Friday, February 16, 2018

Gabriel Fauré's "ChristoPagan" Requiem

Above: The interior of Minneapolis' Orchestra Hall during the intermission
of the January 9 performance of the Minnesota Orchestra.

This time last Friday I was with my good friend Brian at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis. I was Brian's guest for the Minnesota Orchestra's February 9 concert, a definitely highlight of which was the orchestra's performance of Gabriel Fauré's Requiem, Opus 48 (concert version of 1900). Conducted by Bernard Labadie, the performance featured a four-part mixed chorus (Minnesota Chorale) with soprano and baritone vocal soloists (Helene Guimette and Philippe Sly respectively), plus orchestra comprising two flutes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, harp, organ and strings. It was quite the performance!

I also realized that as a teenager I had sang the Requiem's Sanctus in a little high school chorale group I was a part of in 1980 or '81. I recognized it immediately when I heard it last Friday night, the first time in over 35 years! Indeed, I'd never totally forgotten it and could still hum a good part of it. What I had forgotten, though, was where it was from and who wrote it. Now I know.

In the concert's excellent program notes, written by Eric Bromberger, it's noted that Faure's Requiem has been called pagan rather than Christian. This gave me a good chuckle, especially given my interest in aspects of the pagan spiritual path. Bromberger contends that those who consider the Requiem to be pagan do so because it doesn't include a description of the horrors of damnation or an admission of humanity's unworthiness. It's a fair enough contention, but in stating it Bromberger appears to make the common mistake of equating "pagan" with "non-believer," seemingly in all things sacred. To be clear: like people on other spiritual paths, those on the pagans path seek, discern, and respond to the Divine Presence. What is perhaps unique about paganism is that this path recognizes the Divine Presence in all things, though particularly in the natural world – the elements, the cycle of the seasons, and the inherent diversity of life. There is an elemental power and beauty in all of these things, a grounding power and beauty that paradoxically transcends doctrine and dogma. I hear and feel such beauty and gravitas in Faure's Requiem.

Indeed, I actually think Faure's Requiem is a wonderful reflection of the inclusive path known as "ChristoPaganism," a range of spiritualities which, as Lisa Frideborg writes "combines beliefs and practices of Christianity with those of Paganism, or observes them in parallel." (For previous Wild Reed posts that focus on this combination and these parallels, click here, here and here.)

Following, with added images and links, is Eric Bromberger's commentary on Gabriel Fauré's Requiem, Opus 48. Enjoy!

Setting the Requiem Mass for the Dead to music is a challenge which makes certain composers reveal their deepest nature, and when we hear their Requiem settings, we peer deep into their souls. From the self-conscious pageantry of the Berlioz Requiem to the lyric drama of Verdi, from the independence of Brahms (who chose his own texts to make it a distinctly German Requiem) to the anguish of Britten’s War Requiem, a setting of the Requiem text can become a spectacularly different thing in each composer’s hands.

The gentlest of settings

What most distinguishes the Requiem of Gabriel Fauré is its calm, for sure this spare and understated music is the gentlest of all settings. Where Berlioz storms the heavens with a huge orchestra and chorus, Fauré rarely raises his voice above quiet supplication. Verdi employs four brilliant soloists in an almost operatic setting, but Fauré keeps his drama quietly unobtrusive.

While Brahms shouts out the triumph of resurrection over the grave, Fauré calmly fixes his eyes on paradise. Britten is outraged by warfare, but Fauré remains at peace throughout.

Much of the serenity of Fauré’s Requiem results from his alteration of the text, for he omits the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) of the traditional text. Berlioz and Verdi evoke the shrieking horror of damnation, but Fauré ignores it – his vision of death foresees not damnation, but only salvation. While he reinserts a line from the Dies Irae in the Libera me, the effect remains one of quiet confidence in redemption. Fauré underlines this by concluding with an additional section, In Paradisum – that title reminds us of the emphasis of the entire work, and Fauré brings his music to a quiet resolution on the almost inaudible final word “requiem” (rest).

The Requiem’s evolution

The Fauré Requiem has become one of the best-loved of all liturgical works, but it took shape very slowly. The mid-1880s found Fauré [left] struggling as a composer. He had achieved modest early success with a violin sonata and piano quartet, but now, in his 40s, he remained virtually unknown as a composer. For more than 25 years he supported himself by serving as choirmaster and organist at the Madeleine, and it was during these years – particularly following the death of his father in 1885 – that Fauré began to plan his Requiem setting. He was just completing the score when his mother died on January 31, 1887. The first performance took place at the Madeleine two weeks later, on February 16.

But the music performed on that occasion was very different from the version we know today. It was scored for a chamber ensemble and was in only five movements rather than seven. Over the next decade, Fauré returned to the score several times and changed it significantly. The orchestration began to grow, and he added two movements: the Offertorium in 1889 and the Libera me in 1892. The “final” version dates from about 1900.

The music: “from a twilight world”

The Fauré Requiem seems to come from a twilight world. There are no fast movements here (Fauré’s favorite tempo markings, which recur throughout, are Andante moderato and Molto adagio), dynamics are for the most part subdued, and instrumental colors are generally from the darker lower spectrum. Violin sections were added only in the final version, and even here they remain silent in three of the seven movements. In the Introit and Kyrie, the chorus almost whispers its first entrance on the words “Requiem aeternam,” and while the movement soon begins to flow, this prayer for mercy comes to a pianissimo conclusion.

At this point in a Requiem Mass should come the Dies Irae, with its description of the horrors of damnation, the admission of man’s unworthiness, and an abject prayer for mercy. Fauré skips this movement altogether and goes directly to the Offertorium with its baritone solo at “Hostias.” This movement, which Fauré composed and added to the Requiem the year after its original premiere, comes to one of the most beautiful conclusions in all the choral literature as the long final Amen seems to float weightlessly outside time and space. Fauré does finally deploy his brass instruments in the Sanctus, but even this movement comes to a shimmering, near-silent close.

The Pie Jesu brings a complete change. In his German Requiem, Brahms used a soprano soloist in only one of the seven movements, and Fauré does the same thing here. The effect – almost magical – is the same in both works: Above the dark sound of those two settings, the soprano’s voice sounds silvery and pure as she sings a message of consolation.

At the start of the Agnus Dei the violas play one of the most graceful melodies ever written for that instrument, a long, flowing strand of song that threads its way through much of the movement. Tenors introduce the text of this movement, which rises to a sonorous climax, and at the point Fauré brings back the Requiem aeternam from the very beginning; the violas return to draw the movement to its close.

The final two movements set texts from the Burial Service rather than from the Mass for the Dead. The Libera me was composed in its earliest form in 1877, and Fauré adapted it for the Requiem in 1892. Over pulsing, insistent pizzicatos, the baritone soloist sings an urgent prayer for deliverance. The choir responds in fear, and the music rises to its most dramatic moment on horn calls and the sole appearance in the entire work of a line from the Dies Irae. But the specter of damnation passes quickly, and the movement concludes with one last plea for salvation.

That comes in the final movement. Concluding with In Paradisum points at the special character of the Fauré Requiem: It assumes salvation, and if Fauré believed that death was “a happiness beyond the grave,” he shows us that in his concluding movement. There is a surprising parallel between the conclusions of the Fauré Requiem and the Mahler Fourth Symphony, composed in 1900: Both finales feel consciously light after what has gone before, both offer a vision of paradise, and in both cases it is the sound of the soprano voice that leads us into that world of innocence and peace. Mahler’s soprano soloist presents a child’s unaffected vision of heaven, while Fauré has the soprano section take the part of the angels who draw us into paradise. Fauré “wanted to do something different” with his Requiem, and he achieves that in a finale that quietly arrives at “eternal happiness.”

Fauré’s Requiem has been called pagan rather than Christian, no doubt by those who miss the imminence of judgment. But it is hard to see this gentle invocation of Christ and the mercy of God – and confidence in paradise – as pagan. Rather, it remains a quiet statement of faith in ultimate redemption and rest, one so disarmingly beautiful as to appeal to believer and non-believer alike.

– Eric Bromberger
(from Minnesota Orchestra – February 2018 / Showcase)

To listen to Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem as performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (Robert Shaw, Conductor), Judith Blegen (Soprano), and James Morris (Baritone), click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Advent: A "ChristoPagan" Perspective
Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son
Pope Francis' Understanding of Catholicism: An Orchestra in Which All Can Play!
A Musical Weekend
Fusion, Fluidity and Grace: The Music of Claude Chalhoub
The Most Sacred and Simple Mystery of All

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Blessing the Dust

Blessing the Dust
For Ash Wednesday

by Jan Richardson

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial –

did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

Writes Jan Richardson about the significance and meaning of Ash Wednesday:

Ash Wednesday beckons us to cross over the threshold into a season that’s all about working through the chaos to discover what is essential. The ashes that lead us into this season remind us where we have come from. They beckon us to consider what is most basic to us, what is elemental, what survives after all that is extraneous is burned away. With its images of ashes and wilderness, Lent challenges us to reflect on what we have filled our lives with, and to see if there are habits, practices, possessions, and ways of being that have accumulated, encroached, invaded, accreted, layer upon layer, becoming a pattern of chaos that threatens to insulate us and dull us to the presence of God.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Ash Wednesday Reflections
The Ashes of Our Martyrs
"The Turn": A Lenten Meditation by Lionel Basney
Lent: A Summons to Live Anew
Lent: A Season Set Apart
"Here I Am!" – The Lenten Response
Lent: A Time to Fast and Feast
Now Is the Acceptable Time
Lent with Henri
Waking Dagobert
"Radical Returnings" – Mayday 2016 (Part 1)
"Radical Returnings" – Mayday 2016 (Part 2)
Move Us, Loving God

Opening image: Urtreen by Sergei.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Winter of Content

I've noted previously that ever since moving to the U.S. from Australia in 1994, I've had a love/hate relationship with Minnesota winters.

I loathe, for instance, the cold and the ice (the snow, it's true, I'm not quite as adverse to). Yet, on the other hand, I appreciate the pronounced seasons of my second home here in the North Star State, something that's quite different from Australia; and I love how winter stirs in me the desire to go deep within, to retreat and take stock of my life in ways that are quiet and mindful. And, of course, I love the festivals of this time of year, the winter solstice and Christmastide, with all their rich and interconnected symbolism.

I'm definitely not one who tries to conquer winter. By this I mean I'm okay with allowing winter's adverse attributes to influence my decision-making around where and when I go places. True, such attributes don't totally dictate my movements, but for sure I'm much more inclined to bend like a reed to the season's call to hunker down, rest, be reflective. I really think that when we do this we honor and say yes to winter's invitation to become that bit more attuned to the natural world around us; a world to which, because of all our technological advances and their accompanying expectations, we can easily forget we are connected. I've come to believe that when we establish a resonance with the seasons and connect accordingly with the natural world, we honor Sacred Mystery immanent in all things.

I was reminded of all these thoughts when I read a piece in the Star Tribune last month by Kim Ode. As you'll see, Ode shares much of my thinking on the season of winter and its invitation to recharge ourselves by taking a "seasonal state-of-mind shift into slow" and doing whatever brings a "sense of quiet satisfaction."

Following are excerpts from Ode's January 7 Star Tribune piece.

This is the season of hibernation, when we feel gently compelled to hunker down, to snuggle in, to stare into a fire's embers. [. . .] Humans can't hibernate as bears do . . . [but] maybe we once hibernated, back when we, too, were at the mercy of the elements, when caves were cold, firewood scanty, food scarce and geese still were the sole possessors of their down. But then we kept evolving, going on to invent furnaces, grocery stores, insulation, long underwear and cocoa. [. . .] It's thrilling, really, what humanity has accomplished in a few odd millennia. But we've let things get out of hand. We rarely slow down anymore. And when we do, we fret.

[. . .] But [by not slowing down and taking a break] we're sabotaging ourselves. Taking a break actually helps us become more successful. The Harvard Business Review spelled it out in an article, "Resilience is about how you recharge, not how you endure."

In short, if we deny ourselves stretches of recovery time, we increase our chances of screwing up at work or – just as bad, maybe worse – screwing up at home.

So let's consider the question of recharging not in week's vacation doses, nor in 20-minute naps, but rather in a seasonal state-of-mind shift into slow.

[. . .] Happily, our winter climate is ade for slowing down. [. . ]. Don't misunderstand. Slowing down doesn't mean stopping. Human hibernation is more about spending time at a different pace, doing less for a while, or doing anything more thoughtfully. [. . .] We actually were introduced to this pace last year when "hygge" hit the headlines as a rediscovered lifestyle trend. Nordic in origin – Danish, specifically – it's a way of living with a sense of conviviality and comfort. Lots of candles are involved, providing psychic warmth.

Hygge can be a private pursuit, but it also encourages gathering with friends for conversations, for board games, for supping soup that began by soaking dried beans for 12 hours. Because what's the rush?

Bottom line: Whether you call it hygge or hibernating, this is the time of year to do whatever brings you a sense of quiet satisfaction. Maybe it's puttering about the kitchen, chopping vegetables for that soup, or cleaning out the junk drawer.

Maybe it's sorting through old photos and letting yourself get sidetracked by memories. If you don't complete the task, that's okay. You can't flunk hibernation.

– Kim Ode
Excerpted from "Go Slow, for the Winter of Your Content"
Star Tribune
January 7, 2018

Related Off-site Link:
Feeling Frantic? Disconnected? Isolated? Take a Moment to Learn About the Slow Movement – Kim Ode (Star Tribune, January 7, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Three Winter Gatherings
In Wintry Minnesota, An Australian Afternoon Tea
A Winter Reflection
Winter Beauty
Winter Light
Winter . . . Within and Beyond

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Photo of the Day

Image: Some of the beautiful beadwork on display and for sale at the Midtown Global Market in south Minneapolis. (Photo: Michael Bayly)

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Quote of the Day

The great political issue now facing our country is not Democrat vs. Republican or progressive vs. conservative. It's much deeper than that. It's about democracy vs. authoritarianism.

Today we have a president who is undermining the First Amendment by consistently referring to media criticism as "fake news." He has questioned the authority of our independent judiciary. He has tried to make it harder for people to vote by wildly exaggerating the extent of voter fraud. He has viciously attacked those in law enforcement who have investigated him. And yesterday he suggested that members of Congress who don't mindlessly stand and applaud his every word are guilty of "treason."

Our job now is to remind Trump and his allies what democracy is all about. By our grassroots activism we will defend President Lincoln's words at Gettysburg, when he stated, "that government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth."

Our job: Stand up. Fight back. Get involved.

Senator Bernie Sanders
via Facebook
February 6, 2017

Related Off-site Links:
Bernie Sanders: Trump “Is a Fraud” Sending Nation in “Authoritarian Direction” – Jon Queally (Common Dreams, February 5, 2017).
Gangster Capitalism and Nostalgic Authoritarianism in Trump’s America – Henry A. Giroux (Slate, December 3, 2017).
New Report Classifies US as a “Flawed Democracy” – Nicole Karlis (Salon, January 31, 2018).
The True State of Donald Trump’s Union? Unlimited Corruption – Amanda Marcotte (Salon, January 31, 2018).
Media’s State of the Union: Normalizing Lies and Hoping for Compromise – Justin Anderson (FAIR, February 6, 2018).
Trump’s Xenophobic Vision of America Is Inciting Racist Violence – Suman Raghunathan (The Nation, January 27, 2018).
In the Age of Trump: New Report Shows Acceptance of LGBT People Drops – David Badash (The New Civil Rights Movement, January 25, 2018).
Constitutional Crisis in Slow Motion – Charles M. Blow (The New York Times, February 4, 2018).
Trump Wants a Military Parade Because Fascism Isn’t Coming to America Fast Enough – Monique Judge (The Root, February 6, 2018).
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to Trump: “How Dare You Lecture Us About Treason” – Melissa Quinn (The Washington Examiner, February 6, 2018).

UPDATES: Republican Ruthlessness and Democratic Ineptitude Got Us Here – Charles P. Pierce (Esquire via Common Dreams, February 8, 2018).
Democrats' "Resistance" to Trump Is Eroding, and So Are Their Poll Numbers – Will Stancil (The Atlantic, February 9, 2018).
As West Fears the Rise of Autocrats, Hungary Shows What’s Possible – Patrick Kingsley (The New York Times, February 10, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Something to Think About – January 22, 2017
Global Condemnation for Trump's Latest Ignorant and Racist Comments
Hope in the Midst of Collapse
With Republicans at the Helm, It's the United States of Hypocrisy
Donald Trump: A View from Australia
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
Quote of the Day – April 6, 2017
Quote of the Day – March 26, 2017
A Profoundly Troubling and Tragic Indictment
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump
Election Eve Thoughts
Carrying It On
Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
Trump's Playbook
Hope, History and Bernie Sanders

Image: Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Photographer unknown)

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Nakhane Touré's "Tortured Journey to Clarity"

This evening for music night at The Wild Reed I share "In the Dark Room" by South African musician Nakhane Touré. It's a track from his 2014 debut album Brave Confusion, about which Graham Gremore says the following.

Toure’s debut album, Brave Confusion, couldn’t be more appropriately titled. Here is a black Christian male singing love songs about other men in an environment that hasn’t exactly been welcoming towards gay people. The album is an eclectic hybrid of genres and sounds that work surprisingly well together. Think Frank Ocean meets Radiohead meets Antony and the Johnsons with a little Prince and David Bowie thrown in for good measure.

The subject matter is equally as diverse. Touré sings about everything from love to self-loathing to death to self-acceptance. As one reviewer put it, Brave Confusion is “rife with complexities, swathed in a disarming honesty that holds you captive right through his tortured journey to clarity.” The album received four South African Music Awards in 2013, including nominations for Album Of The Year, Best Alternative Album, Newcomer Of The Year, and Male Artist Of The Year.

Following are excerpts from Graham Gremore's 2014 Queerty interview with singer (and now actor) Nakhane Touré.

Your new music video “In the Dark Room” was shot in a prison cell in Constitution Hill, which used to be a prison in Johannesburg.

We initially wanted a derelict lived-in space. Constitution Hill was a very oppressive, cruel place to be in. The video deals with some form of mental imprisonment, a self-hate so drastic, so ugly that it turns violent within you. And while we shot the video I couldn’t help but see the parallels between the location and what we were going for.

Mental imprisonment and self-hatred. Is that what the song is about as well? More specifically, the hatred some gay people feel towards themselves?

Yes, completely. The song is about a searing self-hate, which took on many different guises over the years before the album was released. It’s a very difficult song for me, even though I see it as a groovy pop song, sometimes when I play it live I catch myself falling and I have to re-balance myself.

To contrast that, the album’s opener "Christopher" is much more upbeat.

I wrote the song after the final demos of the album were finished and recorded, and I was listening to a lot of Dirty Mind-era Prince and Busi Mhlongo.

And Christopher was a guy you were chatting with online.

I had not met him [in person] yet. I was supposed to meet him at some bar, but for some reason that did not happen. I was exercising song-writing, trying to see if I could write a catchy “pop” song in the vein of Prince and when I was stuck on the second verse I thought I’d write about this Christopher as a place-holder until I figured out the proper lyrics. At that point I didn’t think that the song would even be in the album. Little did I know that it would be the first single. After the single was released I finally met Chris and now we’ve been dating for about 11 months. I call it a stalker anthem.

How does he feel about being the subject of your first single?

In the beginning he was slightly embarrassed when people realized that the song was about him, but now he’s very pleased about it. And sometimes when I play the song live I change some of the lyrics just to throw him off a little. Although I try not to look at him when I play the song live.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Thank you for recognizing a South African artist. There are many different musicians and artists in this country who don’t have the confidence to come out. I know for a fact that I’m not the only one. Hopefully with this support, more will find the courage to come out.

Related Off-site Links:
Bravely, Confusingly, Nakhane Touré – Lloyd Gedye (The Con, September 25, 2013).
Nakhane’s Brave ConfusionExpresso (November 1, 2013).
What’s Eating Nakhane Touré? – Charl Blignaut (City Press, April 28 2014).
Nakhane Touré: Working Bravely with WordsBetween Ten and Five (June 23, 2015).
Nakhane Touré: Dreaming the Black Man’s Blues – Kwanele Sosibo (Mail and Guardian, September 4, 2015).
South Africa Musician Nakhane Touré Tackles Gay ThemesBBC News, (April 4, 2016).
Nakhane Touré Fends Off Hate Speech Over Controversial New Film – Carl Collison (Mail and Guardian, March 1, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
To Be Held and to Hold
It Is Not Good To Be Alone
The Challenge to Become Ourselves
To Know and Be Known
Vessels of the Sacred
The Body: As Sacred and Knowing as a Temple Oracle
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
No Altar More Sacred
Lovemaking: Pathway to Truth, Harmony, and Wholeness
The Art of Surrender
Same-Sex Desires: "Immanent and Essential Traits Transcending Time and Culture"
Spirituality and the Gay Experience
The Most Sacred and Simple Mystery of All

Previous featured artists at The Wild Reed:
Dusty Springfield | David Bowie | Kate Bush | Maxwell | Buffy Sainte-Marie | Prince | Frank Ocean | Maria Callas | Loreena McKennitt | Rosanne Cash | Petula Clark | Wendy Matthews | Darren Hayes | Jenny Morris | Gil Scott-Heron | Shirley Bassey | Rufus Wainwright | Kiki Dee | Suede | Marianne Faithfull | Dionne Warwick | Sam Sparro | Wanda Jackson | Engelbert Humperdinck | Pink Floyd | The Church | Enrique Iglesias | Yvonne Elliman | Lenny Kravitz | Helen Reddy | Stephen Gately | Judith Durham | Nat King Cole | Emmylou Harris | Bobbie Gentry | Russell Elliot | BØRNS | Hozier | Enigma | Moby (featuring the Banks Brothers) | Cat Stevens | Chrissy Amphlett | Jon Stevens | Nada Surf | Tom Goss (featuring Matt Alber) | Autoheart | Scissor Sisters | Mavis Staples | Claude Chalhoub | Cass Elliot | Duffy | The Cruel Sea | Wall of Voodoo | Loretta Lynn and Jack White | Foo Fighters | 1927 | Kate Ceberano | Tee Set | Joan Baez | Wet, Wet, Wet | Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy | Fleetwood Mac | Jane Clifton | Australian Crawl | Pet Shop Boys | Marty Rhone | Josef Salvat | Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri | Aquilo | The Breeders | Tony Enos | Tupac Shakur

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Three Winter Gatherings

It may be, by turns, cold and snowy outside but I'm happy to say that my spirit has been kept warm by a number of gatherings with friends over the past few weeks.

The first of these that I'll highlight is the tea party I hosted at Hare House last Saturday, January 20. I should say that "Hare House" is the name I give to wherever it is I'm living. And why the hare? Well, as an ancient symbol of both enlightenment and homosexuality, the hare has long been something of a totem or spirit animal for me.

Last Saturday's gathering was actually my fifth (somewhat) annual tea party. I hosted my first tea party back in 2012 when I was living in St. Paul. That very first gathering was, in part, a way to "reclaim the tea party" from the reactionary political movement that was emerging at the time and calling itself the Tea Party. My gathering also provided me the opportunity to finally use the china tea cups and saucers that I'd been gradually collecting since my December 2008-January 2009 visit home to Australia. During that time, while visiting my hometown of Gunnedah, I was inspired by a delightful afternoon tea at the home of Gwen Riordan, a longtime family friend.

My second and third tea party (2015 and 2016) took place in my previous Minneapolis residence; while the fourth took place last year in the current manifestation of Hare House!

This year's tea party was a low-key affair compared to last year's, which saw me gather a number of my friends from different times and spheres of activity in my life. To this year's tea party I invited my dear friends Ken and Carol Masters and a number of the wise and inspiring women who are members of (or closely connected to) the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet – St. Paul Province. I'm a consociate member of this Catholic order, and two dear CSJs, Marguerite Corcoran and Rita McDonald, served as my companions during my two-year consociate candidacy (2006-2007).

Above: Sitting around my dining room table (from bottom left, clockwise) Kate McDonald, CSJ; Brigid McDonald, CSJ; Sue Ann Martinson; Rita Quigley; Florence Steichen, CSJ; Carol and Ken Masters; Kathleen Ruona; and Rita McDonald, CSJ.

Right: With my friends Rita and Sue Ann.

Above: After our morning tea we gathered in the parlor for wine in front of the fire!

And, yes, my Christmas tree is still up as in some older Catholic Christian traditions, Christmas lasts until February 2, the date which marks the end of the 40 day-long "Christmastide," which corresponds to the 40 days of Lent. As I'm sure many of you reading this would know, on February 2 the church celebrates the day that Mary entered the temple when her days of "purification" (as defined by the patriarchal Mosaic law) were fulfilled after giving birth. It's also the occasion when Simeon and Anna made their well-known pronouncements about Mary and Jesus. The day is known as "Candle-mas" because of Simeon's prophecy that Jesus would be a light for all people.

Above: Rita, Florence, and Kathleen – Saturday, January 20, 2018.

Above: My dear friend Brigid with a photo of herself as a child having tea with her dog!

Above, right, and below: A week before my tea party I was in St. Paul celebrating little Amelia's fourth birthday! It was a lovely gathering at the home of Amelia's maternal grandparents, John and Noelle.

The beautiful cake was made by Amelia's mum, Liana (with help from Amelia!). Oh, and that's Eddie the Wonder Dog in the picture at right. For more images of this handsome creature, click here, here, here, here, and here.

Above: Jackie, Noelle, and Phil (Amelia's uncle).

Above: Phil and Dee – Saturday, January 13, 2018.

Above: With my friend Jackie at Amelia's party – January 13, 2018.

The third "winter gathering" I highlight in this post is the birthday party for my friend and fellow resident chaplain Katie (above), which we celebrated on Wednesday, January 17, in our Spiritual Care office at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

Above: Ken, Chandler, Hae, Katie, and Mark.

Above: Standing at left with my fellow resident chaplains Chandler, Hae and Katie, and our supervisor Mark.

For more about my chaplaincy experience, click here, here, and here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In Wintry Minnesota, An Australian Afternoon Tea
Anyone for Tea?
Winter . . . Within and Beyond

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Friday, January 26, 2018


This evening for music night at The Wild Reed I share "Changes," a hip hop song by 2Pac featuring Talent.

2pac was the stage name of Tupac Shakur (1971-1996), an American rapper, poet and actor. Shakur is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with over 75 million records sold worldwide.

About "Changes" Kent Umeki writes: "This song clarifies the problems in our world and what we can do to fix them while at the same time displaying Tupac’s rap and poetic skills. In 'Changes' Tupac sings about what it’s like to live life being poor. He also sings about war, poverty, racism, corrupt police, drugs, and prison." Umeki also suggests that through Tupac's "Changes" we're given an opportunity to ponder and perhaps even understand the grief that so many people experience throughout the world.

Writing in Atwood Magazine, Sydney Sweeney contends that "Changes" is "one of hip-hop’s most successful political statements, not because it’s especially radical in its words on police brutality, drugs and gang violence, but because the track was, from music to lyrics, accessible to those who needed it – people unconcerned with the politics challenged by unapologetic MCs [microphone controllers]."

"Changes" was originally recorded during Shakur's tenure at Interscope Records in 1992 and was produced by Big D The Impossible (Deon Evans). It was later remixed during 1997-1998. The song re-uses lines from "I Wonder If Heaven Got a Ghetto" which was recorded during the same year. The song samples the 1986 hit "The Way It Is" by Bruce Hornsby and the Range, with the chorus re-sung by Talent.

I dedicate my sharing of 2pac's "Changes" to a friend who started treatment for chemical dependency today. This friend, who finds the music of Tupac Shakur very meaningful, is very much on my mind and heart this evening. I pray that he may know many positive changes in his life from this day forward.

Notes Wikipedia:

Released posthumously on his album Greatest Hits, "Changes" talks about all of the different issues that were related to Tupac's era of influence – notably racism, police brutality, drugs and gang violence. The "Huey" that 2Pac mentions in the song ("two shots in the dark, now Huey's dead") is Huey P. Newton, founder of the Black Panther Party. The song refers to the possibility of a black president of the United States, claiming "we ain't ready". Further, the last verse of the song refers to Tupac's premonition about being shot to death, mimicking the sound of the gun with the phrase "rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat."

The song was the #1 hit in Norway and the Netherlands and reached the top ten in the singles charts of several other countries, including #3 in the United Kingdom, which gained Tupac a broader audience. The Chris Hafner-directed music video is a compilation of a number of previous music videos Tupac released in addition to home videos and never-before-seen pictures, similar to the format of The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Dead Wrong", also released in 1999.

"Changes" was nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance at the Grammy Awards of 2000 and remains the only posthumous song to be nominated in this category. It was also nominated at the MTV Video Music Award for Best Editing in a Video & Best Rap Video in 1999.

Related Off-site Links:
8 Ways Tupac Shakur Changed the World – Mosi Reeves (Rolling Stone, September 13, 2016).
How Tupac’s "Changes" Could’ve Altered His Whole Career – Beware Bowden (Uproxx, September 13, 2016).
Tupac Shakur's Most Socially Conscious Lyrics: 10 Times He Was at His Most Woke – Matthew Ismael Ruiz (Billboard, November 11, 2016).
7 Tupac Songs That Still Resonate With Black America Today – Brennan Williams (The Huffington Post, June 16, 2015).
The Truth Behind Tupac Shakur's 1996 Murder: "It Was Simple Retaliation," Reveals an LAPD Source – Jordan Runtagh (People, September 13, 2017).
A Film About Tupac Shakur Has Divided Audiences in AmericaBBC News (June 19, 2017).
Chi Modu’s Best Photograph: Tupac Shakur Lets His Guard DownThe Guardian (May 10, 2017).

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