Friday, November 16, 2007

Tunes for November, Part II

Now begins the section of the Thanksgiving playlist that has some hymns, but also some songs you probably won't hear in church.

13. Turning Toward the Morning -- Gordon Bok, Ed Trickett, Ann Mayo Muir -- Keepers 2 and The First Fifteen Years. This is a good song for November, when the world seems to be getting darker each day, especially here on the eastern edge of the Eastern Time Zone. Hunker down, get through the winter because "The world is always turning toward the morning."

14. The Thanksgiving Song -- Fred Holstein -- A Tribute to Steve Goodman. The song was written by Bob Franke as Thanksgiving Eve and has been recorded by him and possibly others. "What can you do with each moment of your life, But love till you've loved it away."

15. Thanksgiving -- George Winston -- Thanksgiving. Another nice instrumental for a little meditation time.

16. Day by Day -- The Joslin Grove Choral Society -- 100 Best Loved Hymns. No, this is not the one from Godspell. Not being Swedish, I only heard it for the first time a few years ago when I worked at an erstwhile-Swedish Lutheran church. It was written in the 19th century by Lina Sandell Berg, a Swedish pietist hymnwriter perhaps best known for Children of the Heavenly Father. (And if you aren't from the Midwest or Scandinavian, you may not even know that one.) There is a very good retranslation by Gracia Grindal in one of the newer Lutheran hymnals. Berg's point is that we should be grateful for what seems bad in our lives as well as what seems good, that God gives us toil, pain and sorrow as well as rest, peace and joy, and it is all for our good. It reminds me of a poem I learned in German class in high school, by Eduard Mörike (he was born in Ludwigsburg, where that particular one of my three high schools was located). You can read the poem and a translation here.

17. Thank God for Mama -- Fantastic Violinaires -- Malaco's Greatest Gospel Hits, Vol. 1.

Here's mine, in her garden in 1982. She's been gone for 20 years now and I still miss her. I know some people have or had much more complicated relationships with their mothers, and maybe this song would not resonate the same way for everyone. I'm thankful that I had this mother, and as the song says, "I hope that I'll see her in heaven some sweet day."

18. Bringing in the Sheaves -- Mountain Singers Male Quartet -- How Can I Keep From Singing? Vol. 1.
At my old church in City of Lakes, we had an informal service on Thanksgiving morning. We always sang this song (which is not in either of our hymnals). Nobody around here has a service on Thanksgiving morning, so I'll have to sing along with these guys. There's lots of good harvest imagery. This is another one that I need two versions of -- the other is by Tennessee Ernie Ford. Ol' Ern' was a big star in my childhood; I think he had a TV show and always signed off "Bless your little pea-pickin' hearts." And Amen to that!

19. Now Be Thankful -- Fairport Convention -- Meet on the Ledge: The Classic Years (1967-1975). Although I had certainly been aware of Fairport Convention back in the day, I wasn't a huge fan at the time. I bought this album for their recording of Matty Groves when I was reading Deborah Grabien's wonderful "woo-woo" mystery of the same name, based on the Child ballad. I was really pleased to discover this song, which expresses thankfulness in a more modern idiom -- "for the rose, the red rose blooms for all to know."

20. Magnificat (Canon) -- Taizé Community -- Alleluia! You may think this is looking ahead a week or so after Thanksgiving to Advent, since it is the song of Mary at the Annunciation. But when you look at the words, it is definitely a song of thanksgiving and also one that has lessons for us at this time -- "He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away." Don't forget to donate to your local food shelf or soup kitchen! I love the great canon singing by this community, too.

21. Look at the Blessings -- Willie Banks and the Messengers -- Malaco's Greatest Gospel Hits, Vol. 1.
From 4th through 7th grade, I attended a little Sunday school in the local fire station in Milford, Connecticut. An elderly couple had made this their mission, and with the help of a few other volunteer teachers and a student from nearby Yale Divinity School, they provided a Protestant religious education for kids on the outskirts of a town where all the churches were still downtown. We'd have a little service first (I even got to sing in the choir!) and then separate into classes. Sometimes the old gentleman preached the little homily, and one of his favorite sayings was "I wept because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet." (My kids have heard that one more times than they want to count -- usually as we were passing some expensive shoe store!) Now, I don't think this is really the greatest theology. Yes, we are grateful for what we have, but do we have to compare our fortunes to those who have less? And who is to say that the man with no feet isn't feeling sorry for us, that we are placing so much emphasis on inessentials? (But maybe that's what was meant? This exegesis is rough stuff!) Anyway, this Great Gospel Hit seems to reference that very same story. I also have a soft spot for that sort of song where the singer stops and talks for part of the time (the Ink Spots did that a lot).

22. How Can I Keep from Singing? -- Gordon Bok, Ed Trickett, Ann Mayo Muir -- The First Fifteen Years, Vol. 1. I first heard this song when I was in college, sung by Pete Seeger, I believe. In recent years it's gone back to its roots in the church and appears in several hymnals. It's been sung at at least one funeral I've attended. It's hard to listen to without singing along and feeling uplifted.

23. Uncle Dave's Grace -- Anne Hills, Cindy Mangsen, and Priscilla Herdman -- At the Turning of the Year. A little comic relief -- or is it? "Thanksgiving Day Uncle Dave was our guest, He reads The Progressive which makes him depressed." Uncle Dave points out all the unsustainable features of our Thanksgiving feast, from the mahogany table to the turkey to the very clothes on our backs. What to do? Well, we can try to buy locally or fair-traded food, clothing and furnishings, and recycle a lot. Still, it's a pretty funny song. Written by Lou and Peter Berryman, of Madison, WI.

24. Great Is Thy Faithfulness -- St. Olaf Choir -- Great Hymns of Faith. This has been one of my favorite hymns for a while now. The line "Morning by morning new mercies I see" says it perfectly (of course, the Psalmist said it first.) All we have to do is look! Although Onkel Hankie Pants went to the Other College in Northfield, Minnesota, I think even he would agree that the St. Olaf Choir (or choirs, to be exact) is a national treasure. My first years in Minnesota we lived in the southern part of the state and our public radio station was the late, lamented WCAL out of St. Olaf. I'd never heard of St. Olaf before I arrived in Minnesota but quickly grew to appreciate their contributions to choral music. If your public radio station carries it (or if it's broadcast on PBS) don't miss their annual Christmas concert.

So, more tomorrow....


elinor said...

Hey, a heads up that many movie theatres throughout the country will be showing the St. Olaf Christmas concert LIVE! go to their website to see if there is one by you...I think it may be streaming online too.

Auntie Knickers said...

(Sigh) I read about that -- my only hope is webstreaming as no theater in Maine or even New Hampshire is showing it. I guess we just don't have enough Lutherans.