Sacred Sunday: “Steal Away,” Mahalia Jackson and Nat King Cole

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Brains are weird things.  This song, for some reason, was going through my head last night as I lay in the dark dealing with both a migraine and food poisoning at the same time.  (How exciting!)  Then, after I finally fell asleep, this is why my fevered brain came up with as a dream.

I was in a bar/restaurant/liquor store and needed a strong drink to help me forget some recent heartache. I went up to the bar to order a single malt. The bartender was Elizabeth Warren. We got to talking and I discovered she owned the place. At the moment I complimented her on her excellent (and enormous) establishment, out of nowhere appeared Sam Waterston in a corduroy jacket and bow tie.  I recognized him as my traveling companion. Elizabeth offered us both a gift certificate to the restaurant plus a year of free drinks if we both agreed to seven years of indentured servitude. Even though it wasn’t clear what, exactly, that meant, Sam declined immediately, looked at me, shrugged, and walked off.  I, startled, said I needed to think about it, and left the bar/restaurant/liquor store to go to CVS, which was managed by, obviously, Shaquille O’Neal.

So, there you go.  Have some Mahalia Jackson and Nat King Cole to soothingly carry you through Sunday.

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WALK-UP WEEK! Funk Friday: “Goliath,” Monophonics

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Before Game 6 of the 1991 World Series, Kirby Puckett, center-fielder for the Twins and my childhood idol, gathered his teammates around for a quick talk before they took the field.  “You guys should jump on my back tonight. I’m going to carry us.”  Puckett made good on his promise.  The Twins had been behind 3-2 to the Atlanta Braves before Game 6, during which Puckett hit the game-winning home run and made the best outfield catch, against the center-field wall, possibly ever seen in baseball.  (Puckett, who was a very stocky 5’8″, had incredible and surprising athleticism.  What was so jaw-dropping about that catch wasn’t just the air he got, but how powerful his arm was.  Look how far he throws that baseball!  He totally windmills his arm around to get that distance.  Just amazing.)  That game propelled the Twins to a World Series win.

I miss you, Kirby.  Whenever I hear “Goliath,” I think of you.

Number 34 on his jersey, number 1 in your heart.

Number 34 on his jersey, number 1 in your heart.

Sacred Sunday: “Crux Fidelis,” King Joao of Portugal

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My friend’s new wife being Portuguese, I feel this an appropriate choice for today.  Also, my headache is sponsored by vinho verde, a Portuguese white wine.  So, a calm, quiet little number is also in order.  Many thanks, your highness.

Sacred Sunday: “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” Johnny Cash

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If the lyrics sound vaguely familiar, it’s because you might know the Moby version of this song.  I won’t link to it because I don’t want to dilute the effect of Cash’s interpretation, which I find to be an intoxicating combination of chilling, inspiring, heartening, and terrifying.  With all the horrific things going on around the world these days, even the most committed atheist wants some powerful entity, higher or not, to cut down those who do such terrible things.

Throwback Thursday: “Piano Quintet No. 2 in C minor, Op. 115,” Gabriel Fauré

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Having sung the “Cantique de Jean Racine” approximately three hundred times, the first time as one of four-dozen high school students (oh how irreverently we belted out “Verrrrbegaaaaaaal ohhhhhh tray-ohhhhht,”*), I worked assertively to put quite a bit of distance between myself and Monsiuer Fauré.   I incorrectly assumed that the Cantique was all he had written, and had also conflated that piece’s unappealing pulverization with any other piece he might have written.

Mais, ça n’étais pas juste!  Exhibit A: his second piano quintet.  This piece was written in 1921, three years before Fauré’s death.  A music reviewer at its Paris premier wrote that, “We had expected a beautiful work, but not one as beautiful as this.”  Normally I abhor chamber music; its small size makes me feel both bored and claustrophobic, like I’m on a field trip to see a small town’s old, dusty geological museum.  But the emotional range of this piece is so expansive that it feels like standing on a rooftop.  It’s classical music, alright, but it’s also firmly modern.  To put this music in context, this was written about the same time as the irresistible “Doctor Jazz” (see last week’s Termagant Tuesday post), and they both have a playful attitude towards the regulations of melody, harmony, and rhythm that had confined music before.  The first bars of the first movement are so compelling, you just have to find out what happens next.  The third movement (14:54) is heartbreakingly lovely and delicate.  I’m sorry I ever doubted Fauré.

 

*A.k.a, “Verbe égal au Très-Haut.”

Throwback Thursday: “Tant Que Vivray,” Claudin de Sermisy

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It’s Eduardo Antonello again!  Yay!  You might remember his Praetorious recording from a few Throwback Thursdays ago.  “Tant Que Vivray” is one of my most favorite French Renaissance pieces.    It’s just charming.

That's the chap.

That’s the chap.

de Sermisy wrote this piece in the 1520, during the reign of Francis I.  Francis was a serious patron of the arts (he acquired the Mona Lisa) and of scholarship, who apparently standardized the French language.  de Sermisy joined the court of Francis in 1515 and became assistant chapel master in 1533.  In an odd sort of way, we are listening to the same music heard by the (quite expired) king of France.  Wowie zowie.

Termagant Tuesday: “La Paloma Azul,” Dave Brubeck

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In a number of months, after the weather turns cold again and the darkness of winter is creeping closer and closer, I’m going to thatched-roof, one-room hut on the beach, at the southernmost tip of Baja California in Mexico.  My thatched-roof, one-room hut is in the absolute middle of nowhere.  I will wake up, open the screen door, step out onto the beach, and walk down to the ocean for a swim.  Then I might read in the shade.  I might nap.  I might take a walk.  I might have a beer in the evening.  That’s all there is to do, and I will do this for an entire week.  Until that week starts, I will listen to this song and imagine myself there.

 

Hola, Baja.

Hola, Baja.

 

Sacred Sunday: “Freuen Wir Uns All In Ein,” Michael Weisse

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This extraordinary hymn was written by Michael Weisse in the very early 16th century in Silesia.

Silesia

Silesia

I can’t find the German or English anywhere for the life of me, so sorry to leave you hanging.  Nevertheless, I can’t get enough of the tune.  It’s classic German and classic Baroque at the same time: solid, four-square construction, with gorgeous but sober harmony.  It’s an earth-bound hymn with heaven-ward eyes, like all good prayers should be.