethlehem,

A night as bright as dawn.

I sing of that night in Bethlehem,

The night the Word was born.

The skies are glowing gayly,

The Earth in white is dressed.

See Jesus in his cradle,

Drink deep in his mother’s breast.

And there on a lonely hillside

The shepherds bow down in fear

When the heavens open brightly

And God’s message rings out so clear.

“Glory now to the Father

In all the heavens high,

And peace to his friends on Earth below!”

Is all the angels’ cry.

~

don oíche úd i mBeithil

beidh tagairt ar ghrian go brách

don oíche úd i mBeithil

go dtáinig an Briathar slán

tá gríosghrua ar spéartha,

‘s an talamh ‘na chlúdach bán

féach íosagán sa chléibhín

‘s an Mhaighdean in aoibhneas grá

ar leacain lom an tsléibhe

go nglacann na haoirí scáth

nuair in oscailt gheal na spéire

tá teachtaire Dé ar fáil

céad glóir anois don Athair

i bhFlaitheasa thuas go hard

is feasta fós ar talamh

d’fheara, dea-mhéin síocháin

~

Music Copyright The Chieftains, 1991.


Advent: Balulalow

My past three entries have been somber, at least in tune. I confess, I am partial to the minor keys and the slow, haunting melodies, so there will be more of that sort. I do have some variety in my tastes, though, and the quicker and more cheerful tunes and songs are sprinkled through my playlists. I highlighted this one last year, but I enjoy it enough to re-post it, and it should break up the monotony a little. At least, I hope it will.

The words are attributed to three brothers in the 1500’s: James, John and Robert Wedderburn of Scotland. According to Wikipedia (I fear I haven’t the time for more in-depth research than that), these brothers re-worded numerous secular (and presumably bawdy) ballads to give them a more pious bent. The title of their work is, apparently, Ane Compendious Booke of Godly and Spirituall Songs collected out of sundrie partes of the Scripture, with sundrie of other Ballates changed out of prophaine sanges, for avoyding of sinne and harlotrie, with augmentation of sundrie gude and godlie Ballates not contenit in the first editioun.

I can’t read that title without wanting to laugh. The rendition by which I was first introduced to the song also makes the laughter bubble up in me, but more from joy than amusement. How can we not rejoice at the memory of our Savior’s birth? Thank you, D, for introducing me to Balulalow as sung by The Oreilly Consort with vocals by Lisa Edwards. You may purchase the album, A Celtic Christmas, here.

Balulalow

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I come from hevin heich to tell
The best nowells that e’er befell.
To you thir tythings trew I bring
And I will of them say and sing:

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This day to you is born ane child
Of Mary meik and Virgin mild.
That blissit bairn bening and kind
Sall you rejoyce baith hart and mind.

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Lat us rejoyis and be blyth
And with the Hyrdis go full swyth
To see what God in his grace hath done
Throu Christ to bring us to his throne.

.

My saull and life stand up and see
Wha lyis in ane cribbe of tree.
What Babe is that, sa gude and fair?
It is Christ, God’s Son and Heir.

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O my deir hart, yung Jesus sweit,
Prepair thy creddill in my spreit!
And I sall rock thee in my hart
And never mair fra thee depart.

.

O I sall praise thee evermoir
With sangis sweit unto thy gloir.
The kneis of my hart sall I bow
And sing that rycht Balulalow.

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I come from hevin heich to tell
The best nowells that e’er befell.
To you thir tythings trew I bring
And I will of them say and sing:

.

This day to you is born ane child
Of Mary meik and Virgin mild!
That blissit bairn bening and kind
Sall you rejoyce baith hart and mind!

.

Listen here.


Advent: Hearth and Fire

While I love songs of praise to my God and remembrance of His birth, not all of my favorite holiday songs are religious.

This one is not even a Christmas song, specifically. Still, it has about it the air of wind, winter, the warmth of home, and love for those far away.  It is on the afore-mentioned “Home for Christmas” album, and therefore I associate it with Christmas. The warmth of Gordon Bok’s voice,  the theme of the song, and my childhood association with it make this piece very dear to my heart.

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Hearth and Fire,
By Gordon Bok

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Hearth and fire be ours tonight
And all the dark outside
Fair the night, and kind on you
Wherever you may bide.

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And I’ll be the sun upon your head,
The wind about your face.
My love upon the path you tread
And upon your wand’rings, peace.

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Wine and song be ours tonight
And all the cold outside.
Peace and warmth be yours tonight
Wherever you may bide.

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And I’ll be the sun upon your head,
The wind about your face.
My love upon the path you tread
And upon your wand’rings, peace.

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Hearth and fire be ours tonight,
And the wind in the birches, bare.
Oh, that the wind we hear tonight
Would find you well and fair.

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And I’ll be the sun upon your head,
The wind about your face.
My love upon the path you tread
And upon your wand’rings, peace.

.

© 1980 Gordon Bok

You can learn more about “Home for Christmas,” and listen to most of it here: The Basement Rug

Requiescat in pace, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, December 5, 2013.

May we never forget you or what you have done.


Advent: Away in a Manger variation

When I was growing up, I learned three tunes for “Away in a Manger.”

Two of these versions are fairly common, but I have only ever heard one rendition of my favorite. It is from an album you will hear me reference more than once in this series. It is “Home for Christmas,” and it is a compilation holiday album produced by The Book of the Month Club back in 1982. Individual tracks can be found on other albums, but the whole is tough to find. You can learn more about “Home for Christmas,” and listen to most of it here: The Basement Rug

“Away In a Manger,” as sung by Jean Redpath and Lisa Neustadt, is a very different song. Instead of being mild and sweet (sometimes too sweet for my tastes), it is haunting. You can buy their rendition here, on the Shout For Joy album.

Away in a Manger
by unknown writer, misattributed to Martin Luther

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Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,

The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.

The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,

The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the poor baby wakes,

But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.

I love thee, Lord Jesus. Look down from the sky!

And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

Be near Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay

Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care

And take us to heaven to live with thee there.

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Listen here:  Away In a Manger, sung by Jean Redpath and Lisa Neustadt

Even with the poor quality of the recording (taken from an album loved nearly into nonexistence), if this doesn’t give you chills, I will be very much surprised.


Advent: O Magnum Mysterium

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I love Christmas. Not the commercialism, insanity, or kitsch associated with it, but the time with my family, the music and carols that I like (usually not the ones heard in department stores), the food, the warmth, the giving and the sparkles.

My ideal Christmas is simple, intimate and serene. I like time to contemplate the birth of my Savior and its surrounding events, and I like time spent with kith and kin.

In the spirit of this kind of Christmas celebration, I decided to have my own little Advent Countdown on my blog. As music is one of my favorite aspects of this holiday, I will post some of my favorite carols through December 25th. I wanted to do this daily, but time simply will not allow. Therefore, I will confine myself to three posts a week, plus one extra for Christmas Eve. This leaves me with a lot of beloved songs un-shared, but perhaps I can make this a yearly tradition.

May these posts bring you joy!

First, a song that I grew up with, one that captures some of the Great Mystery that surrounds the world we live in. Creation is strange and familiar, patterned and unpredictable, lucid and murky.

O Magnum Mysterium

by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)

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O magnum mysterium
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum
jacentem in praesepio.
O beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt
portare Dominum Jesum Christum.
Alleluia!

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Translation:

O great mystery
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord
lying in a manger!
O blessed is the Virgin, whose womb
was worthy to bear Lord Jesus Christ.
Alleluia!

There is a more extended version of this song to a different composition, but this is the version that moves me the most. Just listen to the following performance by New York Polyphony:

Video © New York Polyphony

For more beautiful Advent music, visit Patty Mitchell’s blog Oboeinsight and her Advent Series. Her starting choice is one of my all-time favorite songs of any kind, Veni, veni Emmanuel.


Tagging Thyme Meme: 11 Random Questions

It seems that Raewyn Hewitt was tagged in a meme, but as she is sensitive to the fact that some folks don’t like being tagged (I don’t like being tagged for memes, for the record) she left it up to volunteers. The questions amuse me, and I have nothing else in line for this week, so here you have it! If you want to check out Raewyn’s answers, they are here.

1. What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten in public?

Um… this is a harder question than one might think. I ate a penny, once, but that was an accident. If only things eaten intentionally count, it depends on what one considers strange. I’ll leave it up for a vote. The candidates are:

fried scorpion

jellyfish

air potatoes

Spicebush berries

Syrup made from hickory bark

2. If you had to go on an adventure, with elves, dwarves, or hobbits, who would you take and why?

Most of you might expect this to be a no-brainer for me. In truth, though, it’s not as easy as it might be.

Despite the fact that “Thyme” is in the title of this blog, elves (even my own elves) would be my last choice. Even in the best of circumstances, I would feel isolated.

Dwarves would be my second choice because, as much as I have in common with them, I am not a Dwarf, and they can be insular. I hope I would be able to break into their good-graces eventually, but that cannot compete with Hobbits.

Hobbits, though not usually adventurous, have a good track-record for not giving up and for rising to the occasion. I have not seen many reckless hobbits, and they share my love of sleep, food, and natural beauty. Also, on the whole, they are more personable and accepting than the other races.

Ideally, of course, it would be nice to have a mix of traveling companions. Can you get a nerdier answer than that?

3. You are at a rural retreat lodge somewhere deep in Wisconsin or Canada. You are approached by a taxidermist who hands you a stuffed badger and asks you to put it in your lap. What do you do next?

I think my first reaction would be to ask why…

4. If you were given biscotti, would you prefer it with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?

It depends… is it a good biscotti or a cardboard-like one? If the former? Tea. If the latter, then coffee.

5. In your opinion, who is the funniest man or woman alive today (comedian)?

Tough one. I don’t watch a lot of comedians, but I really like Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert.

6. If you were given thirty seconds on television to say something, what would it be?

I’d probably either ignore the camera or attack its operator…

7. What is your idea of the most romantic date setting ever?

Either the Walls of Jericho or Miller’s Cove on a spring night when the blue ghost fireflies come out beneath the hemlocks like will-o-the-wisps.

8. If you could go on one date with a movie or television star, who would it be and why?

I hate questions like this. The thought of going on a date with any film or television star on whom I actually have a crush is horrifying, so that’s out. Once my brain stopped reeling from that unpleasantness, the first thing that came to mind was Hugh Laurie because he seems to have a high regard for one of my favorite authors of all time (P. G. Wodehouse) which would give us something fun to talk about. Also, I grew up on his Bertie Wooster, and I’d like to thank him for that. Obviously, for multiple reasons, this would be a purely platonic date.

9. What is the worst song you have ever heard?

There are a lot of contenders, but my brain collapses in abject horror every time I encounter this one: Friday  .

10. If you could live anywhere else, where would it be?

Three or four hours’ drive east of where I live now. If I ever find a place that sinks into my bones the way the Appalachian Mountains do, I will be very surprised. I’ve seen some lovely places across the world. Nothing has come close.

11. Who – in your opinion – was the greatest person to ever live?

Jesus, but he is a given, considering my faith. Other than him?  Hm… there are too many contenders. I would really love to meet George MacDonald, though. ;)

As Raewyn, before me, I am not going to tag folks, but if any of you want to join in, please do!


Crossroads

Parallel lyrics from Les Misérables, the Musical.
Valjean’s “What Have I Done” and Javert’s “Soliloquy”
by Herbert Kretzmer.

Yes, there are spoilers here if you don’t know the basic plot.

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Valjean/Javert
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What have I done?/Who is this man?
Sweet Jesus, what have I done?/What sort of devil is he?
Become a thief in the night,/To have me caught in a trap
Become a dog on the run/And choose to let me go free?
And have I fallen so far,/It was his hour at last
And is the hour so late/To put a seal on my fate,
That nothing remains,/Wipe out the past,
But the cry of my hate,/And wash me clean off the slate.
The cries in the dark that nobody hears,/
All it would take was a flick of his knife.
Here where I stand at the turning of the years?/
Vengeance was his and he gave me back my life!
.
If there’s another way to go/
Damned if I’ll live in the debt of a thief.
I missed it twenty long years ago./
Damned if I’ll yield at the end of the chase.
My life was a war that could never be won./
I am the Law and the Law is not mocked.
They gave me a number and murdered Valjean/
I’ll spit his pity right back in his face.
When they chained me and left me for dead,/
There is nothing on earth that we share.
Just for stealing a mouthful of bread./
It is either Valjean or Javert!
.
Yet why did I allow that man/How can I now allow this man
To touch my soul and teach me love?/To hold dominion over me?
He treated me like any other./This desperate man that I have hunted,
He gave me his trust./He gave me my life.
He called me brother./He gave me freedom.
My life he claims for God above!/I should have perished by his hand.
Can such things be?/It was his right.
For I had come to hate the world,/I was my right to die as well.
This world that always hated me/Instead I live – but live in hell.
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Take an eye for an eye!/And my thoughts fly apart.
Turn your heart into stone!/Can this man be believed?
This is all I have lived for!/Shall his sins be forgiven?
This is all I have known!/Shall his crimes be reprieved?

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One word from him and I’d be back/
And must I now begin to doubt,
Beneath the lash, upon the rack./
Who never doubted all these years?
Instead he offers me my freedom./
My heart is stone and still it trembles.
I feel my shame inside me like a knife./
The world I have known is lost in shadow.
He told me that I have a soul,/
Is he from heaven or from hell?
How does he know?/And does he know
What spirit comes to move my life?/
That, granting me my life today,
Is there another way to go?/
This man has killed me even so?
.
I am reaching, but I fall,/I am reaching, but I fall,
And the night is closing in/And the stars are black and cold,
And I stare into the void,/As I stare into the void
To the whirlpool of my sin./Of a world that cannot hold.
I’ll escape now from that world,/I’ll escape now from that world,
From the world of Jean Valjean./From the world of Jean Valjean!
Jean Valjean is nothing now./There is nowhere I can turn.
Another story must begin!/There is no way to go on.


Christmas Song 2012

Hubblesite.org

Hubblesite.org

[Thanks to Deanna for introducing me to this one!]

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Balulalow

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I come from hevin heich to tell
The best nowells that e’er befell.
To you thir tythings trew I bring
And I will of them say and sing:

.

This day to you is born ane child
Of Mary meik and Virgin mild.
That blissit bairn bening and kind
Sall you rejoyce baith hart and mind.

.

Lat us rejoyis and be blyth
And with the Hyrdis go full swyth
To see what God in his grace hath done
Throu Christ to bring us to his throne.

.

My saull and life stand up and see
Wha lyis in ane cribbe of tree.
What Babe is that, sa gude and fair?
It is Christ, God’s Son and Heir.

.

O my deir hart, yung Jesus sweit,
Prepair thy creddill in my spreit!
And I sall rock thee in my hart
And never mair fra thee depart.

.

O I sall praise thee evermoir
With sangis sweit unto thy gloir.
The kneis of my hart sall I bow
And sing that rycht Balulalow.

.

I come from hevin heich to tell
The best nowells that e’er befell.
To you thir tythings trew I bring
And I will of them say and sing:

.

This day to you is born ane child
Of Mary meik and Virgin mild!
That blissit bairn bening and kind
Sall you rejoyce baith hart and mind!

.

Hubblesite.org

Hubblesite.org


A Song for the day

I apologize in advance for this disconnected ramble, but I need to get it out.

It’s too easy to forget, with the swirl of contention and alienation in this world that, ultimately, we have more in common with each other than we have differences.

This morning, someone nearly caused a wreck with me. I think I was in his blind spot and he didn’t look. For a brief instant, right after my fear and the hard breaking, I was angry. Then I recalled that, two days ago, I nearly did the same thing. The only difference was that I checked my blind spot in time to correct myself.

I remember the look of the woman in the other car. She looked angry, and that hurt. I had made a mistake and I wanted to tell her that I knew it. I wanted her forgiveness.

Maybe the man who nearly hit me felt the same. Maybe he didn’t.

By the will of my Lord, I am not a slave to guilt anymore unless I take up the shackles myself. But I do desire forgiveness from my fellows, and I am constantly learning and relearning what it is to forgive them and myself.

Somehow, taking a quiet, still moment to remember how much I must share with the person in the world most different from myself helps put it all in perspective. I value differences, but when they polarize us, when they make it easy to judge and hard to forgive, it helps me to consider our common ground.


Shout Out

Reader’s warning: angst follows, but at least it is neither purposeless nor self-focused angst.

As the title would suggest, this is a shout-out to my fellow Book-Meme contributors, David and the Multifaceted Muses.

There has been some discussion among us, lately, on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion, surrounding the role sorrow, grief and tragedy play in the book and its various related stories. Tolkien, we know, was no stranger to grief, pain or even the horrors of World War I. As a writer, he does not shy from tragedy, and yet there is a powerful, indestructible hope that runs through his work, as it seems to have run through his life. He understood a truth that someone like me, who has suffered very little in comparison, has no right to speak of: that from sorrow, strife and pain can come a rich harvest. As Gandalf observes, “not all tears are evil.”

On a seemingly unrelated note, the muses of the Egotist’s Club have produced some very intriguing answers two the second 2012 Book Meme question. Perhaps reading their posts opened a previously unexplored avenue of thought in me, because I usually do not match music with books.

This morning a song came up on my mp3 player and, as I listened, its relation to the Silmarillion hit me. I have never thought, nor am likely to think again, of Tolkien and Emmylou Harris at the same time. However, here are the lyrics for Harris’s song, The Pearl, for Urania, Thalia, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Calliope and David.

The Pearl, by Emmylou Harris

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Oh the Dragons are gonna to fly tonight.

They’re circling low and in sight tonight.

It’s another round in the losing fight

Out along the great divide tonight.

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We are aging soldiers in an ancient war

Seeking out some half-remembered shore.

We drink our fill and still we thirst for more,

Asking “if there’s no heaven what is this hunger for?”

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Our path is worn our feet are poorly shod.

We lift up our prayer against the odds,

And fear the silence is the voice of God.

Of God, of God.

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And we cry allelujah, allelujah,

We cry allelujah.

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Sorrow is constant and the joys are brief.

The seasons come and bring no sweet relief.

Time is a brutal but a careless thief:

It takes our lot but leaves behind the grief.

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It is the heart that kills us in the end,

Just one more old broken bone that cannot mend.

As it was, now, and ever shall be, amen.

Amen, amen.

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And we cry allelujah, allelujah,

We cry allelujah.

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So there’ll be no guiding light for you and me

We are not sailors lost out on the sea

We were always headed toward eternity

Hoping for a glimpse of Galilee.

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Like falling stars from the universe we are hurled

Down through the long loneliness of the world

Until we, behold the pain, become the Pearl.

The Pearl. The Pearl.

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Cryin´ allelujah allelujah
We cry allelujah!

And we cry allelujah allelujah
We cry allelujah!

We cry allelujah allelujah
We cry allelujah!


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