Friday, May 16, 2008

Of Candles, Corpses, and Queeny Clerics; Peat Bogs, Potlucks, and Polyglots

The mega Double-Meme. Lynn recently tagged us with memes. Here are two of them together. The first is the childhood meme, the second is the interview meme. You know, if Leona Helmsley had written these little questionnaires, she’d be known as the “Queen of Meme”. (cue laugh track)

What is your happiest childhood memory?
There are many many happy memories, in fact. The first one that came to mind was Christmas Day, 1980, when my mother, brother and I attended the Christmas morning service at the ancient Stiftskirche in Wünstdorf, Germany with our family friends Frau and Herr Hartmann. It was extremely cold that December, and we could see our breath in church. At the end of the service, we all sang O Du Froehliche and the organist opened up the instrument and the giant, vaulted space was filled with the congregation’s singing that wonderful Christmas tune to the sound of that glorious organ. After the service we all climbed up into the loft to take a closer look at the organ. The second happiest was during this same trip to Germany. This time in the nearby village of Idensen, where there is a church from the 10th century. It was known for its “phantom” wall paintings which had been covered up with plaster and recently re-discovered. The Romanesque paintings could best be seen at night by candlelight. The artist friend of ours taking us there showed up at the apartment wearing a full-length hooded cape. My cousin Klaus came along with us. We arrived at the church and trekked through the cemetery in the pitch darkness, the silhouette of the church visible in front of us. Frau Schwarte picked up the key from the parsonage and let us in. It was a feast of Medieval splendor, the church. We lit the candles affixed to the pew ends and the walls came alive with sparkling color as the stylized Romanesque figures of apostles and saints gazed down on us. We explored all around the church, even into the bell tower. The steps in the tower showed 1000 years of wear, as each one had a pronounced spot in the center where countless pairs of feet had ascended and descended. We climbed the ladder up to the clock, and we found an enormous brick of peat. The stuff was dug out of the earth in the nearby bogs. Of course, then, my mother told the story of the “Irrlichter” that my grandmother always talked about, how the earth gases will bubble up and ignite, producing a little flicker on the ground. Travelers would see the lights, and mistake it for a house or a village (if there is a splendid show of little lights), then fall into the bog and drown. “Irrlicht” means “deceptive light”, because it tricks you off the path and shows the wrong way. So, when our adventure was over, we extinguished the candles except for the ones we held in our hands. We went to the door, and found that Klaus had somehow succeeded in locking us into the church. After a couple minutes of carefully reaching through the inside grill and keying the door on the other side, the latch clicked and we were back outside crossing the cemetery to the car.

What is the worst?
On the evening of Advent I, our church would always have an Advent potluck for the entire parish. It was always loads of fun with the most excellent food, and always with some sort of musical program provided by the choir, ending with a hymn sing. I must have been in 2nd grade. My sister, husband and her niece were in town for Christmas. So I insisted that I should ride home with them in their car, since I was excited that they were with us. On the interstate as we drove home, we rolled over the corpse of a homeless person who had gotten drunk and wandered out onto the roadway. He had been hit initially by an 18-wheeler, and then every car in line hit him again and again and again, including my brother-in-law’s little yellow Mazda. It was like rolling over a pile of stones. The car leapt and jolted over the boney-fleshy mass. My sister screamed and became hysterical. At the time I didn’t realize what we had driven over. I thought it was a wild animal, since all I saw was what resembled the eviscerated and skinless carcass of a pig, according to what I knew from going to the butcher with my dad on slaughter day to pick up the blood for the blood sausage. All the cars pulled off the road to an Exxon gas station where we awaited the arrival of the police. We were there for hours. I got to skip school the next day, though, since I had gotten to bed so late. I had a really groovy story to tell, although it was quite grotesque. I was in Lutheran school then, and of course had seem all my classmates at the potluck, so they already had the frame story for my tale: “Guess what happened to my sister and me after the fellowship dinner….”
The second worst was when I had pneumonia in 3rd grade. I was out of school for 2 weeks. In the second week, I had to get a penicillin shot in the thigh. The shot was administered at the Air Force Base hospital with very little bedside manner. It hurt like all hell. The problem was that the nurse-guy had made the injection deep into my thigh muscle (this was the same hospital where, as a preschooler faced with the fact of having to have blood drawn, bolted out the lab chair and ran down the hall as fast as I could, my brother giving chase. Not only was my arm sore from the needle, but also my podex as soon as we got home, my having caused such profound embarrassment to my keepers). Having endured the penicillin, I walked out the hospital, and we drove home. By the time we got back to the house, I needed help getting out of the car. My muscle was in so much pain if any weight at all was placed on it. The worst part of this was that no one believed that I had any pain, since I had walked unimpeded immediately after having received the injection. To this day, I think my family still believes I was faking the electrical sting that would shoot up into my hip whenever I placed even the lightest weight on my leg. I received confirmation of the phenomenon just a few years ago when, having related my story to a friend, he told me the exact thing had happened to him as a child. After a few days, the muscle healed and so did my lungs. The up-side to the pneumonia was that I was able to overdose on Mork and Mindy and experience the premiere of the biggest TV flop of all time: Supertrain.

What’s your favourite food?
Hands down: Rouladen, Saurkraut (or Rotkohl), and Spätzle. No pickle, though, in the Rouladen. Old family story. This dish is a rolled bit of flank steak with onion, mustard and bacon inside. Traditionally, it comes with a pickle spear in the center. My grandmother never made it with the pickle, but my grandfather had been somewhere and eaten Rouladen where they put the pickle in. He ordered my grandmother to include a pickle. For some reason, the pickle thing didn’t work well, or she used some odd pickle sort. Opa’s comment about the pickle became a family saying of sorts: “Well, we’ve tried the pickle, and we won’t have it again.” As a result, the pickle was always left out of our Rouladen. I also do not include the pickle when I make it.

If you had unlimited time and money for cooking for me, what are you going to put on the table?
I would make the meal I described in the previous question. I would also probably make a Sachertorte if it’s fall or winter, or a fruit torte if its spring or summer.

If tomorrow were your perfect day and no matter what you did, it would turn out perfect, what you do?
I would perform an organ concert with the Dupre Preludes and Fugues on the first half and the Demesieux 6 Etudes on the second half. And this would be on the Sauerorgel in the Berlin Cathedral (THE Berlin Cathedral, not the Catholic roundhouse St. Hedwig’s).

You have complete editorial control over a new hymnal project. What kind of material will you include in it?
I would create a hymnal comprehensive between the Lutheran Hymnal (1941) and Hymnal 1982 with complete service music from both hymnals, including a complete psalter with Anglican chants.

What would be your ideal gig?
The ideal position would be a place with a progressive social outlook, fine taste and esteem for tradition and an eclectic appreciation for sacred music where one could freely prepare the proper music for every event within an atmosphere of open dialogue and congenial cooperation with clergy, vestry, and liturgical committees who present general frameworks which are enlivened by appropriate musical selection. I’d be more than happy to play “How Beautiful” as long as I can direct some Thomas Tallis as well now and then.

You are commissioned by Pope Benedict XVI to compose a new Mass that would reflect the new English translation, that would be debuted in Rome. What would you present?
If I were a composer, I would create a choral Mass ordinary in the style of C.V. Stanford, with congregational sections of the canticles sung to Anglican Chant. If we are chanting in English, Anglican Chant is the way to go. Key word stem: “Angl”. It was made for English, so use it. If we need the Latin, then we use the Gregorian stuff, since it was made for that language. On a side note: I don’t think the liturgical texts have ever been better translated since the first issuance of the Book of Common Prayer. Those guys got it right. Whatever the Vatican is cranking out nowadays is the product of much navel-gazing and a fixation upon political correctness. Stop tip-toeing through the tulips and translate the Latin, fellas! (I told the diocesan committee as much in my preface to my commentary on a draft of the new translation a while back). Same thing goes for the King James translation of Holy Scripture, which is as clear as day and utterly beautiful in its eloquence, surpassed only by Luther’s translation into German. Both these translations leave the Vulgate in the dust (sorry, Jerome).

Say you decided on a career change and leave the church music business. If you had a choice, what career would you choose?
Two choices: open a yarn shop or buy an enormous Victorian house in Eureka Springs, AR and open a bed and breakfast.

You have access to any organ anywhere in the world. Which would you want to play on a regular basis, and why?
The Sauer-Orgel in the Berlin Cathedral. You ask me why??? Why did Tristan like the Venusberg?


Mr. C said...

Hi guys,
These are what Lyn sent me:

This meme was thrust upon me from Lyn Francisco at the Organ-ic Chemist Blog. She prefaced the following questions with a query as to whether I was self-aware of my "strange duck" persona?

1. Put yourself in Ahhh-nold's place. What would be the next great piece of legislation you would introduce to the State Legislature?

Upon and after secession from the U.S., I would then mandate, ahem, through legislation und za brute force off my biceps, the nationalization of all corporations whose interests directly affect the energy, information, environmental, transportation, medical, scientific and educational infrastructures of the state. I vood zen renegotiate all trade contracts mit za U.S. and all uhzer economeese und guvuhnmentz for za vellfayuh off mein fellow Kahlifahnians or Eurekians.

2. What would be your ideal gig?

Being a successful busker in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.

3. You are commissioned by Pope Benedict XVI to compose a new Mass that would reflect the new English translation, that would be debuted in Rome. What would you present?

I would just retrofit the already butchered ICEL revision into the so-called "St. Louis Jesuit Mass Setting" inwhich I would set in retrograde and inversion backwards, as if viewed in a mirror. So, the end of the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) would be the beginning of the Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy.) That would represent a true reflection of any English translation, one would think.

Failing that, I'd set the new text revisions to the best hits of Frank Sinatra. Like "Glory on high and on earth lotsa peace" using "I've got you under my skin." Kind of like "L'homme arme" parody type of deal. Imagine the "Lamb of God" to "When I was seventeen, it was a very good year." And so forth.

4. Okay. Back to California. If California were to fall into the sea tomorrow, and if God commissioned you to escape in an ark, who and what would you take with you?

It's not a matter of if, Lyn, but a matter of when. But if God commissioned me, I'd first want to know the value of the commission in Euros, and keep pressing for points and bonuses for exotic species and celebrities and the like. God would easily tire of me, let Wendy take the gig and I'd get swallowed by a great white or tangled in the seaweeds off Monterey, and hopefully wake up in Purgatory. But if pressed into service (yeah, like I AM's gonna let me off the hook) I'd take Wendy, my kids, grandkids, Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron, you and Jason Pennington, my cat Plunkett and Wendy's cat Butterfly, the foremost genetic scientist who could clone the cats in perpetuity, Russell Crowe and Kevin Spacey as escorts and dinner companions to Helen and Charlize, one of my carbon fiber guitars as they float and are impenatrible to sharp objects such as swordfish, knives and bullets, all the estate bottled and reserved wines from the Napa Valley/Central Coast regions, happy cows who'll magically produce whatever frommage compliments the bottle brought up from the galley, a Bible with serious commentary, a GPS (that no one on board would have the foggiest idea how to use, but the satellites would still be "up there"), a Me n Ed's pizza parlor where all the staff made twice union wage, and took pride in their crusts, a baker who knows bruschetta, and the Dale Warland Singers, sans Dale Warland 'cause I want to conduct them. That's pretty much it.

5. If California were to secede from the U.S., would you follow, or would you staunchly stick with the U.S.?

Are you kidding me? We have Magic Mountain, Fisherman's Wharf, the Golden Gate, Yosemite, Graumann's Chinese Theatre, Pinks, Clint Eastwood, aforementioned wineries, cool cars everywhere, lots of prisons for people who torque me and Arnold off, a few pristine beaches and coastlines left, great forests and ranges, and Nordstroms.

Stick with the U.S.? I'm real cozy with the IRS, the federal judicial system, the ATF and the two party system of electoral politics. What happened to the Whigs, the Know-nothings and the Bull Mooses anyway? Nope, I figure we can run the new republic of Eurekaland just like Fox and American Idol. We can dial everything in. I would, however, deport anyone who imports, prepares or consumes sushi to Nevada, Arizona or New Mexico with one way visas.
Now, I would pass onto the following mandate from Lyn to these folks: Tyler from RPInet, Jeffrey Tucker from Musica Sacra, Todd from Catholic Sensibility, and the Carolina Cannonball from The Crescat. Go to "Organ-ic Chemist" blog, follow the rules, comment here if you want and I'll dream up your five questions and forward them to you.

Lyn F. said...

Whinge whinge whinge ... Jason!!! You cheated!!! :-( I would have wanted to see a random thought from you, and then I was to have generated 5 new questions for you. I was deprived, I tell you, Deprived!!!

Okay, Drama Queen antics and whinge off. I'll have to admit - some of the questions I asked of Charles and Tyler were a bit odd and outlandish, but that's where the fun is, right? At least, they'll have the opportunity to use more of their grey matters than some of the silly MySpace memes that appear from time to time ...

Anyway ... nice answers, JP. Thanks for playing.