Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Armchair Theology

On Love

"When man loves woman, it follows that the nobler the woman, the nobler the love; the higher the demands made by the woman, the more worthy a man must be. That is why woman is the measure of our civilization." - Bishop Fulton Sheen

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Concert Review

Benedictine College Pops Concert: "Showstoppers!"

The Pops Concert by the Benedictine Chamber Choir and Concert Chorale was a high-energy, entertaining venue which attracted students and families from all departments of Benedictine College. Faculty, family and students alike all loved the enthusiasm and music and could not stop telling the singers afterward how much they enjoyed it.

The concert opened with the Concert Chorale singing Jump, a energetic piece by Van Halen and arranged for chorus by Ed Lojeski. The arrangement was charming and engaging, though the men in the small ensemble were sometimes hard to listen to, varying so much on pitch and expression that they seemed to be singing different parts.

The next piece was a work originally performed by the King Singers, Africa. As a da capo pops work it was quite charming, exploring innovative vocal textures. It was wonderful that the men had the most important line, though unfortunately the tenors in their solo on the chorus were hard to hear. There were some tempo problems when people forgot to watch Dr. Krusemark's direction and the sopranos forgot their ending as usual.

The Chamber Singers took the stage next with In the Still of the Night with a solo by Joe Heron who has a sweet, masculine tenor voice. The choreography was simple but charming and the subdued dynamics in the choir highlighted the romantic solo line. The sopranos and bases were really into their choreography, but the lack of enthusiasm in the majority of the altos created a rather unbalanced feel.

The next work was a medley of numbers from the musical Godspell with solos from Katherine Bittner, Rachel Noffke, Erin Martin and Joe Gifford. The works were boldly sung and brought out the diverse characters of the musical via completely biblical texts.

Love Potion No. 9 was the only piece in a minor key in the entire concert and made the audience laugh with the high-pitched “I took a drink!” from bass Mich Bechina. The only mistake I noticed in the piece was when the sopranos forgot to diverge during the bridge.

The Concert Chorale once again took the center stage with an arrangement of Somebody to Love by Queen. The soloists were Emily Storment and Michael Clinton . I was very unimpressed by most of the choreography for the Concert Chorale, and this work was no exception, but for the Chorale the singing was probably the best.

The Chamber Singers came forward immediately after with a swing piece from the 50's called At the Hop. The Sopranos were the only part with speaking lines during the verses so they were a little hard to understand, but the choreography was well done and sung with enthusiasm. The swing dance solo in the first performance was unnervingly close to the edge of the stage, but Joe Gifford did a brilliant job of making sure his partner did not fall to her doom.

The last work by the Chamber Singers was a work for only men, Calendar Girl. This was the highlight of the concert with its ridiculously corny romantic and comedic effects. Tom Henry the soloist brought a lady friend out from the Chorale and spend the verses singing to her and emphasizing the words with amusing actions. The best part, however, was when the entire line of men began a high-kicking can-can and the audience roared with laughter and applause.

The Concert Chorale then performed another work by Queen; Bohemian Rhapsody. There were drastic speeding problems during the middle section of the work and the “thunderbolts and lightning” section was completely botched by the sopranos. It was also quite obvious that many people were lost in the choreography, which seemed to highlight unimportant sections and ignore the parts which screamed for action.

The concert concluded with The House is a Rockin which featured the most creative choreography from the Concert Chorale. The only criticism I had was that people were unsure of the choreography and of the modulation, which was performed quite clumsily. Otherwise it was very engaging and had the audience rising to their feet with a standing ovation.

Overall it was a wonderful performance with some rough sections that no one minded because the energy level was contagiously high. There is one not I would like to make, however, and it is that the skirt levels on most of the ladies was much to high. Many audience members commented to me that when the girls sat on the risers they practically put their panties on display. When one is performing on a stage that is more than four feet off the ground, the cutoff length for skirts should be no higher than the knee. If this can not be followed, shorts are a necessity for the sake of the audience.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Character Markings of Music

Dolce ~ Sweetly
Sotto voce ~ Subdued voice
Con brio ~ With vigor
Animato ~ Animated
Giocoso ~ Humorously
Espressivo ~ Expressively
Tranquillo ~ Gently
Cantabile ~ Singing
Dolente ~ Sad, mournful
Grave ~ Solemn
Con fuco ~ With fire
Vivace ~ Lively
Pesante ~ Heavy
Maestro ~ Majestic
Scherzando ~ Playful, jesting
Semplice ~ Simple, unaffected
Agitato ~ Agitated
Con bravura ~ With boldness
A capriccio ~Whimsical
Con tenerezza ~ With tenderness

Terms indicating a Change in Volume

  • fp
  • Loudly-softly
  • sfz.
  • Loudly accented
  • cresc.
  • Becoming louder
  • decresc.
  • Becoming softer
  • dim.
  • Diminishing
Crecendo poco a poco
  • cresc. poco a poco
  • Louder little by little
Subito piano
  • sub. p
  • Suddenly soft
Subito forte
  • sub. f
  • Suddenly loud
Crecendo molto
  • cresc. molto
  • Becoming much louder
Crecendo e diminuendo
  • cresc. e dim
  • Gradually louder, then gradually softer

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Poem of the Day


A rotten seed has fallen
In amongst the fruit
of my garden
And there it took root
Whilst I looked blithely away
and tended elsewhere.

Now I behold the blossom,
and smell its pungent odor,
and am ashamed
that I neglected this weed in its youth,
for now I find 
in every corner
small, green tendrils,
like emerald serpents,
coiled and twisted about the stems of
my fair flowers and fruit trees.

What name shall I give thee,
Tormenter of my labors?
Envy, for you have choked the
Joy I took in my garden.
There is not a place I can go,
not one of my fruits is free of you.

Because of your presence 
I weary of life
and if the King should
stop by  my house today
I should die of shame if He
bear witness to my complacency,
see the fruit of my disposition.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Concert Review

Benedictine College Faculty Recital

Dr. Christopher Greco, Saxophone

Guest Artists
Bryan Pezzone, Piano
Krystal Heib, flute

The concert on the evening of the twenty-seventh of September was a glorious affair between a saxophone, a piano, and a flute. Dr. Christopher Greco, saxophonist, was joined on the piano by his close friend Bryan Pezzone, and a former student, Krystal Heib with her flute. Throughout the concert, images and text was displayed on the drop-down screen above the stage to offer visual and contextual aids for the listeners.

Dr. Greco and Mr. Pezzone opened the evening with the Sonata VI by J.S. Bach, originally for flute and transcribed for saxophone by Marcel Mule. In the opening “Adagio” the saxophone exhibited a sweet, careful articulation and expression which was slightly undermined by a gravely undertone. It sounded at times as though there was something mechanically wrong with the saxophone, but this did not prevent Dr. Greco from displaying for his listeners how gently, how elegantly he could rise and fall in dynamic level and how nimbly he could dance through Baroque trills. The “Allegro” seemed to have some discrepancies between the piano and the saxophone at first, but they quickly settled into a better synchronization. The dynamics were well pronounced and the runs smoothly executed with impressive tonguing and sensitive rubato. The third movement, “Siciliano”, made me smile with it's more romantic and creative harmonic structure, but the last movement, “Allegro Assai”, was the highlight of the sonata for me. The graceful swells and dips reminded me of a swallow in flight, an image reinforced by the lighthearted and playful melody which was created by frequent use of appogiaturas and anticipations.

In the second work, Dr. Greco and Mr. Pezzone were joined by Krystal Heib to perform Epitaphe de Jean Harlow op. 164 by Charles Koechlin. At the beginning, the flute sounded slightly out of tune, and in this listeners opinion, the saxophone could have held a more pronounced role in the balance of the trio. Nonetheless, there was excellent interplay between the voices; sensitive phrasing and articulation which was accented by tight harmonic structure in disjunct lines. It was well performed overall, though the last note did not seem to be sustained in tune, the flute dropping slightly in pitch.

Next came the Concert a'3 pour Fronsac by Henri Sauget. The entire cycle seemed very surreal, like someone painting scenes from nature, which was very a very appropriate given the naturalistic inspirations for the movements. “Feuillages” (foliages) contained a very expressive melody conveyed through contrapuntal lines which were very jumpy and light on their feet. The glory of “Ramages” (foliage patterns) was the contrast between the flute and saxophone, like the small and deep veins which are etched into the surface of every leaf. Together they created an interlocking band of color, a web of spontaneous dialogue. The piano swelled in a solo before a strong conjunction of all three voices which led nicely into the third movement, “Ombrage” (shades). This last selection in the cycle contained a sweet, simple duet between piano and flute, with periods of solo lines for the sax. This created a beautiful sense of the border between light and shadow, the brightness of the sun and the deep coolness of the shade. Compared to the other two movements it swelled more, was deeper and more surreal.

At this point there was a brief interlude before the trio reconvened for Les Treteaux Trio by Pierre Max Dubois, which was by far the most quirky of the pieces. “Prologue en Fanfare” was a humerus, sarcastic work which featured an almost ironic use of chromaticism. The “Romantic” was paired visually with a work by Mucha, which reinforced the avant garde impression of the cycle. Simple, clear lines outlined descending sequences which were played with great sensitivity and support. The “Vlase Vulgaire” (vulgar waltz) could not have been more aptly named with the feeling of a London bar tune. There was excellent dynamic expression, and the short, highly accented articulation in one voice nicely contrasted the smooth lines of the other.

For the last cycle, Dr. Greco once again took the spotlight in the Fuzzy Bird Sonata by Takashi Yoshimatsu, a contemporary composer from Japan. The program notes describe this cycle as expressing the spirit of the bird through a mixture of oriental folk, jazz, and bird song as well as a tonal background, a goal which this piece pulled off quite well. “Run, bird” contained many quick trills and a jazzy walking baseline. There were bent notes and short “pecking” sections which made Dr. Greco's children in the front row giggle. “Sing, bird” expressed the high, sweet notes of a singing bird, swelling and dipping gracefully. There was quite a heavy influence of traditional Japanese instrumentation which the composer employed in the saxophone line and which lent itself beautifully to pandiatonicism. The concluding work “Fly, bird” was an effortless and playful flight through the registers of the saxophone and on the piano through the use of quick and nimble runs, bending and leaping like a sparrow in flight. Once again, the influence of Japanese instruments was highly obvious.

Overall it was an excellent display of grace, agility and musicianship by all three performers. They had excellent performing chemistry and the creative visual displays added greatly to the listening experience.

A Sermon on Modesty in the Mass

Now, there are some things about his sermon that I am not sure are orthodox, but the points he makes are VERY poignant.

Seeing my fellows dressed immodestly before the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is like seeing nuns shun the habit. One thing that is so important to realize is that the Eucharist is the Wedding Feast of the Lamb! Recall that those who arrived at the Wedding Feast in the improper garb were thrown out into the darkness "where there was wailing and gnashing of teeth." The Wedding Feast is DIFFERENT from normal every-day life, it is sanctified life, and we should dress in a way which affirms that conviction.

I am very glad he also addresses the topic of men dressing appropriately for Mass. Men have a standard of modesty as well and need to give glory to the Eucharist in the way they dress. Guys really shouldn't dress for Mass like they are going to a beach party afterward.

I disagree on his concrete standards for modesty, however we must realize that he is speaking to his particular flock, and therefore it is completely within his place to make these regulations for his parishioners.

I do want to say something about modest dress in general, though, and not just before the Holy Anaphora.

A certain young man once said to me that to intimidate know a woman's beauty is something that no man has a right to, it is a privilege that is given in Marriage. He made it quite clear to me that he didn't want to see me or any other women in a way that was anything less then uplifting to my person, and wanted me to treat him with dignity. How? By dressing modestly. He told me that there is a double standard for men these days; a standard which expects men to be impure and encourages women to exert power over men by dressing however they want to. This young man expressed extreme frustration for a world that bombarded him with temptation to impurity and then told him that it was a crime to look at a woman's chest.

Yes, men are fully responsible for their virtue, but tell me, if you saw neon letters framed in black, wouldn't you look at it? Now realize that those letters are situated on the front of a very tight-fitting shirt and ergo, you are looking at a woman's chest. Ouch. Same goes for text on the seat of someone's pants. Our eyes are drawn to cut-off lines, drawn to text. Girls! Why do we play with purity, even subconsciously? Attention from guys in this way is not worth it; it gives lame guys the wrong idea and sends great guys who are actually concerned with their virtue running in the opposite direction. Don't we want sensitive guys?

I have heard a lot of girls say: "Oh, well if you don't like it, then don't look!" Okay, so don't be surprised when they turn around and run. After all, you've made yourself a near-occasion of sin. Am I pointing the finger? HEAVENS NO. Just ask my dad, and he will tell you some stories of my struggle toward modesty that could curl anyone's whiskers.

When dressing, let's dress with love and with dignity. I can always tell someone is Muslim by the way that they dress. Why can't that be said about Christians, and especially Catholics? Let's reclaim modesty and sanctify it, like we transformed Christmas and Sunday. Let's go on a mission!

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Canticle of praise

Oh Lord open my lips
and my mouth shall declare Your praise.

Oh Lord, long have I languished
long have I sought after that which can not satisfy
Lord, how long I have pursued shadows,
lifted up and glorified myself.

To love You is an abandonment
not an engorgement of the will.
Praise and Glory are due to You
Truly our inheritance is Your Goodness

I am dumb
I am mute

Shall I speak of Your wonders before the peoples?
Who would believe me?
I shall proclaim what the Lord has done for me,
How he has ransomed me from death,
from the stain of sin.

All Glory to You, Oh Lord,
All Glory to You.

Wordless splendor come pouring from our hearts
Command and we shall proclaim
Send forth Your Spirit on the Nations

All Glory be to You, Oh Lord,
The Lamb that was slain.