Best of 2009

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

Lots to chose from and most of it from living composers who create outside the tedious and ugly world of the conservatory. Proving that the future of music is really in the hands of those who care about originality and beauty rather than residing in the clammy claws of the sterile academics.

CD of the Year

Phil Kline: John the Revelator
Lionheart; Ethel
(Cantaloupe Music)
I can’t say enough about John the Revelator. Phil Kline has created a work whose stark beauty connects on so many levels. You’d have to be made of stone not to feel this one.

John Adams: Dr. Atomic Symphony
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
David Robertson, conductor
A strange and beautiful world of orchestral color and rampaging rhythms.

Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 1

Budapest Festival Orchestra
Ivan Fischer, conductor
(Channel Classics)
Big-boned, heroic Brahms that rivals my favorite recordings by Otto Klemperer and Istvan Kertesz. Speaking of Kertesz, I wish the corporate troglodytes at Universal would get a clue and reissue his Decca recordings.

Michael Daugherty: Fire and Blood
Ida Kavafian, violin; The Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Jarvi, conductor
Daugherty’s Fire and Blood concerto has balls and Kavafian delivers a brilliantly muscular performance. Daugherty’s music is disliked by the pasty-faced academics–“it’s glib and filled with cheap effects”–they shriek. All the more reason to love his music. Check out the recording of his Metropolis Symphony too.

Gabriel Jackson: Not No Faceless Angel
Stephen Layton, director
Jackson grabbed some deserved acclaim with “The Christ Child Sat On Mary’s Lap,” the carol commissioned for the 2009 Festival of Lessons and Carols at Kings College, Cambridge. This sublime CD is an ideal introduction to his music.

Rued Langgaard: Messis
Flemming Dreisig, organ
An organ work that clocks in at over 2 hours? Yes please! Langgaard’s music is hyper-Romantic and Dreisig is a superb organist. It’s been quite a Langgaard year with Dacapo releasing a boxed set of the quirky Dane’s complete symphonies.

James Macmillan: St. John Passion
Christopher Maltman, baritone
London Symphony Chorus and Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis, conductor
(LSO Live)
A deeply moving and piercingly dramatic telling of the Passion story. A gorgeous performance led by the greatest living conductor.

Mahler Symphony No. 4
Miah Persson, soprano
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Ivan Fischer, conductor
(Channel Classics)
Fischer’s excellent Mahler cycle hits a high point.

Felix Mendelssohn: Complete Organ Sonatas
William Whitehead, organ
Church organists love these little gems but they are not especially well-know outside the organ loft. Whitehead plays a marvelous old instrument on this terrific recording.

Olivier Messiaen: Saint Francois d’Assise
Rodney Gilfry, baritione; Camilla Tilling, soprano; Hubert Delamboye, tenor
Netherlands Opera Chorus, Hague Philharmonic Orchestra
Ingo Metzmacher, conductor
(Opus Arte)
Pierre Audi’s hypnotic staging is remarkable and Messiaen’s score will probably never be better-served. I think they will be serving frozen margaritas in hell before this opera is ever staged in New York, so grab this DVD and prepare to be overwhelmed.

A video treat

I’m deeply in love with soprano Miah Persson, the soloist on Fischer’s Mahler 4th. Here she is singing “Come scoglio” from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte.

Happy 2010! I hope…

Unsilent Night

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 21, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

The maestro in Washington Square Park - photo by Tom Jarmusch

Looking out at the piles of gray- and black-streaked snow outside my window reminds me of how glad I am that we had Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night on December 12th when the New York weather was cold but clear! Judging from the reaction of people who participated, though, we could have held Unsilent Night on the evening Earth freezes over for eternity and people would still have been happy. Unsilent Night does that to you.

This was my first year participating in Phil Kline’s “free outdoor participatory sound sculpture of many individual parts, recorded on cassettes, CDs and mp3s, and played through a roving swarm of boomboxes carried through city streets every December.” That’s the official description of the event, but it’s much more than that. In New York it’s an 18 year-old-tradition that draws music-loving people, kids and their parents, aging hipsters, young hipster wannabes and, in some ways best of all, the curious to Washington Square Park for the opportunity to lug a boombox picked from Kline’s cache of vintage Sony and Panasonic players.

Kline's period instruments

People also dusted off their own boomboxes and queued up under the arch for one of Kline’s cassettes or CDs containing a section of his sublime score. Kline prefers Unsilent Night to be played on cassettes (the medium for which he wrote it) for the unique sound they make, so I guess playing Unsilent Night on an old Sony boombox with a cassette is a kind of historically informed performance practice; if more early music aficionados had a sense of humor, they would appreciate this.

Long-time participants know about Unsilent Night and they were out in force in New York (and Baltimore, Boulder, Los Angeles, and lots of other places—Unsilent Night is performed in 25 cities on three continents), but it’s the curious stragglers who happened upon the crowd gathered under the arch that grabbed my attention. A young couple asked me what was going on and when I told them, they raised eyebrows and gave me a somewhat skeptical, “Interesting.” They joined us for the entire walk to Tompkins Square Park and a number of times they gave me a thumbs-up sign or just smiled. They didn’t have boomboxes, but were just along for the joyous musical ride.

As we headed east on 8th Avenue, we passed so many people who had that “What the hell is going on here?” look on their faces and you could count the number of beats it took for that look to turn to a smile once they were enveloped in the music—about three beats. Same thing happened when I took the walk with Phil in Philadelphia a few days later. Big smiles.

The enduring image that I will carry with me is that of a young woman who was off by herself in Tompkins Square Park toward the end of the piece. She was short and small and had one of Phil’s boomboxes resting on her head. Her eyes were closed and she had a beatific smile as she gently swayed with the music. That’s Unsilent Night—sound beatified.

Here’s a taste of Unsilent Night New York 2009

For more information about Unsilent Night, visit


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

“… give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of Light…”

–The Collect for the First Sunday of Advent

Advent welcomes in the new Church Year and begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day and ends on Christmas Eve. The season focuses on the birth of Christ (his first Advent) and anticipates the return of Christ the King (his Second Advent). It is a time of contemplation and repentance, not merely a countdown to Christmas.

There is some brilliant music for the Advent season in the Anglican tradition. Such anthems as Thomas Weelkes’ Hosana to the Son of David, Orlando Gibbons’ This is the Record of John, William Byrd’s Vigilate and hymns like O come, O come, Emmanuel are mainstays. The responses (music featuring a celebrant or small group singing or chanting verses while the larger choir or congregation respond with a refrain) are somber and beautiful and usually are settings by Thomas Tallis or Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.

One of the best recordings of this kind of music is Advent at St. Paul’s which features the St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir under the direction of their former music director John Scott. The recording is on the Hyperion label and well worth finding. Another fine recording, Advent in Winchester, features the Winchester Cathedral Choir conducted by Andrew Lumsden, it’s available on the Griffin label. There’s also a marvelous recording on the Koch label that recreates at Advent Evensong service at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue. Evensong for Advent features The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys under the direction of their former music director, the legendary Gerre Hancock. This is the real deal with the Reverend Canon John Andrew, Rector Emeritus of Saint Thomas reciting the collects and lessons.

I usually don’t like videos without the actual performers on camera, but here’s the superb Choir of King’s College, Cambridge singing Weelkes’ Hosana to the Son of David:

This version of Gibbons’ This is the Record of John is sung by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge:


I am the day soon to be born.
I am the sprig from the root of David and the bright star of the morning.
I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Rejoice Emmanuel.

The Legend of St. Christopher; Revelation 22:16, 13


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

An Advent Procession based on the Great “O” Antiphons
The Choir of St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle
(Loft Recordings)

Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 1
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Ivan Fischer
(Channel Classics)

Alphons Diepenbrock: Orchestral Works and Songs
Residentie Orchestra The Hague
Hans Vonk

Phil Kline: Unsilent Night
(Cantaloupe Music)

Henry Purcell: Odes for St. Cecilia’s Day
Taverner Consort
Andrew Parrott
(Virgin Veritas)

Remembering the great Elisabeth Söderström

In Walked Bollani

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

Bollani Trio color

I’m crazy about Italian jazz. It could be something of an ethnic imperative, since I’m half-Italian (roots in Naples) and a distant grand-cousin to the great Flip Phillips (Joseph Edward Fillippeli, as he was baptized in Brooklyn). My jazz Italiano hunger has been fed by recordings from a trio of spectacular pianists: Stefano Bollani, Riccardo Arrighini and Stefano Battaglia, plus saxophonist Francesco Cafiso and trombonist Gianluca Petrella. That takes care of the musicians with CDs that are currently sitting on my desktop. There are also some elder statesmen, such as trumpeter Enrico Rava and pianist Enrico Pieranunzi, about whom I will say more at another time.

ECM 2080

These days a new CD called Stone in the Water on the venerable ECM record label has me breathing heavily. ECM has been good to Italian jazz and has recorded Bollani, Rava, Battaglia and multi-reed player Gianluigi Trovesi over the years. Stone in the Water has Bollani leading his “Danish Trio” with bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morton Lund. The trio has been together for nearly seven years and Stone in the Water isn’t their first CDs, but it may be their finest. (The trio released Mi ritorno in mente and Gleda, two recordings of standards and originals on Stunt Records. These are brilliant CDs that are difficult to find but worth paying the import prices when you do.)

Stone in the Water offers a eclectic selection of tunes, with originals by Bollani and Bodilsen, music by Caetano Veloso and Antonio Carlos Jobim, as well as 20th century French classical composer Francis Poulenc’s Improvisation No. 13. The trio’s chemistry is evident on every tune. At times Bollani can be as extroverted a player as any on the scene (just check out his mercurial flights of fancy with Rava and on his ECM solo record Piano), but Stone in the Water is a model of elegance, restraint and balance. Here’s a trio without an alpha figure, but rather an ensemble who are communicating in a mesmerizing way. It’s evident in the exchanges between Bollani and Bodilsen that are punctuated by Lund’s silky brushwork on the tune Edith and how all three paint a gorgeous picture in the Poulenc Improvisation. It’s not all gentle pastels though: The quirky opening of Bollani’s Il cervello del pavone leads to a peppery bass solo and some driving, spiky soloing by the pianist, reminding me in some ways of the late Jaki Byard.

Shades of the Bill Evans Trio may certainly hover nearby, but this music must be taken on its own terms—and they are very good terms indeed. This is a masterful recording that’s rich with invention and lyricism and filled with glorious interaction that results in striking textures and tone. It’s a new and thrilling kind of swinging chamber music that demands your attention.

Here’s the trio in action:

Here’s il maestro in a favorite tune:

Look! Up in the sky…

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on October 28, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

Michael Daugherty's Metropolis Symphony defends truth, justice and listenable contemporary music















Michael Daugherty
Metropolis Symphony
The Nashville Symphony Orchestra
Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor
(Naxos of America)

I continue to be blown away by Iowa-born composer Michael Daugherty. His music tells a uniquely American story and that appeals to me very much. Most recently it was a recording of his Fire and Blood, a muscular violin concerto inspired by Diego Rivera that grabbed my attention. This time it’s the antic and frantic Metropolis Symphony, an orchestral extravaganza inspired by the 1938 debut of Superman in comic books. I love the very notion of a giant orchestral work inspired by American pop culture and can almost see the sneers of Euro-snobs and the pasty-faced, self-appointed  American guardians of modern music.


Metropolis Symphony is in five movements, each one inspired by a Superman character or theme. Lex, the opening movement, is a deliriously diabolic romp for solo violin and percussion-laced orchestra that captures the manic evil of arch-baddie Lex Luthor. Here’s the smack-mouth drive that made Fire and Blood so thrilling. The solo part is played with guts by the Nashville Symphony’s Mary Kathryn Van Osdale. More subdued but equally evocative is Krypton, an eerie tone poem that opens with sirens, gongs and disturbing string glissandi. There’s more terrifying solo fiddling, snippets of what sounds like “Silent Night” and an apocalyptic finale that gives the Rite of Spring a run for its money. MXYZPTLK, the nasty imp from the fifth dimension, is a mercurial scherzo-like third movement that showcases the orchestra’s flute section. The fourth movement entitled Oh Lois! evokes the comic’s heroine alongside Clark Kent. Here’s another wildfire rave-up with a tempo marked “faster than a speeding bullet” that plays out as a delicious example of orchestral slapstick. The closing Red Cape Tango is a moving elegy that evolves into a tango-inspired dance of death with Daugherty quoting the Dies irae.


Daugherty’s Deus ex Machina for piano and orchestra, which rounds out the recording, is the composer’s take on the world of trains with each movement focusing on a train or railway. The first movement Fast Forward conjures up images of the avant-garde and displays the rhythmic firestorm that is found in many of Daugherty’s works. The second movement Train of Tears refers to the funeral train that carried Abraham Lincoln’s body through seven states. Here’s Daugherty in an elegiac mood that will remind some of Copland but there is nothing derivative here, Daugherty’s superb orchestration and emotional depth rise to the top throughout. The finale, Night Stream,  is Daugherty’s tribute to the coal-burning locomotives of the Norfolk and Western lines and here’s more of the hard-driving, blues-inflected virtuosity that make his music so thrilling.


The knuckle-busting piano part is played with breath-taking skill by Terence Wilson and the Nashville Symphony, conducted by its new music director Giancarlo Guerrero, proves once again that it is one of America’s finest orchestras. Superbly engineered and nicely packaged this is another gem from one of our finest composers.

Lester Leaps In. Again

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 19, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

Lester Bangs

I’ve been rereading Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, an anthology of reviews by Lester Bangs (Edited by Greil Marcus, Anchor Books, 2003) and came across this familiar masterpiece that anybody who cares about recorded music will relate to. For me, Bangs’ reviews in Creem were holy writ.  If you care about rock or writing you need to read him. Before the days of e-mail or blogs, I used to share this passage with  fellow vinyl junkies, they all understood. CD collectors will understand too.

“The real story is  rushing home to hear the apocalypse erupt, falling through the front door and slashing open the plastic sealing “for your protection,” taking the record out—ah, lookit them grooves, all jet black without a smudge yet, shiny and new so fucking pristine, then the color of the label, does it glow with auras that’ll make subtle comment on the sounds coming out, or is it just a flat utilitarian monochromatic surface, lie a schoolhouse wall (like RCA’s and Capitol’s after some fool revamped ‘em—an example of real artistic backwardness)? And finally you get to put the record on the turntable, it spins in limbo a perfect second, followed by the moment of truth, needle in groove, and finally sound.”

He  the speaks about the milestone  albums that “fried” his brain, “… the experience of the first few listening to record so total, so mind-twisting, that you authentically can say you’ll never be quite the same again. Black Saint and the Sinner Lady did that, and a very few others. They’re events you remember all your life, like your first real orgasm. And the whole purpose of this absurd, mechanically persistent involvement with recorded music is the pursuit of that priceless moment. So it’s not exactly that records might unhinge the mind, but rather that if anything is going to drive you up the wall it might as well be a record. Because the best music is strong and guides and cleanses and is life itself.

Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
Lester Bangs

Buy this book

Buy this book

Buy this album

Buy this album

Anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2009 by Craig Zeichner
The Battle of Lepanto by Veronese

The Battle of Lepanto by Veronese

October 7th is the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto. The Battle of Lepanto took place on October 7, 1571 when a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition comprised of Spain and its Italian territories (Sicily, Sardinia and Naples), the Republic of Venice and Genoa, the Duchy of Savoy and the Papacy defeated the Ottoman fleet off the coast of Greece. The victory prevented further Muslim incursions into Europe.

The victory took on mythic significance, many seeing it as an act of God’s will. Some interesting facts: the Spanish writer Cervantes served on one of the galleys in the Holy League fleet and the victory has been the subject of a number of works of art by such painters as Veronese, Tintoretto and Titian.

Allegory of the Battle of Lepanto by Titian

Allegory of the Battle of Lepanto by Titian

The brilliant G.K. Chesterton wrote a poem commemorating the battle:



White founts falling in the courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard,
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips,
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross,
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half-attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young.
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world,
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spain – hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.

Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri’s knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunset and the seas.
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees,
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye,
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king.

They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be;
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground, –
They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.
And he saith, “Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk may hide,
And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done,
But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces – four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not ‘Kismet’; it is he that knows not Fate;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey in the gate!
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth.”
For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
Sudden and still – hurrah!
Bolt from Iberia!
Don John of Austria
Is gone by Alcalar.

St. Michael’s on his Mountain in the sea-roads of the north
(Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.)
Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
And the sea-folk labour and the red sails lift.
He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes
And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
And Christian dreadeth Christ that bath a newer face of doom,
And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,
But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.
Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
Trumpet that sayeth ha!
Domino gloria!
Don John of Austria
Is shouting to the ships.

King Philip’s in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
(Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
The walls are hung with velvet that is black and soft as sin,
And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in.
He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very soon,
And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day,
And death is in the phial and the end of noble work,
But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
Don John’s hunting, and his hounds have bayed –
Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid.
Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah!
Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.

The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in a man’s house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plumed lions on the galleys of St. Mark;
And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
They are lost like slaves that swat, and in the skies of morning hung
The stairways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.

They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings’ horses in the granite of Babylon.
And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign –
(But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate’s sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.
Vivat Hispania!
Domino Gloria!
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!

Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
Up which a lean and foolish knight forever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade. . .


Not sure who painted this one

Not sure who painted this one


Contemporary views of the battle
An excellent article by the writer Michael Novak

Historian Robert McMullen weighs in

For those interested in naval history, there’s a fascinating blog post about one of the galleys that fought in the battle

The best book on the battle is Niccolò Capponi’s extremely detailed and exciting Victory of the West


This day should be honored by the freedom-loving West.

Don Juan of Austria, Marcantonio Colonna, Sebastiano

Don Juan of Austria, Marcantonio Colonna, Sebastiano Venier - The Victors of Lepanto


Posted in Uncategorized on October 5, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

Some of you have been asking for photos of Cannoli, our new kitten. Hard to believe he is just six months old and now weighs a hefty 8 lbs. If he continues to grow at his current rate he will probably be something akin to the size of a small bobcat or energy-efficient foreign automobile.

Cannoli then

Cannoli then (a few weeks old)

Cannoli now (a dignified pose)

Cannoli now (a dignified pose)

And because Mei Mei  is the senior feline and my only cat to have appeared on PBS

Mei Mei enjoying granny's blanket

Mei Mei enjoying granny's blanket

Saint Michael and All Angels

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on September 29, 2009 by Craig Zeichner


There was a silence in heaven as the dragon joined battle with the Archangel Michael.

A voice was heard, thousand upon thousand-fold, saying:
Salvation, honor and virtue to almighty God. Alleluia.

–Benedictus antiphon at Lauds on Michaelmas Day

The Christian calendar marks this day as the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels or, as it is commonly known, Michaelmas. I like Saint Michael, an archangel and a fierce figure. I hate what our pop culture as done with angels though, placing them somewhere between Smurfs and unicorns.

There's a unicorn grazing near here

There's a unicorn grazing near here



The first words from angels whenever they appear in the Bible was almost always, “Fear not.” You wouldn’t be terrified by a doughy little baby with cotton wings, would you?




Michaelmas is an interesting feast day and here’s an excellent essay about it from the Lectionary page

 For fans of choral music and Anglican liturgy there’s a superb recording on the Hyperion label called The Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels at Westminster Abbey. The recording takes the listener through a day of worship at the Abbey with music for Matins, the Eucharist and Evensong. Some highlights include Michael Tippett’s Plebs angelica, Richard Dering’s gorgeous Factum est silentium and the Sequence for  St. Michael by Herbert Howells.

A must-have

A must-have

You can sample bits of it and read the liner notes at the Hyperion website

Speaking of angels, here’s Claudio Monteverdi’s Duo Seraphim from his Vespro della Beata Virgine 1610

Raphael's Saint Michael

Raphael's Saint Michael