Monday, March 30, 2009

St Berthold's Feast Day. . . .

. . . .was yesterday. He used to be greatly honoured in the Carmelite Order as one of the founders of the Order in its western, European incarnation, the Prophet Elias being the Dux et Pater. But these days he doesn't even appear in the calendar. The picture shows some of the remains of the early monastery on Mt Carmel.

There's a little essay on his life here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Oakland Needed Some Consolation

After a particularly bad weekend, Oakland seems to have fallen into a vat of good fortune this morning.

I don't recall ever envying Oakland before.

The Kilcormac Pietá

There is an article in the latest number of The Carmelite Digest on one of Ireland's medieval Christian treasures, the Kilcormac Pietá. In rummaging around the web, I found this site which repeats much of the same history and includes a colour picture. Worth a read. The little statute had quite an exciting time of it during the penal times. (So what was the article doing in The "Carmelite" Digest? I hear you ask. It seems the parish of Kilcormac was attended to by Friars from the Carmelite monastery at Loughrea.)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Henry IX and I, by right King of Great Britain, Ireland, and France

Today is the 284th birthday of Henry Benedict Maria Clement Thomas Francis Xavier Stuart, the Cardinal Duke of York and rightful king in succession to his brother, Charles III, a.k.a., Bonnie Prince Charlie.

A short biography.

A Jacobite tune:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fashion Advice


Exactly so.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Death on St Patrick's Day

An affecting story in the NY Times yesterday.

I hesitate to comment; one never quite knows any more what's going to offend. But I found it a story with a happy ending. Drummer Dunne's was a death worth envying: on St Patrick's Day, with the sound of the pipes in his ears, and the priest next to him to absolve and anoint. You could do a lot worse.

Published: March 18, 2009

It was customary for Michael Conway, a 64-year-old drum major, to look back at his bagpipers and drummers as he led them on parades, lest he march too far ahead.

In those fleeting moments, Mr. Conway’s eyes always rested briefly on a tall, burly man at the back: Steven Dunne, a drummer who, along with Mr. Conway, had been part of the Police Pipes and Drums of Bergen County nearly since its inception, 17 years ago.

On Tuesday around noon, just after the band passed 75th Street on its march up Fifth Avenue as part of the St. Patrick’s Day parade, Mr. Conway glanced back and saw that Mr. Dunne was not there.

“I turned, I didn’t see him, and then I saw everyone rushing to the center of the avenue,” Mr. Conway recalled, speaking from his home in Ridgefield Park, N.J.

Mr. Dunne, 59, a 6-foot-2-inch retired Bronx court officer whom fellow band members called Stevie, died of a heart attack after collapsing on the parade route, an hour after his band started marching, and 11 blocks before the end point.

He had no wife or children, and lived with his cats in a simple two-story brick house in the Bronx. He was a frugal man, his sister, Bonnie Dunne-Martin, said, but last spring treated himself to a 2008 silver Mustang, which was sitting in his driveway on Wednesday with a sign that read Police Pipe Band in the window.

For Ms. Dunne-Martin, who lives in Florida but flew up for the funeral, which is scheduled for Saturday, the manner of her brother’s death was surprising but oddly appropriate. “It’s upsetting,” she said. “But when you think about it, what a way to go.” He had no history of heart trouble, she said.

Mr. Dunne’s death devastated fellow band members, current and retired firefighters and law officers who wept a little on Tuesday as they gathered at an East Side pub to toast their friend.

“The place just shook,” Mr. Conway said. “My guys are tough guys, they’re cops, but when you lose a friend, it hurts.”

Mr. Dunne grew up in Washington Heights in an Irish family committed to public service and city work. His father was a police officer, and his older brother, Peter Dunne, is a retired New York City police sergeant. Ms. Dunne-Martin, now retired, worked at the Department of Probation for 25 years, and the youngest brother, Robert Dunne, worked with the Sanitation Department for 25 years.

Steven Dunne adored Irish music and culture, and he played with a band of court officers before joining the Bergen Pipes band in 1992, after meeting its founders through friends.

The band is nearly four dozen strong, and Mr. Dunne became something of its star performer sometime around 1995.

The band was playing at an auditorium in Cleveland when the neck strap holding Mr. Dunne’s drum broke. The drum fell to the floor and bounced back up. Mr. Dunne neatly caught it with one hand, and continued playing with the other. He did not miss a beat.

“For that,” Mr. Conway said, “he was almost a hero in Cleveland.”

Mr. Dunne took a break from the band after developing knee problems about eight years ago, but started again about 2005. He switched instruments, from the weighty bass drum — “a young man’s instrument,” Mr. Conway said — to the smaller, lighter tenor drum.

After that, he rarely missed a rehearsal. Every Wednesday at 7 p.m., he would be there, at the Elks Lodge on Route 17 in Paramus, N.J., ready to drum.

The Police Pipes and Drums of Bergen County plays at police funerals and graduations from police academies, usually performing about 60 times a year.

Tuesday was a gorgeous, sun-filled day in New York, and everything was going perfectly, until the band passed 75th Street.

When Mr. Dunne fell, he pitched forward, slumping over his drum before hitting the ground. Band members, all seasoned rescue workers, knew what to do. Two began working furiously on Mr. Dunne, pumping his chest and breathing into his mouth, as the others formed a circle to shield him from the crowd. An ambulance arrived, but Mr. Dunne was not breathing, and a chaplain who had been marching in the parade administered last rites. He was pronounced dead at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center.

The band finished the parade in Mr. Dunne’s honor. Then they went to Haven, a pub and restaurant on East 51st Street. They carried in Mr. Dunne’s drum, his sticks crossed on top of it, placed there along with his hat. A bagpiper led the way.

The men all ordered Guinness, which Mr. Dunne loved, and raised their pints in salute to him, and his drum.

God rest his soul.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Some Piping in Case You Missed the Parades. . . .

St Laurence O'Toole Pipe Band from Dublin playing their medley in the 2005 All Ireland competition.

St Patrick's Day

Saint Colum-cille Foretells What Saint Patrick Will Do for the Men and Women of Ireland on the Day of Judgment

[from The Legend of St Columba by Padraic Collum, pp 57-62]

Before they went to visit certain of the saints of Ireland, Colum-cille (Saint Columba) and Bauheen, his cousin, betook themselves to Armagh, that place that was consecrated by Saint Patrick and in which the bell that he blessed was still rung. It was on a Sunday, and they walked near the church that Saint Patrick had founded and the grave­yard where his close companions were laid. Suddenly the ground gaped, the headstones fell, the cairns crumbled. The book he was reading Bauheen dropped into a grave that burst open; he scrambled down to get it and was struck on the head with the broken arm of a stone cross. He tried to pull himself out by gripping a branch, but the tree fell down on him.

"Why doesn't he do something to give his companions quiet and peace in their graves?" Bauheen said when he got the earth out of his mouth.

"Whom do you speak of?" Colum-cille asked, drawing his companion out of the way of a yew-tree that heaved itself at them.

"Patrick," said Bauheen, rubbing the sore place on his elbow. "Are we not in his stead? And why doesn't he do something to give his com­panions quiet and peace in their graves?"

"If you knew what Saint Patrick will do for the people of Ireland on the Day of Doom . . ."

"There," said Bauheen, as the branch of a lifted thorn-bush poked itself into Colum-cille's eyes, "I knew you'd get it, too."

"Nevertheless, you must not belittle Patrick, the protector of the people of Ireland," said Colum-cille, and he made two long jumps and got out of the graveyard, Bauheen with three jumps coming behind him.

"If you knew as I know what effort he will make on the Day of the Last Judgment for the people of Ireland, you would not murmur against Saint Patrick," Colum-cille said when they were out of the graveyard.

"Tell me, then," said Bauheen, "what effort he will make for the people of Ireland on that Last Day?"

"Some part of it I can tell you, but not all," said Colum-cille. "Harken, Bauheen, to what I shall deliver to you, and never after­wards let a word pass your lips in belittlement of Patrick."

Away from the place of gaping graves and crumbling cairns and breaking crosses they seated themselves, and under the shade of a well-rooted ash-tree Colum-cille told his companion this prophetic story.

"The men and women of Ireland will assemble themselves at Clonmacnoise . . ." Colum-cille began.

"At Clonmacnoise?" said Bauheen in great surprise.

"At Clonmacnoise," said Colum-cille decidedly. "They will do that in honor of the greatest saint living in Ireland at the present time— Saint Ciaran. There the folk of Ireland will assemble themselves on the Day of Doom. And to Clonmacnoise, Patrick will go. Seeing him the people will know him for their leader. He will strike the bell that he broke upon the demons when he banished them from the mountain. At the sound of that bell the men and women of Ireland will crowd towards their leader, and lucky will they feel on that day, they who were truly followers of Patrick, who kept his feast-day with alms­giving and his good-will belittled never."

"Amenl" said Bauheen.

Colum-cille went on. "With Patrick we shall march, all of us. We shall journey to where Saint Martin has his station. With him we shall join and thence go to where the most holy Peter and the most holy Paul have their place. Guided by these two primal saints we shall make our way to Mount Olivet.

"Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Martin will go to where Our Lord is enthroned. But with us, the men and women of Ireland, Patrick will stay. He will be seated on a chair of gold above the throng. Summoning Saint Ailbe to him, he will send him with seven bishops to the feet of our Lord on Mount Sion."

"Tell on," urged Bauheen.

"He will send Ailbe to inquire what will Our Lord has towards the men and women in his charge. And when he has bade him welcome to Ailbe, Our Lord will say, 'Where is the lightning-flash of the Western World? He is long in appearing before us.'

" 'What is Thy word for him, O Lord?' " Ailbe will ask.

" 'Many sinners are with him,' Our Lord will say. 'My word to him is this: leave behind ere coming before us all those who have wrought evil in their lives.'

" 'How shall I say that to Patrick, O Lord,' Ailbe will say. 'Thou knowest he whom Thou hast named the Lightning-flash of the Western World is a wrathful and quick-tempered man.'

" 'Nevertheless, thou shall take My word back to him", the Lord will say.

"With trepidation Ailbe will salute Patrick and say, 'I have had converse with Our Lord, and He bade me to tell thee to leave behind ere thou goest before Him all who have wrought evil in their lives.'

" 'It appears I have not been given even the beginning of a welcome to Mount Sion." Patrick will say, 'And you, Ailbe, have failed me in this.'

"Then he will speak to Ciaran, Cainneach, and myself, and declare that all the people of Ireland, sinners as well as sinless, must be with him when he goes before Our Lord. He would have none parted from him until he had spoken on their behalf.

"He will send Munda to Mount Sion then, Munda who was his companion when he came to make Ireland Christian. It will be Munda's duty to remind Our Lord that a promise was made to Patrick on his coming to our land—a promise that he would be the advocate for all our people on the Day of Judgment.

" 'You who come from Patrick are not negligent in reminding Us of the promise made to him,' Our Lord will say. And he shall tell Munda that his word to Patrick is that he will have to put out of his following all who wrought evil in their lives."

"And then . . .?"

"Then," said Colum-cille, "I shall find myself beside the golden chair on which Patrick is seated, and I shall hear myself being directed to go unto Our Lord on Mount Sion, but what I am being told to say or do, I shall not be able to recollect, for the sound of all the waves of the world will be in my ears. I shall find myself standing at the feet of Our Lord, and when He speaks to me I shall be able to speak of one thing only, namely, of Patrick's great love for all the people of Ireland, sinners at well as sinless, the love that brought him to keep a long and wasting fast upon the mountain that is named Cruachan, to the end that no one born in Ireland after the coming of the Faith should lose utterly the friendship of Our Lord. And this being said there will be such a silence that I will believe that sound has utterly departed from the world. And then I shall hear Our Lord make answer, and he will say: 'We will consult with the Nine Hierarchies of Heaven about what We shall do about this Patrick and his following.' And he shall say to me in a kindly voice, 'Go back to him, and bid him come to Us with the whole of the host that is his people. Ah, but tell him, too, that he will have to do this. . . .' "

Thereupon Colum-cille paused, and Bauheen, in great anxiety, asked him: "What will Patrick have to do for the people of Ireland upon that Day?"

Colum-cille opened his mouth to speak. But at that moment the bell of Armagh that is called the Bernan, sounded.

"That stroke is to remind us," said Colum-cille, "that it is fitter for us to be inside Saint Patrick's church, praying as Saint Patrick taught us to pray, than to be foretelling what he will do for us on the Day of Judgment."

"But what will he do for us on the Day of Judgment?" Bauheen asked as they went over the ground that was hollow and lumpy but no longer heaving.

"God decreed that the bell should be struck at this moment to forbid my telling what more the Lightning-flash of the Western World will do for the people of Ireland on the Judgment Day," Colum-cille said, and saying this, he and Bauheen went into the church and listened to the hymn that was being sung in praise of Saint Patrick.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Weekend Visitors

These folks flew in early last Sunday morning to spend the day with us. Or at least spend it in our back garden. They had to leave Sunday afternoon but we enjoyed having them.

The Inn is still in business

But we have been very busy for a change: several good gigs all in a row and a few odd jobs that took up a good deal of time. And the other day after picking up one of the very first jigs I ever learned, I found I made a complete dog's breakfast of the thing right the way through. So there is a new practice regime in place: additional - and regular - hours are part of the new rule. The music has been improving nicely, but it has been eating into the blogging time.

And speaking of practice, I acquired one of these a couple of weeks ago. It has been great fun and a touch more of a learning curve than I was expecting. The holes are a smidgen further apart than I'm used to. Some of those notes aren't quite where I'm expecting them to be.

We also found that the local library has a very good selection of Alexander Woollcott's stuff. You can't read about Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and George S. Kaufman without running into Alexander Woollcott. But I had never actually read any of Woollcott. That is now remedied. If you enjoy reading about the theatre in the first half of the 20th century you will find Woollcott hugely entertaining. But he's not Dorothy Parker. There's a reason she's still in print and he's not.

And I've been looking for an alternative place to park the accumulated wealth of a lifetime* as the prior arrangements have, shall we say, not been working out as anticipated. I don't enjoy that sort of thing as much as some. It is, in fact, a crashing bore. I have found, though, that fear makes an acceptable substitute for abiding interest and gives one the impetus to carry on with the research. Livin' in a van down by the river works well in the song. But as a plan for the future, not so much.

*"Accumulated wealth of a lifetime" -- A suggestion for those who, judging by my mail, are occasionally confused by my turn of phrase: you might want to look up "hyperbole". And, yes, I do plan one day to decide whether to stick to the first person plural or the first person singular in any given piece. We shall make it a point to do that one day soon.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Some Piping for the Weekend. . . .

Margaret Houlihan Dunn playing a set at the Piping Society of London recital a couple of years ago. Magnificent fingering and intonation. Half inspiring and half depressing. Half of me wants to pull out the pipes and spend the rest of the day practicing while the half that knows my limitations wants to pack up the the pipes and shove them under the bed and stick with the harmonica for the rest of my life.

Here's some more from last year's Atlanta summer school recital. She begins with a nicely arranged pipe version of The Galway Shawl. Then into some reels and ending with. . . I don't know what. Fireworks, I suppose with a lightning fast series of perfect birls.