As Labor Day approaches, I am thinking about the work I do, and how grateful I am to be able to write, to do creative work. Not everyone has the luxury of following their artistic passions. Although I hate to call such pursuit a luxury — creative persons usually give up many luxuries in order to pursue their art and craft.
I think of my own artistic pursuits in terms of vocation. I’m a person of faith, so to me vocation means I use a God-given gift for a purpose greater than myself. Does that sound high-falutin’? In practice it’s anything but. In practice it involves a lot of hours at a laptop and way too many cups of coffee.
I sometimes wonder how other artists feel about what they do. For instance, I wanted to tell you about a musician I heard when we were in Norway. Doug and I were near the Bergen harbor on a number of days and, each time, we enjoyed hearing a particular busker. He had a one-man-band setup, and a bicycle with a trailer to haul it around. I snapped a picture. How could I resist someone who was so obviously living his dream?
We sat in the cosy balcony of the historic church, surrounded by children with their parents. In front of us a brother and sister got on their knees and used the balcony’s ledge to fill out their children’s bulletins. Beside me a boy of about 12 never stopped reading a thick book, except to lift his head when the choir sang a resounding “Alleluia” and the strings of the chamber orchestra struck heavenly chords. And squarely in my line of vision sat a young teenage girl with her dad, the girl’s head tilted onto his shoulder, and his head tilted onto hers, so the two heads formed a diamond.
For unto us a child is born. A son is given.
I was surprised. When I attended Calvin there was no dancing allowed on campus. During the late 1970s students gathered in darkened dorm basements at covert “parties with music” to bounce rhythmically and hope no dean showed up to bust us.
Last night I saw an honest-to-goodness rock band, complete with bouncers, in a building next door to my old dorm (Yes, Noordewier). The experience was fun, if a little disorienting. (Is rock music no longer considered a sin?) [Read more…] about The National: Rocking Out at Calvin
Last night Doug and I heard a band called Enter the Haggis at the Wolftrap Barns. We had never heard of them before, but we like to get to the Barns at least once every winter. I read this description and decided to bite:
- Mastering a wide range of instruments from fiddle, accordion, whistles, and ukulele, Enter The Haggis’s diverse instrumentalists include Trevor Lewington, Brian Buchanan, Craig Downie, Mark Abraham, and Bruce McCarthy.
- “Rock, fusion, bluegrass, traditional Celtic fare, agitpop, folk, even Latin flavors. Sounds awfully confused, right? Wrong. Enter The Haggis is one of those rare jewels that actually pulls it all off.”—Celtic Radio
You gotta love a band that includes a bagpiper, right? They’re Canadian and have been playing for close to 20 years. I’ll post the setlist and embed two videos of songs we enjoyed. The first is Let Me Go. The second is One Last Drink/You Can Call Me Al (that one has the bagpipes and involves drinking, of course.) Enjoy!
Year of the Rat
Can’t Trust the News
Down the Line
To the Quick
One Last Drink / You Can Call Me Al
The Litter and the Leaves
The Basket or the Blade
Let Me Go
Maggie’s Pancake Mix
Street Spirit (Fade Out) (Radiohead cover)
White Squall (Stan Rogers cover)
Up in Lights
Down With the Ship
Today was the first Sunday after Christmas.
You may know it by its technical name: “Supply Preacher Sunday.” Since I’m currently not serving a church, I was happy to supply preach for a friend.
At his church, it’s a tradition to ring bells to accompany the hymn-singing on this particular Sunday. He had warned me, so I brought along an old school bell that sits on the shelf in my study. The ushers passed baskets of sleigh-type bells.
When I asked people where the tradition came from, or what it meant, nobody knew. (Which proves that it’s a tradition, right? Churches abound with these.)
“I heard the bells on Christmas day?” one woman suggested, tentatively, humming.
“Their old familiar carols play,” we, ahem, chimed in.
Bell-ringing was a fun tradition. We did “On this Day Earth Shall Ring” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain.” I can think of many Christmas songs which would sound great with bells. And yes, Christmastide is just beginning, isn’t it? The church begins its Christmas music as the rest of the world moves on to “Auld Lang Syne.”
I’ll tell you what: I enjoyed the ringing more than I anticipated. Ring soft, or ring loud. Ring in rhythm, or in syncopation. Ring on the verses, or only on the refrains.
I noticed three pre-teens in the front row who were taking their cue from me, so I rang with gusto, which of course made it more fun. Things are always more fun when you do them with gusto. It made a joyful sound on a dreary rainy day when the Christmas cookies have turned to crumbs. Jesus is still here!
What traditions does your church celebrate during this post-holiday season? Does this one ring a bell?