Every now and again, when I have nothing better to do with my time, I’ll find myself watching an episode of Hoarders. This nearly always leaves me with a desperate urge to get rid of at least some of the junk I keep in my house, and my collection of wine and alcohol bottles have recently been deposited at the recycling centre, but not before I took this photograph.
Recently a video popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. It was the story of Jamie Livingston, a New York-based filmmaker who, from March 1979 until his death on October 25th 1997, took a polaroid photograph each day. Taken together, these candid photographs chart the mundane and poignant story of a life lived in New York City just before the digital revolution.
The original website is a bit clunky to navigate, and to be honest I haven’t spent much time there, but the video is like a visit to an exhibition of Livingston’s work. He took the ordinary and showed its beauty, and to me that is one of the most wonderful things an artist can do.
Check out the video and let me know what you think.
Born in Derbyshire, England, Louise Ingram Rayner (1832-1924) was a watercolourist who, throughout the summers of the 1870s and 1880s, travelled throughout England painting exquisite cityscapes. I encountered her work through the Female Artists in History Facebook page, which I’ve blogged about before, and am always happy when one of her beautiful pictures of Victorian England appears in my newsfeed. For me, they capture views that are at once familiar (many Victorian buildings are still standing in England today), and foreign, with a gentle touch which admittedly disguises some of the uglier realities of Victorian life.
This short piece was the theme music for the BBC’s ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ back in the 1980s. I loved the series, and consider it to be superior to the more recent movies because it was far truer to the books and therefore did a far better job of conveying the deeper meaning of Lewis’ works, rather than focussing on the visual appeal of special effects.
Geoffrey Burgon (1941-2010) was a composer of television and film scores whose best-known works include the scores for Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’ and ITVs ‘Brideshead Revisited’. He won BAFTAs for his themes for ‘Longitude’ and the remake of ‘The Forsyte Saga’. He was also a jazz trumpeter, and this was his original intended career. He eschewed the various musical trends of the 20th century in favour of more traditional styles and medieval influences. As a result he was dismissed by critics as ‘commercial’ – and popular with mainstream audiences like eight-year-old me who understood nothing of classical music but liked the pretty, hummable tune which heralded the latest instalment of a favourite show.
I first came across this poem as a Christmas carol adaptation by one of my favourite contemporary Christian bands, Casting Crowns (you can listen to their version here). Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote the original in 1863, in response to the American Civil War (1861-1865). It was an intensely personal poem: Longfellow’s eldest son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, had joined the War in the Union cause without his father’s blessing, and had later been seriously wounded in Virginia.
Although it has subsequently been adapted several times, with the more specific references to the War altered or omitted, the original runs as follows:
This short orchestral work was composed by George Butterworth (1885-1916) in 1913, and has become the best-known and most widely-performed of his small output. It’s a charming little work in the English Romantic tradition which is based on a number of folk songs, most notably a less-than-charming tale of a country lass who falls in love with a sailor, becomes pregnant and runs away to sea with him only to suffer a difficult labour. Dying, she asks her lover to throw her and the baby overboard, where they both perish. Continue reading “Treasure Trove: The Banks of Green Willow, by George Butterworth”→
I read an interesting comment online recently which expressed the opinion that Christians who criticise modern worship music must be sad, lonely people who hate all music and live alone in silence with their dog. It’s probably fairly obvious from this blog that I in fact enjoy a wide range of music, including Christian music, but nonetheless I could level a number of criticisms against much (but by no means all) of the modern Christian repertoire. My key complaint, however, is the volume. Modern worship music, performed with modern electronic amplification, is often far too loud for comfort. And it’s not just me saying it…
One of my favourite hymns strikes a very different note, and it’s perhaps no wonder that it was written by a Quaker, as silence forms a key part of Quaker worship practise. The hymn is Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, and it was originally written as the climax of a poem by agriculturalist, journalist and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier of Massachusetts in 1872. It is traditionally sung to F. C. Maker’s tune ‘Rest’.
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.
In simple trust like theirs who heard
Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow Thee.
O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity
Interpreted by love!
With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.
Also, I don’t have a dog. I have a cat. And chickens.
Recently on a Christian Facebook community page I belong to people were asked to name their favourite psalm. Out of about a dozen responses, something like half cited the 139th Psalm.
Its popularity is perhaps understandable: although towards the end it takes a sharp turn for the vengeful, with a cry to God to ‘slay the wicked’ and the ‘bloodthirsty’, the majority of the psalm is filled with a sense of joy and awe that the God of the universe would know and care for each one of us personally. Continue reading “Treasure Trove: Psalm 139”→