Sacred Bluegrass

Is this a mashup made in heaven? I think it was.

Choir concert
Daddy and Iris at the concert

Sarah and Iris and I all went to this concert a few weeks ago titled, “The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass” with text by Marisha Chamberlain and music by Carol Barnett.  The Colorado Springs Chorale’s Chamber Singers performed the piece.

The idea is so pure and revelatory: a unique combination of bluegrass rhythms with sacred choral arrangement is just surprising and wonderful.  Here are some thoughts I had on some of the movements.

VI: Credo

This is a simple tune, haunting and mournful.

Row on, we’re crossing River Jordan.  And no one goes alone. I do believe a resting place awaits us… we’ll toss our coats, throw off our hats and take the seat of ease.  It’s not the seat of riches and it’s not the seat of power.

VII: Sanctus

It’s got a nice bluegrass banjo off-beat. The choral arrangement is built on a swaying syncopation.

VIII: Ballad

It’s full of wonderful minors.

IX: Agnus Dei

This is almost a chant. The pitch control of the singers was magnificent.  The resolve at the end of the piece, “dona nobis pacem,” was simply miraculous.

XII: Conclusion

This was solely female voiced.  Curiously — perhaps boldly — the writer chose to use the female gender as well in the text.  For instance:

They say God loved the world so dear
She set aside Her crown
And cloaked Herself in human shape;
They say that She came down,
And dwelt awhile among us here.
She came on down.

It was a fantastic concert.  You owe it to yourself to watch this excellent recording on YouTube (not the C/S Chamber Singers):

Parody Circuits

I ran across this most excellent xkcd comic the other day:

Circuit Diagram
A funny circuit diagram parody

It’s just so funny on so many levels, if you’re a EE.  Let’s just go clockwise around the page, starting at the top left.

  • I love that the battery voltage is a square root.  Just so obscure and mathematically nerdy.
  • Gluing open the switch?  Ha!
  • That PNP transistor has two emitters, look out!  Crashing electrons!
  • I like that the printed value of the resistor isn’t explicit; just the color code is written.  Priceless.
  • Solder blob, yes!  Any engineer worth his salt relies on solder blobs during prototyping. It’s especially funny that this blob is shorting out a bunch of parts.
  • 666 timer.  Why didn’t I think of that one?  The 555 timer has had too much fun for too many years.
  • Magic smoke bottle.  Again, just so funny.
  • Just try to do some nodal analysis on that resistor network!
  • Holy water, tear collectors, and sandals… wow.
  • “Hire someone to open and close switch real fast.”  I laugh out loud each time I read that.
  • Most expensive chip available — I used one of those in my senior design project!
  • Arduino for blog cred.  That’s so trending now.
  • I’m afraid that 50V battery isn’t going to last long.
  • Hot glue.  Man, if I had a nickel for every time I whipped out the hot glue gun…

Insider parodies like these really crack me up.  I’m reminding of the Death Waltz musical score, also comically brilliant in its absurd complexity.  My wife reminded me of some music that her choir performed by ” PDQ Bach”.  Here’s a delightful such performance:

In the professional world, it’s always good to have a sense of humor with regard to your work, whether it be circuit design or classical music.

Lux Aeterna

Sarah and I just came back from our Maundy Thursday service.  Our choir sang the Rutter Requiem.  It was my first time and I’ll never forget it.

Here is the final movement, Lux Aeterna.

Here are the lyrics. The soprano soloist (sung by our associate pastor) part is in English, while the choir is in Latin.

I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me.
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord,
for they rest from their labors:
even so saith the Spirit.

Lux aeterna luceat eis Domine:
Let eternal light shine upon them, O Lord:
Cum sanctis tuis in aeternum, quia pius es.
with Thy saints for ever, for art merciful.
Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine,
Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
and may light perpetual shine on them,

It’s a hard thing to describe, singing in a 100-person strong choir. To use your small voice as a string in a large instrument… it’s a moving experience. Then add to that the greatness of a musical piece like Rutter’s. The dark minor sections followed by such pastoral reverie have a way of penetrating your mind and perhaps your soul. To call such times “heavenly” or “divine” isn’t saying it deeply enough.

Bernstein’s Mass

For my church choir’s annual Christmas concert two weeks ago, one of the solos was a piece from Bernstein’s Mass, titled “Hymn and Psalm: A Simple Song.”  It’s a very modern sounding song, not at all like traditional requiem masses.  At times, it was very dissonant and haunting, other times similar to big band Broadway.  Nevertheless, Lenny wrote a mass.  And I can’t get it out of my head.

Give this a little listen…

Continue reading “Bernstein’s Mass”

Recap: Brahms Day 3

Rewind a week and a half to our Friday night performance of Brahms’ German Requiem. The concert hall wasn’t full, but there were still about 800 or so seats filled. The orchestra was assembled and emanating that wondrously cacophonic trill of tuning instruments. The choir had warmed up with scales, the last throat cleared. The conductor’s baton was now raised.
Continue reading “Recap: Brahms Day 3”