One-Minute Book Reviews

June 10, 2008

Dana Jennings Remembers the Golden Age of Twang in ‘Sing Me Back Home,’ His Memoir of Growing Up With Country Music

Filed under: Memoirs — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:11 pm
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An editor at the New York Times writes of the days when giants with guitars roamed this cheatin’ Earth

By Janice Harayda

One of the Top 10 search terms that have led people to One-Minute Book Reviews this year is “Donald Murray,” the name of my late mentor and writing teacher, whom I have quoted on this site. Many visitors were looking for journalists who had studied with Don, an internationally known pioneer in the methods of teaching writing that he described in A Writer Teaches Writing www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/01/01/.

So I’m happy to report that one of Don’s students, Dana Jennings, is the author of a new memoir, Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death, and Country Music (Faber & Faber, 272 pp., $24) us.macmillan.com/singmebackhome. Dana writes of growing up in New Hampshire in what he calls “the golden age of twang,” the years between about 1950 and 1970, when giants like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Tammy Wynette were turning out many of their most famous songs. Those of us who studied with Don can be a pretty tight group — “acolytes” would not be too strong a word of some of us — so I can’t review Dana’s book. But Publishers Weekly said this about it:

“The perfect country song, according to the late songwriter Steve Goodman, always had references to mama, being drunk, cheating, going to prison and hell-bent driving. Taking a page from Goodman’s songbook, Jennings, a New York Times editor, brilliantly captures the essence of country music in this hard-driving tale that is part memoir and part music history.”

To read about some of Dana’s favorite country-music songs, click here: papercuts.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/06/04/living-with-music-a-playlist-by-dana-jennings/. To read the New York Times Book Review review of Sing Me Back Home, click here: www.nytimes.com/2008/06/01/books/review/Kirby-t.html?_r=2&ref=review&oref=slogin&oref=slogin.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday Revised Common Lectionary Readings and Hymns

Filed under: Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 5:49 pm
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If you visit this site regularly, you may have noticed that posts often relate to news events or holidays, usually through a quote from or review of a related book. One of the most popular of these was last year’s Ash Wednesday post (“What do the ashes on Ash Wednesday mean?”), based on Marc Foley’s A Season of Rebirth: Daily Meditations for Lent (New City, $12.95, paperback) www.newcitypress.com, back in the Top Ten today. (It’s beating that Marv Albert Super Bowl quote by the equivalent of a 56-0 postseason blowout.) I couldn’t find a similar book this year, so here instead is a link to Hymn Site‘s readings from the Revised Common Lectionary for Ash Wednesday www.hymnsite.com/lection/index.shtml. Click on the “Calendar” page on that site and then on “Ash Wednesday” to get the readings (which you can read or listen to).

One of Hymn Site’s suggested hymns for today is Charles Wesley’s great “Ye Servants of God,” inspired partly by the persecution of English Methodists in the 18th century. I can’t link directly to that hymn on Hymn Site, so here’s a direct link to the version on Cyber Hymnal www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/y/s/yservofg.htm. You’ll hear music as soon as you click on that link. You can find other suggested hymns by searching for “Lent” on Cyber Hymnal.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

November 21, 2007

Listen to Thanksgiving Hymns and Others for Free at Cyber Hymnal — Downloadable for Free, Too, If They’re Out of Copyright

Further update at 7:45 p.m. Dec. 1: The Cyber Hymnal site is back up. I just listened to the Doxology and “The Snow Lay on the Ground,” the carol often used as an anthem (the first I remember singing with youth choir at my childhood church). But I’m leaving up the Nov. 29 update because you may want to use Hymn Site as a back-up if Cyber Hymnal goes down again. Jan

Update at 5:25 p.m. Nov. 29: The Cyber Hymnal site seems to have crashed — let’s hope temporarily — since I posted this. The link worked without problems for days. But at this writing you can’t reach Cyber Hymnal either from here or the link on Google. Until the site is up again, you can hear the music and find the words to hymns at HymnSite www.hymnsite.com. HymnSite isn’t as easy to search as Cyber Hymnal and may have fewer hymns, but has many of the same elements. Jan

Update, Nov. 2010: Cyber Hymnal is now NetHymnal, and the links in this post have been changed to reflect it.

Today I was looking for facts to add to a quote of the day about a Thanksgiving hymn and found a site called NetHymnal that lets you listen for free to the music of more than hymns and Gospel songs.  NetHymnal also has the words and background of tunes, pictures of authors or composers, a few musical scores and more. It offers 29 hymns by J. S. Bach alone, including such chart-busters as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and “Von Himmel Hoch.” The site is just what its name implies — the online equivalent of a hymnal you might find slotted into a pew except that it lets you listen to the music instead of reading the scores. And you can download for free anything that’s out of copyright.

So this is the place to go if you’d like to hear the Thanksgiving hymns “Now Thank We All Our God,” “For the Beauty of the Earth” and “We Gather Together” (the only one of the three that’s non-Trinitarian in all verses). Cyber Hymnal also lets you listen to Christmas carols and patriotic songs such as “O Canada,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” (the Navy Hymn). And if you’re getting married in a church soon, you can hear any hymn that could be played at your wedding. Be sure to listen to the traditional — and best — version of the classic wedding hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” on Cyber Hymnal before somebody talks you into the alternate setting that has become popular without my consent. (Are you going to invite me to the wedding?)

If you don’t care for Thanksgiving hymns but want to hear to some of the most stirring music ever written, use the title search tool on Nethymnal to look for “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” (the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony), “Thine Be the Glory” (“See, the Conqu’ring Hero Comes” from Handel’s Judas Maccabeus) and “Be Still, My Soul” (“The Song of Peace” from Sibelius’s Finlandia). Like the Colorado Rockies, that quote of the day that I planned to post will have to wait till next year, because I’m off to Cyber Hymnal to listen Beethoven’s “The Heavn’s Resoundeth” (“The Heavens Are Telling”), nearly as glorious as the “Ode to Joy.”

The picture above from the old Cyber Hymnal shows Catherine Winkworth (1827-78), who translated “Now Thank We All Our God” (“Nun Danket”) from the German.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 4, 2007

Handel Wrote ‘Messiah’ in 24 Days (and You Thought You Were Productive at Work) … Quotes of the Day #16 and #17

Do you have what it takes to write the “Hallelujah” chorus?

Come unto me, all ye that labor and believe you are worthy of the next employee-of-the-month award. Many authors have marveled at how quickly G. F. Handel wrote Messiah, which has a score of more than 250 pages that he finished in 24 days. Percy M. Young writes in The Oratorios of Handel (Dobson, 1949):

“Handel’s habit of rapid construction came less from the supposed mystery of ‘inspiration’ than from the fluency of technique: with him a set piece was accomplished in the shortest possible time so that other aspects of life could be accommodated. Messiah was composed, with perhaps more than usual haste, between August 22 and September 14, 1741. Clearly the beginning of the season of mellow fruitfulness … The original score comprises some 250 pages of manuscript; which means that Handel wrote, on the average, a little over ten pages a day.”

But take heart if this makes your daily output look a little less impressive. Peter Jacobi writes in The Messiah Book: The Life and Times of G.F. Handel’s Greatest Hit (St. Martin’s, 1982):

“Granted, some of the music wasn’t new; he’d used it before, an aria here, a duet there … And there are indications of changes: seven stabs at the great ‘Amen,’ for instance.”

There, now don’t you feel better?

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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