Monday, January 31, 2011

Seen on a billboard

"The Master Weaver knows what looms ahead."

I saw the above quote on a church billboard. I agree with it. But the thought struck me that there are many who agree with the above -- that God knows -- but deny that the Master Weaver not only knows, but also planned the tapestry and is actively weaving it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Christopher Morley once said, "Words are a commodity in which there is never any slump."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mothers and church

(Two tales I received via e-mail)

One Sunday morning, a mother went in to wake her son and tell him it was time to get ready for church, to which he replied, "I'm not going."

"Why not?" she asked.

I'll give you two good reasons," he said. "They don't like me, and I don't like them."

His mother replied, "I'll give YOU two good reasons why you SHOULD go to church. You're 59 years old, and you're the pastor!


An elderly woman walked into the local country church. The friendly usher greeted her at the door and helped her up the flight of steps, "Where would you like to sit?" he asked politely.

"The front row please," she answered.

"You really don't want to do that," the usher said "The pastor is really boring."

"Do you happen to know who I am?" the woman inquired.

"No." he said.

"I'm the pastor's mother," she replied indignantly.

"Do you know who I am?" he asked.

"No." she said.

"Good," he answered.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


...since I work in Nacogdoches.

The Marx Brothers came to Nacogdoches, Texas in 1912, performing (mostly singing) at the Opera House. Their performance was interrupted by someone shouting about a runaway mule. Many in the audience went outside to see what was going on. Julius Marx (aka Groucho) was angered by the interruption. When the rest of the audience came back, he began to insult them with "Nacogdoches is full of roaches" and other comments. The audience laughed, thinking he was joking. It is claimed that this incident made the Marx Brothers aware of their comic potential.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Fuging Tune

Just putting together some comments on the "fuging tune" [Example], a song type of British origin and popularized by the "First New England school". The "First New England School" includes American musicians such as William Billings, Supply Belcher, Daniel Read, Oliver Holden, and Justin Morgan (most of whom lived from the mid-1700s to the early-1800s). These writers developed a musical style largely independent of European models. Because of this, the "First New England School" is usually considered the first uniquely American music.

Most scholars agree that the term fuging tune is a shortened form of the English phrase "fuging psalm tune".

"Fuging tune: A tune upon which a fugue is built." -- Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary

In The American Fuging Tune: 'Marks of Distinction', Maxine Fawcett-Yeske describes fuging tunes as "three- or four-part polyphonic choral settings of metered sacred texts" and notes that "Imitation, sequence, and the rudimentary spinning-out of musical motives are procedures present in the early British models that find their way to varying degrees into the American repertory."

In American Fuging Tunes in The Sacred Harp, Molly Cronin describes the common form: "The fuging tune as we know it today is a binary form with a homophonic, homorhythmic A section, followed by a repeated polyphonic B section, often using points of imitation. The earliest fuging tunes had these contrapuntal sections simply as optional extensions of the homophonic section."

"fuging tune, a form of hymnody developed by American composers of the so-called First New England school during the period of the American Revolution (1775–83).

"A typical fuging tune places the tune in the tenor voice and harmonizes it with block chords. In the next-to-last phrase, called the fuging section or fuge, each of the four voices enters in turn singing the tune or a slightly varied version of it. The last phrase is again chordal. The fuge, although all four parts follow each other in melodic imitation, is not a classical fugue but merely a passage that uses imitative writing."
"fuging tune." -- Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 21 Jan. 2011.

Karl Kroeger’s definition of fuging tune is one which "contains at least one section in which the voices sing different words simultaneously." (American Fuging Tunes, 1770-1820, 1994.)

"A shape-note fuging tune has one or more sections with staggered entrances; the various parts begin the fuge in different measures, rest, enter again, and sing over each other, indeed making the music soar." -- Malinda Snow, Georgia State University in "The Sacred Harp" in The New Georgia Encyclopedia

George Pullen Jackson provides more of a description than a definition the fuging tune in White Spirituals in the Southern Uplands, as follows:

"In the fuging tune all the parts start together and proceed in rhythmic and harmonic unity usually for the space of four measures or one musical sentence. The end of this sentence marks a cessation, a complete melodic close. During the next four measures the four parts set in, one at a time and one measure apart. First the basses take the lead for a phrase a measure long, and as they retire on the second measure to their own proper bass part, the [tenors] take the lead with a sequence that is imitative of, if not identical with, that sung by the basses. The tenors in turn give way to the altos, and they to the trebles, all four parts doing the same passage (though at different pitches) in imitation of the [part in the] preceding measure. ... Following this fuguing passage comes a four-measure phrase, with all the parts rhythmically neck and neck, and this closes the piece; though the last eight measures are often repeated."

Not everybody liked them:
"Instead of those plain and easy Compositions...away they get off, one after another, in a light airy jiggish Tune....The matter of the Psalm has very little Share in their Attention." -- From a 1764 letter to a Boston newspaper, quoted in Church Music in America, 1620 to 2000, by John Ogasapian, p. 34

Friday, January 21, 2011

That Old Ship of Zion

Some songs using the "ship of Zion" metaphor:

1. I was standing on the banks of the river
Looking out over life's troubled sea
When I saw the old ship that was sailing
Is that the old ship of Zion I see.
2. Its hull was bent and battered
From the storms of life I could see
Waves were rough but that old ship kept sailing
Is that the old ship of Zion I see,
3. At the stern of the ship stood the captain
I could hear as he called out my name
Get on board it's the old ship of Zion
It will never pass this way again
4. As I step on board I'll be leaving
All my sorrows and heartaches behind
I'll be safe with Jesus the captain
Sailing out on the old ship of Zion.

M. J. Cartwright, 1889
I was drifting away on life’s pitiless sea,
And the angry waves threatened my ruin to be,
When away at my side, there I dimly descried,
A stately old vessel, and loudly I cried:
“Ship ahoy! Ship ahoy!”
And loudly I cried: “Ship ahoy!”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Prayer for children

Prayer for children.

Gracious Lord, our children see,
By thy mercy we are free;
But shall these, alas! remain
Subjects still of Satan's reign?
Israel's young ones, when of old
Pharaoh threatened to withhold;
Ex 10:9
Then thy messenger said, "No;
Let the children also go."

When the angel of the Lord
Drawing forth his dreadful sword,
Slew, with an avenging hand,
All the first-born of the land:
Ex 12:13
Then thy peoples' doors he passed,
Where the bloody sign was placed;
Hear us, now, upon our knees,
Plead the blood of CHRIST for these!

LORD we tremble, for we know
How the fierce malicious foe;
Wheeling round his watchful flight,
Keeps them ever in his sight:
Spread thy pinions, King of kings!
Hide them safe beneath thy wings;
Lest the rav'nous bird of prey
Stoop, and bear the brood away.

William Cowper (1731-1800)
Olney Hymns, 1779

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


We are not fond of acrostics, but we remember an old preacher describing the name of Jesus: "J-E-S-U-S: Jesus Exactly Suits Us Sinners." -- B. A. Ramsbottom, editor of The Gospel Standard

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Grace o'er sin abounding

Sovereign grace o'er sin abounding,
Ransomed souls, the tidings swell;
Tis a deep that knows no sounding
Who its breadth or length can tell?
On its glories
Let my soul forever dwell.

What from Christ that soul shall sever,
Bound by everlasting bands?
One in Him, in Him forever,
Thus th' eternal cov'nant stands;
None shall pluck thee
From the Strength of Israel's hands.

Heirs of God, joint heirs with Jesus,
Long ere time its race begun;
To His name eternal praises,
O what wonders He hath done!
One with Jesus,
By eternal union one.

On such love, my soul still ponder,
Love so great, so rich and free:
Say while lost in holy wonder,
"Why, O Lord, such love to me?"
Grace shall reign eternally.

John Kent (1766-1843)