Semana Santa y Pascua + Holy Week and Easter


Click image to enlarge.

Snapshots: Joe Porta & March for America group 3.14.10


Frank interviews immigration attorney Joe Porta in the Spanish service.

Mason Funk, Christy Lafferty, Ricardo Moreno and Anabella Trujillo are commissioned in the Todos/as Juntos/as + All Together service for their participation in the March for America for immigrants’ rights.

Snapshots: Nuev@s miembr@s y bautismos + New Members and Baptisms 1.31.10


Adventures in Liturgy: Wedding at Cana images; Haitian art


Adventures in Liturgy by Edward Murray, Music Director

Today’s scripture reading, John 2:1-11, was, on the one hand, a relatively straightforward story of Jesus and his mother at a wedding in Cana, and on the other, a richly layered canvas loaded with nuances and meaning.  It has long been a favorite of artists.  Here are some of the images that appeared in today’s PowerPoint.

14th century fresco


He Qi

Much more of He Qi’s wonderful work here.

Unknown artist

The following image only came to my attention just before church and didn’t make it into the PowerPoint.  Very poignant, especially at this time, it is a mural of the Wedding at Cana from the Anglican Cathedral in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; all the characters in the painting are Haitian.

Mural from the Anglican Cathedral of Port-au-Prince

Haitian art is very colorful and vibrant.

Check out Haitian street art here.

Haitian art galleries here and here.

Steel drum and metal art is highly developed.  Click here.

Here‘s a very interesting collection of Haitian art at Bryant University.

Stay tuned for more…

Adventures in Liturgy: Exotic Instruments


Adventures in Liturgy by Edward Murray, Music Director

Well, Christmas is well and truly over for 2009, but I wanted to take a belated opportunity to comment on the hurdy-gurdy and musette, the unusual instruments we heard in our Christmas Eve service.

The structure and history of the hurdy-gurdy are difficult to describe in only a few words, but this paragraph from a Wikipedia article is a pretty good summary.  For much more history and information, click here.

The hurdy gurdy or hurdy-gurdy (also known as a wheel fiddle) is a stringed musical instrument in which the strings are sounded by means of a rosined wheel which the strings of the instrument pass over. This wheel, turned with a crank, functions much like a violin bow, making the instrument essentially a mechanical violin. Melodies are played on a keyboard that presses tangents (small wedges, usually made of wood) against one or more of these strings to change their pitch. Like most other acoustic string instruments, it has a soundboard to make the vibration of the strings audible.

Most hurdy gurdies have multiple “drone strings” which provide a constant pitch accompaniment to the melody, resulting in a sound similar to that of bagpipes.  For this reason, the hurdy gurdy is often used interchangeably with or along with bagpipes, particularly in French and contemporary Hungarian folk music.

The musette is a small instrument of the bagpipe family.  For a full description and history, click here.

The hurdy-gurdy was played by Curtis Berak.   Curtis has had a passion for the hurdy gurdy (vielle a roue) for over 20 years, performing, restoring, and collecting antique hurdy gurdys from the early 18th C., amassing the largest collection in America. He has made a concert tour of Ireland, and played for film soundtracks of “Polar Express”, “The Three Musketeers”, “The Craft”, “The Tie That Binds”, and “Newsies”. Curtis is an internationally recognized professional harpsichord builder, and also restores antique fortepianos.

The musette was played by Bruce Teter.  Bruce and Curtis have performed far and wide.  Bruce describes one memorable outreach performance for the Orangewood Center for Children in Orange County:  We played for a small group of teenage girls. We announced the next piece as a dance from the Renaissance and described people dancing at a country dance. I think the girls had a lot of pent-up energy with no way to “let go,” so they took this opportunity to get up and dance around the classroom. The teacher was a bit shocked by this unruly behavior but didn’t try too hard to control the situation. Perhaps the unusual droning instruments (hurdy-gurdy and bagpipes) that Curtis Berak and I play, facilitate the ability to surrender to the music and let it move you: this was the principle of the Tarantella dance. This shows how music can act as an impetus for emotional expression, especially for disadvantaged children whose heightened emotional state has few, if any, arenas for expression.

Curtis and Bruce playing on Christmas Eve


Part of Curtis's collection of hurdy-gurdys

Click here for a video of Curtis and Bruce introducing several interesting instruments, including the hurdy-gurdy and musette.

Stay tuned for more…

Adventures in Liturgy: One last carol, Shirley Murray, I-to Loh


Adventures in Liturgy by Edward Murray, Music Director.

Well, the season of Christmas is almost over, but I wanted to look back at one unusual carol whose background is particularly interesting.  It’s not, to be sure, a cheerful “feel good” sort of a carol, but it is thought provoking and beautiful in its own way.  It’s called Hunger Carol, and Elyse sang it as a solo on the Second Sunday of Advent, December 6.

The words are by one of my favorite hymn writers, New Zealander Shirley Erena Murray (no relation that I know of).  Murray’s writing is always artful and economical, and at its best (as in this case) can pack quite a punch.  It addresses a somber side to Christmas consumerism in the context of Jesus’s own birth.  The subject of hunger is of particular relevance to Immanuel, thanks to the fine work of our Food Pantry.  Here is the text; note the particularly powerful image in the last verse:

Child of joy and peace
born to every race‚
By your star, the wise will know you,
East and West their homage show you,
Look into your face
Child of joy and peace.

Born among the poor
on a stable floor,
Cold and raw, you know our hunger,
weep our tears and share our anger,
Yet you tell us more,
born among the poor.

Every child needs bread
till the world is fed:
You give bread, your hands enable,
all to gather round one table,
Christmas must be shared,
every child needs bread.

Son of poverty
prod us till we see
Self-concerned, how we deny you,
by our greed we crucify you
On a Christmas tree,
Son of poverty.

The musical setting Elyse sang was by Taiwanese composer I-to Loh.  Through his work with the World Council of Churches and other interfaith organizations, I-to Loh is probably the best-known Asian church musician and composer in the west today.  In the small world department, he did his doctorate at UCLA where he was friends with Rev. John Zehnder, father of Tim and Tom.  His tune is entitled Smokey Mountain, the name of a mountain of garbage in Manila, the Philippines, where people lived and searched for food. Loh lived in the Philippines in 1982 and 1994 when he taught at the Asian Institute for Liturgy and Music (AILM) in Manila; he was there as a missionary to the Philippines under the sponsorship of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church in the United States (truly an international effort!).  Loh has remarked that “if all my hymns are forgotten but this one, I’ll be happy.”  For this piece, Loh has adopted a pseudo-Indonesian gamelan style which is highly evocative.  Click here to hear the music.

Stay tuned for more and happy New Year!

Adventures in Liturgy: Preparation Plus/Meister Eckhart


Adventures in Liturgy by Edward Murray (Music Director)

Not found, alas, in time to use in the December 20 bulletin was this amazing passage from the great German mystic Meister Eckhart (1260-1328).

We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.

Source:  At the Edge of the Enclosure

Adventures in Liturgy: Preparation plus/Lawrence Ferlinghetti


Adventures in liturgy by Edward Murray (Music Director)

Space precluded the use of this remarkable Christmas poem in the bulletin on December 20.  It is by the well-known American poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and is somewhat surprising coming from a writer best known for his association with the beat poets of the ’50s and ’60s!

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no rootless Christmas trees
hung with candycanes and breakable stars

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no gilded Christmas trees
and no tinsel Christmas trees
and no tinfoil Christmas trees
and no pink plastic Christmas trees
and no gold Christmas trees
and no black Christmas trees
and no powderblue Christmas trees
hung with electric candles
and encircled by tin electric trains
and clever cornball relatives

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no intrepid Bible salesmen
covered the territory
in two-tone cadillacs
and where no Sears Roebuck creches
complete with plastic babe in manger
arrived by parcel post
the babe by special delivery
and where no televised Wise Men
praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no fat handshaking stranger
in a red flannel suit / and a fake white beard
went around passing himself off
as some sort of North Pole saint
crossing the desert to Bethlehem
in a Volkswagon sled
drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer
with German names
and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts
for everybody’s imagined Christ child

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no Bing Crosby carollers
groaned of a tight Christmas
and where no Radio City angels
iceskated wingless
thru a winter wonderland
into a jinglebell heaven
daily at 8:30
with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary’s womb again
where in the darkest night
of everybody’s anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable
and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest
of Second Comings

—from Coney Island of the Mind

Adventures in Liturgy: The “O” Antiphons of Advent; Kathleen Norris


Adventures in Liturgy by Edward Murray (Music Director)

Most of us are probably acquainted with the famous Advent hymn O come, o come, Emmanuel.  Fewer are likely to have sung all of the seven verses of the hymn, as we did during the bilingual service of healing on November 29, the first Sunday of Advent.  Although hardly surprising, this is a pity, as they are very beautiful.  They are based on an ancient series of Latin liturgical responses known as the “O” Antiphons.

In the Latin monastic liturgy, the Magnificat (Song of Mary) is sung daily at Vespers.  A short response, known as an antiphon, is sung at the beginning and end of the Magnificat.  The Magnificat antiphons for December 17-23 form a series, each of which contains a different name for the coming Christ, and each beginning with the word “O”, hence their popular title.

There is something a bit mysterious and very compelling about them:

December 17:  O wisdom, coming forth from the Most High, filling all creation and reigning to the ends of the earth; come and teach us the way  of truth.

December 18:  O Lord of Lords, and ruler of the House of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush, and gave him the law on Sinai: come with your outstretched arm and

December 19:  O root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the nations; kings will keep silence before you for whom the nations long; come and save us and delay no longer.

December 20:  O key of David and scepter of the House of Israel; you open and none can shut; you shut and none can open: come and free the captives from prison, and break down the walls of death.

December 21:  O morning star, splendor of the light eternal and bright sun of righteousness: come and bring light to those who dwell in darkness and walk in the shadow of death.

December 22:  O king of the nations, you alone can fulfill their desires: cornerstone, binding all together: come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust of the earth.

December 23:  O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, hope of the nations and their savior: come and save us, O Lord our God.

In her wonderful book The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris writes of the experience of singing one of the O Antiphons with the sisters at Mount St. Mary’s Brentwood campus here in Los Angeles.  A vivid excerpt:

…one of the women asked if I’d like to first take a brief hike further up the mountain, past the convent and onto the fire road … Soon we could see, far below us, a small section of what she told me was the Santa Monica freeway.  Then we left the traces of civilization behind … We never made it to the summit, because at one turn we encountered two coyotes, a male and a female.  We stared at them, and they at us, and then they slipped away, down the hill. … I was overcome with the wonder of having come all the way from western South Dakota, via Minnesota, only to find myself alone with coyotes in Los Angeles…

adventures in liturgy: indigenous languages, dia de la raza, iona community and aaron sonnenschein


Ed Murray (Music Director) on Adventures in Liturgy:  Indigenous Languages

Back in October we celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month both in our Tod@s Junt@s/All Together service and in a festive convivio.  The date of our celebration happened to nearly coincide with the Central and South American observance of Dia de la Raza

– briefly a counterpoint to the better-known Columbus Day, but focused on the native peoples impacted by European exploration and domination.  Here is a Mexican perspective on Dia de la Raza.

In keeping with our ongoing efforts to explore diverse cultures and connect with them, however intangibly, through their music, this seemed like an opportunity to sing some songs from indigenous traditions of what is now known as South America.

Three songs emerged; two somewhat familiar and one completely new to me and the music team.  We have sung the Kyrie Guarany from time to time over the years, although not previously in the Guarany language.  Its sweet melody is touching and gratifying to sing and connects beautifully to its words of supplication.  John Bell of the Iona Community, who was a pioneer in bringing “global” music into the churches of the west, writes of the Kyrie:  “Paraguay is the only country in South America which has its own indigenous language.  The Guarany are the most oppressed people living on the east coast of South American, and this song is their own.  They are a very mild people, which is partly the reason for them being scattered throughout the region, sometimes led by messiah figures and looking for a ‘land without evils.’”

In a livelier vein was Sarantañani, a relatively recent song from present-day Bolivia.  Bell writes of it:  “The Aymara people are part of the fastest growing church in Bolivia.  They – who have their own language – took over the Methodist church and ‘indigenized’ it.  This kind of crisis for the church is what must be expected if one speaks about the rights of native people.  The song goes to a dance rhythm and was indeed danced at a recent meeting of the South American Council of Churches.”

Finally the music team performed a most unusual piece, Tonada del Chimo, in the lost language of mochica.  It is in fact the only known original music composed to a text in mochica.  Its haunting and somewhat primitive style is certainly evocative of a lost world and the occasional intermingled Spanish word suggests that it may be a penitential litany of some sort.  Although the language is lost, our own Aaron Sonnenschein, who is a scholar of indigenous languages of Latin America, was able to lead us to a pronunciation guide.  Aaron has recently returned from a trip to Mexico where he was engaged in the work of recording and transcribing yet another indigenous language on the verge of being lost forever.

Stay tuned for further adventures in liturgy…


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