Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Stumbling Into Enchantment

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." — J.R.R. Tolkien

I had an errand this morning, to pick up a refill at the pharmacy. Since that's across town, I figured I'd use the walk to assess the possibility of wandering about a bit after the pick-up. At the time it was heavily overcast, mild, and very humid; it felt, and looked, like rain was imminent. But after picking up my refill I decided to go another 100 yards up the road to where it crossed Burd Run to see how the creek looked. And on the way I discovered a path that ran beside a cornfield and led directly to one of my favorite local wetlands; I'd discovered the "back door" to the Brookside Ave. wetland, leading right to the collection pond.

I haven't been to Brookside since the end of April, when I discovered that two years of frequent rain had filled the pond right to the brim of the berm around it (see the post about it here). Since then both July and August have been much drier, and the collection pond has sunk back a good bit from its previous level. What has emerged from that is something that looks like a swamp more than a pond, and a vibrant, lively swamp at that. The water level is still such that everything is well irrigated and lush, yet there's enough land above water to support a thriving plant and animal population. For me it was beautiful, truly a land of enchantment.

The quality of light this morning added to that sense of enchantment, and was perfect for photography. The heavy overcast made the colors more vibrant, and I had little to do in processing on the computer  - just cropping and a little lightening of the darker shadows. So what you see in the following photos is pretty much as I saw it with the naked eye walking there this morning.

See, this is why I always carry my camera with me whenever I go out the door. You never know what will happen once you step out on the street, even on the simplest errand. Bilbo's warning to Frodo, quoted at the top of this post, is true!

© 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, August 26, 2019

A Hint of Autumn

It's still Summer, and I'm sure there's more hot weather coming, but since Friday we've been experiencing a hint of the coming Fall - much cooler and drier air. And what a pleasure it is to walk around in it. Dykeman Park certainly perked up, although the insects were a bit slow moving after the cool overnight and morning. Here are some scenes from this morning's walk.

An Appalachian Brown along the Dykeman Walking Trail
A drowsy Bumblebee on some Goldenrod along the trail
The old railroad trestle along the trail
A marsh boardwalk in the Dykeman Spring wetland
A Red-spotted Purple in the wetland
A view of the north duck pond
A bench along the path around the north duck pond
The view north from the top of the meadow

© 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sunday Bach - Trinity 10

Bach wrote three cantatas for the tenth Sunday after Trinity, and today I've chosen the last one he wrote for that Sunday - BWV 102, Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben! (Lord, thine eyes are looking for faith!, Leipzig 1726). The theme is the unrepentant sinner from the Gospel reading of the day, Luke 19: 41-48, and the mood of the music is both somber and reflective. Here's Brian Robins of All Music on this cantata:
Cantata No. 102 ("O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth") is a sacred cantata for the tenth Sunday after Trinity. It was first performed in Leipzig on August 25, 1726, a year that witnessed the largest number of new cantatas (twenty-three or twenty-four) composed by Bach after the intense activity of the first two cantata cycles dating from 1723/4 and 1724/5. The text is taken from a series believed to have been written by Ernst Ludwig, Duke of Saxe-Meinigen sometime before 1704, when they were set by the Duke's Kapellmeister Georg Caspar Schürman. Six other Bach cantatas are drawn from the same source. The early date of these cantata texts places them in the vanguard of the so-called "reform cantata," which introduced recitatives and arias set to free poetic texts, an important change from the Biblical texts formerly employed. The theme of Cantata No. 102 is that of the unrepentant sinner, the topic of the Gospel of the day (Luke 19:41). Like a number of Bach's cantatas, it is divided into two halves to be performed either side of the sermon. It opens with a large-scale chorus scored for SATB with an orchestral accompaniment for two oboes and strings. Employing a text taken from Jeremiah 5:3, it is in three distinct sections, linked by the return of the opening orchestral introduction at the end of each. Bach subsequently adapted the chorus as the Kyrie of the Lutheran Mass in G minor, BWV235. A bass recitative leads to the first aria for alto accompanied only by solo oboe and continuo, another movement later adapted by Bach, this time for the "Qui tollis" section of the Mass in F major, BWV233. The first part of the cantata ends with an arioso for bass based on words form Romans 2:4-5, "Despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance?" the da capo structure enabling the question to be repeated at the end and lead straight into the sermon, an example of the close integration between cantata (which might be viewed as a musical sermon) and spoken sermon. The latter part of the cantata is brief, consisting of only a tenor aria accompanied by solo flute, an accompanied recitative for alto (with two oboes) and a chorale based on a Lenten hymn which underlines the stern message of the cantata--"Today livest thou, today convert thyself, before tomorrow comes." Few of Bach's cantatas were published during his lifetime. Cantata No. 102 was one of a group of three (No's 101 - 103) published in 1830, the first to appear in print after Bach's death, thus playing an important role in the nineteenth-century revival of his music. 
Today's performance is from a recording by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman. Enjoy!

Photo © 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Keeping Cool by the Creek

I'm off again today, and it's a typically hot and humid August day, so what better way to deal with it than to visit the shady spots along Branch Creek as it winds through town. I hope this cools you off as much as it did me!

Looking south on the King Street bridge by McLean House
Looking north from the same bridge, by the public library
Looking south at a spot next to the police station
Looking north from the same spot
Looking south from the gravel bar by the municipal park's playground
Looking north from the little concrete bridge behind the former Hoffman Mills
© 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, August 18, 2019

A Sunday Walk in the Park

My work schedule has been all jumbled up due to new hires and continuing associates starting back to school, so at least for this week I have Sunday off once again. And we're in the midst of another blast of heat and humidity, making walking outdoors an uncomfortable proposition at best. But as long as I have free time and my camera, nothing will keep me indoors on my day off. So here are some scenes from this week's walk in the park.

A Monarch on a Milkweed pod
Boneset along the Dykeman Walking Trail
Part of the path around the north duck pond
Meanwhile, up on the meadow, my friend Wade is getting the second haying of the season done
I found this impromptu little bouquet of Daisy Fleabane near the eastern end of the meadow
High humidity + a hot August sun = castles in the sky

© 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday Bach - Trinity 9

Today's Bach cantata is a real treat! Of the three cantatas he wrote for the ninth Sunday after Trinity, this one is considered one of Bach's great masterpieces - BWV 105, Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht mit deinem Knecht (Lord, do not pass judgement on your servant, Leipzig 1723). The theme of this cantata is redemption; the opening chorus is a setting of the second verse of Psalm 143 (Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.) and goes on to examine the parable of the unjust servant, Luke 16: 1-9. The music follows the mood of the text very dramatically. Here's what musicologist Simon Crouch had to say about this marvelous work:
There are two essays concerning Cantata 105 in Robert Marshall's collection of essays The Music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The first The Autograph score of Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht describes what we can deduce from the autograph about Bach's composing practice and the second The Genesis of an Aria Ritornello attempts to "get inside the composers head" while he's composing the first aria Wie zittern und wanken. They both make for fascinating reading. The most astonishing deduction is that of the speed with which Bach was able to compose this masterpiece. Marshall's analysis suggests that the score was completed within two or three days!

Masterpiece it is. This is one of those "perfect" cantatas where there is a wonderful text exactly allied with excellent music. The mood is contemplative and reflective, meditating on the meaning of Christian faith. The opening chorus is a prelude and fugue, taking as text the second verse of psalm 143. The first sentence is accompanied by a sighing, lamenting theme and the second sentence is a magnificent choral fugue. I would love to sing this one! The first aria, which follows a recitative, is beautifully balanced over a trembling viola/violin line: How tremble and waver the sinners' thoughts, while they accuse one another and again dare to excuse themselves. Following a lovely bass arioso, there is a change of mood in the driving, optimistic tenor aria If I can only make a friend of Jesus, Mammon is worth nothing to me. Even the closing chorale receives extra special attention from Bach. That's really the feeling that I'm left with, that Bach paid extra special attention when composing this cantata, inspired by an outstanding text. 

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch
Today's performance is from a recording by the Chorus and Orchestra of the Collegium Vocale of Ghent under the direction of  Philippe Herreweghe. Enjoy!

Photo © 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Monday, August 12, 2019

Up Close

This week's walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park was full of butterflies and late Summer flowers, so the camera moved in for some up close and personal shots this morning.

A Black Swallowtail in the Joe Pye Weed by Gum Run
Dogwood berries along the Dykeman Walking Trail
The Spotted Jewelweed is blooming in the wetland
New York Ironweed in the wetland
A Tiger Swallowtail on Spotted Knapweed by the north duck pond
A Variegated Fritillary enjoying the Red Clover up on the meadow
© 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sunday Bach - Trinity 8

Bach wrote three cantatas for the eighth Sunday after Trinity, and today I've chosen his first one - BWV 136, Erforsche mich, Gott, und erfahre mein Herz (Search me, God, and learn my heart; Leipzig 1723). Today it's sunny and mild here in Central PA, and this cantata matches that sunny mood perfectly. You'll definitely dance through this one! Here's the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music on this cantata:
The subtle and marvelously colored chorus that begins the cantata is typical of the extreme care that Bach took with his texts. The two operative words here are "erforsche" (to examine) and "prüfe" (to prove). The beautifully meandering wind and string lines literally examine the harmony of the opening. The passionate and beautiful syncopated chords on the words "to prove" are the logical result and extension of that examination. The extremely high and exotic horn writing adds to the otherworldly beauty of the movement. It is not the celebratory or commemorative, ‘trumpets and drums’ sort of festive proclamation, rather an open, carefree, perhaps almost teasing invitation----come, search me and know my innermost thoughts.

The tenor recitative, essentially a rant against hypocrisy, is so laden with metaphor that it can be confusing to read on the page. However, Bach’s two part structure makes it very clear. The alto aria with oboe d’amore is so spare it at times sounds as if there is a part missing. The cool, walking bass becomes almost hypnotic and the aria, as the central movement of the cantata, turns out to be a frightening picture of the last judgment when sentence shall be passed and hypocrisy will tremble and be destroyed under His zeal. The aria is unusually constructed, a presto middle section portraying the enthusiastic destruction of guile enclosed by more measured and sober outer sections.

The bass recitative ushers in the main theme of the cantata to beware of false prophets. The bass and tenor voices combined with the manic, insistent violins create a vivid and frightening portrait of those false prophets. The repetitive wailing of the voices about the fall of Adam is haunting and in the end amazingly ambiguous in its tone. A harmonization of Wo soll ich fliehen hin with the first violins playing an obbligato fifth voice ends the work grandly.

© Craig Smith, with additions by Ryan Turner 
This week's performance is from a recording by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman. Enjoy!

Photo © 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

A Walk on the Rail Trail

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” — John Muir

I haven't been up on the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail in a while, so I decided to take a short walk up to Duncan Rd. and back today. The weather ended up being the central theme of this photo shoot; when I started out the weather was warm and humid, and the sky was a clear, if a bit hazy, blue, but after a little over an hour the cumulonimbus towers were starting to build up over the mountains to the north, and by the time I'd hit Duncan Rd. and turned back it was getting threatening looking and rumbles of thunder would erupt from time to time. I stayed dry, and it never did rain here, but I suspect Newburg and parts north of the Turnpike got a good storm.

There was also some disappointment in today's walk. There's a farm on Duncan Rd. by the Rail Trail owned by a Mennonite family named Sensenig, and they've always had a little shop in the driveway selling fresh produce and eggs from the farm. Well, it looks like they're not running the stand any more; the sign that was always on the road at the end of the driveway isn't there any more, and the little shed they used as a store looked lamentably empty. I had gone up there mostly to see what I could pick up, and hopefully some fresh peaches. Oh well... I did get some shots of two roosters who were definitely full of themselves, strutting around and crowing and just generally announcing to the world what fine fellows they were. In any case, here are some shots from today's walk on the Rail Trail.

Walking on the Rail Trail
One of the farms along the trail, showing the clouds building up
The cumulonimbus clouds continue to build up over a corn field
Two very conceited, and LOUD, roosters on Sensenig's farm, lords of all they survey
A storm approaches
Heading for home on the Rail Trail
© 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, August 05, 2019

Sacred World

The world is sacred.
It can't be improved.
If you tamper with it, you'll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you'll lose it.
Tao Te Ching #29, Stephen Mitchell translation

 This week's walk in the park was truly inspirational; the greenery was lush, the flowers prolific, and the wildlife teeming. As with last week, the butterflies were especially active, and were even willing to sit still for portraits. Well, most of the time, anyway. In any case, today's walk was truly a pilgrimage in a sacred space. 

Entering the park by the Dykeman WalkingTrail
The old wooden railroad trestle on the trail
A Dwarf Bumblebee and an Ailanthus Webworm Moth visiting some Joe Pye Weed
A Painted Turtle sunning on a rock in the north duck pond
Some juvenile Mallards taking a lunchtime nap on the north duck pond
A Red-spotted Purple butterfly up in the meadow
Wade has started the second haying this week. Here's hoping the rain holds off!
© 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Sunday Bach - Trinity 7

Bach wrote several cantatas for the seventh Sunday after Trinity, and this year I've chosen his first one - BWV 186, Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht (Fret not, o soul, Leipzig 1723). It was originally written in Weimar in 1716 for the third Sunday in Advent, but after getting the job in Leipzig and learning that the powers-that-be in that town had banned concerted music during Advent, he expanded and repurposed the cantata for the post-Trinity Ordinary Time season. Here's the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music on this cantata:
Cantata BWV 186 is one of the most seldom heard of all the cantatas. It has a curious history. It first was written in Weimar for the third Sunday of Advent. When Bach moved to Leipzig, which has no concerted music in the last three Sundays of Advent, he added five movements to make it suitable for the 7th Sunday after Trinity.

It begins with a striking chorus, not unlike the Schütz “Saul” in harmony. The word “Ärgre,” which means “to vex,” is the operative affect. After a recitative, the bass sings a rolling and energetic aria with continuo. In the Weimar version, the tenor aria which follows has viola obbligato. The Leipzig version writes the line up an octave and sets it for violins and oboe. It strikes me as one of Bach’s few mistakes. The viola version is dusky and atmospheric and altogether more suited to the text. The concerted setting of the great chorale “Es is das Heil” is unusual, ambiguous and altogether different than any of his other versions of the tune. The second half begins with a large accompanied recitative for bass. The soprano aria is one of his great arias, remarkable for both its chromatic and tortured harmony and expressive intensity. The final duet with soprano and alto is entirely different, a sophisticated and energetic jig which builds up a enormous head of steam. The same odd setting of “Es ist das Heil” closes this ambitious and impressive cantata.

© Craig Smith
Today's performance is from a recording by the Monterverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists under the direction of John Eliot Gardiner. Enjoy!

 Photo © 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger