Sunday, January 29, 2012

Frederick Delius, 1872-1934

I used to have an LP of composer Frederick Delius’ music, conducted by Thomas Beecham, which I played when I was in the mood for very peaceful, pastoral music. The LP disappeared over the years as we downsized our belongings, but I still enjoy the composer's music on anthologies of English music like the "English String Miniatures" series on the Naxos label. Today is the sesquicentennial of Delius’ birth, which I learned from the cover story of the new Gramophone magazine (February 2012). In that article, Jeremy Dibble, whom I quoted a few posts back, recounts Delius’ international travels and artistic influences.

I looked around the internet for other articles about Delius, to read later. A website devoted to Delius, http://thompsonian.info/delius.html, includes two links: an article by Emanuel E. Garcia, “Frederick Dilius: Devotion, Collaboration and the Salvation of Music," at http://thompsonian.info/delius-garcia.html, and an article by Thomas F. Bertonneau, “The High Hills: Frederick Delius and the Secular Sublime," http://thompsonian.info/delius-bertonneau-essay-Word.html

Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber has a nice tribute, “Delius: Beauty in the Ear of the Beholder,” at http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/jan/05/delius-fenby-julian-lloyd-webber
He writes, “No other composer polarises opinion like Delius. You either love or loathe his music. And it is rare to find someone who has grown to like it.”

Lloyd Webber comments that Delius’ music has been absent from concert programs, for several reasons. “First and foremost he was a 'nature' composer. The sights and sounds of the countryside permeate his music and, in an age increasingly dominated by all things urban, the concept of 'countryside' becomes ever more obscure.” Also, “Delius's music is never about bombast. He lived most of his life in the leafy lanes of Grez where he would sit in his garden listening to the songs of the birds, often translating their language into music. Some would pour scorn on such a romantic approach, while praising the birdsong-influenced works of Olivier Messiaen."

Another reason is that, “From a musician's point of view, Delius's writing for different instruments is often awkward... the strings are often left to play long, sustained chords and woodwind and brass solos emerge out of the blue, with the players' orchestral parts providing no clue as to their significance. Self-regarding maestros are bemused by the quiet endings of nearly all of his music, which guarantee that there will be no burst of applause at the end." But Lloyd Webber points out that excellent conductors like Beecham, Vernon Handley, Richard Hickox, Charles Mackerras, Andrew Davis, and others have kept his music alive, and other composers like Bartók, Grainger, Kodály and Duke Ellington have praised his music. Lloyd Webber adds, “And when, in 1935, the New York critics hailed George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess as 'the first negro opera' they were wrong – for that singular achievement belonged to Delius's Koanga, composed almost half a century before.”

YouTube has several of Delius’ pieces, like the famous “On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qsriktzVFw&feature=related"

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Cousin C. C. Crawford

When I was young, growing up in Fayette County, Illinois, relatives talked about a cousin who lived in Texas, Cecil Clement Crawford, who was a Christian minister, professor, and author of several theological books. My grandma Crawford knew him. He had sent her one of his books, Sermon Outlines on Acts, and three booklets which she kept in the manila envelope with Cecil’s return address.  Sometimes at family get-togethers I’d look at the books, not deeply interested but intrigued at theological writing---and by a relative, at that. One of our cousins wrote books! Grandma loaned them to another, local cousin but never got them back.

Cecil was actually a double cousin, rooted in our families in and around Vandalia. He was my grandfather Crawford’s second cousin. But Cecil’s mother Sarah was a Pilcher, my grandma Crawford’s family name. He and Grandma were second cousins through that family. Cecil's father, Frank Crawford, and stepmother Fanny Crawford were local educators. I believe Fanny may have been my dad's teacher during the 1920s. I don’t remember if I met Cecil prior to a family get-together, circa 1974, at the home of another Pilcher cousin, Ella Braun. (Grandma was deceased by that time; I was still in high school but interested in genealogy. All these photos and clippings are from my genealogy collection.) Cecil had
Grave of Cecil's sister Ivy (1891-1892)
traveled back to our hometown to visit Ella and other relatives and to visit family graves. His father and stepmother were buried in Vandalia, his mother in nearby St. Elmo, IL, and his infant sister, Armedia Ivy Crawford, near the entrance of the Griffith Cemetery near Brownstown, another local village. I enjoyed meeting him. He seemed a very down to earth person. He and other family members joked about their dislike of wearing shoes indoors.

He died in 1976 at the age of 83 and was buried in Dallas. By that time I was in college and considering a religious vocation but, sadly, I had no opportunity to chat with him about it.  However, the cousin to whom Grandma had loaned those books chanced into Mom and asked if she wanted them. Mom, annoyed at the presumption, said that she did indeed. Eventually I asked Mom if I could have them. I’ve always kept the booklets in the same manila envelope with Grandma's familiar address, "RFD 2, Brownstown, Illinois."

As described on book jackets, Cecil attended Washington University for his bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees, and also studied at St. Louis
University.  He received the LL.D. from Southwest Christian Seminary. He was chairman for 11 years of the department of philosophy and psychology at Texas Western College of the University of Texas system, El Paso, and also taught at Dallas Christian College. I remember family members chatting about the fact that Cecil had been a parish pastor but, following his divorce from his first wife, was no longer allowed to serve in that role.

Over the years I’ve found more of his books. I do searches on abebooks.com. By using the name “C.C. Crawford”, he unintentionally made it difficult to narrow internet searches for his books. They are Bible study texts, theological books with Bible-study components, and some discussions of issues in the Campbellite churches.

Sermon Outlines on Acts (Cincinnati: The Standard Publishing Co., 1919)
The Passion of Our Lord (Joplin: College Press, 1968)
Sermon Outlines on the Restoration Plea (Murfreesboro, TN: Dehoff Publications, 1956)
Sermon Outlines on the Cross of Christ (Murfreesboro, TN: Dehoff Publications, 1960)
The American Faith (booklet, no publisher given, 1955)
Survey Course in Christian Doctrine, a four-volume set, Joplin: College Press, 1962-1964)
Commonsense Ethics (Dubuque: Wm. C. Brown Book Co., 1966)
What the Bible Says About Faith
The Eternal Spirit: His Person and Powers (Joplin: College Press, 1972)
The God of the Bible (booklet, no publisher given, 1960)
Genesis: The Book of Beginnings, a four-volume set in the Bible Study Textbook series, published by the College Press in 1966-1971. Each of these books is nearly 600 pages.

Frank and Sarah Crawford
and young Cecil 
In addition to The God of the Bible, the two other booklets in Grandma’s package are “open letters to the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ": Freedom or Restructure? and The Truth about Restructure. 

I've not read all these but as I've leafed through them, I find many interesting Bible studies and connections-making, and theological discussions bringing in a very broad range of authors from biblical studies, philosophy, science, and American religion of the early- and mid-century. Of course, I don't agree with everything, but in most cases he invites a thoughtful response with his ideas and wide reading.  In one of the books, he assures readers that they can use and adapt his writing without attribution. I lack at least two books of his, The Bible and Science and Sermon Outlines on First Principles. But I think he probably wrote more than these. Learning about my cousin Cecil and his career is an ongoing project.

Two of the books above, which I purchased online, were inscribed to Cecil’s cousin Nola.  That sounds like a name I’ve seen in either the Crawford or Pilcher genealogies; I’ll look it up.

Speaking of cousins, I’d love to know if Cecil still has family in Texas. I traced the Crawford family history in the 1970s but I did not keep up with all the
Frank and Sarah Crawford in front,
Cecil and his first wife Lillian
various branches. Now, my information is too out of date for me to make any “cold” contacts. I’m brainstorming how I might find some of his relatives, in a non-creepy way.

I chuckle that I've become the same kind of person in our extended family as Cecil was during my grandparents' generation: a former parish pastor who teaches college and graduate classes, a writer of Bible-related books who sends them freely to friends and relatives, and who is talked about as such by relatives. I feel very grateful and honored! A cousin on Dad’s side laughed that her son read one of my books at his church study group and had asked her, “Don’t we have a cousin named Paul Stroble?”

I dislike making myself a example of faith---other than of falling short---but isn't it amazing how God can subtly use us to influence one another? A little kid picks up a theological book at his grandma’s house, and the idea of writing about and teaching the Bible comes to fruition many years later.  If you’re ever downhearted about your faith, you might take comfort in knowing that you may have influenced someone else, positively and tremendously, but you’ll never know it. You helped plant a seed. (That's one reason I don't always respect church growth ideas that focus one-sidedly upon quantifiable results. Couldn't a church, pastor, or teacher exert tremendous influence upon persons, via the Holy Spirit, in ways that can't be reported in yearly numbers?)

Cecil did not continue in parish ministry but his books contain evangelistic appeals.  The final volume of his Genesis set concludes with this faithful assurance as Cecil connects Joseph's story with Jesus:

Is there a poor sinner here today, whom God has disciplined, whether less or more severely than He did those men [Joseph's brothers], and brought you to repentance? If so, the kind Redeemer whom you rejected, and sold, as it were, to strangers, stands ready to forgive you more completely and perfectly than Joseph forgave his brethren. He has found out your iniquity; he knows it all; but he died that he might be able to forgive you. Come in his appointed way; come guilty and trembling, as Joseph’s brothers came, and you will find His everlasting arms around you (p. 587).


Monday, January 23, 2012

Grape-Nuts, "There's a Reason"

When Beth and I were dating, her fondness for Grape-Nuts was a topic of discussion. The cereal is very crunchy but not good if you let the milk soak a bit. (She has since moved on to other kinds of breakfast foods.) Then we found an old magazine ad for Grape-Nuts in an antique store.  We began a small collection of such ads, some framed for their quaintness---especially ones that depict only men in executive roles---and as an inside joke about her former enjoyment of the product. 
The cereal inventor C. W. Post developed Grape-Nuts cereal in 1897.  According to one explanation, Post thought that “grape sugar” (his term for sucrose) resulted from the baking process.  The wheat and barley cereal, in turn, had a nutty consistency once baked and produced. I suppose the hyphen (or in some of the early ads, a colon, a plus sign, or an equal sign) was intended to convey that this was a trademarked product name and not, literally, nuts from grapes. The Post cereal company website provides some history of Grape-Nuts, which in the early days was often advertised with the slogan, “There’s a reason.”  
My family recently browsed at a favorite highway stop, The Heart of Ohio Antique Mall near Springfield, Ohio.  There, they found a batch of antique ads and purchased several for Grape-Nuts for my Christmas present. The ads are so interesting as early 20th century advertising.  One, a page from McCall’s magazine, June 1925 depicts a listless looking woman in her robe, half-dozing over her light breakfast.  
"The Dangerous Toast-and-Coffee Breakfast 
“The meagre [sic] breakfast, hastily eaten, is becoming a national bad habit…. A single serving of this tempting food contains more varied nourishment than many a hearty meal.” It goes on to say “the delicious flavors of these golden grams are brought out with a richness unmatched in any other food. That is why Grape-Nuts, with cream or whole milk, is a favorite breakfast dish in millions of American homes.” 
Cream?  Sounds fatting!  But another ad, from 1920, promises that “Baby faces grow plump and ruddy” on the cereal.   
The humor of such ads comes from the recognition of changing habits, values, and social roles, as well as different uses of words.  Here’s a page from Woman’s Home Companion, September 1930. 
“A good old friend dons a gay new dress.” 
The ad shows how the Grape-Nuts box changed from a yellow one with black letters to a yellow box with blue letters.  Not a significant change, to me, but perhaps it seemed so at the time.       
The Post website notes that Grape-Nuts was originally marketed not only for its specific nutritional content but its benefits as “brain food.” Several ads identify the vitamins and minerals in the cereal, like this page from The Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1925. 
Don’t let your great-great-grandmother tell you want to eat! 
“Plenty of rich, heavy food for every meal was great-great-grandmother’s idea of feeding a family…Nowadays, diet must be carefully adapted to the strain, the sedentary work, the nervous intensity of modern living. Fortunately, the wives of this generation are learning more about food and food values than the wisest omen of great-great-grandmother’s time ever dreamed of.”  The description also extols the dextrins, maltose, and carbohydrates, iron and phosphorus, protein, and the vitamin B of Grape-Nuts.
As far as “brain food” is concerned.... this undated ad shows the interior of an ancient throne room and states: 
Many a Chair of Power Stands Empty…Awaking the man with keen, active Brains and good health---Brains that can 'do things' that can deliver the Service.  Grape-Nuts builds good bodies and healthy Brains---’There’s a Reason.’”
The Country Gentleman, December 1926, has this message: 
Watch your diet—especially breakfast!  Here’s a rule for success and happiness given you by 150 brilliantly successful men!  Chose all your meals carefully. Choose breakfast very carefully…Famous men say that your morning meal must be right, or your day’s work wont be right.” 
And The Ladies’ Home Journal, September 1909, informs us:   
Ball-Players need snap and judgment. Grape-Nuts may be found on the tables of Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Ann Arbor, West Point, etc., and wherever brain and brawn are essential. ‘There’s a Reason.’”
An ad from 1930 shows a woman in swimsuit, ready to dive into a pool. An appeal to women’s fitness and athletics?  In a way, but the ad mainly promotes dental health:   
“To a lady who is just going to dive, what about your teeth? They need exercise, too.  
“Of course, you know how greatly exercise benefits the body---how it stimulates, invigorates and beautifies. But do you know that exercise is every bit as important for the health and beauty of your teeth and gums? Do you know that the fast-increasing dental troubles of today are largely due to lack of chewing?"
From The Farmer’s Wife, May 1931: 
“A track man can’t train in a rolling chair. Teeth can’t train on ‘Mush.’” 
This ad, which (in the racial mores of the time) features a white runner in a rolling chair, with a black porter ready to push him, and the copy describes the dental advantages of eating the cereal (crunchy to chew, after all), analogous to an athlete’s training.  
Of course, the cereal has to taste good, too.  Here is The Ladies’ Home Journal, February 1927:  
These golden kernels. People eat them for crispness…for balanced nourishment…above all for flavor.” 
A sweet ad from 1919 has a pretty girl at a market counter, with the grocer pointing to a display of the plain Grape-Nuts boxes (prior to their “gay new dress”), who says: 
“--The kind that tastes best? Well, little one, you must mean Grape:Nuts ---it surely makes little girls round and rosy.”
I look through the other ads, some from the World War I era, others depicting everyday family life.   
“In Childhood---and All Along Life’s Way   Grape=Nuts and cream.”
“Economical—Easily Digestible—Delicious. ‘There’s a Reason’ for Grape-Nuts.”
“Deeds of Valor come from men of sturdy strength and active brain.” 
“Grape+Nuts Builds stout bodies and keen minds. ‘There’s a Reason.’” 
“Children’s teeth require 'inside' treatment as much as outward care.”
“America’s Foremost Ready-to-Eat Cereal. When war called for the saving of wheat, Grape=Nuts stood ready with its superb blend of cereals, its wonderful flavor, fullest nourishment, and practical economy.  Grape=Nuts. The Food For the Times.” 
Among other things about these ads (reflective as they are of their times), they are interestingly similar to contemporary concerns for health and urge a kind of national health renewal.  They don't use terms like our "obesity epidemic," but they remind food purchasers of the importance of balanced meals and good health, not only for the individual but for the good of society!  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gerald Finzi, 1901-1956

I enjoy reading Gramophone magazine, a British periodical devoted to articles and CD reviews of classical music.  It’s an easy and informative way of learning about this type of music and discovering new pieces.  For instance, last month’s issue (Dec. 2011, pp. 114-119) contained an article about Gerald Finzi’s cantata Dies Natalis.  During a season when even my favorite Advent and Christmas music wasn’t “moving” me amid an unusually hectic month and down mood, I appreciated a (to me) new work by a favorite composer.

Finzi was an English composer of Italian and Jewish background. Born in 1901, he began to be known for his works during the 1920s and 1930s.  He set his favorite poet Thomas hardy’s words to music with By Footpath and Stile (1921-1922), A Young Man’s Exhortation (1926-1929), and Earth and Air and Rain (1928-1932).  His other words included Dies Natalis from the 1920s and 30s, the anthem Lo, The Full, Final Sacrifice (1946), his setting of Woodsworth’s poem “Ode: Intimation of Immortality" (1950), as well as the Clarinet Concerto (1948-1949), and Cello Concerto (1951-1952, 1954-1955).  His other works include the melancholy Eclogue from 1929 (a slow movement of an unfinished piano concerto).

Andrew Burn, in the notes for the Naxos CD “Lo, the Full Final Sacrifice and other choral works,” writes that “Finzi’s music is rooted in the tradition of Elgar and his lifelong friend Vaughan Williams. It was his response to words, however, that gave his music is particular individuality, resulting in music that seems inevitably to mirror the essence of the poet’s thoughts.  As in … Thomas Hardy, a sense of urgency can be felt in the music reflecting his keen awareness of life’s frailty. A further preoccupation wash is believe that adult experience tarnishes the innocent wonder of childhood. Both these concerns may be traced to Finzi’s own early experience when the deaths of his father, three brothers and his teacher [Ernst] Farrar made an indelible impression on him.”  Burns reiterates these influences in his notes for another Naxos CD, Finzi’s setting of "Intimations." He also points out that Finzi had numerous and admirable interests: he revived and championed works of neglected composers, he built an orchard and saved several varieties of English apples from extinction, and he collected over 3000 editions of English poetry and literature.

In that Gramophone article, Jeremy Dibble writes about Finzi’s music generally: “Stylistically, Finzi undoubtedly owed much to that English Romanic yearning established by Parry in Blest Pair of Sirens in the latter part of the 19th century. The falling melodic seventh of Milton’s moving epode, ‘O may we soon renew that song’, finds countless resonances in Finzi’s own voice.” Also, writes Dibble, Finzi was influenced by the counterpoint and contrapuntal textures of Bach, Boyce, Stanley, Avison, Garth, and other 18th century Baroque composers.  But English poetry and prose and the rhythms of the English language inspired Finzi’s compositions, so many of them for voice.

I haven’t read the two recent biographies by Diana M. McVeagh and Stephen Banfield, which a Gramophone reviewer a few years ago found complementary. Finzi died in 1956 at the age of 55, which is the age I am this year.  He died of complications related to the Hodgkin's Disease which had been diagnosed five years before. As a Vaughan Williams devotee I had read about him in RVW literature, then I liked his Clarinet Concerto in a CD collection of English concertos (“My England,” on the ASV Living Era label).  Later, I found his Requiem da Camera and several other pieces I already named, including the Woodsworth setting, with words I’ve loved for years because they remind me of my hometown:

But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
To perish never...
(For the whole poem, see http://www.bartleby.com/101/536.html)

I also love Finzi's setting of the poem, "God Has Gone Up," a wonderful anthem. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFaJjeXCTjU

God is gone up with a triumphant shout:
The Lord with sounding Trumpets' melodies: 
Sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praises out,
Unto our King sing praise seraphic wise! 
Lift up your Heads, ye lasting Doors, they sing,
And let the King of Glory enter in.

Methinks I see Heaven's sparkling courtiers fly,
In flakes of  Glory down him to attend,
And hear the Heart-cramping notes of Melody
Surround his Chariot as it did ascend;
Mixing their music, making every string 
More to enravish as they this tune sing.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Short Blogging Break

I'm taking a temporary break from blog-writing in order to focus on upcoming teaching responsibilities, plus a big move to a new house.  Posts will be sporadic for a while.  I hope to resume more regular writing in March.  Meanwhile, a big thank you to those who reads these thoughts!   Feel free to browse these posts and those at my other blogs, and feel free to make comments.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Clergy Peer Groups

Instead of the post I intended for today (my 55th birthday), I wanted to post this link to a Christian Century article about clergy peer groups. When I did regular church work, I often found clergy peer groups not to be very "safe" places at all. And yet clergy long for safe friendships among other clergy. This article, plus the sidebar piece, gave very hopeful anecdotes and ideas.

http://christiancentury.org/article/2011-12/peer-power