Tag Archives: Hallelujah Chorus

New biography of Agatha Christie; loving alliteration; remembering the Sabbath; newsletter March 16, 2018

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,088) on Friday, March 16, 2018.

Hi, [FIRST NAME GOES HERE]

Lots of readers have reacted to lots of different things in previous newsletters, and I include many of those reactions in this week’s missive. I have said this many times: I love hearing from you on any topic. And I am happy to share what you say with everyone else. Please keep writing.

My wife and I watched the movie The Darkest Hour this weekend, and that got me to thinking about Winston Churchill, so I started a little digging. I am turning up some interesting things, and I will tell you about some of it next week.


Important: The newsletter usually includes this:

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But that, I am told, has confused some folks, so here’s the point: Make sure that the images in the newsletter are displayed. Some browsers and email programs will display them automatically. For others, you must click on a link to make that happen. However it’s done, please make sure that happens. That’s how we know that you have opened the newsletter, and that’s important. Thanks.


A new biography of Agatha Christie

All of us have heard of Agatha Christie, many of us have read at least one of her books, and some of us have read several. I met a man once who said he had read all 80 of her mysteries, and I do not doubt him. Agatha Christie was, by some calculations, the best selling author of all time. By other calculations, she was the second best, behind only William Shakespeare.

But who was she — really?

Agatha Mary Miller was born in 1890. She married Archibald Christie in 1914, had a daughter Rosalind, and divorced him in 1928. Two years later she married Max Mallowan and stayed married to him for 46 years until her death in 1976. She published her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920 and never stopped writing.

Despite her worldwide fame and gigantic audiences, her life was as mysterious as one of her books. Now a new biography is available to American readers (it has been available to British readers for a while), and the book is getting rave reviews.

The book is Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life by Laura Thompson. Hear what Maureen Corrigan, National Public Radio reviewer, has to say about it here. If you are a Christie fan, you will want to check this out.

So, dear readers, how many Agatha Christie mysteries have you read? And which is your favorite?

 

Remembering the Sabbath

Whether we consider ourselves religious or not, we all observe the Fourth Commandment in some way: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Exodus 20: 8)

That doesn’t mean we all go to church or pray or even believe in God (though some of us do all of those things). We don’t even call it the Sabbath. We call it the weekend. Still, it’s the Sabbath, and it’s built into our culture. We think differently about it than we do the rest of the week, and we act differently on that day (whether it’s Saturday, Sunday, or some other day).

The concept of the Sabbath, the weekend, comes from ancient Jewish culture — directly from the Fourth Commandment. It is one of the “gifts of the Jews,” according to Thomas Cahill, author of The Gifts of the Jews, the second volume of his brilliant Hinges of History series. Cahill says there is more to the Sabbath than simply taking a day (or two) each week to honor God.

As important as that is (again, to some but not all of us), the Sabbath is a day of rest, a day of recreation. The Sabbath means not doing what we normally do.

“The connection between both freedom and creativity lie just beneath the surface of this commandment: leisure is appropriate to a free people, and this people so recently free (the Jews being led out of Egypt) find themselves quickly establishing this quiet weekly celebration of their freedom; leisure is the necessary ground of creativity, and a free people are free to imitate the creativity of God. The Sabbath is surely one of the simplest and sanest recommendations any god has ever made; and those who live without such septimanal punctuation are emptier and less resourceful.” The Gifts of the Jews, p. 144

(This is the beginning of a post I have written about the Sabbath. Read the rest of it here.)

Peter Piper and his peck of pickled peppers

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers; if Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.

She sells seashells by the seashore.

English language speakers love alliteration. We use it to do slapstick, such as the Peter Piper ditty above. When we were kids, we would say that and as a result, spit all over each other. We thought it terribly funny.

We use alliteration to learn to pronounce words, as with the She sells . . . line. Say that quickly five or ten times, and see what happens. Chances are, you’ll learn to slow down when you’re speaking — at least for a sentence or two.

Mark Forsyth, of InkyFool.com, and author of several books on the language, cites in his The Elements of Eloquence (pages 10-11) an example of William Shakespeare, our old friend. Shakespeare lifted a passage from Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives for some lines in Antony and Cleopatra. From North we get this description of Cleopatra’s boat:

. . . the poop whereof was of gold, the sails of purple, and the oars of silver . . .

Shakespeare takes that and makes it into these alliterative lines:

. . . the poop was beaten gold;

Purple the sails and so perfumed that

The winds were lovesick with them . . .

And that’s not the only instance, Forsyth points out, even in that one passage. “Nobody knows why we love to hear words that begin with the same letter, but we do, and Shakespeare knew it,” he says. Forsyth also says that alliterations don’t really have to make sense or even be accurate. Try these:

curiosity killed the cat

throw out the baby with the bathwater

right as rain

dead as a doornail

He’s got a point. We love it.

What’s your favorite alliteration?

 

Why stand during the Hallelujah chorus?

My item last week on George Frederick Handel mentioned that we traditionally stand during the Hallelujah Chorus, but we don’t know why. That provoked several responses:

Alice C.: “Messiah” was first performed in Dublin in 1742. It was a benefit concert for charity. According to one source, proceeds freed 142 men from debtors’ prison.

A year later, King George II was present at the first performance of “Messiah” in London. Is it said that the monarch fell asleep, and at the opening of the “Hallelujah” Chorus, he rose to his feet, thinking it was his cue. Whatever the reason, he stood, and that has been the custom ever since—to stand during the “Hallelujah” Chorus.

About 100 years later, even the aged Queen Victoria, who sat in her wheelchair as the chorus began, struggled to her feet as the choir sang, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” She said, “No way will I sit in the presence of the King of kings.”

Frank C. and Jean T. also sent in the story about George II. In addition, Frank wrote this about the Messiah oratorio:

The first performance was here in Dublin. Gentlemen were asked not to wear swords and ladies to remove their hoops as a crush was expected. One of the singers was a well-known high-class escort. After she sang. “I Know My Redeemer Liveth,” a man in the audience was so moved he called out to her “for that many sins are forgiven you.”

Giveaways

Art of the Arcane: Ides of March Mystery, Thriller, and Crime Giveaway. Once again, I have teamed up with a number of excellent writers to put together a truly fine selection of books to give away to our email lists and newsletter reades. This one has some great titles in it (including, of course, Kill the Quarterback), and you have an excellent chance of finding a great weekend read. Head on over there right away and see what’s available: https://artofthearcane.com/march-mystery-giveaway/…

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery/

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway.This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

A name for this newsletter? (continued)

Suggestions continue to come in for a name for this newsletter — some facetious, some not so:

Robyn K: I like Seventh Inning Stretch.

Jim S.: I saw some of the suggestions for a title for your newsletter and most seem to do a play off of your name. This just gave me a thought for a title: Cookin’ All on the Stove. Corny? Yeah. Just what came to me.

Scott D.: Have you considered Stovall’s Oven? Camp Stovall? Campy Stove for All? (that last one might be a bit thin 😊)

Jean H.: I still like First Inning Press best!

Jenelle T.: If you are still contemplating names for your newsletter using baseball terms, I’d like to suggest The On Deck Circle. To me that area of a baseball field shows fans who is next in the batting order or who is being brought in to pinch hit. It’s an informative place on the field. Just a thought…

Vietnam, Robert McNamara, Daniel Ellsberg, and the Pentagon Papers (continued)

After last week’s item on Vietnam, I received this from Vicki G.: Vietnam was NEVER a declared war-it was a police action! I will be 72 next month and I had a lot of friends that went over there, some under orders & some that volunteered. Some came back and some didn’t, and some were forever changed. Yes, I lost most of my trust in the government and the news media during that long incident, I’m trying to regain that, but it needs to be earned!

Thanks, Vicki.

Dictionary diversions (continued)

We have talked about dictionaries now for a couple of weeks, so this came in from my friend Dan C. in Las Vegas:

Glamping, mansplain, among 850 new words added to Merriam-Webster Dictionary and they also added a new word for people who love words: a wordie! https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/new-words-in-the-dictionary-march-2018. My daughter has long said I was guilty of what is now officially mansplaining. I told her that actually, I was guilty of Dansplaining. I talk to most people as if they don’t understand things…

 

Author! Author! (continued)

Last week I issued a call for any authors among newsletter readers to let me know if you want me to say something in the newsletter about your book. I did not get any responses to that, but the offer is still open. I did hear from a reader to wanted to make a recommendation.

A.J. N.: I’m not the writer, but I enjoy Alison Morton’s Roma Nova series … and the first book is free on Amazon.https://www.amazon.com/Alison-Morton/e/B007JZ1XRS/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1520879230&sr=1-2-ent

Maybe some of your readers would like these? They are part mystery, part thriller, part history and fun to read, with some military aspects and a strong female lead character. I’ve read the first 3 and am about to start the fourth, I hope … if I ever finish the work I’m supposed to be doing today!

First Family of Radio and Television

The Roosevelts, as noted last week, were in command of radio in the 1930s and 1940s. In the early 1960s, the Kennedys had television. Reader and friend Tod responded with this:

As noted below, Jack and Jackie were known as the first family of TV. I don’t know if you recall Vaughan Meader’s hit album, The First Family, in which he lampooned the Kennedys.

Here is the Wikipedia article about the album:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_First_Family_(album)

Here is the audio of one of my favorite tracks:
https://youtu.be/AtSDzn4qns0

And here is the entire album: https://youtu.be/Xwu8S6Ekx9w

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Blount County Courthouse, Maryville, TN

I haven’t concentrated on landscapes too much lately, so I thought I would try one of the county courthouse building where I live in east Tennessee.

Best quote of the week:

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. Albert Einstein, physicist, Nobel laureate (1879-1955)

Helping those in need

This is my weekly reminder to all of us (especially me) that there are many people who need our help. It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here). When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.

Jim

Jim Stovall 
www.jprof.com

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: Handel, down and out; ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’ up and away; more Shakespeare and Vietnam: newsletter March 9, 2018

 
 

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Handel, down and out; ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’ up and away; more Shakespeare and Vietnam: newsletter March 9, 2018

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,116), on Friday, March 9, 2018.

Hi,

You may think that I am obsessed with William Shakespeare, that I just can’t leave him alone. Actually, it’s the other way around. He won’t leave me alone.

The last three newsletters have had items about The Bard, ending last week (I thought) with a grand finale about what he looked like. I was ready to move on the 18th century and tell you something about George Frederick Handel. But then Will popped up the news again this week. So what’s a Shakespeare lover like me to do?

Still, I am going to tell you something about Handel, and about what may be THE most beloved painting in the world today, and about Vietnam. Then there’s the grand giveaway you won’t want to miss. Anon, let the newsletter begin.

Important: The newsletter usually includes this:

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

But that, I am told, has confused some folks, so here’s the point: Make sure that the images in the newsletter are displayed. Some browsers and email programs will display them automatically. For others, you must click on a link to make that happen. However it’s done, please make sure that happens. That’s how we know that you have opened the newsletter, and that’s important. Thanks.

George Frederick Handel: finished, washed-up . . . but then . . .

You will have to work pretty hard during this month of March to avoid hearing some of the music of George Frederick Handel. Handel’s Messiah oratorio is standard fare during the Lenten and Easter season, and everyone knows that you are supposed to stand during the Hallelujah chorus (although no one knows exactly why).

Handel was born in Germany in 1685, studied music is several places including Italy, and came to London in 1710 to seek his musical fortune. London had a thriving and avid musical audience, and Handel — one of the great organists of the day as well as a composer — quickly became the toast of the town with his keyboard genius and his mastery of the highly popular Italian-style opera. During the next 25 years he achieved great success and made plenty of money.

By 1741, however, things weren’t so good. London’s musical tastes had changed — Italian opera was no longer the in thing — and Handel’s productions met with repeated failures. He was facing bankruptcy, and his health was increasingly fragile. Critics descended, and even the Church of England pounced, criticizing his secular productions.

Handel, everyone said, was finished, washed-up.

Then in August, 1741 — just when Handel wondered if he could ever mount another production — his friend Charles Jennens, a poet, handed him a libretto for an oratorio about the life of Christ.

What happened after that showed that Handel was no one-tune keyboard tickler. You can read about it in this post on JPROF.com,

What’s your favorite piece by Handel? Lots of people would name the Hallelujah chorus, but there is much to choose from: Royal Water MusicRoyal Fireworks Music, etc. Personally, I like the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Handel’s oratorio Solomon. You can hear that one and the Hallelujah chorus in my post about Handel on JPROF.com.

The Roosevelts and radio

The item last week about the mastery of radio by both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt drew this response from a newsletter reader:

Fred F.: President Roosevelt and his wife Eleanore was the “First Family” of Radio. Then we had President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his wife Jackie were the “First Family of TV. What a rich history we had due to the electronic marvels of Radio and TV.

Vietnam, Robert McNamara, Daniel Ellsberg, and the Pentagon Papers

The New York Times this week has an interesting article by Rick Goldsmith about the origin of the Pentagon Papers. It begins with the story of Robert McNamara, secretary of defense, and Daniel Ellsberg, then a State Department official, being on the same flight from Saigon to Washington in October, 1966. McNamara and Ellsberg spoke to each other during the flight, and in the conversation, McNamara expressed doubts that the strategy the U.S. was then pursuing in Vietnam was working.

When the flight landed in Washington, McNamara was met by reporters as soon as he got off the plane and was asked about his trip and the American strategy. He told the reporters exactly the opposite of what he had said to Ellsberg: that what the U.S. was doing in Vietnam was working and that they were making progress in defeating the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong.

The article is well worth reading.

I have written a reaction to the information in the article and posted it on JPROF.com, in case anyone is interested.

More on Shakespeare’s sources

An independent Shakespeare researcher in Great Britain, according to a recent article in The Guardian, thinks he may have found a sample of Shakespeare’s actual handwriting. John Casson says he was looking through François de Belleforest’s Histoires Tragiques, a 1576 French text many believe to be a source for Shakespeare’s plays, when he noticed some hand-written notations on the pages of a story of a Danish prince whose father was murdered by the prince’s uncle.

This recalls an item we discussed a couple of weeks ago about a new book identifying possible sources for Shakespeare’s writing.

There’s a problem with John Casson, however. He doesn’t believe Shakespeare wrote the plays that are attributed to him. He thinks it was Sir Henry Neville, a courtier of Elizabeth I.

Correction from last week: I said that Shakespeare’s birth is celebrated on April 26. Wrong! A sharp-eyed reader informs me it April 23. I stand corrected — and I thank the reader: Jean T.

Johannes Vermeer’s ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’

Few of the world’s great works of art — even Leonardo’s Mona Lisa — can match Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring for admirers and adherents. A best-selling novel and stage play have been written about this enigmatic painting from the great Dutch master.

The painting was created in about 1665, but for the first two hundred years of its life, few people knew of its existence. Where it was all that time is also a mystery. Today it is the star of the show in the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery, The Hague, Holland, where the gallery is conducting a close — really close — look at the painting.

Read more about all this to-do in this post on JPROF.com.

 

Dictionaries — still the one, after all these years

Last week’s item about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary (read the JPROF.com post here) brought in these interesting tidbits:

Helen P.: Dictionary response. When my husband joined a French company in late 90’s, management was given French classes at work. I loaned him my mother’s french/english dictionary from when she took college French prior to WWII. One week after he turned in his assignment he was called on the carpet, threatened with harassment charges. Yes, the teacher was young female and very upset at what she said was incredibly filthy. She did not relent until he brought the book in and showed the phrase he used. Yes, language changes, and not always for the better.

Sunny S.: As with many things in life, I wish the English language, and therefore the dictionaries which catalog the meanings of all those delightful words, would stay the same! I, too, still have the (Webster’s Collegiate) dictionary and thesaurus given to me in high school. The thesaurus is especially well-used and loved!

Giveaways

Art of the Arcane: Ides of March Mystery, Thriller, and Crime Giveaway. Once again, I have teamed up with a number of excellent writers to put together a truly fine selection of books to give away to our email lists and newsletter reades. This one has some great titles in it (including, of course, Kill the Quarterback), and you have an excellent chance of finding a great weekend read. Head on over there right away and see what’s available: https://artofthearcane.com/march-mystery-giveaway/…

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery/

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway. This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

A name for this newsletter?

We had one late entry in the name-the-newsletter sweepstakes last week — this one from my good friend Dan C. in Las Vegas: Seventh Inning Stretch.

Any reactions?

I like this one but still tend to favor the Hot Stove League. Seventh Inning Stretch might be good for something else I have in mind, which I will reveal when it’s developed a bit more.

I’d still like to hear from anyone who has an opinion or a suggestion.

Author! Author!

From time to time, I mention authors and books I think newsletter readers might be interested in. If you are a newsletter reader and have written a book you’d like for me to highlight, I am glad to do so. Send me an email. A description or blurb and an Amazon link would also be helpful.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: George Frederick Handel

Handel’s musical genius was widely recognized during his life, but by all accounts he was an affable, generous man — even though the performers he hired for his operas could drive him into fits of rage. He was also a workaholic who pursued his musical ideas into exhaustion and eventually ill health.

Best quote of the week:

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. Charles Darwin, naturalist and author (1809-1882) 

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. Add to these those devastated by the California wildfires — and now floods. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.

Jim

Jim Stovall 
www.jprof.com
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You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletterShakespeare’s appearance, Eleanor’s mastery, and Cronkite’s broadcast – plus a new book giveaway: newsletter, March 2, 2018

Handel was washed up – then came Messiah

He was finished, they said. Washed up. He’s had his day, and he’s done.

The year was 1740, and the man they were talking about was George Frederick Handel.

George Frederick Handel

Everybody in London knew who he was — and was was the operative word. Handel had once been the toast of the town, a composer without peer. His operas had thrilled and astonished audiences in a town that was tough to astonish.

Handel, who had lived in England for more than a quarter of a century. had never really ruled the operatic circles of London. It is too tough of a town for that. But the German-born musical genius had led his faction, and they loved him for it. By the mid-1730s, however, Handel had begun to lose his grip.

The public’s appetite for Italian opera, Handel’s specialty, was waning, and his last few productions had not gone well. Handel had made plenty of money during his career, but the operas were expensive to produce. Handel was facing bankruptcy.

There was also the issue of Handel’s health. In 1737, at the age of 52, he suffered what was like a stroke and lost the use of his hands and arms for playing and conducting. His doctor predicted that his career was over. But Handel fought his way back from that and by 1740 was ready to compose again. By April 1741, Handel conducted what he — and just about everyone else — thought might be his last performance.

Four months later, Charles Jennens, a poet and former collaborator, handed Handel the libretto for an oratorio about the life of Christ. Handel had composed oratorios earlier in his career, and Handel realized they coming back into fashion,

Handel set to work on composing the music for the oratorio and kept at it night and day. He hardly ate and slept very little, if at all. Those who looked after him became concerned, even though he would often work in this furious, non-stop style.

Handel himself reported being overcome with emotion and joy at what he was creating.

Three weeks after he began, in September 1741, Messiah was a completed work. Handel premiered the work in Dublin the next April, and the audience response was enthusiastic. The Dublin Journal wrote:

Words are wanting to express the exquisite Delight it afforded to the admiring crouded Audience. The Sublime, the Grand, and the Tender, adapted to the most elevated, majestick and moving Words, conspired to transport and charm the ravished Heart and Ear.’

Hallelujah Chorus

;

The London audience was cooler to the work when it was played there, but eventually Messiah found adherents and was recognized as a great piece of music. Today Messiah, especially its Hallelujah chorus, is one of the most popular and recognizable works in the history of music.

Handel composed other oratorios that were brilliant and well-received. One was Solomon, produced in 1749, which contains a sinfonia, Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, at the beginning of the third act that is still a favorite today.

Arrival of the Queen of Sheba

By the mid-1750s, Handel had gone blind and was generally in ill health. He died in London in 1759.

His music, even 250 years after his death, is hard to avoid.

 
David Vickers  The story behind the triumphant premiere of Handel’s Messiah

 The Glorious History of Handel’s Messiah | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian