Saturday, February 23, 2008

In the bleak mid-winter

In the bleak mid-winter, the frosty wind did moan.

The earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.

Snow had fallen softly, snow on snow on snow.

In the bleak midwinter, oh so long ago.

This is taken from one of my favorite traditional hymns which always seems to work it's way into my CD player at Christmas and on days like we are experiencing in MI. Last night was near zero and this week has been those washed out, overcast blah weeks when you always seem to run out of washer fluid when you need it and your windows freeze up easily. Why is it they always seem to freeze right in your direct line of vision?

If you know the above tune it's notable to know it was written by Gustav Holst in 1905 while the lyrics came after, from an English poetess named Christina Rosetti. Just beautiful.

I've been paying better attention to the hymns in church as of late. I'm Methodist and the Methodist hymnal is full of great ones. In fact, a great hymn is almost like a "mini sermon" when you look at it. Some of them are in fact very "pop-ish" sounding though "popular music was not really "invented" until the great Stephen Foster became prolific in the mid-1800's. By most accounts Foster was credited as inventing pop music. It's interesting to note in his 20 year career, of the nearly 300 tunes he penned, about 25 were hymns.

His most notable tunes were patriotic in content, but included songs like: "Way down upon the Swanne River", "Oh Susanna," and "My Old Kentucky Home." Historians say he was far more advanced in his songwriting than others of the day, bestowing a measure of dignity to black subjects as well as white. Misntrels would sing his tunes and he hoped they'd become popular enough that people would want to buy the sheet music, which was how he made most of his money. When he composed there as no "music business" as we know it today or performing rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI. Ergo, made very little off his music. he died at age 37 with 38 cents in his pocket.

Anyway, I had no idea I'd venture off into a history lesson about Stephen Foster today or if anyone even cares to hear about it. Most people don't know Foster and never will and it's sad because of his contribution to music is priceless. I

All things good,

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