Archive for April, 2006

Music That Changed Me - 3

People who know me well probably know where I’m going next. Handel’s Messiah is the most incredible choral piece for a lover of the Scriptures. I’m well aware that music lovers are going to name Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion as an even greater masterpiece, and certainly Messiah has suffered from some overexposure. But most people are only overexposed to a few parts of it, or maybe just one: the Hallelujah Chorus.

You need to listen to the whole thing, with the book in front of you. Notice how Handel and his librettist, Charles Jennens, weave together the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. In fact the first strictly New Testament quote does not come until track 14. The work is structured into three parts: Part 1 is the prophecies, birth, and ministry of Christ, Part 2 is his death and resurrection and this age of preaching the gospel, and Part 3 is the resurrection of the dead and the end of the world. It is interesting that the Hallelujah Chorus is at the end of Part 2, not Part 3, and presumably commemorates Christ’s second coming. That’s okay, because in my opinion the chorus at the end of Part 3 (Worthy Is The Lamb) is even grander and more glorious than Hallelujah.

Which brings us to the musical highlights. How can you “highlight” a work that is uninterrupted genius from beginning to end? (Away with single-CD Messiah highlights editions.) But here are a few of my very favorite parts.

  • The beginning “Comfort ye my people.” How merciful our God is to send a long-promised Savior to live among us and comfort us!
  • The prophecy (from Isaiah), “For unto us a child is born.” When they sing WONDERFUL, COUNSELOR, THE MIGHTY GOD, THE PRINCE OF PEACE, it will send shivers up your back.
  • The way the “Pastoral Symphony,” which is instrumental, leads into the peaceful “There were shepherds abiding in a field.” I can’t describe this. You have to hear it.
  • “Lift up your heads, O ye gates,” an Old Testament passage, which Handel inserts into the triumpant Resurrection section.
  • “Since by man came death,” where Handel alternates between quiet choruses representing Death, and loud shouts of triumph over death by the Man, the Last Adam, who killed Death once and for all. “EVEN SO IN CHRIST SHALL ALL BE MADE ALIVE!” Yeah!
  • “The trumpet shall sound,” where, of course, a trumpet is used to great effect.
  • And, of course, the chorus “Worthy is the Lamb,” which is from Revelation 5. If this track does not inspire you, then you are a block of wood.

Every word of Messiah is Scripture. That’s not to take away from excellent works like Bach’s Passions, which consist of many added words. But when you sing Messiah, you are singing Scripture. It’s very inspiring. Most of the scriptures that are used in Messiah are so familiar to me now, that I can hardly read them in the Bible without singing Handel’s music to myself.

This piece has been with me since college, but I’ve recently acquired one of the best CD versions, shown in the graphic. You need to get one!

By Mark Ritchie in Uncategorized  .::. Read Comments (4)

Join the Gridlock Party

I can’t resist. Politics continually intrudes upon my thinking. Music commentary will come back; however, for the time being, read this paragraph which expresses exactly the frustration which I feel.

By Mark Ritchie in Politics  .::. Read Comment (1)

Goatees and Funky Glasses

We interrupt the musings on music to refer you to the hilarious site Goatees and Funky Glasses, where the Emergent Church gets gently parodied.

Some of the topics to be explored at their conference include:
1. The Role of Facial Hair in Missional Postmodernity.
2. Linguistic Obfuscation and its role in Post-colonial Heretical Schematics.
3. Art as Personal Nomenclature: Cheese Sculpting, Church and the Nararative of Me
4. Beyond Right and Wrong: Re-imagining Truth and Error

…. Funky eyewear can be picked up at the Lenscrafters Booth in the Conference Expo center.

By Mark Ritchie in Uncategorized  .::. Read Comments (2)

Music That Changed Me - 2

Should I go in chronological order, or backwards from what is most important to me now? I’ll focus today on someone and something that has been important to me since the mid-80’s, and continues in that role. I speak of Baroque music generally, and Trevor Pinnock in particular.

Anyone looking for some sort of music-theory analysis of Baroque music will have to go elsewhere. As I explained in the last post, Baroque music has been special to me, out of all the “classical” musics, becuase it seemed that it was the highest development of pre-Enlightenment music, informed by the Christian tradition. I’ve since discovered Renaissance and even Reformation music on CD, but Baroque stays at the top of my charts.

One of the earliest ensembles to capitalize on the Compact Disc format was Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert, published by the Archiv record sub-label of Deutsche Grammophon. I remember seeing an early copy of their Vivaldi’s Four Seasons which still had some of the numerals printed in that silly “LED” computer font which several early CD’s were sold with. (It didn’t take long for publishers to realize that was a mistake and didn’t sell extra CD’s.) I early obtained copies of their Royal Fireworks Music and Water Music by Handel, along with the Four Seasons and others.

Trevor Pinnock was and is a proponent of “period” performances: playing music with instruments and styles of the same time periods in which the music was written. I’m sure a lot of his interpretations sounded bold when they were first performed, but to me, they just sound like Baroque music ought to sound. Every Trevor Pinnock CD is performed with the utmost accuracy but with great emotion and style. Every CD that I’ve owned is also recorded with the very highest sound quality. I have no hesitation in saying that for any piece you want to own, if there is a Trevor Pinnock version to buy, you will be delighted with it. Currently I own 14 of them, and I want more.

Pinnock has moved on, and the English Concert is now directed by Andrew Manze. I haven’t heard any recordings with the new combination, but I can vouch for the old one. This is music that will last you a lifetime.

By Mark Ritchie in Uncategorized  .::. Read Comments (3)

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