Saturday, March 16, 2013

Fairfax Choral Society Singing Kyrie Eleison, by Louis Vierne

Since the Fairfax Choral Society is getting ready for a concert tomorrow, I decided to do a quick and dirty slideshow of a piece we sang last fall. This is a movement from Louis Vierne's Messe Solenelle, which he composed while he was chief organist at Notre Dame in the early 20th century. I figured some of my Notre Dame photos would be appropriate since that church actually is connected to the music. The text is:

Latin -
Kyrie Eleison,
Kyrie Eleison,
Kyrie Eleison.

Christe Eleison,
Christe Eleison,
Christe Eleison.

Kyrie Eleison,
Kyrie Eleison,
Kyre Eleison.

English -
Lord, have mercy on us,
Lord, have mercy on us,
Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, have mercy on us,
Christ, have mercy on us,
Christ, have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on us,
Lord, have mercy on us,
Lord, have mercy on us.

The text is simple, but you'll notice that Vierne, like most composers, got a lot of mileage out if it. Enjoy!


Friday, January 25, 2013

Recent Recommended Reads

I haven't been around the blog much lately, partly because I've been reading some good books. You may find the following items interesting.
The book I finished last night was Nate Silver's, The Signal and the Noise. Citing examples from such diverse fields as climate science, baseball, Texas Hold 'Em and elections forecasting, Silver explains statistical analysis in an interesting, informative, and even entertaining way. The book is a bit long (500+ pages), so you probably won't read it in one sitting. But, if you're willing to take a bit of time each night over several nights, you're likely to learn quite a lot about gambling, earthquakes, and - yes - statistics.
Another book I finished a couple of weeks ago was, Damned Good Company, by Luis Granados. The author selected twenty pairs of contemporaneous historical figures - one secular versus one religious (i.e., Clarence Darrow vs. William Jennings Bryan) - and contrasted ways in which their views intersected, clashed, and influenced the world around them. I'm somewhat surprised this book hasn't gotten wider circulation because it is very well researched (over 1,100 endnotes) and is quite a good read. Granted, Granados doesn't write like Hitchens, but he's more readable than many other better-known authors. Perhaps that's a consequence of being published by The Humanist Press rather than Harper & Row.
The final book I'll mention, which I read after Granados' and before Silver's, is J.K. Rowling's debut in the world of adult fiction, The Casual Vacancy. Having read and enjoyed the entire Harry Potter series with Joshua and Jonathan, I had to see how Rowling would handle adult literature. She did quite well, but don't take that to mean that The Casual Vacancy is anything like Harry Potter for grown-ups. Unlike the world of Hogwarts, most, if not all, of the characters in this book are not likable people, so it's likely that readers won't readily align themselves with any of them. It's not even easy to choose one to hate more than the others because they're all equally loathsome. Nevertheless, the story is engaging, especially for anyone who is intrigued by politics, and one can't help wondering how the issue of the unexpectedly open seat on a small town's council will be resolved. I enjoyed the book, and I'll admit that the ending makes a tragic sort of sense; nevertheless, I wasn't satisfied with the way the final scene played out. If you want to know any more about that, you'll have to read the book and decide for yourself whether I've got that right or missed some profound meaning and symmetry. In my mind, the meaning and symmetry are almost, but not quite, there.
And that, dear friends, is some of what I've been doing lately. Have you read any of these books? If so, let me know what you think in the comments. Do you have any other books to recommend? Write a comment. I'm always open to suggestions.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Furniture I Covet

I think I'd like to have a bookcase like this.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas at the White House

No, I haven't been invited to join the Obamas for Christmas. I think they'll be celebrating in Hawaii while I hold down the fort here in DC. But, Bo has released his Christmas video.


The Bush dogs did some pretty cute holiday videos too, back in their day. It's nice to see the lighter side of life in a household that gets pretty stressful. Yes, I know, the First Family has many more amenities than I do, but they also deal with a lot more idiocy than I have to handle. Given that, I don't begrudge them some fun, laughter and relaxation. Everyone needs healthy doses of those things. Even Bo.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Amsterdam - Part Three of Three

Other posts in this series:
Part One of Three
Part Two of Three

Finally! I've reached the final post of my Amsterdam series, as well as the final post of my combined Paris-Amsterdam September 2012 series. One of the drawbacks of taking three months to edit and post photos is that I've forgotten some of the details that would enhance the posts.

Note to Self: In the future, carry a notebook with the camera.

This post will deal primarily with our visit to the Rijksmuseum, one of The Netherlands' major national showcases. When we visited, the museum was in the final phase of a major renovation, so more than half of the exhibits were not open to the public. Nevertheless, the exhibits we did see were wonderful. I'll note here two places we did not see that will be on our itinerary if a return visit is in our future: the Little Hermitage museum and the Rembrandt House.

We visited the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum in one day. This wasn't difficult, because, in addition to the closure of a significant chunk of the Rijksmuseum, about half of the Van Gogh museum was closed due to the preparation of about half of its holdings for a temporary exhibit across town at the Little Hermitage. I'm not a big Van Gogh fan and nothing I saw in the half of the museum that was open (the admission price was slightly discounted, since the exhibit was incomplete) compelled me to change my mind. If we return to Amsterdam, I do not need to return to the Van Gogh Museum. Since photography was forbidden, I don't have any photos to share (as you breathe big sighs of relief). Thus ends my discussion of the Van Gogh Museum.

Let's proceed to the Rijksmuseum.

The museum celebrates The Netherlands history, and also houses many impressive types of artwork.

One of several dollhouses:

A reminder of The Netherlands history as a notable naval, commercial and colonial power:

Busts of some Very Important People whose names and accomplishments have completely escaped me. Hence, my need for a notebook.

A porcelain bird cage. The mystery of these is how artists prevented the thin porcelain slats from melting during the firing process.

No self-respecting tea drinker could pass up this:

These are just two of many (scores? hundreds? who knows?) of pottery pieces on display, not surprising in a country known for several beautiful pottery styles. Another impressive art medium perfected by the Dutch is metal etching. Many of these are rather small, so it's amazing how much detail is included.

Aside: I saw an amazing display of Rembrandt etchings in Detroit 12-13 years ago; it was a traveling exhibit and I was fortunate enough to be attending an academic conference in town at the time. Confession: my academic advisor and I skipped a couple of conference sessions to go see the Rembrandts. She did amazing wood carvings in her spare time and was particularly enthralled with the techniques of metal etching. It all worked out okay; we both presented our papers as scheduled and I managed to graduate in spite of my truancy.

As you can guess, no Dutch art museum would be complete without paintings by the Dutch masters. Again, my lack of a notebook really hurts right now, because I can't for the life of me tell you who painted most of these pictures.

I can tell you a bit about this one because the uncropped photo included the explanatory caption. As you know, The Netherlands is known today for its high tolerance for, and acceptance of, diversity. Sad to say, this was not always the case. The photo below, entitled The Iconoclasts, shows Protestants desecrating a Catholic church in one of that nation's less open-minded periods.

I'll close the photo portion of this post with some Rembrandts. Well, I'll be more precise - I know the first one, the famous Night Watch, and the third one, the equally famous self-portrait, are Rembrandts. I think the middle one is too, but don't hold me to it.

The Night Watch is a huge painting. Now that I'm looking closely at this photo, I'm pretty sure this is the small version, which doesn't include some of the details contained in the full-sized version (takes up an entire large wall). The full-sized painting has a wider scale than this one. This one would fit in your living room. I guarantee the larger one wouldn't (unless you live in Versailles).

I have many other photos from the Rijskmuseum, but I think these give you the gist of what I saw. Remember, more than half of the museum was closed, so there's far more to see than what I've posted here.

Overall, I consider our visit to Amsterdam a success and I'd like to go back again. I'd like to experience more of the museums, more of the Dutch countryside, more of the cuisine, and more of Dutch culture generally. If you're looking for a place in Europe to spend a few days, consider taking a trip to Amsterdam. I'm sure you'd enjoy it.