The first short week of the new school year is in the books, and assuming I’m still alive when this post pops this morning, I survived!
That’s reason enough to be joyful, but in case my survival of a three-day workweek doesn’t inspire you, here are some more “the joy of” posts of a decidedly musical extraction that might:
“The Joy of Hymnals” (and “TBT: The Joy of Hymnals“) – I love this little post so much, I offer a PDF version of it as a freebie with any purchase of The Lo-Fi Hymnal. I’ve been playing piano at my little country church for a couple of years now, and it’s really given me a newfound respect for the theological and musical qualities of beloved hymns.
This week I’ve been teaching and learning a great deal about George Frideric Handel, the great German composer who became, over his long life, a great British one. In discussing Handel and other Baroque composers with my students, we also veered into the world of hymns.
Hymns were and are important in Protestant congregations as simple, memorable tunes with theologically rich texts. Hymn melodies are often based on folk tunes or popular compositions. In some cases, such as the lovely Christmas carol “Silent Night,” the text is written first, then set to music (indeed, most hymns, being based on Scripture, evolved this way). Sometimes the tune is written, then an enterprising poet sets the text. Such was the case with Isaac Watts, who set his text for “Joy to the World” to a Handel melody. And, of course, there are hymns written and composed by the same person.
In talking about hymns, I brought to my students a slender little hymnal in my small collection of them, The Cokesbury Worship Hymnal. From what I can gather, my copy was published in or after 1966, when the copyright from 1938 was renewed. There is a stamp on the inside front cover stating that the hymn book once belonged to Carteret Street Methodist Church, which I thought was in Charleston, but appears to be in Beaufort, South Carolina. The hymnal includes 296 hymns, with fifty responsive readings—a good collection, but slim by the standards of a pewback hymnal.
So as I was going through posts from October 2019, I stumbled upon one of my old favorites: “The Joy of Hymnals.” My small church roped me into playing piano for Sunday morning services maybe two years ago, and it quickly rekindled an old love of hymns and hymnals.
Hymnals are my favorite items to find in old second-hand shops and antique stores (the latter of which often selling them at an egregious markup). It’s fun to see which hymns do—and, more importantly, don’t—show up in any given hymnal. I particularly like slender volumes, the kind that were meant for carrying from service to service or camp meeting to camp meeting, and which tend to possess hymns from the canon, if such a thing exists, of hymnody.
I even recorded and released a very lo-fi EP, The Lo-Fi Hymnal, which consists of crude recordings of my Sunday morning playing. That short collection also includes a PDF version of today’s TBT feature.
Even more than your patience, I appreciate your support. As of this morning, ten of you—and I know every single one of you (thanks, family and friends)—purchased tunes, nine of those being the full discography. At a time when the traditional avenues for musicians to earn money, like gigs and private lessons, have pretty much dried up, your support means a great deal.
Those ten sales are, I won’t hesitate to admit, the first I’ve made in a decade on Bandcamp. Perhaps I could have twisted arms more tightly in the past, or my music is, ultimately, more forgettable (or, even worse, bad) than I care to admit. But I’m listening to Electrock II: Space Rock again for the first time in a few years while writing this post, and it’s pretty dang good!
Regardless, given the momentum, I figured today I’d look back wistfully at past “Gig Days”:
“Gig Day!” (and “TBT: Gig Day!“) – I wrote this post the day of a comeback gig at Crema Coffee Bar, a coffee shop in Hartsville, South Carolina in summer 2018. I’d broken my wrist the prior Thanksgiving Week, and had largely let my music lapse, other than some occasional open mic appearances. That summer, I arose like a phoenix, and began playing (and writing) again regularly for the first time in a loooong year. This post covers my elaborate pre-show rituals in detail.
“Gig Day III” – I love Halloween. October always seems to shoot by in a blur of busyness, so each October I try to slow down and appreciate the month (which, if we’re lucky, will occasionally feel autumnal). To that end, I try to put on some kind of Halloween-themed show. In 2019, that was my “Halloween Spooktacular” at The Purple Fish Coffee Company in Darlington, South Carolina. It was (contrary to expectations) very well-attended, and my buddy John (twelve-string Takamine guitar) and my student Trystan (drums) sat in with me; it might for quite a show (including a lengthy cover of “Thriller” complete with jammy sax solo).
Well, hopefully live will return to normal-ish soon, and I can get back on the road. I love playing gigs, from singing pop tunes in the background of an engagement party to standing on coffee tables singing “Delilah.” Sometimes, I even get paid to do it!
Anyway, I’m off to play piano at church. They’re broadcasting the service to people’s cars, so I will (apparently) be one of three people in the actual sanctuary, playing hymns from the digital keyboard as people pull up. Sounds fun to me!
A Special Easter Notice: Pick up my latest release, The Lo-Fi Hymnal, for just $4 (or name your own price).
Way back on 17 March 2019, on just the fourth ever Lazy Sunday, the theme was “Christianity.” I’ve written quite a bit about the One True Faith over the past year, but I haven’t made it another feature of Lazy Sunday since then.
Well, today is Easter, so it’s time to dust off the Christological archives and look at some more Christianity-related posts:
“He is Risen!” (and “TBT: He is Risen!“) – Any Easter compilation has to include this post (and its TBT reblog), a simple celebration of the Resurrection. This one will become a perennial reblog, I’m sure, as long as I keep this self-indulgent blog going.
“The Joy of Hymnals” (and “The Lo-Fi Hymnal“) – I’ve been linking to this post more lately as I’m shamelessly turning My Father’s Blog into a den of thieves, promoting my hastily-compiled release The Lo-Fi Hymnal(just $4!). But I also sincerely enjoy playing hymns at church; it’s one of the things I most miss about The Age of The Virus. My tentative plan was to record some more cellphone hymns on my parents’ old upright piano, but the key bed is so gummy from lack of maintenance, half of the keys aren’t playable (sorry for calling you out, Mom).
I wrote a great deal about music in the last quarter of 2019, and I’m kicking off 2020 focused intensely on the performing arts: I’m going to be in a play this weekend. That personal detail is somewhat important for the blog, as after today my focus (other than work during the day) will be almost entirely on that production. As such, posts may be shorter than usual, or a bit delayed in getting up.
Regardless, in keeping with the fine arts, I thought I’d feature three recent pieces I wrote about music. Enjoy!
“Milo on Romantic Music” – Readers are probably exhausted of reading about this post, but Milo’s analysis of Romantic music, while certainly contentious, is fascinating. He might play the role of a melodramatic, catty queen online, but he possesses deep erudition on a variety of topics. This post was one of “2019’s Top Five Posts” thanks to Milo’s sharing of it.
“O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting” – This morning I’ll finally be back to my little Free Will Baptist Church to play piano. I’m also struggling to remember a huge amount of naturalistic dialogue for the aforementioned play. The juxtaposition of returning to church piano playing and the pressure of conjuring up untold mental energies in a short span of time made this post a logical choice. The music for “O Little Town of Bethlehem” was composed in great haste, and completed mere hours before it was performed. My instincts (and experience) tell me that the play will, much to the director’s chagrin, unfold the same way—incompetence giving way to brilliance the night of the show.
Well, there you have it! Happy New Year to one and all. Back to work!
The political scene still strikes me as incredibly boring—a sad testament to how jaded our politics have become, that we don’t get more riled up about impeachment proceedings. It’s also a testament to the perfidy and disingenuous of congressional Democrats: everyone knows the articles of impeachment are a politically-motivated farce and, to use GEOTUS’s preferred name, a “witch hunt.”
It’s sad that President Trump will be impeached, and I’m nervous that squishy neocons and RINOs in the Senate will betray him. That would be the ultimate kick in the teeth—the elites backhanding their own citizens for daring to challenge their aloof rule. I shudder to contemplate the fall out should conviction and removal in the Senate occur.
Until then, it’s all a distracting media circus, with the Democrats and press engaged in a frenzied dance around the cannibal’s pot. Even then, it manages to be incredibly dull. At least actual cannibals have some conviction.
All that said, let’s look at more Christmas carols! Next up: “Away in a Manger.”
No, it’s not an “extra large” edition of Lazy Sunday, dear reader: it’s the fortieth edition of this hallowed tradition. That’s forty Sundays of thematic reflections, gazing back at the output of fifty weeks of consecutive daily posts. Yep—today marks the 350th consecutive day of posts here at The Portly Politico. We’re just fifteen days away from reaching the one-year mark.
“The Joy of Christmas Carols” – This piece is a reflection on the sheer joy of playing and singing Christmas carols. Like traditional hymns, carols possess wonderful staying power, and they stick with you powerfully. I’ve often caught myself singing “Joy to the World” (more below) in the middle of July. They also beautifully and simply tell the story of Christ.
“Joy to the World” – “Joy to the World” is somewhere in my Top 5 Favorite Christmas Carols (if such a list actually existed). The Number One slot goes to our next entry, but “Joy” is up there, for sure. In this post I analyze the simple but effective use of a descending D major scale to kick off the melody of a song that leaps and bounds across those eight notes, much like the soaring tones of the angels that appeared over Bethlehem that night some 2000 years ago.
“SubscribeStar Saturday: O Holy Night” – I believe that, objectively, “O Holy Night” is the greatest Christmas song ever. I used to say the “objectively” part as a joke—how can an opinion be objective reality?—but now I’ve come to believe it. It’s powerful. It’s operatic. And for $1 a month, you can find out why.
That’s it! We’re closing in on Christmas, rapidly. Enjoy your Sunday, and Merry Christmas!