Easter 2024

28 December 2006
2006 - best of, the

We've had a great year on (maybe even our best yet?) and here's some of the best we've found:

Best CD

We didn't even know what a lautenwerck was before hearing this disc (and heck, we still wouldn't recognize a lautenwerck if it bumped into us on the street), but we love the way it sounds. And in the hands of a non-ecclesiastical John Paul, a collection of underperformed music of Herbert Howells comes to life in a spectacular way. (Howells, Herbert (1892-1983) - recorded on lautenwerck)

Best Criticism from a Pulitzer Prize Winning Composer

You look like God

Harbison, John - praise from

Best Esoteric Pun

Dirty Tudor singers? Tallis Squalors.

Best Exposé of the Homophobia and Illiteracy of a Republican Student Organization President at a Large State School

You'd have to be a frat boy named Shane Kennedy to say:

If you are going to talk like you are gay, then Ann Coulter is going to call you gay.

Shane "doesn't take life to serious [sic]", but he sure didn't like my article. gay - talking like you are

Second place in the dumb Republican category: Best Exposé of the Musical Illiteracy of a Republican President: In this episode shrub pretends that a commercially released recording somehow impinges on the integrity of a legislated piece of music. Damn those activist record labels! (banner - Spanish spangled

Best Firing of Small Artillery

Boom. Capt. Sinden fires the cannon at Lake Delaware Boys Camp, July 2006. (Photo: Anna Gray)

Best Photos of Non-Christian Organs in Cincinnati

more photos

Best Musicological Mystery

A unknown Moravian composer extends an unexpectedly long reach.

Krommer, Franz (1759-1831) - connection to Schübler Chorales, barbershop

Best Religious Rambling

It's an interesting concept, and we're still thinking a lot about it and applying it to other stuff.

Trinity - as perpetual birthing

Best Yet

Maybe this year was the best so far, but we at are confident that the best is yet to come.

Although figured bass - how to realize was definitely one of our favorites.

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27 December 2006
Ford, Gerald (1913-2006) - funeral of (preview)

Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States has died. He was an Episcopalian.

We at are looking forward to his televised funeral and plan to watch it Reagan style: with the Book of Common Prayer in hand a few cold ones nearby. It should be good!

You know, because the choirs at the National Cathedral just haven't had a whole lot to do lately.

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19 December 2006
Advent - third week of, 2006, Tuesday

Psalm 71:1-8
Judges 13:2-7, 24-26
Luke 1:5-25

American composer Daniel Pinkham (1923-2006) died yesterday.

Pinkham's music has a fresh, youthful, and distinctly American spirit.

Pinkham retained his youthfulness, refreshing generosity and love of teaching throughout his life.

Gentle Jesus, grant him eternal rest.

My mouth is filled with your praise,
      and with your glory all day long.

Psalm 71:8

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16 December 2006
Advent - second week of, 2006, Saturday

Psalm 80:1-3, 14-18
Sirach 48:1-11
Matthew 17:9-13

In the Gospel reading today, Jesus is talking in cryptic terms about John the Baptist. He's comparing him to Elija, and eventually the disciples get it.

But on Wednesday this week, Jesus asks "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind?" (Matthew 11:7). The answer from the crowd is apparently "no", because Jesus goes on to ask, "What then did you go out to see?" (11:8).

But wait a minute. We organists are precisely interested in reeds shaken by the wind.

And prophets too, I guess.

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15 December 2006
Rütter, John - mentioned in the New York Times

There's no author mentioned in conjunction with "Sounds of the Season from Churches and Halls" in today's New York Times.

There's no Rutter mentioned in the article either.

Both times he is listed as "Rütter".

I'm sorry, but misspelling an English composer's name does not give your Christmas program more international panache.

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Advent - second week of, 2006, Friday

Psalm 1
Isaiah 48:17-19
Matthew 11:16-19

Okay, so don't follow the way of the wicked (Psalm). Check.

The LORD teaches us for our own good (Isaiah). Check.

We played the flute for you, but you did not dance (Matthew). Come again?


14 December 2006
Brook, Arthur Scott - inventor of an organ pipe open at both ends

On 29 March 1909, Englishman Arthur Scott Brook filed a patent for an organ pipe open at both ends.

That's right. Both ends of the pipe are open and unobstructed.

This means that the wind needs to enter the pipe in a different way (i.e., not from the toe), hence the "blow aperture".

Why have I never heard about this before? Have any of these pipes been built?

What would this sound like?

More to explore: Google's Patent Search returns 701 results for "organ pipe"

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Advent - second week of, 2006, Thursday

Psalm 145:1-4, 8-13
Isaih 41:13-20
Matthew 11:7-15

Well, Second Isaiah gets a little crazy today. No more of this "Comfort, comfort" business. All of a sudden Jacob is a worm; Israel, an insect!

And what's more, they are to be made into "a threshing-sledge / sharp, new, and having teeth."

Does a worm have teeth? What insects have teeth? (Incidentally, these teeth can bring down mountains and reduce hills to rubble). What imagery for Advent!

God's greatness us unsearchable, the psalm reminds us.

Let anyone with ears listen, Jesus implores.


13 December 2006
Advent - second week of, 2006, Wednesday

Psalm 103:1-10
Isaiah 40:25-31
Matthew 11:28-30

Sometimes I wince when I play the piano. I can't help myself. It's such an ugly, terrible instrument. This is compounded by the fact that I am a poor piano player.

The piano is a violent instrument; it thrives on attack. The organ is peaceful; it responds to release.

When playing the piano, notes must be played with awful decision and striking force. When playing the organ, sounds can be caressed out of the instrument as the finger's motion corresponds to air entering the pipes.

When a pianist makes an errant decision or motion, the note has been struck and sounds just as forcefully as do correct pitches.

When an organist makes an errant decision or motion, there is often time to remove the finger from the key without the mistake sounding fully.

In this way, the organ is "slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love" (Ps. 103:8).

Who would dream of putting a heathen piano in a church, the realm of the holy organ?

To whom then will you compare me,
      or who is my equal? says the Holy One.

Isaiah 40:25

To what can we compare the organ, the King of Instruments?

The organ's love and superiority, however, come at a cost: weight.

Organs weigh a lot, sure, but organists have to deal with the weight of sustaining pitch. Whether this is tenuously achieved through electric means, or geniunely achieved through the heaviness of a mechanical relationship, the organist is keenly aware of this responsibility: the duty of duration.

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

Matthew 11:28-30

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12 December 2006
Advent - second week of, 2006, Tuesday

Psalm 96
Isaiah 40:1-11
Matthew 18:12-14

The readings for today lend themselves to an anachronistic reading regarding automobiles and entropy.

First, the whole "highway for our God" thing no longer conjures up images of well-trod footpaths, but rather oil-stained roadways.

Second, "every valley shall be lifted up,/and every mountain and hill be made low" brings to mind erosion caused my glacial movement in the previous ice ages. Surely at some time on this earth, every valley has been lifted up -- well, except maybe Death Valley.

This "geologic time" perspective probably wasn't available to the author of Second Isaiah, but human mortality certainly was: "all people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field".

And it's not just people. We are surrounded by things that have a constancy even more fragile than the metaphorical "flower of the field". Cromornes, computers, cars.

And it's those metaphorical cars, the ones that fade, that travel on the highway for our God, that is the earth seen in its geologic perspective, unaffected by human hands (though God cares for his whole creation, especially human hands).

Maybe none of this makes sense, but neither does the fact that as I was sitting at a stoplight last night two young adult males in an over-large Dodge Ram attracted my attention by yelling and gunning the engine to tell me that I had a flat tire.

If I had a flat tire, then I had four flat tires, because all looked fine to me.

A closer inspection revealed that all my tires were underinflated by 4 psi, likely due to cooler temperatures.

So what was the deal with these guys? I guess they were personifying this weeks collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The flat tire prophets were preaching repentance. However misguided they were (a quick Google search shows that it's not really possible to observe a difference of 10 psi without the aid of a pressure gauge) these Hoosier hooligans did get me worried about the state of my soul tires.

Flat Tire Prophets: a good name for a band?

And, in an alternative take on the gospel, if one of your tires is flat, do you not leave the three tires at correct pressure in search of a the free air pump at that gas station near the mall? And if you get that tire back at the correct pressure, do you not rejoice in it more than the other three that never went astray?

Well, all my tires are back on track, and sure enough, I'm getting better mileage on that "highway of our God".

To travel the way of the Lord, we need Advent as a time of intentional preparation, a time of personal inflation.

Because seasons change, and sometimes our devotion deflates.


11 December 2006
Advent - second week of, 2006, Monday

Psalm 85:8-13
Isaiah 35:1-10
Luke 5:17-26

Summarizing today's lessons goes like this:

Listen to the Pharisees when they say "We have seen strange things today".

Or Listen to Thomas Merton, who makes his regularly scheduled appearance on . . .

Merton Monday, the second Monday of every month on, features an excerpt from the writing of Thomas Merton:

That which is oldest is most young and most new. There is nothing so ancient and so dead as human novelty. The "lastest" is always stillborn. It never even manages to arrive. What is really new is what was there all the time. I say, not what has repeated itself all the time; the really "new" is that which, at every moment, springs freshly into new existence. This newness never repeats itself. Yet it is so old it goes back to the earliest beginning. It is the very beginning itself, which speaks to us.

Merton, Thomas. New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 107. New Directions Publishing.

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10 December 2006
Advent - Second Sunday of, 2006

The first part of the First Lesson reinterpreted with products from the Visual Kit for the Blood of Jesus:

Baruch 5:1-5a

Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,
      and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.

Or put on your High Priest Costume (instructions included)!

Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God;

Or cut out your Simplicity Patterns for Bible costumes (included)!

put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;

Or put on a Crown of Thorns (included)!

for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven.

Even in your Tabernacle Felt Set (included)!

For God will give you evermore the name,

along with a Kids Discover Magazine on Blood (included)!

      "Righteous Peace, Godly Glory."

be still my beating Life-size Latex Heart Model (included)!

Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height;

Do not stand on the Scarlet Cord with Tassels

look toward the east,

Toward the Cardboard Brazen Altar (included)!

and see your children gathered from west and east

who will only be satisfied if they see

The Sacrifice Lamb

If you purchased the Visual Kit For the School of Evangelism, then you already have this soft, life-like, washable toy lamb. But if not, it's an absolute MUST for the series on the Blood of Jesus. It is needed in multiple lessons. It stands 15 " tall so it is nearly life-size of a new-born lamb. Perfect for carrying under your arm, or around your neck. Fits perfectly on the cardboard Brazen Altar that comes in the Visual Kit.

Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

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08 December 2006
Advent - first week of, 2006, Friday

Psalm 27
Isaiah 29:17-24
Matthew 9:27-31

Today is the 141st birthday of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius

Sibelius once said: "Never pay any attention to the critics. No one ever made a statue of a critic."

Now my head is lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Psalm 27:6

Sibelius's birth and music send us an Advent message of hope and transcendence. Except for the Eighth Symphony, which sends us a message of despair and fiery destruction.

Let me explain. Sibelius wrote seven numbered symphonies and complete his eighth, but it was never performed. Something got the better of him one night (probably alcohol), and he threw it into the fire.

The only scrap of the work that remains is preserved in a little piece he wrote for a friend's funeral in 1931: Surusoitto, Op. 111b.

Sibelius was in the business of redefining what the symphony was. In fact, he was reshaping the logic of music itself. His circular, stream of consciousness kind of writing had an inner logic that was very personal to him. It spoke of the world, and pointed beyond it.

If you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Eighth through Surusoitto, you are listening to the work of a mature master composer.

I will even go so far as to say you can hear what it sounds like to ache for redemption, for a savior, for love.

Happy birthday Jean!

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07 December 2006
Advent - first week of, 2006, Thursday

Psalm 118:19-24
Isaiah 26:1-6
Matthew 7:21-27

There are gates which only the righteous can pass through.

Jesus says that not everyone who calls out is righteous, but only those who do his father's will.

To enter the gates of righteousness (enter into heaven itself?) Jesus says it's not enough just hear his words.

We have to act on them.


06 December 2006
Advent - first week of, 2006, Wednesday

Psalm 23
Isaiah 25:6-9
Matthew 15:29-39

You can eat the grass in the pasture. You know, you can, like, graze. You are a sheep. The Lord is your shepherd. But that's not all.

The table is spread:

You prepare a table before me
      in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
      my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5

And there's a meal:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
      a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,
      of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.

Isaiah 25:6

And Jesus is the host:

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.’

Matthew 15:32

We focus so much on the miracle of the feeding of the 4000 that we miss the miracle of Jesus' practical consideration. Here's a guy who has just cured the lame and the blind and the mute and he's the one who has to make sure that all the people he's just healed can eat enough to make it home.

God wants to provide us with food for our journey.

Is it any wonder then that his Son comes to us born in a manger? A place of food?


05 December 2006
Advent - first week of, 2006, Tuesday

Psalm 72:1-8
Isaiah 11:1-10
Luke 10:21-24

A common thread: giving sight to the blind, and blinding the sighted.

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
      give deliverance to the needy,
      and crush the oppressor.

Psalm 72:4

So, this is just a typical power reversal. Or is it?

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
      or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
      and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

Isaiah 11:3b-4a

God's judgments are not of this world.

Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, 'Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.'

Luke 10:23-24

Luke 10 is a pretty complicated chapter. You got your snake handling treading and the Good Samaritan all in one untidy bunch.

Here in the middle, you have Jesus rejoicing "in the Holy Spirit", but not really crediting it with the opening of eyes. Jesus credits himself with opening our eyes to the Father. But maybe he does that through the Spirit?

When the Spirit comes upon Mary she sings the Magnificat. When Jesus rejoices in it, He says: "no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (Luke 10:22)

When we are given sight by the Son, we see the Father.

I'm not trying to draw any hard and fast conclusions here, because this text has shrouded itself in mystery. It's interesting that doses of the Spirit result in power reversal, but knowledge reversal is also at play here. And there's a lot that has to remain unknown: unreversed.

I Corinthians 1:18-2:16 has some parallels here.

I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
      and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."

Isaiah 29:14 quoted in I Corinthians 1:19

God's knowledge is unknowable for us. And in this way, our Advent waiting is extended until we are united with God.

"What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
      nor human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him"

unknown source quoted in I Corinthians 2:9

And said a different way:

"For who has known the mind of the Lord
      so as to instruct him?"

Isaiah 40:13 quoted in I Corinthians 2:16

I don't think we're supposed to be teaching the Lord. He should be teaching us blind folk.

We can only be given so much sight in our blinded state.


04 December 2006
Advent - first week of, 2006, Monday

Psalm 122
Isaiah 2:1-5
Matthew 8:5-13


We pray for it in Jerusalem. Well, we may or may not be in Jerusalem when we pray, but certainly the peace of that city is important.

they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
      and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
      neither shall they learn war any more.

Isaiah 2:4b

The Capernaum servant is in distress, and the centurion asks that Jesus beat the servant's swords of distress is to ploughshares of repose.

"Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed."

I am sure I don't need to remind you that a centurion traveling a great distance on behalf a single servant is a little unusual (read the text. This guy commands a whole lot of people.) We can infer that the centurion is gay and that the servant is someone whom he loves intimately.

The "I'm not worthy" remark doesn't have anything to do with the centurion, though. None of us is worthy to have Jesus come under our roof. And yet this season of Advent reminds us that before Jesus' stably birth, the world was aching for the heavens to be torn open so that God could break through that strange divide between his kingdom and this world.

But we certainly can't ignore the implications of Jesus' actions on behalf of a gay relationship. Advent might be about waiting, but how long do we have to wait to see gays on equal footing with heterosexual people? When can they get married, share benefits, get tax privilege and all the other benefits heterosexual people enjoy?

We pray for it now. We might or might not be gay, but gays are a part of Jerusalem; they are a part of God's holy kingdom. How can we not pray and work toward their peace here on earth?

On a day when more and more voices are calling the conflict in Iraq a civil war, one remembers that war is never civil.

Humans like to fight each other for oil, power, bigotry, sexual insecurity, racism, fear, ignorance, sin, et cetera.

The scriptures remind us that violent conflict or stubborn oppression are contrary to the way of God.

What is the way of God?


From peace to pieces: My Gmail account now holds 4000 pieces of unread spam.


02 December 2006
Advent - 2006

Cast away the works of darkness.

Redemption is drawing near.

Distress among nations.

Raise your heads.

Wake, awake!





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The author of this website is an organist whom the New York Times calls “repeatedly, insisting that he pay for his subscription”. He likes to read parking meters, music, Indianapolis Monthly, and weather forecasts in Celsius, particularly whilst wearing cassock and surplice. He serves lasagna, overhand, as an example to many, and on ecclesiastical juries. He mixes salads, drinks, and metaphors. He takes photos, lots of dinner mints, and a little bit of time to get to know.




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