Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunrise Service at Arlington National Cemetery; more interesting Easter music at FBC (some Stanford and Bax)

Today, I attended the Easter Sunrise Service in the Ampitheater of the Arlington National Cemetery.  Parking was at Fort Myer, off route 27, with a shuttle bus.  This experience brought back memories, of my own three months at Fort Myer and the Pentagon in the summer of 1968 during my own military service, covered elsewhere in my blogs.

There were two “musical selections” by the United States Army Chorus, a cappella. One was “I Cannot Tell”, a setting of the Irish Folk Song “Danny Boy” which became Charles Villiers Stanford’s Irish Rhapsody #1.  The second was a pre-Baroque “Alleluia: Today Is Christ Risen” which I believe is by Michael Praetorius.  The second hymn was of note, “He Lives”.  The same hymn was sung with guitar at Metropolitan Community Church of Dallas one evening in August, 1979 during which a woman claimed to be healed of paralysis.

The sermon (or “message”) by Rear Admiral Margaret Grun Kibben, Chaplain of the United States Marine Corps, repeatedly asked the audience to respond “He is risen, indeed”.  Kibben referred to Communist Russia’s atheism, and seemed to allude to the irony that it had helped drive out Hitler and Nazism from a supposedly Christian Germany, an observation covered by Dr. Edward Hughes Pruden of the First Baptist Church of Washington DC (1936-1969) in a 1951 book, discussed in the “BillBoushka” blog, April 8, 2014).  This may have been an allusion to Putin’s aggressive behavior in many areas.

The Army Band and Chorus performed the “Hallelujah Chorus” that concludes Part II of Handel’s Messiah.  I have always preferred the Amen chorus at the end of the entire work. 

There was an interesting sight just before the service started.

Just outside the ampitheater, I noticed a touching encounter between a soldier and his police dog.  I've noticed that some dogs like the sound of human heartbeats, and can probably even sense the electromagnetic signals from the body normally picked up by electrocardiograms.  

I did attend the Easter service at First Baptist in Washington DC today. 

There was a brief prelude-concert with organ, tympani, and trolley chimes,  conducted by Neil Holliker. It started with J.S. Bach, “Is Thee in Gladness”, followed by and Aria by Cynthia Dobrinsky, and then “Spirit of the Living God” by Martha Lynn Thomson.  There followed a fanfare-like festive piece called “Shall We Gather at the River” by Michael Helman, not to be confused with the piano rhapsody called “At the River” by Timo Andres (covered here Feb. 24, 2013). Finally, there was a “Celebration Fanfare” by Charles Callahan. 

For the main anthem (“The Gradual”) the choir performed (with brass and organ) “A Hymn of Resurrection” by Gwyneth Walker, a loud and triumphant piece in C Major reminding one of Vaughn Williams in some of his more joyous moments. The Postlude was the usual Hallelujah Chorus of Handel.

There was also setting of Lowell Mason's hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross", but with complex harmonization very close to that provided by composer Sir Arnold Bax in the triumphant epilogue that closes his Symphony #5.
The sermon, by Dr. Stan Hastey, discussed the books of late North Carolina gay writer and English professor Reynolds Price (“A Long and Happy Life”, “The Names and Faces of Heroes”) and his battle with an unusual spinal cancer later in life. 

The service also had a baby dedication for a family from Nigeria.  The extended family that appeared was very large and with women dressed in brightly-colored attire typical in the country.   Nigeria, of course, as a country, has gotten a lot of unfavorable attention in the news recently, because of religious divisions, corruption and security problems that have all politically exacerbated serious human rights abuses.  

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