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wooden celtic knot

Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
Whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy,
Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.

Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
Whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe,
Be there at our labours, and give us, we pray,
Your strength in our hearts, Lord at the noon of the day.

Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
Your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace,
Be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
Your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.

Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
Whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm,
Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
Your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.

Jan Struther, 1901-1953


From Counterlight:  100 Years Ago Today

Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring had its riotous premier at the Champs Elysee Theater in Paris.  Stravinsky never wrote anything like this again.

Imagine the scene:  It’s May 29, 1913, a humid night at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, a new and glittery Art Deco hall in Paris. It’s packed with the curious, alongside the cultural cognoscenti. Picasso is there, as are Proust, Cocteau, Debussy and Stein. The occasion is the premiere of a new ballet by Sergei Diaghilev’s trendy and trend-setting Ballet Russes, set to music by a young composer named Igor Stravinsky: “Le sacre du printemps,” it’s called, or “The Rite of Spring.”

The music begins: eerie, strangely alluring. Then it turns raw, erotic, violent — like symphonic rock ‘n’ roll, with staggered, dance-to-your-death rhythms and crunched chords, one of which repeats some 200 times. Quickly, mayhem breaks out in the hall, the audience dividing into camps. There’s shouting. Insults are hurled at the stage. By some accounts, blows are exchanged. Amid the racket, the dancers can’t hear the music. Stravinsky flees his seat.

Choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, the original ballet depicted springtime pagan celebrations in ancient Russia and the selection of a maiden — the “Chosen One,” who dances herself to death, a sacrificial offering to Mother Earth and the gods. Tilson Thomas describes the score as “a complete leap into the world of the unconscious” and the “wild power” of the village music, which he imagines as leading to an “exalted state.”

At the second of the upcoming festival’s two programs, the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble, founded in Moscow 40 years ago, will perform some of the Slavic folk music that inspired Stravinsky and informed his works, including “The Rite” and “Les Noces.” The complex, irregular rhythms in that folk music (and in those pieces) is second nature to the ensemble: “It’s just what they do,” Tilson Thomas says. “It’s this total natural swing and panache. And, of course, that’s what Stravinsky was after.”


(Seeking Spirit:  I am adding a full performance here)

And this performance by Seiji Ozawa and the Chicago Philharmonic from 1968 remains one of my favorites.

This piece is now 100 years old, and I’ve loved it for about 40 of those years.  I first heard it when I was about 15.  I’ve loved it ever since.

Familiarity is the acid test of art.  Lots of musical works, plays, paintings, etc. had spectacular premiers only to die quickly;  too cerebral and personal to mean much to anyone other than a handful of initiates, or a lot of dramatic flash whose novelty wore off too quickly.  This work endures.  Its power to startle and to move remains undiminished by time. After about 40 years, I still fall under the spell of this ballet  as much as I did when I was in my teens.

Dancers in costume from the original 1913 production
Stravinsky and Nijinsky

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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May 2013



On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory