Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Sunday Walk in the Park

This week's Sunday walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park features some more blooms, a pair of turtles sunning, and my friend Wade Asper heading off to start the season's first haying.

The Arrowwood Viburnum along the Dykeman Walking Trail is in full bloom
More Blackberry blossoms in the wetland
Two Painted Turtles sunning in the bog pool
Wade heads off to start the season's first haying
© 2020 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday Bach - Pentecost

In Bach's time, and indeed through much of the history of the Church, Pentecost was the major festival of the church year, even more so than Christmas and Easter. Why? Because Pentecost marks the birthday of the Church itself, when the disciples, energized and emboldened by the descent of the Holy Spirit, emerged from hiding in the upper room and went out into the world to spread the Good News. These days, and especially here in the United States, it's less so, mostly due to the influence of evangelicalism, which has that uniquely American distrust of any and all institutions and sees Christianity not as the Church Universal but more as a way to advance the "salvation" of the individual; for them Pentecost is a nod to the emergence of the Holy Spirit as another of those personal benefits of being a Christian.

But in Bach's time Pentecost was a three-day celebration of the birth of the Church, and some of Bach's best writing was done for this celebration. For this year's offering, I give you BWV 172, Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! (Resound, you songs, resound, you strings! Weimar 1714). This is one of Bach's earlier cantatas, composed soon after his election to the position of concertmaster in Weimar; he seems to have liked it very much, and revisited it five times in his later career. As befits music for the celebration of the principal festival of the Church, it's magnificently triumphant, with lots of fanfare and trumpets. Here's the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music on this wonderful cantata:
When Bach was Kapellmeister in Weimar, he was responsible for the composition of one cantata per month. In his time there he also wrote large-scale works for some of the major holidays, Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. The librettist for most of Bach’s Weimar works was Salomo Franck, who doubled as the court poet and head of the mint. Franck was the finest poet that Bach ever collaborated with, and all of the Weimar works are notable for their passionate music and high literary quality.
The work begins with a joyful chorus with orchestra of trumpet and strings. As is typical of Bach’s early works the trumpet parts are mostly fanfares, the chorus reacts with suitably homophonic music. A simple fugue comprises the middle section of the work. The only recitative in the piece is an arioso setting of the passage from John for the bass. This leads into more fanfares from the trumpets accompanying the pomposo writing of the solo bass. The idea of the heavenly wind permeates the tenor aria, with its smoothly running violin part and gently expressive vocal line. Without a doubt, the high point of the cantata is the intricate, heavenly duet for soprano and alto with oboe obbligato. The complex metaphors and high literary quality of this marvelous text are paralleled by the detailed and elaborate voice parts. Woven into this texture is a highly ornamented version of the great Luther chorale, Komm Heiliger Geist. A beautiful setting of Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, with a high, descant first violin part ends the cantata.
 © Craig Smith
Today's performance is from a recording by the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists under the direction of John Eliot Gardiner. Enjoy!

Photo © 2020 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Shippensburg In Bloom

Shippensburg has entered full Summer mode. Gardens are flourishing, the Roses around town are all in full bloom, porch planters are overflowing with color, and the hanging flower baskets are up on King St. I went for a walk around town this morning to take it all in.

Red, red Roses on King St.
A porch planter on King St.
A Rhododendron in the garden at the Widow Piper's Tavern
Petunias in one of the King St. hanging baskets
Begonias in one of the King St. hanging baskets
English Ivy climbing the King St. bridge over Branch Creek
© 2020 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, May 29, 2020

Feels Like Summer

It's still only May, but it's feeling like July. I took a walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park this morning to beat the worst of today's heat and humidity. I shot flowers in the wetland which are still only Spring flowers; it may feel like July, but the Summer Asters and the Day Lilies haven't made their appearance yet. And then I went up on the meadow to show you how high the hay is getting, and also the sky, which today was definitely a Summer sky!

The Multiflora Roses were definitely scenting the air today
Looks like there's going to be a bumper crop of Blackberries this year
Daisy Fleabane
The hay is getting deep
Looking north from the top of the meadow
Looking across the meadow from the southern leg of the Meadow Trail
© 2020 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Small World

I went for a walk on the Rail Trail this morning and ended up spending a lot of time in a bank of Multiflora Roses observing nature in miniature. In that single bank I ended up counting five Orchard Orb Weaver spiders in their webs; these are my favorite small critters in the woods, a small green dot to the naked eye, and a rainbow observed up close. I also found a Multicolored Asian Ladybug munching on the leaves of those roses. Come take a look.

Walking along the Rail Trail
Leucauge venusta, the colorful Orchard Orb Weaver
The same Venusta escaping my camera
Harmonia axyridis, the Multicolored Asian Ladybug
A small section of that large bank of Multiflora Roses
© 2020 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A Little Ramble

I did a brief ramble in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park this morning, getting it in before the heat settled in for the day. We're getting in to the 80s this afternoon, but while I was in the park it was in the mid 70s with a pleasant breeze blowing. Lots of flowers, a Song Sparrow, and a Painted Turtle sunning on a rock in the north duck pond were the chief subjects today, plus a panoramic shot of the pond from my favorite bench under the Kentucky Coffee Tree. It was all very laid back!

The Multiflora Roses are adding their sweet scent throughout the park
This Painted Turtle actually let me get quite close
My favorite view in the park
Daisy Fleabane along the trail in the wetland
A Song Sparrow singing away
Yellow Wood Sorrel along the trail in the wetland
© 2020 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, May 25, 2020


Branch Creek/Middle Spring Creek from downtown Shippensburg to Bard Rd. out in the country. Followed by the perfect music for following creeks - "Spring Water at Jerry's Run" by Malcolm Dalglish.

Photos © 2020 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Memorial Day

Today in the US we memorialize those who have been claimed by war. It's usually celebrated as a great patriotic event, with martial songs and chest-thumping nationalism, all about the glory of dying for your country. What egregious nonsense! As any battle-scarred veteran can tell you, war isn't glorious; it's a gory, bloody, loud hell of a meat-grinder, and the meat being ground is the young of the nation, fed into it by old men who hold grudges or who see a profit to be made, win or lose. I've always said that if the fat old men who declared wars actually had to fight in them, we'd have world peace overnight.

Here are some potent quotes about the reality of war:
"And I can't help but wonder, now Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you 'The Cause'?
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame,
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain.
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again."
– Eric Bogle, "No Man's Land" 
"Either war is finished, or we are."
– Herman Wouk, War and Remembrance 
"War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children."
– Jimmy Carter, Nobel Lecture, December 10, 2002 
"I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity."
– Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech, January 10, 1946 
"If civilization has an opposite, it is war. Of these two things, you have either one, or the other. Not both."
– Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness
Probably the greatest antiwar poem ever written is "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen, an Oxford scholar and poet who enlisted at the beginning of WWI, and who was killed just one week before the armistice which ended it. During the war he wrote his poems in the letters he sent home, and as the conflict continued he used these poems to vent his anger and cynicism at the futility, the barbarity, and the stupidity of it all. "Dulce et Decorum Est" could just as well have been titled "The Lie", the lie in question being the quote from the Roman poet Horace that is fed to soldiers in time of war: "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori"; the English translation is "It is sweet and proper to die for one's country". Obviously Owen disagreed, and I'm with him.
Dulce et Decorum Est - Wilfred Owen 
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And toward our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind. 
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. 
In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. 
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obsceneas cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, –
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.
Today we lament the deaths of young people killed by adherence to an anachronism, and pledge to end the scourge that killed them. Here are two songs that lament the deaths of soldiers - Eric Bogle's "No Man's Land" and Mark Knopfler's "Brothers In Arms".

Photo © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

This Week's Sunday Walk in the Park

So this weekend is the unofficial start of the Summer season, being Memorial Day weekend, but you wouldn't know it - it's overcast and gloomy, threatening rain, and cooler than the seasonal average. But it's certainly lush enough for Summer, and there are plenty of May flowers in full bloom. This morning's weekly walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park was proof of that.

Stork's Bill blooming along the Dykeman WalkingTrail
Yellow Flag in the marsh by the ball fields
Here comes Peter Cottontail, hoppin' down the Dykeman Trail...
After 10 years I still haven't figured out what this plant is
A female Redwinged Blackbird keeping a wary eye on me by the north duck pond
Blackberry blossoms up on the meadow
 © 2020 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday Bach - Sunday After Ascension (Exaudi)

Approaching Storm
Bach wrote two cantatas for the sixth Sunday after Easter, and I've chosen the first one, BWV 44, Sie werden euch in den Bann tun (They will turn you out...) from 1724. This is still drawing from Jesus' farewell to the disciples in the 15th and 16th chapters of John, and this week the reading emphasizes the trials and tribulations the disciples will experience from now on. Here's what the late Craig Smith and Ryan Turner of Emmanuel Music have to say about this cantata:
Sie werden euch in den Bann tun I, BWV 44 is the first of two settings of the quotation forming the text of the first two movements of this cantata, the other being the opening movement of BWV 183. In BWV 44 Bach sets the first two lines of text as a tenor/bass duet followed, without break, by a turba chorus.  Somewhat surprisingly, in BWV 183 he presents it quite minimally as an accompanied recitative.

The theme of this cantata is principally one of heresy, false teaching and the combating of these abominable doctrines. In John 16, Jesus prophesies the persecution of his disciples by those who know not God or Himself. There is a tough, almost hard-bitten quality about BWV 44. The clangorous, hectoring tenor-bass duet with two obbligato oboes runs directly into an even more frenetic little chorus filled with paranoia and fear. Notice how Bach creates a menacing chromatic texture of sustained notes underpinned by unexpected harmonies on the text wer euch tötet (whosoever murders you).

The alto aria with obbligato oboe yields a hint of release in the gloom and agitation with an almost catatonic dread.  The chorale for tenor and continuo is one of the strangest harmonizations in all of Bach. This central chorale is so forward looking that it seems almost to pre-empt harmonies of the twentieth century. As Julian Mincham notes, “there seems little doubt that the byzantine bass line represents the difficult road and the human effort needed to travel and surmount the narrow pathway of torment to heaven.”
The turning point in the cantata comes in the bass recitative encouraging the individual to prevail. The soprano aria weakly tries to emerge from the gloom with a brighter tone and employment of ebullient skips that Schweitzer calls Bach’s “joy motive.” The middle section, depicting the storms our troubled soul must weather, triumphantly emerges in the smiling joy of the sun.  The final chorale is well known, versions of it appearing in both the St. Matthew and St. John Passions.  This beautiful, yet personal harmonization of "Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen" is the only hint at a benediction in the piece.
© Craig Smith, with additions and edits by Ryan Turner
For this week's Sunday Bach I've chosen a special performance by the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists under the direction of John Eliot Gardiner. Enjoy!    

Photo © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger