Musical Memories: Sing Amen, Everybody

The Archaeologist is Irish-American-Catholic, and a chorister. This entails two deeply felt but diametrically opposed things: church singing and old-style Irish-American Catholicism.

In my Catholic youth, everybody sang pretty much all the time until they got to church, where they clammed up and glared at anybody who dared so much as intone an Amen. Churches were places of reverent silence, muttered responses and rigidly maintained personal space. (During my adolescence the Vatican enacted the Sign of Peace, a part of Mass ritual in which you shake your neighbor’s hand and say “Peace be with you.” For many in my hometown parish, this was the emotional equivalent of requiring a raised middle finger and a raspberry.)

Music was show-offy, vaguely suspect. Especially the good stuff. (Was Mozart’s setting of the Regina Coeli OK for church? Oh, Mozart was Catholic? Seriously? He wrote that stuff for Catholics?)

As for Handel … well. He belonged to the Protestants. You could hear him in a concert hall, if you wanted. But not in church, not on Easter Sunday.

Happily, that has changed. My present-day parish revels in its music program. We have adult choir, children’s choir, bell choirs. And we do Handel, especially at Easter. This year at the Vigil we took a gander at “Worthy is the Lamb,” with its majestic, endlessly textured Amen.

It’s kind of a monster. But a great one. Here’s an old-school version conducted by Otto Klemperer, with a big fat chorus and orchestra. Not the Baroque-authentic, smaller-scale sort of production favored today, but delightfully rich and ripe. Enjoy.

 

P.S. For a penetrating and frequently hilarious dissection of American Catholics and their love-hate relationship with music, read Thomas Day’s Why Catholics Can’t Sing. It’s a treat.

 

 

 


Pinterest: Too Much Fun

Pinterest_Logo_2The Archaeologist has the unfortunate social-media habit of being a person who enters the room, looks around, says, “What? Nobody’s here. Let’s hit the 7-Eleven for slushies!” …. and leaves before the party gets started.

I think it’s called being an Early Abandoner.

Honestly, this has been going on forever, so forever, it’s embarrassing. Once upon a time, my tech-nerd friends were telling me how cool dial-up BBS-es were. Somewhat (ahem) later, it was: “Facebook. SO cool. Join it!” I did, but nobody else I knew was there, so I never logged in again until two years later, when all my friends wanted to know why I wasn’t on Facebook.

Pinterest: Same story. I got on there, and used it for a few months it to file fabric swatches related to a kitchen-design project, and then I got bored and left for a slushie.

I had no idea the genealogists were there, too. I could have done a snack run for them.

Now there is so much genealogy on Pinterest, and it’s presented in such a fun way. I feel a bit guilty promoting yet another day-to-day time vampire, but I cannot lie: Check it out, if you haven’t already.

Some examples from just a quick Pinterest browse today:

Anatomy of A Social Security Number (at blog.genealogists.com — what those digits REALLY mean)

Seven Reasons You Are Not Finding Your Ancestor (Robin Foster — common-sense research tips)

Don’t throw the baby (or the paper) out with the bathwater (Lauren Mathieu — a spirited and sensible defense of paper-based recordkeeping)

Genealogy Organization and Planning (a board curated by Mary Czarney McNair that is full of interesting ideas)

Oh, and I’m there too. Again. See you around.


Images That Hurt Too Much

Image from THTK (Too Hard To Keep). Via PetaPixel.com.

This morning on the photography site PetaPixel, I learned about a online collection called THTK (short for Too Hard to Keep), curated by Jason Lazarus, an adjunct professor at the School of the Art Institute, Chicago.

The story link is here, but a caution: Although most of it is not graphic, the material is definitely disturbing. 

Lazarus collects images that people can’t bear to live with anymore. In some the pain is obvious —  a building falling to the wrecking ball, a family at the bedside of a desperately ill relative. Others disturb by implication — scenes of cluttered, chaotic rooms hinting at some offstage crisis.

Why do we take photos, why do we keep them?

Maybe some images should never be made at all. (Personally I will never think it’s a good idea to photograph an open coffin at a wake. I don’t care if the Victorians did it. I bet some Victorians didn’t like it, either.)

Yet even as I write that, I realize that painful images can be an act of bearing witness, fulfilling important human and historical needs. And even ostensibly happy images hold potential pain as life unfolds.

But what do you think? Have you ever possessed a photo that harmed your peace of mind? And should it be kept, or destroyed, or passed on to someone else?

 

 


Musical Memories: Songs of Irish Children

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day here’s a special moment from Columbia’s live recording of an early 1960s Clancy Brothers concert at Carnegie Hall.

This clip revisits the unforgettable “Children’s Medley,” wherein the group shares an encyclopedia of traditional songs sung by Irish kids. They run the gamut of funny, vulgar, angry and even a bit mysterious. Clocking in at 12 minutes plus, it’s a fascinating journey, fantastically performed.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Today’s Official Senior Moment

Via TheFineBros YouTube series of kids reacting to things:

!!!Kids react to VCRs!!!

And they are completely adorable. Even if they make me feel completely ancient.


The Bystanders’ Tale, With Second Thoughts

Kitty Genovese, the Queens bartender whose 1964 murder became a symbol of modern apathy and alienation. Photo: AP

Kitty Genovese, the Queens bartender whose 1964 murder became a symbol of modern apathy and alienation. Photo: AP

Kitty Genovese, rest her soul, would be 80 years old this July. Instead, she ran into a serial rapist-murderer on her way home from work on this day in 1964, and became a symbol. The influential New York Times coverage of her murder, spearheaded by then-metro editor A.M. Rosenthal, framed it indelibly as a crime of apathy as well as violence.

But the famous story of the 38 uncaring witnesses in Queens is not completely true. Yes, two in particular would qualify as villains in this piece. But of all the dozens of potential Good Samaritans, it transpired very few heard the struggles clearly enough to understand their seriousness. As it was, one neighbor shouted from his window at Genovese’s attacker, driving him temporarily away. Two others called the police. And Sophia Farrar, far from cowering behind a closed door, left her apartment to try to help Genovese, who was lying in Farrar’s arms when the ambulance came. A 2014 review of the case by Nicholas Lemann in The New Yorker is interesting reading, and recommended.

To me what bugs the most about the legend is its vision of city dwellers as a bunch of urban zombies jammed uncaringly together. Why, somebody could be murdered right in front of them and they wouldn’t lift a finger! The uncritical belief that every single one of Genovese’s neighbors turned over on their pillows and went back to sleep always seemed odd to me, given my mother’s account of her Greenpoint girlhood, where a night out meant risking the window thrown open, the nosy neighbor’s pointed query: “Coming in a bit late, aren’t ya?”

So in addition to noting the genuine advances that resulted — the birth of New York’s 911 system is the major example – I’d also like to remember the neighbors whose actions remained unsung for decades. They reflect the outer boroughs of today and of my parents’ day – places where people are simply people, for bad and, yes, for good too.


New Database: Lansingburgh (NY) Marriages

Bill McGrath, project coordinator for the Troy (N.Y.) Irish Genealogy Society, announces another project that digitizes a valuable resource compiled decades ago:

Marriage Notices Appearing in Lansingburgh Newspapers 1787 – 1895

This is an index to 2,712 marriage notices published in ten different Lansingburgh, New York newspapers from 1787 to 1895, including 5,424 names. The original index was created by Troy Public Library staff in 1938-39. The TIGS scan of this book makes these records available online.

Lansingburgh newspapers reflected in the index include American Spy, Federal Herald, Lansingburgh Advertiser, Lansingburgh Chronicle, Lansingburgh Courier, Lansingburgh Democrat, Lansingburgh Gazette, Lansingburgh Daily Gazette, Lansingburgh Times and Northern Centinel. The majority of the notices pre-date New York State’s 1880 law mandating civil registration of vital events, so this index is extremely important for anyone seeking evidence of early-era marriages.

Most entries show:

  • Name of bride and groom;
  • Residence of bride and groom;
  • Date of marriage;
  • Names of newspapers reporting the marriage;
  • Date, newspaper name and column number where notice appeared.

Unsurprisingly, Lansingburgh is most often mentioned, with 1,708 entries. But more than two hundred other cities, towns and villages throughout New York State are represented, along with 33 other U.S. states and five foreign countries. (More than 1200 names gave no indication of residence.) Here are the localities other than Lansingburgh with the highest numbers:

Troy 483
Waterford 150
Schaghticoke 149
Pittstown 144
Albany 117
New York City 93
Brunswick 77
Cohoes 74
Hoosick 43
Cambridge 42
Stillwater 28
Easton 26
Halfmoon 24
West Troy 22

(And if you, like me, have ancestors in West Troy, it’s worth noting that in addition to the 22 West Troy entries in the chart above, there are 12  for Watervliet, the name under which West Troy was known from 1896 on.)

As McGrath notes, Troy ranked fourth among U.S. cities in per-capita wealth at the time of the 1840 federal census, and the breadth of these marriage notices no doubt reflects this area’s role as an economic magnet in the first half of the 19th century.

This latest database joins a constellation of projects on the TIGS website containing nearly 300,000 entries, reflecting people of both Irish and non-Irish descent. Again, if you have ancestry in the Capital District of New York State and you haven’t found the Troy Irish Genealogy site yet, you are missing out!


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