Thursday, August 30, 2018

Following Burd Run on Fogelsonger Road

I was planning on a leisurely ramble on the Rail Trail this morning, but when I crossed the footbridge over Fogelsonger Rd. I realized I hadn't visited the lower reaches of Burd Run since the wet Summer had it running full again. So I got off the trail and walked down Fogelsonger Road into the heart of Central Pennsylvania farm country.

It was a good day for a hike, sunny with a deep blue sky and puffy clouds, and although it was humid enough to have my shirt fairly wet with sweat by the time I got home, it wasn't nearly as oppressive as it's been earlier this week. So come walk down Fogelsonger Rd. with me and enjoy the Summer day!

The bridge over Burd Run at the picnic pavilion in Shippensburg University
The barn at the big curve on Fogelsonger Rd. 
A farm further up the road
The perfect Summer day in the rolling fields of Central Pennsylvania
A springhouse on Burd Run
Cows cooling off in Burd Run
© 2018 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Late Summer Sunday Walk

After a brief stretch of drier, more moderate weather, we're heading back into the heat and humidity. The day started out mild, but you could feel the humidity building in the air by noon. Still, it was bearable. And there were things to see: a Great Blue Heron fishing in Branch Creek by the King St. bridge; Monarch butterflies everywhere; ditto ducks at the main duck pond in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park; and Wade Asper up on the meadow baling the hay he'd already cut earlier in the week.

Great Blue Heron at King Street
A Monarch butterfly in the Dykeman Spring wetland
A pair of black Indian Runner ducks, a domestic breed
Wade in full baling mode, hoping to beat the storms
© 2018 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday Bach - Trinity 13

Bach wrote three cantatas for the 13th Sunday after Trinity. Today we'll listen to the one with the most interesting history, BWV 164, Ihr, die ihr euch von Christo nennet (You, who call yourselves of Christ, Leipzig 1725). Although this solo cantata was first performed in Bach's third year in Leipzig, it was written much earlier in his career in Weimar; unfortunately it was never performed there because of the death of the young prince Johann Ernst and the mourning period which silenced all music. Thankfully Bach brought it out in public eventually! It has all the characteristics of his Weimar work - simplicity in both style and scoring (due to the access to a smaller group of musicians than he would later have in Leipzig), and a libretto by the poet Salomo Franck. Here's the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music on this cantata:
Perhaps the greatest achievement in Bach’s first year in Leipzig is the monumental chorus that begins the Cantata BWV 77. There has perhaps never been such a profound reaction to the parable of the Good Samaritan in all of art. About ten years before the composition of this work, Bach wrote an altogether more personal and modest reaction to this parable. The work was written in Weimar during a period when Bach was expected to provide service music once a month for the court chapel. The resulting work, BWV 164, was never performed in Weimar, because soon after its conception a period of mourning and thus silence was declared for the tragic death of the young Prince Johann Ernst, who was also one of Bach’s favorite pupils. 
The work was finally first performed in Bach’s third year at Leipzig. Bach never had a better librettist than his Weimar poet Salomo Franck. In our cantata today, Franck builds a series of touching and skillful metaphors: the pair of hands, wringing and open to help the victim; the weeping eyes, both hypocritical and real; and the heart, hard as stone or full of compassion. The work begins with a melancholy, rolling tenor aria with strings, reflecting Christ’s sadness at the hypocrisy of the professed Christian. The following bass recitative is tougher in tone and unforgiving in its judgment upon the priest and the Levite. 
Bach portrays the mercy of the Samaritan in the alto aria with gorgeous flutes, which are like a balm after the austerity of the continuo recitative. Bach then brings back not only the tenor voice but the strings as well, in a melting and forgiving texture in the accompanied recitative. The following duet for soprano and bas is a surprise. Mercy and forgiveness are usually portrayed in music with quiet and soft-edged music. Here the quicksilver music of all the treble instruments, often in canon with the bass instruments, creates a rapier lively texture. Notice how the close canons between the top and bottom instruments sound like the two open hands moving symmetrically. While it is true that the extraordinary grand design of the Cantata BWV 77 might have been beyond Bach in this Weimar period of his career, there is a personal warmth and connection to the text that is truly heart-warming in this lovely piece. 
© Craig Smith
The Gospel text that all three of Bach's cantatas for the 13th Sunday after Trinity are based on is the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke, and this particular cantata scolds those who passed by the injured man, and by implication the Christians of Bach's day, for their unloving and hard-hearted response to the man's need. By the end of the work Bach and Franck extoll the loving heart and soul of the true Christian, not only in word but also in the music. I rarely let my political views bleed over into these Sunday Bach posts, but in light of the fact that a certain segment of today's Christian community seems to be emulating the actions of the priest and the Levite in their use of their religion to excuse their hard-heartedness, I thought it appropriate to point out Franck's first verse of the work:
You, who call yourselves of Christ,
where is your mercy,
by which one recognizes Christ's members?
It is, alas, all too far from you.
Your hearts should be rich with love,
yet they are harder than a stone.
It seems that Bach's work still has some relevance in these times!

Today's performance is from a recording by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman. Enjoy!

Photo © 2018 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

A Damp Sunday Walk

It rained yesterday and last night, and apparently rained early this morning, and then started raining as I headed home later. Nothing very heavy, just a heavy drizzle/mist that didn't require either a raincoat or an umbrella. It got me damp, but not soaked. And this showed in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park during my walk this morning - things were a little damp. 

A few treats during the walk, though. While walking in the wooded part of the wetland I spooked a young Barred Owl, who made quite a noise crashing through the branches to get away from me. It paused for a bit on a branch, which was when I got the one shot below. It was clacking its beak the whole time, which is universal Owl for "I am very unhappy and wish you would go away!" So I did after just one shot. There was also an Appalachian Brown butterfly in the wetland as well. And up on the meadow the patches of Red Clover were attracting a lot of insect attention, including the Cabbage White butterfly I managed to get a good shot of. Come take a look!

Virgin's Bower, in the Clematis family, grows throughout the wetland
Here's the young Barred Owl being very unhappy with me
An Appalachian Brown butterfly in the wetland
The new bridge has weathered enough to blend into the scenery now 
A Cabbage White butterfly up on the meadow
© 2018 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday Bach - Trinity 12

Bring out the shining Bach trumpets and tympani for a festive fanfare! The 12th Sunday after Trinity in 18th century Leipzig was also the celebration of the election of the town council, so it was party time, Baroque style. Bach wrote three cantatas for this Sunday, and this is the middle one, and by far one of his most festive - Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren (Praise the Lord, the mighty king of honor, Leipzig 1725). This is a chorale cantata, consisting of variations on the hymn Lobe den Herren, each variation being a transformation of the basic melody in varying keys, creating one of Bach's more "modern" works. Here's the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music on this piece:
Bach’s ability to stand back from the level of depth that he regularly pursued in his cantata writing and compose a perfectly good occasional piece has already been noted. The work written for the celebration of the election of the town council sets the perfect tone for such a public event. The set of chorale variations, and that is what the cantata BWV 137, “Lobe den Herren” is, is in its own right a perfect piece, and in one respect the most modern set of variations that Bach ever composed. Bach’s most famous variations, the Goldbergs and the “Vom Himmel hoch” variations, remain for the most part in their tonic keys. Even the 30 variations of the Goldbergs are almost exclusively in G with a very occasional foray into G minor or the relative E minor. “Vom Himmel hoch” never varies from C Major. This bothered Stravinsky so much that in his resourceful and ingenious orchestration of the piece he transposed several of the variations to give the piece more tonal variety. In our cantata no such imagined problem exists, the tonality of the five movements is skillfully varied in a way that is very pleasing to modern tastes. C major, G major, E minor, A minor (with the chorale in C), and C major. The celebration of the election and its adjacent Sunday, the twelfth after Trinity, is an event of generalized emotion. Even the miracle used for the Gospel reading of that Sunday, the curing of the deaf and dumb man, is without much point or specific theological significance. Bach chooses for this cantata a great tune, “Lobe den Herren.” It is a simple melody in four phrases. The first two are identical, the third moves to the dominant and the fourth, slightly shorter than the other three rises, triumphantly back to the tonic. The most striking feature of the melody is the big leap of a fifth in the beginning of the opening phrase. This trait is, in one way or another, reflected in each of the five movements.

The first chorus, scored for 3 trumpets, tympani as well as the usual oboes and strings, begins with a marvelous jaunty melody. The leap of the sixth in the second bar is clearly inspired by the big leap in the chorale tune, and becomes one of the signal features of the chorus. The catchy syncopated figure in the first bar generates a rhythmic drive the carries us through the whole movement. The chorus enters imitatively in the lower three voices in a melody based upon the opening. The leap of a sixth is charmingly awkward when sung and has an appealing yodeling sound. The third phrase of the chorale is sung in a block-like style, the fourth returns to imitation and provides a perfect tonal return to the opening idea. 
The 2nd verse is an alto aria with violin obbligato. The chorale appears almost unadorned in the voice while the violin plays sweet and lyrical figurations, still influence by the melody. The leap of the sixth in the first bar refers unmistakably back to the first movement. This is one of the chorale movements that Bach chose to arrange for organ and publish in his Schübler Chorales. 
The duet #3 for two oboes, soprano and bass goes deepest of any movement in the cantata. The oboes and voices, in pairs, always enter in canon with each other. Unlike the tour de force of the duet in Cantata BWV 9, the canon breaks down part of the way throughout the passage. There is a sense of complexity and depth that the previous two movements do not have. Bach varies the first and second phrases, something that has not happened in the first two movements, by having a different voice lead the canon. What is perhaps most distinctive in the movement is that the last two phrases are repeated, giving the movement a kind of symmetry that none of the others has. It is interesting that this is the only passage in the whole chorale text that has any darkness to it “In wieviel Not, Hat nicht der gnädige Gott, Über der Flügel gebreitet!” 
The tenor aria with continuo is wonderful display of tonal control. The piece is firmly in a minor but the chorale played on the trumpet is in C. It begins with one of Bach’s great “whiplash” motoric figures. Obviously the big leaps relate to the opening. The wonderful slurred scale passages go up and down in no particular order giving the movement terrific energy. The tenor part acts like a prelude to the dazzling entrance of the trumpet on the unadorned chorale. There is a marvelous tension between the tonality of the aria and the tonality of the chorale. One example is with the last chorale entrance. The C major scale of the trumpet is wonderfully under cut by the A minor scale of the voice part. The chorale is not even allowed to cadence in C major, but the action is propelled through the long-delayed (12 bar) vocal cadence in a minor. The seven -voice setting of the final chorale, with independent trumpet parts brings the piece to a triumphant conclusion. 
© Craig Smith
Today's performance is by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman. Celebrate and enjoy!

Photo © 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Out Walking

Two subjects that caught my eye while out walking this morning. I had intended to do a photo shoot in the Burd Run riparian restoration project park, but the place is still trashed from all the flooding earlier, and some of my favorite places to photograph there are still under water or are still so soggy as to be impassable. If I had worn my high rubber boots I might have attempted it, but mink-oiled leather work boots weren't gonna make it in that mess! Meanwhile, two shots of interest.

A patch of Jerusalem Artichoke along Britton Rd.
A tangles web of vines along the Rail Trail
© 2018 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

This Week's Sunday Walk in the Park

It's still very humid, and five minutes' walking will have your shirt totally soaked. But still we walk! There was plenty to see in spite of all that, including a young bunny trying to hide in the tall grass, ducks on the duck pond, more late Summer flowers blooming, and some pretty dramatic skies. Come see!

A young Eastern Cottontail eyeing me warily from the shelter of tall grass
Moth Mullein along the Dykeman Walking Trail
You can tell it's August - the Monarchs reign supreme in the park
And the Spotted Knapweed is blooming
A north duck pond scene
A Clouded Sulphur on Red Clover up on the meadow
Following the hay-cart track home 
Drama in the sky from the top of the meadow
© 2018 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday Bach - Trinity 11

Bach wrote three cantatas for the eleventh Sunday after Trinity, and this year I've chosen his first one written for this Sunday in his new job as kapellmeister in Leipzig - BWV 179, Siehe zu, daß deine Gottesfurcht nicht Heuchelei sei (See to it that thy fear of God be not hypocrisy, Leipzig 1723). This is a marvelous work, with Bach showing off for his new bosses, with both nods to the past and indications of what's to come in the future. Here's the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music on this beautiful piece:
The striking humility of Paul in the 15th chapter of his letter to the Corinthians, and Jesus’ promise that the humble will be exalted and that the mighty will be laid low, give this cantata a ferocious rejection of pomposity and of self-righteousness. The marvelous motet-style movement that begins Cantata BWV 179 calls for only string doubling of the voice parts. The first line of text warns of hypocrisy; the second warns not to serve God with a false heart. Hypocrisy is portrayed in a tantalizing colorful manner, warm and tempting. The “false heart” is chromatic and harrowing. There is an inner, complex emotional life to this movement that goes beyond the words. Certainly the various musical and verbal combinations give the piece a dramatic trajectory that cannot be seen by a mere reading of the text. For instance, the restatement of the theme against the “false heart” bass, leading down to a frankly thrilling dominant pedal point, gives the piece a thrust and passionate surge not found in the biblical ideas. One must quickly say that Bach’s arrangement of this music as the Kyrie of his G major mass is no more specifically suited to the words. The situation is reminiscent of certain Brahms songs where the words seem to be a jumping-off point for the composer’s considerable fantasy, rather than organic to the musical form and content. 
The tenor secco recitative has a kind of heightened emotion and hysterical quality that both sets up the aria and relates tot he thunderous Lutheranism of the text. The orchestral introduction to the aria has two main motives: a slashing appoggiatura figure that appears in four sequences and a more sedate, almost monotonous, figure that has the effect of moderating the opening. It is curious that the voice only takes up the first idea. The second appears only in the opening and closing passages of the orchestra. Again, once senses a hidden, purely musical agenda. The aria is full of wonderful things. Notice the sweet, almost saccharine, turn to the major at the “outward fairness” of the hypocrites, music as unctuous as Ted Haggart’s smile. For all of its power the aria is quite short, almost condensed in its feeling. 
The secco bass recitative turns the attention from the hypocrite to the tax collector. The two major ideas of the text, the example of the tax collector and the assurance that we too will be forgiven, are skillfully set out with similarly active continuo cadential figures. What can read like a jumble on the page becomes here very clear. 
Up to this point, the cantata has been a collection of marvelous but rather confusing music, highly characterized but mysterious. The soprano aria is so direct and deeply felt that it sweeps away all doubts. Two dark and burnished oboes da caccia (here played by English Horns) play, mostly in tight overlapping sequences, figures fraught with suspensions and harrowing harmonic turns. The beginning tutti is one of the most exotic and gorgeous things in all of Bach; but it is also specifically suited to the anguished outcries of the soprano begging for forgiveness. The whole aria is dominated by the downward motion of the beginning lines. That motion not only illustrates the extreme contrition of the text but specifically the last line “I sink into the deep slime.” Up to this point in the cantata the text has moved along quite quickly, in the aria, chorus and also the recitatives. Here there is a slow-motion quality to both the declamation and the musical ideas. There is a kind of grandeur to the stately sequences at the words “My sins sicken me.” What was condensed, almost epigrammatic in the tenor aria and the chorus becomes here broad and expressive. 
The setting of the chorale, “Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten” is unusually rich. The inner voice writing is as detailed and independent as almost any in all of the cantata chorales. Particularly, the appearance of the two-sixteenth plus eighth figure in the alto at the beginning and in the tenor at the beginning of the Abgesang functions almost like a leitmotif. This technique is particularly appropriate to the density of meaning of the whole cantata.

© Craig Smith
Today's performance is a special treat, part of a performance on BBC from St. David's Cathedral in Wales by Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducting the English Baroque Orchestra and the Monteverdi Choir. Enjoy!

Photo © 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Monday, August 06, 2018

More Wings

After finding all those butterflies in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park yesterday, I decided to head over to the Burd Run wetland at Brookside Ave. today, which is usually a treasure trove of butterflies. Well... There were lots of Cabbage Whites, but not much else as far as butterflies go. But there was a plethora of dragonflies there today. It was tough getting shots of them because they rarely sit still for long (except for the Ebony Jewelwing we start out with; they can usually be found perched next to water), but some were obliging enough for me to get some decent shots. Not the Eight-spotted Skimmer I followed around for close to 20 minutes; I just couldn't get that brat into focus! Oh well... Meanwhile, I did manage to get some decent shots of other critters. 

An Ebony Jewelwing damselfly hanging out by one of the wetland's many streamlets
A Cabbage White butterfly on Goldenrod
A Blue Dasher dragonfly balancing on the tip of a dead reed
A Common Baskettail dragonfly
© 2018 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, August 05, 2018

The Butterflies of August

After an odder-than-usual Summer thus far, August is turning out to be the usual August. It's hot, hazy, and humid, piling up the cumulonimbus clouds over the mountains and threatening thunderstorms in the afternoon. Not that those will cool things off; the ground is hot and all the rain will do is make things even steamier. But what this atmosphere does more than anything else is push out the late Summer flowers, and the butterfly population explodes. The Joe Pye bushes in the wetland and the Red Clover and Queen Anne's Lace in the meadow has attracted a cloud of butterflies to the Dykeman Spring Nature Park - the usual Cabbage Whites, Clouded Sulphurs, and Silver-Spotted Skippers are practically swarming, and now the Swallowtails and the Monarchs have arrived on the scene as well. The air is busy with wings, and I managed to capture some with the camera on my weekly Sunday walk.

This Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was nearly as big as my hand and seemed to be enjoying the Joe Pye Weed
A Long Dash skipper butterfly was taking a breather by the side of the north duck pond
The Silver-spotted Skippers were dashing about like crazy, but this one seemed content to sit still and have its portrait taken
A Monarch up on the meadow
This Spicebush Swallowtail fluttered by me just as I was leaving the park at the east end of the meadow
© 2018 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday Bach - Trinity 10

Bach wrote three cantatas for the tenth Sunday after Trinity, and I've chosen the earliest to listen to today - BWV 46, Schauet doch und sehet, ob irgendein Schmerz sei (Look and see if there is any pain, Leipzig 1723). This is a small but magnificent cantata, and much of it was later recycled to be used in Bach's liturgical masterpiece, the Mass in B minor. Here's the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music on this magnificent cantata:
All of Bach’s cantatas for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity relate the prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem (in Luke 19: 41-48) to its first Testament antecedents, the Lamentations of Jeremiah and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Our cantata today is the most direct of the three written for that Sunday. It opens with an impressive, one might say overwhelming, setting of the familiar passage from the Lamentations of Jeremiah. Two recorders playing in thirds at the top of their range dominate the opening texture. The music for the opening was later arranged by Bach for the “Qui tollis” in the B Minor Mass. As impressive as that movement is, our version has a direct connection not only to the meaning of the text but the actual sound of the text. The slightly hooty sound of the vowels in the first word Schauet provides a haunting resonance to the string and recorder texture. The addition of the slide trumpet and the two tenor-range oboes da caccia to the texture later in the movement further increases the hollow, almost haunted quality of the movement. The second half of the chorus is taken up by a thorny and extraordinarily text-specific fugue. The theme of this fugue is one of the most harrowingly difficult, both to sing and to hear in all of Bach. Bach waits a long time before introducing the instrumental doublings in this fugue, almost as if to show that the people are alone to blame for their fate. 
The two recorders continue their same wailing lines in the accompaniment to the tenor recitative. The recitative is divided into three parts; first is the description of the destroyed city of Jerusalem. The second part makes it clear that because of our sins it would be better if our city had been razed to the ground. The third section predicts God’s vengeance. 
The stunning, stormy bass aria with trumpet and strings is one of the most dramatic things in all of Bach. Trumpet fanfares vie and play in canon with the bass voice and the repeated notes of the strings. The igniting of the lightning of vengeance is palpable in the roaring of the orchestral texture. The cracks of lightning can be heard in the precipitous stops and starts in the rhythmic continuity. 
The alto recitative personalized the threat of destruction. The aria that follows is in shocking contrast to the bass aria. Recorders and the two oboes da caccia play, without a bass line, tortured and gnarly lines. The alto doesn’t so much sing as stammer her fearful part. Gradually we see and hear that the winds are a shield and protector against the devastation. The little miniature storm is like a Bonsai version of the bass aria. The recorders continue their wailing in the extraordinary harmonization of “O großer Gott von Treu” which ends the cantata. While there is some sense of resolution in the alto aria, this gesture makes it clear that the sense of lamentation continues to permeate the whole work. 
© Craig Smith
Today's performance is by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman. Enjoy!

Photo © 2013 by A. Roy Hilbinger