Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hymns for Memorial Day

During the televised memorial services for those who died in the bombing of the Navy destroyer USS Cole in 2000, the Navy band played a tune that struck me as particularly beautiful. When I mentioned it to my mother, she immediately sprang up and pulled out her old “Song and Service Book for Ship and Field” from her days in the Navy WAVES. She flipped to a page in the book and handed it to me. As soon as the memorial services were over, I went over to our piano and played and sang the song that the Navy band had performed. The words brought me to tears. They are as follows:

1. Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm doth bind the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep,
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

2. O Saviour whose almighty word
The winds and waves submissive heard,
Who walked’st on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

3. O Sacred Spirit, who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
Who bad’st its angry tumult cease,
And gavest light and life and peace;
O hear us, when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

4. O Trinity of love and power,
Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe’er they go,
Thus ever let there rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

This song, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” is also known as the “Navy Hymn”. I decided to do an internet search on this hymn this Memorial Day weekend, and discovered that additional verses have been added to this hymn since my mother served in the Navy in the 1940s. Some of these verses recognize other branches of the U.S. Armed Services…and more! I thought you might enjoy reading the words to a few of them on this Memorial Day.

Eternal Father, grant, we pray

To all Marines, both night and day,

The courage, honor, strength, and skill

Their land to serve, thy law fulfill;

Be thou the shield forevermore

From every peril to the Corps.

--J.E. Seim, 1966

Lord God, our power evermore,

Whose arm doth reach the ocean floor,

Dive with our men beneath the sea;

Traverse the depths protectively.

O hear us when we pray, and keep
them safe from peril in the deep.

--David B. Miller, 1965

O God, protect the women who,

in service, faith in thee renew;

O guide devoted hands of skill

And bless their work within thy will;

Inspire their lives that they may be

Examples fair on land and sea.

-- Lines 1-4, Merle E. Strickland, 1972,
and adapted by James D. Shannon, 1973.

Lines 5-6, Beatrice M. Truitt, 1948

Eternal Father, Lord of hosts,

Watch o'er the men who guard our coasts.

Protect them from the raging seas

And give them light and life and peace.

Grant them from thy great throne above

The shield and shelter of thy love.
--Author and date unknown

Eternal Father, King of birth,

Who didst create the heaven and earth,

And bid the planets and the sun

Their own appointed orbits run;

O hear us when we seek thy grace 

For those who soar through outer space.

-- J.E. Volonte, 1961

God, who dost still the restless foam,

Protect the ones we love at home.

Provide that they should always be 

By thine own grace both safe and free.

O Father, hear us when we pray 

For those we love so far away.

-- Hugh Taylor, date unknown

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly

And those who on the ocean ply;

Be with our troops upon the land,

And all who for their country stand:

Be with these guardians day and night 

And may their trust be in thy might.

--author unknown, about 1955

And when at length her course is run,

Her work for home and country done,

Of all the souls that in her sailed

Let not one life in thee have failed;

But hear from heaven our sailor's cry,

And grant eternal life on high!

--Author and date unknown

“Eternal Father was the favorite hymn of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was sung at his funeral at Hyde Park, New York in April 1945. Roosevelt had served as Secretary of the Navy. This hymn was also played as President John F. Kennedy's body was carried up the steps of the capitol to lie in state.” (Source: Naval History and Heritage Command website:

May we each take time to remember on this day those far away on land and sea, past and present, the guardians of our precious freedoms!

(Click here to send a postcard to our troops!)


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Thursday, May 21, 2009

School Days Comin' to an End

Today I played the piano for our annual 1st Grade Spring Program. The children sang. The Ants went marching, the Speckled Frogs ate their bugs, the Baby Bumblebee "bit me!", the Little White Duck was "doing what he oughtta", we all loved Arizona, and we Heard It for America. (Hip-Hoo-ray!) All was good.

And on we go to summer!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Review of “Messiah: The Little-known Story of Handel’s Beloved Oratorio”, by Tim Slover

Book Description:

This account presents the remarkable story of the creation of the world-famous Messiah by George Frideric Handel. Revealing that the work was composed during a tumultuous period of Handel’s life and molded through many unlikely circumstances, this chronicle tells of how this musical masterpiece was crafted and how it became a glorious production that is now performed around the world every Christmas season. Images of significant sites and artifacts of note, including the church where Messiah was first performed, accompany the text to accurately place this rich tale in its historical context. A bonus CD featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s rendition of Messiah is also included.

I’ve just finished reading the most splendid little book! Messiah: The Little-known Story of Handel’s Beloved Oratorio, by Tim Slover.

Messiah is no scholarly version of how Handel’s oratorio came to be. Slover writes in such an intimate style that one feels as if one is actually in the concert hall, anticipating the first London performance of the famous composer’s mysteriously titled work, “”A New Sacred Oratorio”.

Slover presents us at the outset with a number of mysteries. Why the “veiled” title? Why does the librettist, Charles Jennens, look displeased as he waits for the concert to start? Why does the tenor soloist look ill, and the contralto “stricken”? And will the king attend the performance, after snubbing Handel’s music for the last four years?

After drawing so vivid a picture for the reader, Slover deftly backtracks to lay the groundwork for revealing the answers to each of these questions. The story that follows is as riveting as it is entertaining. And, in the end, touching, as well. For Handel’s Messiah is not only a great work of art (okay, that may be a bit of an understatement), but invoked a healing spirit upon many of his age, as it continues to touch and heal many hearts today.

Messiah is replete with drawings and artwork, many from Handel’s lifetime, that bring the age even more fully to life for the reader. The art designer for Messiah, Amy Orton, is to be applauded. (Art designers are too often overlooked in books like this.)

I cannot recommend Messiah: The Little-known Story of Handel’s Beloved Oratorio highly enough. If you are a music lover, do yourself a favor. Read this book! (And if you purchase a copy, remember that it comes with a free CD, as noted in the book description above.)

Messiah: The Little-known Story of Handel's Beloved Oratorio can be purchased on Amazon. (Scroll down my left sidebar and use the Amazon link to order books highlighted on this site.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why Am I Green?

Why is my background green for May? Not because it's spring. Because it's my birthday month, and this is as close as I could get to my birthstone (emerald) and still (hopefully) be readable. Happy birthday to me!

Twittering Away

Yes, you can follow me on Twitter now...if you really want to! Scroll down the left side of my blog to read my Twitters here, or sign up to follow me.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

As the Eyes Go Rolling Along

What’s up with the “rolling of eyes” phenomenon in practically every other work of fiction I read these days?

I first noticed it in a medieval romance. The book started out well enough. A likable heroine I was happy to follow along on her quest to find “true love”. But then, half-way through, she rolled her eyes. No problem. Everyone rolls their eyes sometimes. But then she did it again. And again. And again. Until I found myself groaning with each repeated “roll” and a hair’s breadth away from throwing the book against the wall in frustration. But I hung on tight and kept reading and otherwise enjoyed the story through to the end.

A few fiction and non-fiction books filled my reading interim, and I forgot about this “flaw” in an otherwise well written and enjoyable book.

Then I picked up the first of a young adult vampire series which shall remain nameless in this blog. I enjoyed the first volume without complaint. But to my dismay, in volume two of the series, the eye rolling began again. Only this time it was worse than the medieval heroine’s romance. Instead of the heroine rolling her eyes every dozen pages or so, almost all the characters in this nameless vampire book rolled their eyes on what felt like every other page, until I wanted to scream, “Stop, already! Can’t you think of some other facial expression to use, for variety’s sake?” This book was much too hefty to be tempted to fling against the wall. I was afraid I’d sprain my wrist and have to pay to fill in the inevitable hole so large a volume would undoubtedly leave in its wake. (I hoped the eye rolling might be toned down in the series’ subsequent volumes, but alas, that hope was in vain.)

Another fiction book or two, completely lacking in eye rolling, restored my equilibrium at the end of the vampire series. But then, a few weeks ago, I picked up a Regency romance, and what did I discover? A hero who rolled his eyes again…and again…and again…reviving the barely smothered scream described in the paragraph above. (This time the wall was only saved by the fact that I read it in my sister’s apartment and didn’t want to stick her with the bill for repairs.)

So, what’s up with all the eye rolling in novels these days? Is it a reflection of authors who watch too many smart-alecky kids on TV who constantly roll their eyes at their TV-parents? Is it living with kids of their own who constantly roll their eyes at their author-parent? I don’t have any children of my own, and I don’t currently watch TV shows with smart-alecky kids, so it’s truly a mystery to me.

Regardless of the answer, to me the bottom line is, any action repeated ad infinitum in a novel—eye rolling or any other gesture—is a sign of sloppy, or at least, careless writing. The characters in my books aren’t much for eye rolling, but it’s possible I have my own too-frequently-repeated mannerisms of one sort or another. If any of my critique partners catch me falling into this trap, I pray that they’ll stop me in my tracks and say (nicely, of course), “You’ve used this expression twenty times. Can’t you think of something else?” Trust me, I would count such a critique partner as worth her weight in gold!

But back to my original question. I’m not writing this to throw stones. I wouldn’t be so annoyed or baffled if each of the authors above had chosen a completely different mannerism to repeat (over and over and over). But the fact that all of them chose eye rolling begs the question I began with…what’s going on with the “eye rolling phenomenon” in fiction these days?

Can anyone fill me in?