In memoriam

May 25, 2020

Sunday musical offering

May 24, 2020

Today’s cultural moment

May 19, 2020

Happy birthday, Erik

May 17, 2020

French composer Erik Satie was born in Honfleur, Normandy in 1866. His English mother had him baptized in the Anglican church, but after her death, Erik was sent to live with his French grandparents, who had him re-baptized as a Catholic. In his late teens he spent a year at the Paris Conservatory, where his teachers were by all accounts unimpressed with him. After dropping out of music school he joined the French army, but was discharged a few months later after he deliberately infected himself with bronchitis. In his mid-twenties he joined a Rosicrucian sect, another enthusiasm that didn’t last long. After leaving the Rosicrucians, Satie founded his own church, which he called “L’Église Métropolitaine d’Art de Jésus Conducteur” (Metropolitan Art Church of Jesus the Conductor), of which he was the sole member.

When he was twenty-seven, Satie fell in love with an artist named Suzanne Paladin, but that too proved unsuccessful; she refused his proposal of marriage and left him with a broken heart. So far as historians know, that was Satie’s last romantic relationship, although he lived another thirty-two years — a remarkable accomplishment for a man who drank as heavily as he did, and who by his own account consumed only white food.*

Here is Satie’s Gnossienne No. 1, performed by Alessio Nanni.

*According to Satie’s memoir, “white food” included “eggs, sugar, shredded bones, the fat of dead animals, veal, salt, coconuts, chicken cooked in white water, moldy fruit, rice, turnips, sausages in camphor, pastry, cheese (white varieties), cotton salad, and certain kinds of fish” — and if you’re wondering what in the world “cotton salad” is, your guess is as good as mine.

Happy birthday, Gabriel

May 12, 2020

In honor of the birthday of Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), here is the Sicilienne from Pelléas et Mélisande in an arrangement for piano and cello.

Happy birthday, Irving

May 11, 2020

Israel Isidore Baline was born in Russia on May 11, 1888, and moved with his family to New York City in 1893 — part of a mass exodus of Jewish families fleeing anti-Jewish violence in Russia. “Israel” became “Irving” sometime after his arrival in the United States, and “Baline” became “Berlin” as the result of a printer’s error when he published his first song in 1907. In 1911 he had his first big hit with “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” and he went on to write hundreds more — including “White Christmas,” “Easter Parade,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” He composed the scores for nineteen Broadway shows and eighteen Hollywood movies.

In 1968, a few days before his 80th birthday, Irving Berlin appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show to sing one of his greatest hits.

Sunday musical offering

May 9, 2020


All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning,
That brightens up the sky;

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

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