My Christmas musings to my family, my friends, and anyone else who stumbles upon this page.
(Notice three hyperlinks on the word “here” below.)
When I was in graduate school, Vladimir Horowitz played a concert in Iowa City. A note about him:
Horowitz became increasingly unsure of his abilities as a pianist. On several occasions, the pianist had to be pushed onto the stage. Several times, he withdrew from public performances . . . 1969 to 1974. . .
His Iowa City concert was part of his “comeback” tour in 1975. He played his favorite music. I’ll take the memory of the depth of his playing wherever I go when I shuffle off this mortal coil. I have no concept of musicianship of Horowitz’s enormous stature. I love him because I know about having to be pushed onto the organ bench. And I know about wanting to play my favorite music.
One reason I cannot make music as Horowitz is that I fear that I dare not live in the moment. I cannot let go and “be” in the music. As Eckhart Tolle writes in The Power of Now, “. . .it is not so much that [I] use [my] mind wrongly—[I] usually don’t use it at all. It uses [ME]. This is the disease. [I] believe that [I am my] mind. This is the delusion.” (The “I” is “you” in the original, of course.)
In the ‘60s at the University of Redlands we learned hymn playing under J. William Jones from The Hymnal 1940 of the Episcopal Church. For Christmas carols, that’s where my mind goes. The joy is that once in a great while I can let delusion go and “be” in the music when I play carols from the 1940 as I can at almost no other time. I hope I’ve done that here. Who knows?
I’ve recorded a few of my favorite carols—here (this one, I fear, has some unintended humor–but I love it), and here, and here—on the pipe organ in my living room. Steuart Goodwin built the organ – while I was still at Redlands. It’s his first effort and is mechanically youthful – but not so the sounds of the pipes. The are elegant and mature. The “clacking” you hear is the mechanical workings of the organ—only the wind blower is electric. Everything else is physically controlled by the organist. Please think of this as my returning to my roots but making music that I couldn’t in the ‘60s –simple, personal, with no technical facility. I am an old man trying to “. . . realize that all the things that really matter—beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace—arise from beyond the mind” (Tolle). Better realize it late than never.
I play the carols simply, no altered harmonies, nothing fancy. I play them as if you were singing, the number of times through (probably not very interesting) the same as the number of stanzas of each carol (words printed in order below). My playing is sentimental, personal: I know it.
I wish you all the happiest of Christmases. Joy and peace through your holiday tradition, whatever it is.
COME, THOU LONG EXPECTED JESUS
Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a king,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
OF THE FATHER’S LOVE BEGOTTEN
Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see, evermore and evermore!
At His Word the worlds were framèd; He commanded; it was done:
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean in their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining
Of the moon and burning sun, evermore and evermore!
O that birth forever blessèd, when the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving, bare the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face, evermore and evermore!
This is He whom seers in old time chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord, evermore and evermore!
Thee let old men, thee let young men, thee let boys in chorus sing;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens, with glad voices answering:
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart its music bring, evermore and evermore!
WHAT CHILD IS THIS?
What child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.
Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The babe, the son of Mary.
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The babe, the son of Mary.
AWAY IN A MANGER
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there.
JOSEPH, DEAREST, JOSEPH MINE
“Joseph dearest, Joseph mine,
Help me cradle the child divine;
God reward thee and all that’s thine
In paradise,” so prays the mother Mary.
He came among us at Christmastide,
At Christmastide, in Bethlehem;
Men shall bring Him from far and wide
Love’s diadem: Jesus, Jesus,
Lo, He comes, and loves, and saves, and frees us!
“Gladly, dear one, lady mine,
Help I cradle this child of thine;
God’s own light on us both shall shine
In paradise, as prays the mother Mary.”
SAW YOU NEVER IN THE TWILIGHT
Saw you never, in the twilight,
When the sun had left the skies,
Up in Heav’n the clear stars shining
Through the gloom, like silver eyes?
So of old the wise men, watching,
Saw a little stranger star,
And they knew the King was given,
And they followed it from afar.
Heard you never of the story
How they crossed the desert wild,
Journeyed on by plain and mountain,
Till they found the holy child?
How they opened all their treasure,
Kneeling to that infant King;
Gave the gold and fragrant incense,
Gave the myrrh in offering?
Know ye not that lowly baby
Was the bright and morning star?
He who came to light the Gentiles,
And the darkened isles afar?
And we, too, may seek His cradle;
There our hearts’ best treasures bring;
Love, and faith, and true devotion
For our Savior, God and King.