Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Kristin Chenoweth

Glitter and be gay,
That's the part I play;
Here I am in Paris, France,
Forced to bend my soul
To a sordid role,
Victimized by bitter, bitter circumstance.
Alas for me! Had I remained 
Beside my lady mother,
My virtue had remained unstained
Until my maiden hand was gained
By some Grand Duke or other.

Ah, 'twas not to be;
Harsh necessity
Brought me to this gilded cage.
Born to higher things,
Here I droop my wings,
Ah! Singing of a sorrow nothing can assuage.

And yet of course I rather like to revel, 
Ha ha!
I have no strong objection to champagne,
Ha ha!
My wardrobe is expensive as the devil,
Ha ha!
Perhaps it is ignoble to complain...
Enough, enough
Of being basely tearful!
I'll show my noble stuff
By being bright and cheerful!
Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha!

Pearls and ruby rings...
Ah, how can worldly things
Take the place of honor lost?
Can they compensate
For my fallen state,
Purchased as they were at such an awful cost?

Can they dry my tears?
Can they blind my eyes to shame?
Can the brightest brooch
Shield me from reproach?
Can the purest diamond purify my name?

And yet of course these trinkets are endearing,
Ha ha!
I'm oh, so glad my sapphire is a star,
Ha ha!
I rather like a twenty-carat earring,
Ha ha!
If I'm not pure, at least my jewels are!

Enough! Enough!
I'll take their diamond necklace
And show my noble stuff
By being gay and reckless!
Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha!

Observe how bravely I conceal
The dreadful, dreadful shame I feel.
Ha ha ha ha!

~ Leonard Bernstein’s Candide (1956)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Whales of August
~ § ~

An idyllic, but poignant reminder that life is precious, life is short, and every moment 
should be savored with grace, 
gratitude, and acceptance.

A perfect vehicle for taking stock of our own lives as we approach the start of another New Year.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Rudolf Nureyev at the height of his fame

To All Who Suffer Pain 
and Fear of Limitation
A dear friend, currently in the throes of near-crippling back pain, said in response to a poetic suggestion that Life is a Dance, so it well behooves us to get on our feet and stay in motion, “I won’t be dancing any time soon in the New Year.”

I was tempted merely to sympathize at first, but the unfortunate situation got me thinking ... 

There is more than one way we may "dance." My friend, Emily Dickinson, refers to "prancing poetry," while likening a book to a "frigate." One may "dance" in one's mind, "dance" in one's heart, "dance" in one's spirit.

In a sense life is like experiencing ballet. Few of us are capable of getting on the stage in tights, tutu and fanciful headgear to strut, leap, perform entrechats and pirouettes gracefully under the lights in time to symphonic music, but a significant number of us may participate by simply enjoying the spectacle.

I've even taken blind students to the ballet, and some of them –– not all, of course –– were able –– because of the music and the palpable sense of excitement in the audience -–– to catch the spirit of what was happening onstage, and so enjoyed the show as much or more than many with all five senses perfectly intact.

Think of Stephen Hawking –– or Charles Krauthammer, if you prefer. Their lives have been constrained by severe physical limitations and could have been a tragic waste of human potential. Instead, they accepted the terrible burdens imposed on them, worked very hard to achieve what was possible, and as a result have enjoyed remarkably successful careers becoming in the case of Hawking a world renowned scientist.

It isn't what happens to us that matters so much as what we choose to make of it.

Jesus Christ was born anew just five days ago. This famous poem by Sydney Carter has helped me to see the significance of His Presence in our lives, and my life in better perspective to all of Creation. May it do the same for you.

I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon and the Stars and the Sun
I came down from Heaven and I danced on Earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth:

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!

I danced for the scribe and the pharisee
But they would not dance and they wouldn't follow me
I danced for fishermen, for James and John
They came with me and the Dance went on:

I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame!
They whipped and they stripped and they hung me high
And they left me there on a cross to die!

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body and they thought I'd gone
But I am the Dance and I still go on!

They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the Life that'll never, never die!
I'll live in you if you'll live in Me ––
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!

~ Sydney Carter (1915-2004)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

MIRACLE on 34th STREET (1947)

John Payne
Maureen O'Hara
Santa Claus

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Bishop’s Wife
adapted for radio by the
Lux Radio Theater
~ § ~

Emrym Hsmcrsita!!! 
Phayp Wen Ryae!!!

Eovl ormf Erkenithef

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The U.S. Air Force Band 
Celebrates Christmas 
Beautifully, Reverently, Unabashedly and with Uncommon Jubilation
at the 

The Castle at the Smithsonian Institution
The Nativity- Fra Angelico, c. 1440

On Christmas Day

On Christmas Day the King of Kings is born
New each year since first appeared the Star.
Children breathlessly await the morn,
Hope for gifts, not knowing that they are
Royally endowed with rich rewards
Internally, because our God above
Sent His Son, the tiny Lord of Lords
To demonstrate the power of His Love.
Mammon calls, and parents feel they must
Afford material delights that glow
Seductively inflaming vicious lust, 
Denying Mind and Spirit’s need to grow.
A trough not fit for kin that nourished kine
Yields again the King of Love Divine.

FreeThinke - The Sandpiper, Christmas 1996

The Nativity - John Singleton Copley, 1777

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Illustration by John Leech, Punch 1843

A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens
Alastair Sim as Scrooge (1951)

At Fezziwig's, John Leech, Punch 1843

Monday, December 22, 2014

~ ~ ~ The Strangers ~ ~ ~
Dedicated to Gian Carlo Menotti

Small in stature with a withered leg
The little boy lived meagerly in pain.
His mother with fierce tenderness adored him,
Yet grieved she hadn’t very much to give, ––
Or so she thought, –– but she was wrong.
She’d given him her love. It was enough
To give the boy a sense of joy in wonder,
An open-hearted eagerness to share, 
And better yet, desire for adventure.

The strangers came the night that eerie light
Gave the sky queer brightness like the day,
Yet cool like polished silver tinged with blue ––
Unearthly, strange, yet oddly comforting.
Splendid they were in richly woven garb ––
Material shot through with gold –– imposing ––
Three men, one tall and thin, one black, one rounded ––
Bearded, turbaned, redolent of musk.
Each with a casket carven and bejewelled.

The house they stood before –– only a hut ––
A place of meager hospitality
At best –– yet there they knocked, and asked for lodging. 
The mother, when she saw them, was aghast.
To her the strangers might as well have been
Members of a species not her own.
Dumbfounded, she could barely find her voice.
The little boy felt no constraint, however.
So powerful was his curiosity

He took his crutch and hobbled to the door.
The tall thin man looked down at him and smiled
More with his eyes than with his lips, which were
Covered largely by his great mustache.
“It’s quite all right, dear mother,” cried the lad.
“Can’t you see how tired they must be?
“Pray come in, good sirs, and warm yourselves.
“We haven’t much to give you, only porridge,
“And just the floor to sleep on, but it’s clean.”

The mother, anxious, found her voice at last.
“Please forgive my boy, he is so young.”
“Indeed,” the round one nodded, “but so kind,
“I see you’ve taught him very well, indeed.”
The black man added in a high-pitched voice,
“We’re glad to see he has no fear of us,
“We’re much in need of lodging for the night.”
“Of course,” the woman said,” please do come in,
“I’ll add a few more sticks to aid the fire.”

Outside, the camel bells then softly jingling
Accompanied the crackling of the blaze.
The splendor of the visitors’ attire,
Their richly carven, jewel-studded boxes
Aroused the woman’s curiosity.
“Those boxes must be filled with gold,” she thought,
Enviously with longing we must add,
For though she loved her crippled little boy
Finding ways to care for him was hard.

“I wonder if they know what it is like, 
For poor folk such as we?” in bitterness
She asked herself. The caskets looked so tempting.
Surely if she softly crept toward one ––
And maybe took a coin –– they’d never know ––
They’d be asleep, and her need was so great.
But suddenly the brightness from outside
Entering through the window stayed her hand.
The tall one stirred, as if he’d guessed her thoughts.

“We shall not leave you empty-handed, woman,
“‘Twould not be right not to return your kindness,
“But we would like the boy to come with us,
“For we are on our way to Bethlehem
“To pay homage to a Child soon to be born,
“For he will be the King of Kings, it’s said ––
“A Child whom we are told could save the world.
“‘Tis possible this Child might heal the boy,
“And then we could return him to you whole.”

The mother was afraid, and filled with doubt,
But then the little boy who’d heard it all,
Hobbled toward the woman with great speed,
And pleaded with her please to let him go.
He knew these regal strangers meant no harm,
And in his innocence believed their tale.
And in the way of children saw no reason
Why his mother should have any doubt
That at its worst he had nothing to lose.

Dawn arrived and spread dark purple light 
Across the vast expanse of rippled sand
Warming gradually as purple turned
To violet, then magenta, then to crimson, 
And on to glowing rose decked out in gold.
The camels woke, the jingling of the bells 
Was heard again. The mother stirred the pot
Silently as her guests prepared to leave.
After they had eaten, the black man

Removed a ruby ring from his dark hand,
And solemnly presented it to her
“A token of our gratitude,” he said.
The round man looked bemused, then gently asked,
“The boy, good woman, may he come with us?”
“We’ll keep him safe,” the tall one promised her
A kindly twinkle in his eye transformed
His long and bony countenance which had
Before appeared judgmental and austere.

She then saw what the boy had seen at first,
And this dissolved her lingering doubts at last.
The little fellow fairly leapt for joy,
Which almost made him fall, but then the hands
Of each of his new friends reached out to help
And kept him upright feeling confident ––
As though the whole world now was on his side.
The mother wiped away her tears, and kissed him.
Looking at the men beseechingly, 
But dared not ask the question all three knew 
Was on her lips, and so they kindly answered. 
“Have no fear, dear soul, we shall return.
“Our hope is that this boy will then be healed,”
The round man said. The others simply nodded.
She had no idea why, but she believed them,
And waved her son goodbye almost with joy
As the strange men put her boy atop a camel,
Then started on the road to Bethlehem. 


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Johann Sebastian Bach
Christmas Oratorio 

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, director

~ §~

Concentus Musicus Wien
Peter Schreier - Tenor
Robert Holl - Bass
Soloists of the Tolzer Knabenchor
Chorusmaster: Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden
Fisrt Part: Cantatas No 1 - 3

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Merry Christmas

So, once again the Savior’s Birth draws near,
And once again we feel an Obligation
Much to spend before another year
Takes us to the Brink of Desperation.
Salvation offered freely as a Gift?
It surely has a catch in it somewhere;
Rarely do The Powers give a Lift ~~
Happy as they seem to strip us bare.
Christmas comes to change all that, however,
Yet so few can clearly see the Road
Reaching far beyond whats merely clever
Revealing heavens Peace to each Abode.
Each rude Challenge met with hopeful Attitude
Makes a cheer-filled Life defined by Gratitude.

~ FreeThinke

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Ballad of Santa Claus
by Henry van Dyke

Among the earliest saints of old, 
before the first Hegira,
I find the one whose name we hold, 
St. Nicholas of Myra:

The best-beloved name, I guess, 
in sacred nomenclature  ––
The patron-saint of helpfulness, 
and friendship, and good-nature.

A bishop and a preacher too, 
 a famous theologian,
He stood against the Arian crew, 
 and fought them like a Trojan:

But when a poor man told his need 
 and begged an alms in trouble,
He never asked about his creed, 
but quickly gave him double.

Three pretty maidens, so they say, 
were longing to be married;
But they were paupers, lack-a-day, 
and so the suitors tarried.

St. Nicholas gave each maid a purse 
of golden ducats chinking,
And then, for better or for worse, 
they wedded quick as winking.

Once, as he sailed, a storm arose; 
wild waves the ship surrounded;
The sailors wept and tore their clothes, 
 and shrieked “We'll all be drownded!”

St. Nicholas never turned a hair; 
serenely shone his halo;
He simply said a little prayer, 
and all the billows lay low.

The wicked keeper of an inn 
 had three small urchins taken,
And cut them up in a pickle-bin, 
and salted them for bacon.

St. Nicholas came and picked them out, 
and put their limbs together, ––
They lived, they leaped, they gave a shout, 
“St. Nicholas forever!”

And thus it came to pass, you know, 
that maids without a nickel,
And sailor-lads when tempest blow, 
and children in a pickle,

And every man that's fatherly, 
and every kindly matron,
In choosing saints would all agree 
to call St. Nicholas patron.

He comes again at Christmas-time 
and stirs us up to giving;
He rings the merry bells that chime 
good-will to all the living;

He blesses every friendly deed 
and every free donation;
He sows the secret, golden seed 
of love through all creation.

Our fathers drank to Santa Claus, 
 the sixth of each December,
And still we keep his feast, 
because his virtues we remember.

Among the saintly ranks he stood, 
with smiling human features,
And said, “Be good! But not too good 
to love your fellow-creatures!”
~ Henry van Dyke (1852-1933) 

Henry van Dyke was born on November 10, 1852 in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in the United States. He graduated from Princeton University in 1873 and from Princeton Theological Seminary, 1877 and served as a professor of English literature at Princeton between 1899 and 1923.

Van Dyke chaired the committee that wrote the first Presbyterian printed liturgy, The Book of Common Worship of 1906. In 1908–09 Dr. van Dyke was an American lecturer at the University of Paris. By appointment of President Wilson, a friend and former classmate of van Dyke, he became Minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg in 1913. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and received many other honors. Van Dyke was an "ardent foe of the annexation of the Philippines, [and] told his congregation in 1898, 'If we enter the course of foreign conquest, the day is not far distant when we must spend in annual preparation for wars more than the $180,000,000 that we now spend every year in the education of our children for peace.'"

Among his popular writings are the two Christmas stories, The Other Wise Man (1896) and The First Christmas Tree (1897). Various religious themes of his work are also expressed in his poetry, hymns and the essays collected in Little Rivers (1895) and Fisherman’s Luck (1899). He wrote the lyrics to the popular hymn, "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee" (1907), sung to the tune of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy"....

Learn more about Henry van Dyke at