Happy Thanksgiving

scwThe turkey is defrosting. Bags of fresh cranberries await. So do white potatoes, sweet potatoes, leeks, brussels sprouts, small white onions, and makings of both fresh and pre-made stuffing–I haven’t decided that detail yet. A half-gallon of pasteurized but non-homogenized milk awaits to help if it’s needed. What delicious coffee it makes!

Except for the stuffing box, all is strictly From Scratch.

Yes, I confess: there are marshmallows in the kitchen. I think they will end up on mashed sweet potatoes. Forgive me. Then again, I promise to prepare the sweets with cider, orange juice, and other lovely things that will make them absolutely gorgeous.

Tomorrow, bright and early, I will begin to roast the 20-lb. bird and get the “trimmings” underway. I will make creamed small onions as my grandmother did. White cream sauce à la française from scratch. (Nana studied at Le Cordon Bleu, in Paris,  in her youth. True fact. To the end of her days I had to summon her to dinner with “Dinner est servi.”)

As to the brussels sprouts, I may sauté them with slivered almonds and cranberries. Even a touch of leek, perhaps. Another decision yet to be made.

Some former neighbors are coming to join us. She’ll bring wonderful things as always. He’ll be guaranteed a drumstick!

On the turntable, what else but Dudley Buck’s Grand Sonata in E-flat, played by Richard Morris. American music prevails for a while, till I break out the Christmas LPs.

I see no reason to hold off on some elements of Christmas till Christmas Eve.  I can no longer quite understand the religious view that is dogmatic on Christmas music in Advent but vague on the Resurrection.


The orange tree I bought in Florida in 2006 was, over the summer, transferred to a very large pot and fed with a combination of excellent topsoil, rotted cow manure, perlite, a seaweed-enriched potting soil, mulch, and various other goodies. It has responded by vigorous growth. Next year, at last, I hope for a few oranges. It will be the second Christmas tree this year…sporting all the ornaments I can’t fit on the official evergreen.

We cut firewood all summer. All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.

At the moment, I write in front of a cast-iron woodstove with a cozy fire going. I sit in a commodious rural kitchen, in a folding camp chair, with a laptop upon its eponymous lap. I am grateful for family, friends, and neighbors, many of whom I hope to see soon to enjoy a simple, traditional, well-cooked, Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. Conviviality and joy are of course de rigeur.

It’s a day that is dear to my heart, and always will be.





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Protected: How to Register a Hammond– Correctly

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Protected: A Typical Piano Lesson Day

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Michel Chapuis

Organist Michel Chapuis has died at the age of 87.

As a teenager, I heard my first Bach via Chapuis’ recordings, especially Clavierübung III. The Telefunken Bach series, “Das Alte Werk,” volume 9, copyright 1975, contained scores and stoplists, both of which I pored over at the Port Washington Public Library while listening intently.

I own my own copies now, and they are frequently on my turntable.

The name of Michel Chapuis is one that I still conjure by. In professional honesty, I do not seek to emulate him, but I do very much admire him.

Back in those halcyon days, the main reading room of the PW library offered a panoramic view of lower Main Street and Manhasset Bay–a view now hogged by the administrators who rebuilt the 1970 Mies van der Rohe building about a dozen years ago. Patrons are now relegated to the cementy darkness that is the natural habitat of the administrator. Administrators bask in the sunlight.

Van der Rohe’s brutalism, no longer a metaphor, is now truly brutal.

When I went to the University of Chicago, I took a photo of that old view with me and put it over my desk, to keep me, at least spiritually, in one of the best places to read and think I’ve ever seen. Anyhow, that view is gone forever.

There was a respectable LP collection, and at one time a large number of turntables. Headphones were available with your library card. Besides Chapuis, I encountered Fischer-Dieskau, the piano music of Schumann and Haydn, the sound of siglo de oro Spanish organs,  and of course Richard Morrison’s album of American organ music. The name of Dudley Buck entered my vocabulary around the time of the Bicentennial.

Most distinctive detail of all: the concrete walls along the massive windows were hung with at least a dozen original Fernando Botero paintings.

Michel Chapuis, Dudley Buck, Fernando Botero, and Manhasset Bay.

I was probably spoiled for life.

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November 11

vetpicHappy Veterans Day to all who served, and to all who have benefited from those who serve. To my veteran friends, and especially to former choir members who have also served at West Point, thanks and congratulations.

I remember my father, who served during the Korean conflict; and many other family members back more than a few generations who served this country in military capacity. The handsome chap shown here is among their number.

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Prime Dates

Starting tomorrow, we have six all-prime dates left in 2017. After that, the next year that will be a prime number will be 2027.

The dates are November 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, and 29.

All numbers in the date will be prime: 11/11/2017 (or even 11/11/17).

Enjoy a few prime geek moments.

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How Not to Register a Hammond

About a decade ago, I published a how-to article in The American Organist (the wonderful journal that serves the American Guild of Organists) on the subject of working with a Hammond organ.

The Hammond approach to registration is significantly different from the classical approach. Luckily, it’s very easy to assimilate. It’s also easy to mess up if you are disinclined to, oh, I don’t know…think.

Recently, I have encountered a situation where somebody clearly hasn’t read my article. For the record, this is NOT how you do it.


Note that everything is more or less yanked out at random, and in equal proportion. The organist clearly has no clue as to the Hammond approach, much less what the colors brown, white, and black actually mean. This registration could be described charitably as a “total mess.” (You might as well draw every single drawbar out to the “1” position, and floor the volume pedal.)

sal2The harmonic series doesn’t work this way; good musicianship doesn’t work this way; and a knowledgeable organist definitely doesn’t work this way (even if he’s “been doin’ dis fer TIRTY-TREE YEARSSS”).

Again, I did not stage that picture. It is truly an objet trouvé.

Here is the first thing you do with such a situation.


Then, turn the organ on.


Then, start all over again. Remember that the WHITE drawbars are the unisons. Obviously, favor the 8′ for a start, and draw 4, 2, and perhaps 1 as appropriate.

I’ll post a how-to in a few days, with my own solution to the Mighty Hammond Mystery. In the meantime, praise the Lord and think about the white drawbars.


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New Testament Follies

jbh5I started to watch an older video of Bart Ehrman, the New Testament scholar. In a minute, I had to turn it off. The fundamental dishonesty was so thick, so multi-layered, that I literally could not handle more than a minute.

In that short time, Dr. Ehrman managed to paint a picture of the NT that is utterly untrue. Everything he said was either false, exaggerated, or misapplied. Here are just a few points:

The manuscripts are “from hundreds of years later.” True if we are talking about integral manuscripts of entire books; not true if we are talking about very early fragments, all of which perfectly corroborate the copies from later.

There are “hundreds of thousands of variations.” False. NT scholarship uses a system of grading, A-B-C-D, to evaluate all but a tiny handful of passages in the book. About 70% of the NT is “A” grade, meaning no variations have been found. “B” texts are the next most common; here, there are insignificant lexical variations.

An example of “insignificant” might be “Ho de Iesous” versus “All’ ho Iesous” versus “Kai ho Iesous.” All of them mean precisely the same thing: “So then Jesus…” or “And so Jesus…” or “Then Jesus…” or ” And so then Jesus…” In other words: tiny oral variations, the product of fluent Greek speakers, affecting the meaning of the text exactly zero.

These are possibly scribal variations, even errors in transmission; but they are of no import at all.

Less reliable readings, which comprise a small fraction of the total, involve increasing variation among early mss. In some cases the original cannot be determined with certainty. However, not one single one of these–none, mind you–materially affects the history being recounted, the outcome of the situation, or the doctrinal basis of the sub-apostolic writers and Fathers, never mind the popes and councils of the Church.

The exceedingly rare insertion, such as the famous Johannine Comma, was eventually purged, giving the lie to the “marginalia that got copied in” model. Tommyrot.

That is: the Reformation cannot defend itself on this basis. Also, these embarrassing hypotheses say more about the craftsmanship of the scholars proposing them than of the texts themselves

Worst of all the Erhmania: “therefore” the Bible can’t possibly be taken as the inspired word of God. Because “kai” versus “de” versus “alla.” What a sick, weak faith this guy brought to the table. “Word for word” inspiration, in the apostolic times, absolutely accommodates minor surface variations like this, let alone larger narrative structures or devices. (Ehrman doesn’t mention those, though; he’s content to let lexical variations lead him down a rabbit hole.)

Enough for right now. Erhman is a fount of bullshit, and there’s an end on it.

Recently, the same overly-respected person published a book on the NT that finally (thank God) acknowledges the issue of orality, and makes specific reference to the work of A. B. Lord. Of course, Ehrman misuses the scholar in question, whose work actually points to one possible scenario (more or less):

–Mark represents Peter’s kerygma.
–Matthew wrote first, and very early, while Christianity was a Jewish movement. He wrote with oral Mark firmly in mind.
–Luke (as I hypothesize) commissioned his associate Mark, in Rome, to hire stenographers and record a performance of Peter’s kerygma. This is the Gospel According to St. Mark.
–Luke wanted this for research purposes (to which he alludes in his prologue).
–Luke more closely follows written Mark than does Matthew, for obvious reasons.
–Luke writes for a Gentile audience, strongly arguing for a later date than Matthew or either form of Mark. A date later than the mid-60s is absurd on the face of it.
–The real progression is Matthew-Luke, with Mark as a precious ancillary document, the first papal statement, and a Gospel in its own right.
–The variations in the gospels are not a cause for alarm.
–The gospels are all integral mss. in distinct and inimitable voices; there is no “deutero-Matthew” or “JEPD John”; the idea of centuries of redaction is not credible prima facie.
–The concept of “synoptic” gospels is a setup, invented to assure an outcome, and should be viewed with extreme skepticism.
–You are skeptical, right?

The foregoing, which is pellucidly clear and extraordinarily more plausible than the neo-Protestant nonsense of “generations of redaction” (utterly impossible given the gospels as they exist) and above all the German graduate-student model of research and writerly refashioning, allows us to ask more fruitful questions about Luke’s gospel in relation to Matthew.

For example, often enough Luke expands a Matthean “stub,” fleshing out the story with explanations of Jewish ritual, or simply filling out a story that Matthew left in compressed form. Luke fleshes out at least one of his own “stubs,” that dealing with the Ascension. Here, Acts revisits what the Gospel according to St. Luke sketches briefly, and fills it in in living color.

In other cases, Luke offers alternatives, as in his alternative to the Beatitudes, and to the parable of the talents.

So Luke does indeed engage Matthew as well as written Mark, but not in the usual (non-)sense of “embellishment.”

As the “New Beginnings” program of the Presbyterian Church USA likes to remind us, insanity consists of doing the same things over and over while expecting different results.

Time they took their own advice.

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Quote of the Month

From the inimitable Dorothy Parker:

“I think that Aldous Huxley utters the loud truth when he says, in Point Counter Point, that industry can never substitute for talent. There exists, especially in the American mind, a sort of proud confusion between the two. A list of our authors who have made themselves most beloved and, therefore, most comfortable financially, shows that it is our national joy to mistake for the first rate, the fecund rate.”

–Dorothy Parker, “And Again, Mr. Sinclair Lewis,” The New Yorker, March 16, 1929. Quoted in The Portable Dorothy Parker, with an introduction by Brendan Gill. New York: Penguin Books, 1976, p. 522 f.


How about that “fecund rate,” eh?

This quote resonates in my mind, not only with my professional and personal experience, but with the preface to Counterpoint by Heinrich Schenker. (Not Point Counter Point, mind you: Counterpoint. Nice coincidence, though.) He has much to say about “dilettantes” which I think intersects the quote above.

More anon.

Posted in Famous Bastards, Music, Music Criticism, Pipe Organ, Speaking and Writing, The Agonies of Art, The Journey, The Lapping Shore of Psycholand, Writing | Comments Off

Saunders Peony

chez MBCA lovely gift arrived today from Madison, Connecticut: the root of a Saunders peony.

Dr. Saunders of Hamilton College was the most famous cross-breeder of peonies; I read that over 200 varieties are now attributed to him. This one apparently came from New York State to Connecticut, and is now back in New York.

I’ve just planted it. The root is a little small, but hopefully it will settle in and then take off in the spring.

An extra treat came in the package: some soil from Madison, from a yard where I’d played since childhood. I scattered some of it on the rest of the garden as a blessing.

May happy memories take root!

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