Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Sunday Morning Walk in the Park

My weekly Sunday morning walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park was pleasant as usual. It was overcast and cool, with temperatures in the mid 50s (around 12º C); the light was just right for capturing the colors of late Spring/early Summer. Everything is very lush now, and the animals are pretty lively, too. I got surprised by a Mink suddenly dashing onto the nature trail, who when it saw me immediately dashed right back into the underbrush (no, no photo). Orioles sang to me, and Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds scolded me for being too near their nests, but nobody came out into clear view. A flock of Bank Swallows was whipping over the north duck pond too fast for me to capture one, but I did manage to get the splash trail of one across the pond. All in all it was a pleasant morning spent in the company of Mama Gaia!

Multiflora Roses along the Dykeman Walking Trail
Reflections on the north duck pond
Splash trail left by a Bank Swallow as it skimmed the surface of the pond
The forest floor along the Upland Trail
© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday Bach - Fifth Sunday after Easter (Rogate)

Multiflora Roses
Today is the fifth Sunday after Easter. Bach wrote two small, intimate cantatas for this Sunday, and I chose the first of them, BWV 86, Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch (Truly, truly I say to you), from 1724. The theme is still from the 16th chapter of John, where Jesus speaks to the disciples, preparing them for his final departure. Here's what the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music had to say about this beautiful little gem of a cantata:
Cantata 86 is a product of Bach’s first Leipzig cantata cycle. It focuses on a passage from Jesus’ extensive farewell to his disciples in the Book of John. The key lines are “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you,” and “the time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in parables.”
The first movement is equivalent to a five-voice choral motet, the bass soloist, representing Jesus, sharing musical materials with four string parts. This is followed by an unusual aria for alto, in which the violin part has little thematic activity, but is instead given over to frenetic figuration. The listener can decide if this refers to the thorns, risked in the breaking of the rose, or a vision of shining assurance, the reward of belief.
A driving version, for soprano and two oboes d'amore, of a verse from the chorale ‘Come to me, says the Son of God,’ leads to a tenor recitative and aria, which makes use of a metaphor: a very spare, reiterative statement, “God will surely help,” is buttressed by fugal, compact musical ideas.
Even the closing chorale is unusually economical in its range of harmonic color, lending further support to the cantata’s emphasis on trust, and simplicity of spirit.
For today's Sunday Bach I chose a lovely performance by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman. Enjoy!

Photo © 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, May 19, 2017

Spring into Summer

The calendar says it's May, but it feels like August here with the temperature hovering around 90º (32º C). And across the country, in Colorado, it's snowing! We have the Multiflora Roses and Blackberries blooming, and while there's no snow, the Black Locust blossoms have been falling like it and covering the ground beneath the trees like a Summer version of a snow blanket. Mama Gaia is very green and lush, with lots of floral highlights. Come walk through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park and see.

Multiflora Roses along the Dykeman Walking Trail in the wetland area
Blackberry blossoms along the trail
Fallen Black Locust blossoms cover the trail like a quick snow squall
Yellow Wood Sorrel along the nature trail
Reflections on the north duck pond
© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunday Bach - Fourth Sunday After Easter (Cantate)

Buckeye butterfly
Today is the fourth Sunday after Easter, and the Gospel reading is the passage in John (16:5 - 15) where Jesus tells the disciples that he has to go away  so that the Comforter (παρακλητος [parakletos] - intercessor, consoler, comforter, advocate can come. Bach wrote two cantatas for this Sunday, both of them small, intimate works. I've chosen BWV 166, Wo gehest du hin? (Where are you going?) The late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music had this to say about the cantata:
After Easter, Bach’s first cantata cycle included several large masterpieces such as last week’s Cantata BWV 104. In addition there are several exquisite smaller-scale works, including today’s cantata BWV 166. The strangeness and ambiguity of all of the readings from the Gospel of John after Easter come to a climax with Jesus’ speech to the disciples about his going away. Jesus announces that they would all be stuck if he were not to leave them and that the “Advocate” were not to replace him. It becomes clear by Pentecost that the advocate is the Church. The superb text for today’s cantata begins with Christ’s question to the disciples. The gentle questioning music for oboe and strings manages to be both ambiguous and deeply profound. The sweet expressive melismas for the voice of Christ are laid across the caressing and gentle strings and oboe. The piece rightly ends with a question mark. The profound tenor aria lays out the choices – Heaven or Hell, to go or to stay. The piece is in the form of an elegant sonata à 4. The violin part is lost but has been reconstructed by Alfred Dürr from a version of the piece as a violin trio sonata. The Chorale “Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut” appears in an arrangement with all the strings playing a wide-reaching and melancholy line against the tune in the sopranos. The alto aria manages to smile and yet contain the undertow of the last judgment that is implicit in its text. A rich harmonization of “Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten” ends the cantata.
For this week's Sunday Bach I've chosen this beautiful performance by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman. Enjoy! 


Photo © 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Butterflies and Swallows

I popped over to visit the Brookside Ave. wetland on Monday and Tuesday. The water level there is up again after it almost dried up totally last year. Burd Run is looking good, all the little streamlets in the wetland area are full, and there's even water in the collection pond (not much, and only in the places they dredged deeper last Fall to try and coax a little more water in the place). And the butterflies are coming back for the season; I managed to get shots of (top to bottom) a Clouded Sulphur, a Pearl Crescent, and an American Painted Lady.

Birds are also back in the wetland. Lots and lots of Red-winged Blackbirds, all yelling at me when I got too close. Ditto the Canada Geese; I had a 5-bird, very vocal escort around the berm that holds in the collection pond. I kept wondering when they were going to rush me! But what really got my attention was the presence of lots of Tree Swallows and Baltimore Orioles. As is usual with Orioles, I heard them before I saw them, and they stayed well out of my camera range on both days. And the Tree Swallows are actually nesting in the nest boxes set up for them throughout the wetland. I got some shots that didn't really work on Monday, so I went back yesterday in the course of running some errands and finally managed to get some decent shots. 

© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Sunday Constitutional

It rained the last two days, at  least 2" (5 cm), so the green and color has gotten even more lush for my Sunday walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park. There have also been some other Spring events: I saw my first-of-the-season Green Heron in the wetland; the insect nymphs are all over the ponds, which has attracted even more Swallows to come and skim them up; and the first goslings have hatched. Come see what I saw today!

Dame's Rocket along the Dykeman Walking Trail
The forest floor along the trail
Daisy Fleabane in the wetland
A Green Heron in the wetland
A Bank Swallow in the wetland
A family outing on the north duck pond
Black Locust blossoms along the trail
© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday Bach - Third Sunday After Easter

Upland meadow on a rainy day
Bach wrote three cantatas for Jubilate, the third Sunday after Easter. The theme for all three is the Gospel reading from John 16:16 - 23, where Jesus tells the disciples that they'll be sorrowful for a while when he leaves them, but soon enough they'll be joyful again when he returns. Of the three cantatas, BWV 103, Ihr werdet weinen und heulen (You shall weep and lament), best captures that mood of sorrow followed by joy. Here's what the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music had to say about this lovely cantata:
Bach Cantata BWV 103 dates from Bach's second year in Leipzig. As is true of so many cantatas from that period, the work is heavily weighted to the remarkable and profound opening chorus. The simultaneous weeping and rejoicing that is the basis of the text is something that music can do better than words. The mournful chromatic lines of the chorus are punctuated by the laughing, almost cackling, arpeggios of the piccolo. Almost imperceptibly the harshness of the chromaticism and the laughing arpeggios join forces to make, by the end of the movement, a euphonious whole. The gracious alto aria with flute softens much of the harshness of the message of the opening chorus. The triumphant tenor aria with obbligato trumpet announces a sea change in the character of the cantata. The final chorale harmonization of "Was mein Gott will, dass g'scheh allzeit" announces a proper benediction.
For today's Sunday Bach I've chosen a wonderful performance by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman. Enjoy!

Photo © 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, May 01, 2017

Beltane/May Day 2017 (with May Flowers!)

Happy May Day, Joyous Beltane! Today we celebrate the start of the growing season, and also the time when young couples meet and start new lives together (that's what the Maypole is all about!). This year our April was full of showers and has produced a bumper crop of May flowers, and I found a bunch while walking along the Dykeman Walking Trail (or crawling, in some cases; these are all macro shots and I had to get flat on my belly to get some of them). So let's welcome May with a wildflower tribute.

Okay, so they're not flowers! But the April showers produced them, all the same.
Dame's Rocket
Tartarian Honeysuckle
Ground Ivy
Daisy Fleabane
Swamp Buttercup
© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sunday Bach - Second Sunday After Easter

Pennsylvania Pastorale
Today is the second Sunday after Easter, often informally called Good Shepherd Sunday because the Gospel reading for this Sunday is the famous "I am the good shepherd" passage of John 10:12 - 16. Bach wrote three cantatas for this Sunday, and my favorite of those has always been BWV 104, Du Hirte Israel, höre (Thou shepherd of Israel, hear!) of 1724. It's the most pastoral and gentle of the three, something we need more of in these tumultuous times. Here's what the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music had to say about this gentlest of cantatas:
The pastoral ideal is a significant and common occurrence in music of the Baroque. The twin concepts of the secular Arcadia and the sacred Eden not only stimulate the composer’s imagination but create a sort of nostalgic world that was a favorite of opera composers for the 17th and 18th centuries. This bucolic world doesn’t fit very well with the austere “Weltanschaung” of Lutheran Saxony. Yet several readings in the yearly lectionary summon up this important style. Obviously one is about the shepherds at Christmastime. The other spot in the church year is the so-called “Good Shepherd” Sunday. One of the most gorgeously and purely pastoral pieces is one written for that Sunday, BWV 104. This is a work that was known even before most of the cantatas were published. In the early 1800s a volume of six cantatas later to be numbered 101 through 106 appeared in Germany. These six pieces became significant in the Bach revival culminating in the 1829 performance of the St Matthew Passion by the young Felix Mendelssohn. Our cantata, BWV 104, was particularly influential upon Mendelssohn. The opening chorus is the obvious model for the chorus “He watching over Israel” in that composer’s “Elijah.” The Bach chorus is a marvel. Permeated with a beautiful and easy counterpoint, the spinning out of the fugue themes is both masterful and irresistible. Each of the three subsequent fugues is more ecstatic and passionate. 
The tenor aria continues in a pastoral vein but is darker and more colored. The chromaticism is so easy and elegant that it slips in almost unnoticed. Compound triple meter, a common characteristic of all baroque pastoral music, reappears in the lyrical bass aria. There is something more personal and dark about this aria that throws it in relief of the opening chorus. A rich harmonization of “Allein Gott in der Höh” ends the cantata.
I've chosen this beautiful performance by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman for today's Sunday Bach. Enjoy!

Photo © 2012 by A. Roy Hilbinger