I finally – finally! – got to hear the music hand lettered on that fifteenth century Italian vellum. It’s just the chorus and part of a verse from an Antiphon, the one written for Maundy Thursday at the ceremony during which a bishop (or even the Pope) washed the feet of some poor men. I believe the King of England did it, too, because there are some coins given to the men whose feet were washed, and you can today buy a set of Maundy Money issued to mark the occasion.
But an even more amazing fact: the words and melody are still around! It is, in fact, number 606 in the Episcopal hymnal. In English, of course, but the melody, plaintive and sweet, is the same: Where charity and love exist, there also is God.
Lawrence Henry, very dear and long-time friend, came to St. George’s with his wife, Susan, and he played the melody on the piano while Ellen and I listened. And Susan found it in our hymnal. Ellen recorded his playing, and his remarks, and his replaying it while setting harmonies around it until I was dizzy with pleasure. God bless him.
You can find the melody on the Internet, search via Google or YouTube for Ubi Caritas.
Tomorrow I am giving a talk on my coin collection and my mystery novels – they couldn’t decide which subject they preferred, so I am doing both.
Yesterday, late afternoon, I glanced out the window and was transfixed by a golden bird sitting on a telephone wire. The lowering sun shone on its feathers brilliantly – a wild canary or goldfinch. Sometimes it’s the little things that can bring joy. I needed that boost because my peripheral neuropathy has reached a stage that it interferes with my balance. I saw a new doctor yesterday and he’s talking about injecting a medicine into my spine to improve circulation to my feet. I was horrified – I was expecting an order to get a massage – and came home feeling, for the first time, really old.
Well, I heard the Antiphon music, in part. A few bars were pretty and sounded right, but others sounded wrong – and the greater part, the musician admitted he couldn’t decode. So I’m going to reach out to other sources. I’m sure I’ll hear this ancient music before the end of summer. And then I need to find a place that can frame the vellum and its mat properly, protectively.
Last week I went over to Brookview, the local public golf course, where I used to play in a league, to hit a bucket of balls. I haven’t swung a golf club for nearly two years, so this was wonderful. I remembered which end of the club to take hold of, and I sent the majority of the balls down the range – though none more than fifty yards. But it sure felt good, and I have set a goal of playing a nine-hole, par three game before the first snow.
This spring I was complaining that a hawk had taken at least two robins from local trees. Sad, sad, to hear their boisterous songs fall silent. But a friend in the north wing of our building said the hawks were a nesting pair – and that one of them has disappeared. She said the lone hawk has been searching for her, crying. And Thursday and Friday I saw her (or maybe it’s him and she’s the one missing) flying in high, widening circles for over an hour, calling and calling her plaintive “twee, twee, twee.” S/he is flying too high for me to see other than a silhouette, but I looked up hawk calls on the Internet and I think she’s a red-tailed hawk. Or he. They mate for life. I suppose it’s odd that I mourned for the dead robins (I actually heard one of them shriek as he was taken!), and now am mourning for the sad, forsaken hawk.
The music director at St. George’s wants another week to research the fifteenth century Italian page from the Gregorian Chant Antiphon; apparently a four line staff can’t just be played like a modern five-line. So maybe next Sunday he’ll have solved it and I will hear the ancient music. Meanwhile, just to show that I don’t live entirely in ages past, take a look at this extremely clever idea:
Houses on Mars
And you thought 3D printers were only good for making guns.
It’s like pulling teeth with my naked fingers, but slowly, painfully, a chapter of Tying the Knot (which name may be changed to Goodbye Crewel World) is taking shape in the form of a New Year’s Eve poker game. I’m almost afraid to mention it, for fear it will scare the words away.
There’s a red fox in the neighborhood. The crows have his number; I was alerted to the fox’s presence by the crows screaming vituperation at him as he slunk across a neighbor’s lawn early one morning. I’ve seen him twice, he’s a beautiful red color. Maybe he’s why I haven’t seen many rabbits this spring and summer. It’s interesting to note the way wild animals are reclaiming territory humans ran them out of long ago. When I was a child (I’m in my seventies) city dwellers never saw a raccoon raiding their garbage cans like they do now. Or had deer eating their hostas. Also lately there are urban coyotes, and their dangerous new cousin the coyote-wolf crossbreed, and even the occasional bear. Maybe it’s because we’re cleaning up the environment, Or because we’ve stopped shooting them on sight.
I’m having a spell of “I want that, but I can’t have it.” There’s a counted cross stitch kit for sale in two catalogs that makes me laugh when I see it. It’s actually on the cover of one of them. It depicts a peacock who looks like he’s been through a battle. His feathers are disordered, half his tail is missing or the feathers broken, even those little things that stand up on his head are messy. His eyes are staring. He’s vastly different from the proud, elegant bird you normally see in pictures. He looks like I’ve felt some mornings, I’d love him on a sweatshirt. But the kit (and I don’t like kits) costs fifty dollars – and, anyway, I’ve no talent for counted cross stitch. My fingers itch to try him, but experience says Not A Chance.
The piece of vellum my niece sent me is authentic, a page from a fifteenth century Italian antiphonal hand lettered and notated (is that the right word?) in Gregorian chant. It’s worth about a hundred dollars. Cool!
When I was in US Navy boot camp about a thousand years ago, one of the songs we learned was “WAVES of the Navy,” which I have never forgotten. It’s a “counter melody” to “Anchors Aweigh,” and very pretty when sung with the latter. By the words you can tell this dates to the founding of Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES) in World War II. This past Sunday I was visiting a friend. She’s a musician and an avid looker-upper of things on the Internet. I mentioned that I had never heard that counter-melody outside of boot camp, and she picked up her iBook and seconds later presented me with several links. Here’s one. If you’re musically inclined, try playing it while listening to “Anchors Aweigh” and prepare to be charmed. (“. . . [He] will find ashore his man-size chore was done by a Navy Wave.”) The Internet is wonderful.
Waves of the Navy
There’s a ship sailing down the bay.
And she won’t slip into port again
Until that Victory Day.
Carry on for that gallant ship
And for every hero brave
Who will find ashore, his man-sized chore
Was done by a Navy WAVE.
Words by Betty St. Clair
(Written to harmonize with “Anchors Aweigh”)
I sent a small needlepoint piece of a witch riding her broom across a full moon to my niece in Florida – but it never arrived. I didn’t insure it, just put it in a brown envelope and sent it off. I haven’t lost anything I’ve sent in the mail in a very long time, so this is baffling and aggravating.
It’s cool and damp this morning but supposed to be crazy hot tomorrow, the Grand Fourth, with a chance of thunderstorms in the evening. Bummer. We’ve got two guests coming over, will serve potato salad and coleslaw and watermelon and like that things for a light supper, then walk next door to the park to watch fireworks. I hope.
My niece sent me a lovely ancient piece of vellum that was a page in an Italian antiphonal to see if I could get it authenticated and perhaps valued. So far, no good, but I’ve got a few more places to inquire. I have a feeling there’s a mystery plot in this situation somewhere.