Friday, March 27, 2015

Family Singing Repertoire 2: Intermediate Songs

Singing Irish songs (and performing Irish dance) with some friends for St. Patrick's Day at a local nursing home, circa 2008.
Well that was fun! It all started with our choir learning Palestrina's Sicut Cervus, which has been a tough song for them to learn. It seems to be coming together just in time to sing it for the Easter Vigil. (It is one of the psalms for Easter Vigil). But in the course of preparing for it, we discovered the series of YouTube videos that highlights one part at a time to help you learn it. (Here's the Soprano one.) It was the kids were having so much fun learning multiple parts on this that got me thinking about collecting our singing repertoire. And then yesterday, we had a great time listening to the recordings of some of the songs that I shared in yesterday's post (as well as breaking out into Rambles of Spring randomly after dinner).

It's difficult to quantify the different songs. We obviously have had kids in different age ranges all singing songs together for years, so this is just a very rough approximation.

More Challenging Rounds (or Round-ish songs):

Dona Nobis Pacem

Non Nobis Domine (from Kenneth Branaugh's Henry V) - Awfully fun and epic (and not too hard) to sing if you can figure out the two parts.

Magnificat (I'm not sure where this came from as we learned it from someone who learned it at St. John Cantius Church in Chicago. This is the best recording I was able to find, but we do not sing it this fast! It can be sung in up to six parts.)

Jubilate Deo

To Portsmouth, to Portsmouth, it is a Gallant Town (unable to find a recording of this one so far)

Great Tom is Cast (weird recording, but a good way to learn it, I suppose!)

When Jesus Wept

Per Crucem 

More Irish Favorites:

Mountain Dew

Winds of the Morning

Christmas Favorites: (many of which we can sing in parts as a family or with some friends)

The Angel Gabriel (I first discovered this via Sting's rendition on A Very Special Christmas album, the arrangement we use can be downloaded for free at this link)

O Come Divine Messiah (We first learned this via a Christmas Album by the Barra MacNeils - the version we learned as a family was the slightly different OCP arrangement)

Maria Walks Amid the Thorn

Stay tuned for more on this list as I am able to remember them!

I'd like to dedicate this series of posts to all of our family's musical mentors, teachers and choir directors, especially my mom, my siblings (with a special shout-out to Darlene!), Emma Napoli, Michael Morris, Golfredo Corradetti, William Mahrt, Mark Donnelly, Stephen Grimm, Peter Kwasniewski, Kay Moen, Ginny Smith, Deborah Coleman, Julie Farrell, Danny Grimm and Susan Switalski.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Family Singing Repertoire 1: Favorite Munchkin Songs

Singing "The Lord's My Shepherd" with some of the munchkins, circa 2005.
Somehow I recently realized that I've never really done a lot of blogging about music, which has always been a big part of our family's life. I thought it might be fun to collect some of our musical repertoire here on the blog, especially since we have a tendency to forget and then re-discover some of the songs over the course of the years.

I'd like to start with a list of songs that were favorites among our kids when they were munchkins. It's hard to remember who exactly liked which songs, but I especially remember a number of Ria's favorites from when she was 3-6 years old or so, since I made a list at one point.

Of course everyone enjoyed the classic songs of various sorts, such as:

I'm a Little Teapot
Hickory Dickory Dock
Hey Diddle Diddle
Jack and Jill
Mary Had a Little Lamb
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
I've Been Working on the Railroad
God Bless America
You're a Grand Old Flag

A great place to learn many of these classics is Wee Sing: Nursery Rhymes and Lullabies and Wee Sing: Children's Songs and Fingerplays. We also, especially enjoyed lots of songs from three other Wee Sing albums: America, Around the World and Sing-Alongs.

The kids also learned to sing the basic Ave Maria chant when they were very young (I remember Ria singing it at age 3) as we used that as part of bedtime prayers.

We also picked up a number of more quirky favorites from a variety of sources (and we never necessarily learned all the words to all of these, just enjoyed them a lot):

Powder Milk Biscuits (from the "Prairie Home Companion" radio show)
Pretty Irish Girl (from Darby O'Gill and the Little People)We're Busy Doing Nothing (from the musical, Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court)
Under the Bamboo Tree (from Meet Me in St. Louis)
The Codfish Ball (from a Shirley Temple movie - we had a Shirley Temple sing-along video at one point)
Paper Moon (from Natalie Cole's Unforgettable)
Istanbul, not Constantinople (from They Might be Giants' Flood)
In the Highways (from O Brother Where Art Thou)
The Lord's My Shepherd (this recording is of the same tune, but sounds very little like the way we sang it, which was more as a folk tune with a guitar)
Edelweiss, Do a Deer, My Favorite Things, etc. (from Sound of Music)

And we need a special category for Irish music:
John and I kind of dated over Irish music and it naturally became part of the family from the beginning, especially since our home town of Milwaukee annually hosts the largest Irish Festival in the world. Here are some of the Irish songs that the kids enjoyed when they were little:

All God's Creatures Got a Place in the Choir
Waltzing with Bears
Rattlin' Bog
Rambles of Spring
Big Ship Sailing (couldn't find a recording, only the lyrics) 

Favorite Rounds for Munchkins:

Three Blind Mice
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Frere Jacque
Father I Adore You
Down by the Station, Early in the Morning
Love, Love, Love, Love or Rose, Rose, Rose, Rose (we sing both versions, sometimes mixed together!)
White Coral Bells

And so much more that's hard to remember. Lots of Christmas songs and patriotic songs and Church songs and such too. I'll see what I can keep coming up with.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Risk and Friendship

I've been thinking a bit lately about how making a step toward friendship with someone or even *being* friends with someone makes you vulnerable in many ways and can, at times be a frightening thing - or at least something where fear can get in the way and prevent you from making that step. My mind, at least, tries to put these road blocks in my way - "Ugh. Maybe they'll think I'm stupid or presumptuous. Maybe I shouldn't say anything at all." Friendship does sometimes cause extremely painful misunderstandings. There's a significant risk there, especially to someone who is sensitive about such things as relationships.

Of course the rewards of friendship are much greater and entirely "worth it", but not everyone can make it past that first big hurdle and I know, for me, that first hurdle can be very intimidating. There is also a significant sense of relief when my offer of friendship is accepted by the other.

Discussions on the Internet can be like that too. If I really share my opinion, which may not be fully formed, will I sound stupid? will some people misunderstand me or dislike me?

There's a certain degree to which the practice of humility is necessary in making such steps (at least in an act against pride which is uncomfortable with vulnerability). It reminds me of the charity and openness and understanding I should have towards others who are reaching out to me.

So I was interested to understand in a new way, in a portion of Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth, how God models for us a participation in such risks. God came down and made Himself vulnerable to us. Wow!

This is from the Pope Benedict's commentary on the Our Father, in the segment entitled "Hallowed Be Thy Name". I'll try to summarize here along with a few choice quotes:

First, he brings up the obvious connection of "Hallowed be thy Name" with "Thou shalt not speak the name of the Lord thy God in vain."This leads to a detailed discussion of God revealing Himself to Moses in the burning bush.In one sense God doesn't give himself a name "among other gods" as if he's one of many:
God's answer to Moses is thus at once a refusal and a pledge. He says of himself simply, "I am who I am" - he is without any qualification. This pledge is a name and a non-name at one and the same time.
Pope Benedict also points out that God didn't actually refuse Moses' request. He gave him something very significant which establishes a relationship with mankind.
God establishes a relationship between himself and us. He puts himself within reach of our invocation. He enters into relationship with us and enables us to be in relationship with him. Yet this means that in some sense he hands himself over to our human world. He has made himself accessible and, therefore, vulnerable as well. He assumes the risk of relationship, of communion, with us.

The process that was brought to completion in the Incarnation had begun with the giving of the divine name.... God has now truly made himself accessible in his incarnate Son. He has become a part of our world: he has, as it were, put himself into our hands.
This enables us to understand what the petition for the sanctification of the divine name means. The name of God can now be misused and so God himself can be sullied. The name of God can be co-opted for our purposes and so the image of God can also be distorted. The more he gives himself into our hands, the more we can obscure his light; the closer he is, the more our misuse can disfigure him. Martin Buber once said that when we consider all the ways in which God's name has been so shamefully misused, we almost despair of uttering it ourselves. But to keep it silent would be an outright refusal of the love with which God comes to us. Buber says that our only recourse is to try as reverently as possible to pick up and purify the polluted fragments of the divine name. But there is no way we can do that alone. All we can do is plead with him not to allow the light of his name to be destroyed in the world.
And so God is our true model for friendship and charity (and much more!). He comes to us in love despite fallen man's tendency to manhandling. I love the beautiful commentary on God's name too!

Originally published here on December 17, 2007, slightly updated and edited.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Online Documentaries on the White House

Good morning!

In one of my previous posts, I referenced a film on the history of the White House called National Geographic: Inside the White House (click to watch for free online). This is not the film I had been thinking about, though it is an interesting view (watch out for a few bits of mature content). It's more technical and big-picture oriented than the one I had been thinking of.

The White House Revealed, from the Smithsonian Channel, seems to be the one I was remembering. You can also click this title to watch it for free online. This one is more personal - focusing on the stories of the White House as told by the White House staff. You might enjoy them both!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Two Great Popes

On this Feast of St. Joseph, the name day of our dear Pope Benedict and the second anniversary of Pope Francis' inaugural Mass, I was delighted to find this sweet picture of the two popes (click the picture for the related article).

This made me think again about how much I find in continuity between the two popes. (Not the least of which is how difficult/impossible it is to put either of these great men into simple categories that we tend to use in popular media today.) In many ways, I have felt it was Pope Francis who was able to put Pope Benedict's beautiful teachings into action. Here are some examples from Pope Benedict's writings that remind me of Pope Francis:
The first and fundamental mission that we receive from the sacred mysteries we celebrate is that of bearing witness by our lives. The wonder we experience at the gift God has made to us in Christ gives new impulse to our lives and commits us to becoming witnesses of his love. We become witnesses when, through our actions, words and way of being, Another makes himself present. - Sacramentum Caritatis
And yet, from a distance of nearly fifty years, I can once again truly see what was positive there: the candid questions from the perspectives of the liberal-historical method created a new directness in the approach to Sacred Scripture and opened up dimensions of the text that were no longer perceived by the all-too-predetermined dogmatic reading. The Bible spoke to us with new immediacy and freshness. But those things in the liberal method that were arbitrary and tended to flatten out the Bible... could be compensated for by obedience to dogma. A characteristic fruitfulness came from the balance between liberalism and dogma. - Milestones, pg. 52

Do not presuppose the faith but propose it. This was an imperative that hit home. Wide-ranging exploration of new fields was good and necessary, but only so long as it issued from, and was sustained by, the central light of faith. Faith is not maintained automatically. It is not a "finished business" that we can simply take for granted. The life of faith has to be constantly renewed. And since faith is an act that comprehends all the dimensions of our existence, it also requires constantly renewed reflection and witness. - Gospel, Catechesis, Catechism, pg. 24

The more lively the eucharistic faith of the People of God, the deeper is its sharing in ecclesial life in steadfast commitment to the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples. The Church's very history bears witness to this. Every great reform has in some way been linked to the rediscovery of belief in the Lord's eucharistic presence among his people. - Sacramentum Caritatis, 6

And they believed - and it often seems that today's Christians also think this - that it is permissible to celebrate the Eucharist without looking after the neediness of our brothers,to aspire to better charisms without being aware that each is a member of the other, and so forth. The consequences of a faith that is not manifested in love are disastrous, because it reduces itself to the arbitrariness and subjectivism that is most harmful to us and to our brothers. On the contrary, in following Saint Paul, we should gain a new awareness of the fact that precisely because we are justified in Christ, we no longer belong to ourselves but have become a temple of the Spirit and hence are called to glorify God in our body with the whole of our existence. - St. Paul, pg. 87

This is essential: The Christian ethic is not born from a system of commandments but is a consequence of our friendship with Christ. - St. Paul, pg. 88

A Eucharist without solidarity with others is a Eucharist abused. - St. Paul, pg. 100

For the pagan world that believed in a world filled with spirits for the most part dangerous and from which it was essential to protect oneself, the proclamation that Christ was the only conqueror and that those with Christ need fear no one seemed a true liberation. The same is also true for the paganism of today, since current followers of similar ideologies see the world as full of dangerous powers. It is necessary to proclaim to them that Christ is triumphant, so that those who are with Christ, who stay united to him, have nothing and no one to fear. I think that this is also important for us, that we must learn to face all fears because he is above all forms of domination, he is the true Lord of the world. - St. Paul, pg. 114

Mere intellectual categories prove inadequate here, and, recognizing that many things are beyond our rational capacities, we must entrust them to the humble and joyful contemplation not only of the mind but also of the heart. The Fathers of the Church, moreover, tell us that love understands better than reason alone. - St. Paul, pg. 116
The great task before us is so to fill with living experience the old, truly valid and great sayings that they become intelligible for people. - God and the World
 I've also explained in my Introduction to Christianity that faith never cuts off questions. That it could also become rigid if it no longer exposed itself to these questions. In this sense, these are not fictitious questions but questions that I had to ask myself. But they were, so to speak, given over to the basic confidence of the faith. Not that they were simply explained away by this faith. But they were in a certain sense cushioned by it. - Salt of the Earth, pg. 88
And finally, and possibly my favorite:
To have Christian hope means to know about evil and yet to go to meet the future with confidence. The core of faith rests upon accepting being loved by God, and therefore to believe is to say yes, not only to him, but to creation, to creatures, above all, to men, to try to see the image of God in each person and thereby to become a lover. That's not easy, but the basic yes, the conviction that God has created men, that he stands behind them, that they aren't simply negative, gives love a reference point that enables it to ground hope on the basis of faith. - Salt of the Earth, pgs. 117-118

How are they similar? Well, I hope some of these quotes give at least a vague sense of this - they do to me at least. They are both reminding us in different ways that we need Christ to be who we are meant to be. We need to be constantly re-converted, shaken up if you will, to see clearly the direction we ought to take in the world. They both also bear powerful witness to the way in which we need to engage our modern world, not from a comfortable arm-chair perspective where everything is done the way we want or else. What is required from us is more thoughtful and more radical than that. To be truly open and docile to the Will of God and to the needs of our neighbors. To be fearless in Christ!

The ways of the Lord are not comfortable, but we were not created for comfort. We were created for greatness. - Pope Benedict XVI

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Have You "Met" Gretchen Rubin?

I first encountered Gretchen's writing in Real Simple magazine in about 2010, where she made a really useful distinction that really struck a chord with me:
There are two types of decision makers. Satisficers... make a decision once their criteria are met. Maximizers want to make the best possible decisino. Even if they see a bicycle or a backpack that meets their requirements, they can't make a decision until they've examined every option. Satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. Maximizers expend more time and energy reaching decisions, and they're often anxious about their choices. Sometimes good enough is good enough.
With this, she caught my attention, and I went on to read her first book, The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. I'm sure some would categorize this (and her more recent books) as a "Self-Help" book, but I think it's more of a "practical memoir". She decided to challenge herself with a project in which she would apply in a very tangible way the results of her studies on what makes people happier. The result is a humorous and memoir, with a lots of useful tidbits of inspiration and information that are very applicable to the lives of ordinary human beings like us. I appreciate the breadth of her research (everything from Aristotle's wisdom through the most modern research). I also found that she approaches a subject with humility, balance, and openness to the truth.

And, of course, I couldn't help but appreciate, from her secular point of view, the advice she gives that everyone needs a spiritual guru - and hers is St. Therese of Lisieux!

I must admit that I am behind by a book. I have not yet read her second "practical memoir", Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life.

Yesterday, she released the third book along these lines, which I have now in my possession and am most eager to read, Better Than Before, Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives I've only managed a quick peek so far, but it looks excellent.

P.S. I also enjoy her blog,

Oh yeah, and "Enthusiasm is a form of social courage." - Gretchen Rubin  :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Memoirs I've Read Recently

I have always been fascinated by people, and so memoirs, biographies, conversion stories, pop psychology, educational theory and such are some favorite reading categories for me.

A Grief Unveiled: One Father's Journey Through the Death of a Child (15 Years Later) by Gregory Floyd

This an extremely, almost uncomfortably, intimate relating of the grief of a dad and his family over the loss of his six year old son in a car accident. Comes from a profoundly Catholic perspective. What I found perhaps most interesting was the "15 Years Later" part, in which each family member reflects back on their son and brother and what he has meant to them, even after death.

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachia Trail by Bill Bryson

Entertaining, edifying, educational, and sometimes a little crude, Bill Bryson paints a picture of a rather hidden part of our world while relating the story of his adventures along a substantial portion of the Appalachian Trail. I found his commentaries on how people today (and in the past) tend to interact with and treat nature to be thoughtful and balanced.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

This was an engrossing, heart-wrenching - and at times depressing - memoir of a young woman whose life is torn apart by the untimely death of her beloved mother. After four years of destructive behavior (extreme promiscuity, drug experimentation, etc.), she sets off for a solo three-month hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, through California and Oregon, to try to "find her way".

I enjoy memoirs partly because their perspective is different than my own. That is certainly the case here, where, for example she justifies her own abortion because of her mother's difficult history. But these differences bring into sharper focus the parts I especially relate to, such as an understated and touching theme of reverence that runs throughout the book.

Mature content.

Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies by J.B. West

In watching a DVD on White House history a few years ago, I became fascinated by the human stories behind the presidency, which were told primarily through the staff. (I think it was National Geographic: Inside the White House - oops! I sat down and watched this one and it was interesting, but not the same one). So when this book showed up on BookBub (which is a subject for a different post), I jumped on it. I was not disappointed. It was a welcome diversion during a sick week. J.B. West was a White House usher (and chief usher for many of those years) from 1941-1967, who shares interesting and very human insights into the presidents (FDR thru Nixon) and their families, as well as a substantial bit of history surrounding them and their temporary home. Not a must-read, but a good read.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Favorite Black and White Movies

Note: Some titles may not be appropriate for family viewing.

Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, Michael Curtiz (director)

The Artist (2011) Jean Dujardin

The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman

Boys Town (1938) Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney

Bringing Up Baby (1938) Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant

Captains Courageous (1937) Spencer Tracy, Lionel Barrymore

Casablanca (1942) Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Michael Curtiz (director)

Christmas in Connecticut (1945) Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan

Come to the Stable (1949) Loretta Young, Celeste Holm, Elsa Lanchester

Edison the Man (1940) Spencer Tracy

High Noon (1952) Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly

Holiday (1938) Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant

Holiday Affair (1949) Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh

I Confess (1953) Montgomery Clift, Ann Baxter, Alfred Hitchcock (director)

 Ikiru (1952) Akira Kurosawa, director

I Remember Mama (1948) Irene Dunne, Barbara Bel Geddes

It Happened One Night (1934) Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Frank Capra (director)

It's a Wonderful Life (1946) Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Frank Capra (director)

Lilies of the Field (1963) Sidney Poitier

The Major and the Minor (1942) Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Billy Wilder (director)

Meet John Doe (1941) Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Frank Capra (director)

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, Frank Capra (director)

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O'Hara

The Miracle Worker (1962) Anne Bancroft, Patty Duke

Monkey Business (1931) The Marx Brothers

The More the Merrier (1943) Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, Charles Coburn, George Stevens (director)

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, Frank Capra (director)

On the Waterfront (1954) Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Elia Kazan (director)

Penny Serenade (1941) Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, George Stevens (director)

The Philadelphia Story (1940) Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart

 The Pride of the Yankees (1942) Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright, Babe Ruth

Roman Holiday (1953) Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, William Wyler (director)

Sabrina (1954) Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, Billy Wilder (director)

Safety Last (1923) Harold Lloyd (silent) (click here to watch on YouTube)
I should note, after a recent re-watch, that there is a scene involving an ugly stereotyping that should be discussed with your children, and in fact is a good opportunity to do so. Crazy to think that some people once saw such things as funny.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) Leslie Howard, Merle Oberon

Sergeant York (1941) Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan

The Seven Samurai (1954) Akira Kurosawa, director

Song of Bernadette (1943) Jennifer Jones

The Stratton Story (1949) Jimmy Stewart, June Allyson

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) Gregory Peck

Twelve Angry Men (1957) Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) James Cagney, Michael Curtiz (director)

You Can't Take it With You (1938) Jean Arthur, Jimmy Stewart, Lionel Barrymore, Frank Capra (dir)

Young Tom Edison (1940) Mickey Rooney

Please share your favorites in the comments. I'm sure I'm forgetting some and am always interested in discovering more oldies-but-goodies. There are also lots that I've seen, but too far in the past to include until I get a chance to watch them again, such as Modern Times, Mutiny on the Bounty and Harvey.

This page is dedicated to my dear friend Katrina Louise Underwood, who died of Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) in 2012. I credit her with introducing me to the joys of old movies. (picture of us circa 1986)