Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Juno Magic's Music Mambo Meme

Again, that wonderful muse, JunoMagic has passed along a very interesting meme. I like how unique they are, and how they make you think.

So here's to thinking.

They say every snowflake is unique. Name a musician who you think is unique and sounds like no one else.

This one is easy. Olivier Messiaen, of course. Oh my, I just realised, this is the 100th anniversary of his birth!!! Oh, the wonderful organ recitals that can be made from that fact alone! We all enjoyed the heaps of music penned by Jean Langlais and Dietrich Buxtehude when we celebrated the 100th birth anniversary, and 300th death anniversary, respectively.

But back to Messiaen. I will admit that for me, he was an acquired taste. I didn't start to appreciate him until I heard two organists interpret his works: first, Gail Archer. I heard her play at Duke Chapel one afternoon, and her interpretation of Messiaen's works opened my eyes to the beauty of his creation. It is truly interesting how he didn't think and compose in terms of pitch, but in terms of colour - the music he was composing was akin to putting paint onto canvas, and masterpieces of art were the result of his labours. The second person, who really turned me on to Messiaen was Colin Andrews. He showed works of art as a slide show as he was playing some of Messiaen's pieces, and the pieces he showed truly complimented the music he played. He first gave this performance at Duke Chapel some years past, and he repeated it recently at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Greenville, NC. (Admittedly, I think of it more as East Carolina University, considering the wonderful Organ and Sacred Music program they have over there, under the wonderful leadership of Dr. Janette Fishell.) After hearing Colin play, I was hooked. Messiaen is awesome!

Snowfall covers everything in sight. Tell us about a cover song you enjoy.

Cover song? Erm ... gollee, that seems to change with the season. I love choral music, done well. Oh, of course. I've blogged on it before. My absolute favourite setting of Ave Maria? Josquin des Prez' setting (Ave Maria, Virgo Serena ...) which is absolutely exquisite. I was so happy that we're bringing this one back, slowly, for Compline, and the abfab David Arcus coached us through the last 3 sections of the piece last Sunday evening. Truly a work of art.

It snows a lot in Canada. Tell us your favorite Canadian musician.

Erm ... well, I guess there is a reason I call my blog the Organ-ic Chemist. When I think Canadian musician, the first name that pops into my mind is Healey Willan. I love his settings of the Ordinary, and have had the pleasure of singing some of his choral works when I sang with Chapel of the Cross' Senior Choir. I'm hoping to be able to start working on some of his organ music as well.

My friend, Dr. Van Quinn, loves to relate this famous Willan quip to his choirs whenever they work on his pieces: "[Healey Willan was] English by birth; Canadian by adoption; Irish by extraction; Scotch by absorption."

Watching the snow fall can be very peaceful. Name a song that brings you peace.

I think I've mentioned it already: Josquin des Prez' setting of Ave Maria. Hmmmm ... come to think of it, I've stacked my playlist at Project Playlist with a lot of what I consider my Desert Island Discs. There are quite a few nice a cappella choral pieces strewn about the lot. The settings of O mangum mysterium by Lauridsen and Victoria come to mind immediately. So too do the settings of O nata lux by Lauridsen and Tallis. And Howard Helvey's O lux beatissima is wonderful, as is David Hurd's Love Bade Me Welcome, and Paul Manz' E'en So, Lord Jesus. I can go on and on and on ...

If you care to listen to my play list, it is easily accessible from my MySpace page. You don't need to friend me to have a look and a listen.

I pass the ball onto anyone's court who wishes to answer. I am keen to hear from Brian Michael Page, and perhaps his blogging sidekick, Jason Pennington. It would be also wonderful to hear from Charles Culbreth as well. This does not necessarily mean I'm limiting my tagging to these gentlemen, but would still like to hear from others, all the same. Thanks, Juno, for the interesting meme!

On Organ Preludes Pre-Service

Yet another wonderful offering from that vast resource that is PIPORG-L. This comes from Justin Hartz.

I [...] am very fortunate to work for a church which truly appreciates its music ministry and musicians. Those churches seem few and far between in 2008 AD.

It is absolutely RUDE to talk during the prelude, whether or not you believe it is part of a church service, or relevant at all. The prelude is a time to step away from the roar of the everyday world. It is not background music at a cocktail party. To have organ music cover up the secular ramblings of a chatty congregation cheapens this offering to God.

The prelude is a time to talk with God. Some might even consider this dialogue prayer.

I and many other organists pray through our fingers and feet. How would you like to have your prayers interrupted by Aunt Mabel's recitation of her latest culinary creation featuring lime Jello and tuna fish?

This is a "teachable moment." If a congregation doesn't know any better, TEACH them how to prepare for worship. If the last few generations grew up with poor manners, it is up to us to lead them by word and example. This requires having standards, and also a SPINE!

"Us" means musicians and clergy together. Without clergy support, no matter what your denominational rubrics say, nothing is going to happen.

Too many churches, clergy, and musucians, in an effort to retain or boost membership, have become sloppy in our liturgical practices. Some have lowered standards to reach the lowest common denominatior.

Has this enhanced our worship? Has this brought in and retained an active membership? Have we given our best to the Glory of God? Has it done justice to the King of Instruments?

Jason has stated this so eloquently. I still remember when I was 8 years old and learning how to play the piano. My teacher had me working on a religious song (I think the title was "He," but that came out of my very fuzzy recollection). I remember my brother bothering me as I was practising this piece, and my retort to him was, "Don't bother me, I'm praying." He gave me a sneer and a snort and went on his merry way.

Childhood memories aside, even today, as I'm playing my musical offerings to God as I'm playing my preludes and postludes, I do also feel like it's a prayer of sorts. It's a good time to be reminded of the American Guild of Organists' motto: Soli Deo Gloria - Glory to God Alone.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gratitude Campaign

Now, this is interesting. I received this via email from Rev. David Kovach. Considering I've had friends and relatives serve in the military, I figured this would be appropriate to share with all. Regardless of how you feel about the war in Iraq, this is for all who serve in the military.

Gratitude Campaign

How often have you thought you had a great idea, and after mulling it over or even chatting about it with friends, let it fall by the wayside? Today we did a story about a local guy, Scott Truitt, who thought it would be great if people had a simple gesture to express gratitude to military personnel. He's trying to teach people the American Sign Language sign for "thank you from the bottom of my heart" so it can be gestured to a member of the military without having the awkwardness of starting an entire conversation.

Not only has he produced a short video that's on YouTube and his website but he got the Seattle Seahawks to play it on their jumbotron before the Seahawks-Bengals game. His hope is for the gesture to be come so common, no one even remembers it took a "campaign" to get it started. Do you think it'll catch on?

Check out The Gratitude
for more information.

As stated in the video: it's not about politics; it's about service and sacrifice on the part of the military, and gratitude on our parts.

Thanks for the forward, Pr. Dave!

Fanfic Recommendation: Where Your Treasure Is

I just had to blog on this one. zeegrindylows has just completed the very well-written Where Your Treasure Is. It consists of 61 chapters and an Epilogue. As it is a Severus Snape/Hermione Granger "ship," it is almost Deathly Hallows-compliant, if not for the fact that in zee's story, Snape survives, and it was due to Hermione's intervention that he does so.

Great great story, and for me, it was kind of the "gateway" of sorts for me to be hooked on Harry Potter fanfiction. It's also helped me think about getting my literary juices flowing once again. I've had a set of characters in my head since I was in junior high school, and I've occasionally written little stories centred on these characters. Nothing concrete though, and what I wrote back in the 7th and 8th grades may pass for Battlestar Galactica/MASH/Star Wars fanfiction today, but with mostly original characters. Whenever I feel up to it (and whenever I can get a break from the constant marking of papers, lab preparations and lecture writing, not to mention my church organist duties to two churches), I may put pen to paper and start writing again.

But we'll see.

27 January - Third Sunday after Epiphany

Naturally, I am late in posting these lists. Admittedly, I've gotten into the unhappy habit of choosing voluntary music the night before the service ... and even starting to look at the music the night before. Certainly doesn't help the stress levels any, but admittedly, I've been so into Harry Potter Fan Fiction that I've turned into a formless, shapeless blob. This extreme procrastination has also affected my classwork as well. I've got a group of irate students who are demanding their marks from quizzes and exams, so I know I'd better get on it.

So. Lists. As I was the one who chose the music this time around, you will see similarities between the hymns chosen for both St. Joseph's and the Episcopal Centre at Duke. Numbers are from The Hymnal 1982.

St. Joseph's Episcopal Church:

January 27: Epiphany 3

Prelude: Prelude in B-flat Major (attr. Bach, may be J.T. Krebs)
Pro: 304 I come with joy (LAND OF REST)
Gloria: Powell (S-280 in Hymnal 1982, if you're interested)
Seq: 7 Christ, whose glory fills the skies (RATISBON)
Off: 653 Dear Lord and Father of mankind (REPTON) (with 3rd verse setting by Willcocks)
Doxology: Old 100th
Sanctus: Community Mass (Proulx)
Lord's Prayer: chanted (S-119 in Hymnal 1982, if you're interested)
Fraction Anthem: New Plainsong (D. Hurd)
Comm: Lord, When You Came (Pescador de Hombres) (Choir only)
Re: 539 O Zion, haste (TIDINGS)
Postlude: Fugue in B-flat Major (attr. Bach, may be J.T. Krebs)

Most in the choir were not familiar with Lord, When You Came but they picked it up very quickly, and were very happy with it. It worked very well with our group (consisting of 5 voices, a flautist, a guitarist, and a bass guitarist).

Episcopal Centre at Duke University:

January 27: Epiphany 3:

Prelude: Prelude on "Land of Rest" (Wilbur Held)
Pro: 126 The people who in darkness walked (DUNDEE)
Gloria: Mathias
Seq: 7 Christ, whose glory fills the skies (RATISBON)
Off: 653 Dear Lord and Father of mankind (REPTON)
Sanctus: C. Hampton setting (S-127, if you're interested)
Comm: 304 I come with joy (LAND OF REST)
Re: 539 O Zion, haste (TIDINGS)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Procrastination To The Max

Well, it looks like I've reached my 100th post! Believe it or not, in a grand fit of Procrastination, I spent a good portion of the evening creating an Alan Rickman quiz on Facebook. Actually, it was created through the Flixster application on Facebook. I wrote 15 questions, spanning 30 years of his long and distinguished acting career. I limited the questions to his films.

If you're on Facebook, feel free to give my quiz a go, and please let me know what you think of it. It was heaps of fun to write! Click here to begin.

Even if you're not on Facebook, you may still give my quiz a go. Just click here and take it through the Flixster page.


How NOT to use the pistons!

This little gem comes courtesy of Daniel E. Gawthorp, via the PIPORG-L list. It's one of those that just makes you shake your head. For me, I found it amusing. Enjoy!

I remember going, now several decades ago, to tune and service a lovely three manual Æolian-Skinner located in a beautiful Episcopal parish church in Gothic style (which shall remain nameless) and finding that every piston on the organ contained the same registration: all manual eights and sixteens coupled together. Upon pointing out this obvious failure of the combination action, I was informed by the senior technician, with a chuckle, that this was the registration which the resident organist used for all hymn playing and that she thought it was very clever to have it on all of the pistons--that way, no matter which one she happened to hit, it would be right! One might almost find registration by crescendo pedal preferable!

The business of research

While perusing The Daily Tar Heel, which is UNC Chapel Hill's daily newspaper, I came across this article in the Opinions section. The Department of Homeland Security has considered the Triangle area to be one of five finalists for the location of their new National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility. Naturally, there are the NIMBYs who are opposing efforts to bring the NBAF to Butner (in Granville County, NC) with concerns of safety, especially considering it would be classified a Biosafety Level-4 research facility. My sense of it, however, is that this is ignorance talking, in addition to fears in the wake of the disastrous Environmental Quality (EQ) Company chemical explosion in Apex a couple of years ago. However, despite those fears, I agree with the editorial writer in that having the facility in Butner would be good, economically, for that city, Granville County, and the Triangle area as a whole. It will bring in needed money and jobs in the area. (Heck, if my qualifications fit, and they can use an organic chemist with experience with cell and molecular biology techniques, I would apply for a job there!)

The DHS's page on the proposed NBAF includes a FAQ of sorts in the form of clickable links to learn more about what type of research they would be doing, and why such a facility is needed. I hope that the more people learn about the hows and whys of such a facility, the more they would realise that having it would be a benefit and not a liability.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Catching Up with the Organ-ic Chemist

Well, I've been rather absent lately. Admittedly, I haven't been making the most of my time, having been sucked in by Harry Potter FanFiction. Pathetic, I know. Luckily for me, I scheduled an in-class midterm exam for my students tonight, so I didn't have to finish preparing for a lecture on The Secrets of the Nucleus. I figured my students wouldn't be able to, or rather, wouldn't want to absorb anything new after having squeezed their brains out. So there's my reprieve. They spent the rest of the evening learning how to deal with the Metric System through a series of measuring and weighing liquids and solids, which amazingly enough, took up the rest of the class period.

Hard to believe that Ash Wednesday and Lent will be here before we know it. I was hoping to have O Mensch, bewein' dein' Sünde Gross (BWV 622, from the Orgelbüchlein) all polished up by Ash Wednesday. I still have a ghost of a chance of doing that, if I get myself into gear and actually get myself to an organ more often than I've been doing of late.

I'm adjusting to life at St. Joseph's. The Vicar, Rev. Rhonda Lee, is very very supportive, and the congregation has welcomed me with open arms. I'm hoping to get the choir to expand their repertoire, but I know that will take some time. Rome wasn't built in a day, and I wouldn't expect this lot to be able to sing SSAATTBB pieces any time soon ...

As much as I miss singing with the Senior Choir at the Chapel of the Cross, I'm still enjoying my time singing with the Compline Choir. It's been tons of fun, especially with the mix of people we having singing with us. We've got people from the Newman Catholic Student Centre at UNC, as well as a group of people from the Duke Chapel Choir singing along with us, which has enabled the Choirmaster, Van Quinn, to expand the choir's repertoire. Of late, we've been opening the service with Tallis' setting of O Nata Lux. We have a variety of motets we've been rotating at various points of the Compline service, as well as a variety of settings of Ave Maria to end the service. And of course, of late, the excellent improvisational genius that is David Arcus has been providing the closing Organ Voluntary. I was most impressed with his improv a couple of Sundays ago (First Sunday after the Epiphany) when he improvised on the Lauridsen setting of O Nata Lux, while layering the seasonal Marian chant Alma Redemptoris Mater beneath it. Clever, clever man.

Music lists: considering this post is already getting over-long, I will post those separately and place the links below.

First Sunday after Epiphany / Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Second Sunday after Epiphany / Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Harry Potter FanFiction that has been occupying me of late:

Where Your Treasure Is by zeegrindylows
The Apprentice and the Necromancer by JunoMagic
Progression by Clever Lass
Armilla and Armilla II by Coral Grace
Harry Potter and the Legend of the Twelve by LMB3

20 January - Second Sunday after Epiphany / Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Despite my having taken on the Organist/Choirmaster position at St. Joseph's Episcopal Church and Organist position at the Episcopal Centre at Duke University, I am still volunteering my Cantoring services at Immaculate Conception (RC) Church as my cantoring duties does not conflict with either of my new church positions. My turn at cantoring came with the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.

There is no list for Duke because they generally do a Contemplative service every third Sunday of the month, so they won't need an organist as they generally do Taizé chants for those services.

Immaculate Conception (As usual, the numbers come out of GIA's Gather Comprehensive 1994 (green cover):

January 20: Ordinary 2 (Sun. 7.45 am)

Gloria: Mass of Creation
Alleluia: 261 Murray; Verse to Tone VIII-g
Sanctus, Mem. Accl., Amen, Agnus Dei: Mass of Creation

Pro: 376 Songs of thankfulness and praise (SALZBURG)
Psalm: 40 (Guimont)
Off: 577 Come, my way (THE CALL)
Comm: a very abbreviated Cantilena from Sonata in d minor (Op. 148, No. 11; Rheinberger)
Re: 642 Jesus, lead the way (ROCHELLE)
Postlude: Improvisation on Rochelle

I'm not sure what the organist played as a prelude, and I forgot to ask her what it was she played. I noticed, however, that attendance was waaaaaaay down, but I attribute that to icy conditions. For example, a couple of friends I know who come in from Hillsborough weren't there. Another friend snarkily states they live "at the edge of dirt," however when the roads ice over by where they live, they really can't go anywhere very safely. Such is the slings and arrows and perils of living in the South when a hint of wintry weather hits ...

St. Joseph's Episcopal Church:

January 20: Epiphany 2

Prelude: Fantasia (Pachelbel)
Pro: Brightest and best of the stars of the morning (MORNING STAR)
Gloria: Powell (S-280 in Hymnal 1982, if you're interested)
Seq: Ye servants of God (PADERBORN)
Off: The people who in darkness walked (DUNDEE)
Doxology: Old 100th
Sanctus: Community Mass (Proulx)
Lord's Prayer: chanted (S-119 in Hymnal 1982, if you're interested)
Fraction Anthem: New Plainsong (D. Hurd)
Comm: Here I Am, Lord (Schutte)
Re: I want to walk as a child of the Light (HOUSTON) (we did this in D as opposed to D-flat)
Postlude: Prelude in C (BWV 553, attributed to J. T. Krebs)

Thanks to rather frightful weather (icy conditions in the more rural parts of the Triangle area), I was down to one tenor and one bass guitarist. So the three of us were essentially it as far as the music was concerned. We managed though, and we still made a Joyful Sound to the Lord. Here's hoping the weather will be more cooperative next Sunday ...

13 January - First Sunday after Epiphany / Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ

This was my first Sunday at both St. Joseph's Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Centre at Duke University. The following are the music lists for both services. I did not pick the music for these service. My turn for planning the music starts for 27 January and beyond.

With that, the lists.

St. Joseph's Episcopal Church:

January 13: Epiphany 1 / Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Prelude: (A rather lame) Improvisation on On Jordan's Bank (WINCHESTER NEW)
Pro: Here in Christ we gather (UBI CARITAS (Murray))
Seq: Come down, O Love divine (DOWN AMPNEY)
Off: We three kings of Orient are (THREE KINGS OF ORIENT)
Doxology: Old 100th
Sanctus: Community Mass (Proulx)
Lord's Prayer: chanted (S-119 in Hymnal 1982, if you're interested)
Fraction Anthem: New Plainsong (D. Hurd)
Comm: Glory and Praise to our God (see note below)
Re: Be thou my vision (SLANE)
Postlude: In dir ist Freude, BWV 615 (J. S. Bach)

I have a choir consisting of at least 5 singers, a high-school aged pianist, a guitarist, and a bass guitarist. It's been their custom to pick the Communion music, and sometimes the Offertory music as well. They generally don't choose it until at least an hour before the service. I think I'm going to sit back and assess how they sound together, and allow them to continue that course for the moment. It will also allow me to determine with what repertoire they are comfortable. As of this writing, I still have not yet heard everyone together, thanks to illness and ice storms.

Episcopal Centre at Duke University:

January 13: Epiphany 1 / Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Prelude: (A slightly better) Improvisation on On Jordan's Bank (WINCHESTER NEW)
Pro: Christ, when for us you were baptized (CAITHNESS)
Gloria: Mathias
Seq: "I come," the great Redeemer cries (THIS ENDRIS NYGHT)
Off: Songs of thankfulness and praise (SALZBURG)
Sanctus: C. Hampton setting (S-127, if you're interested)
Comm: The sinless one to Jordan came (SOLEMNIS HAEC FESTIVITAS)
Re: In Christ there is no East or West (McKEE)

This one is a cozy little service. The congregation is comprised primarily of Duke undergrads and grad students. Services are followed by a dinner, which allows for fellowship, and in the case of the Chaplain and me, music planning. Not bad, I'd say. I discerned that this is a pretty close-knit group of students, which is a very good thing indeed.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tuning 6000 pipes

This comes courtesy of the Raleigh News and Observer. This is an audio slideshow of the process of tuning the new Letourneau organ, Op. 112, at Edenton Street Methodist Church. It's interesting ... I am looking forward to hearing of any sort of events centering around the organ in the near future.

Click here to watch the video.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

PCR Music Video

H/T to Lisa L. This is too cute. You can tell which artists these people are emulating. The science nerd in me deeply appreciates this one, even though I've never had the ... pleasure ... of having to do PCR (Polymerase chain reaction).

Even though this essentially amounts to an advert by those at Bio-Rad, it's still cute.

I don't think I can embed this one, so click here to see the video.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

We have a loooong way to go, folks.

This is incredible. My eyes can't believe what I just read. This comes off the PIPORG-L list. Read it and be incredulous. Clergy Creatures like this one need to have their brains extracted, re-educated, and then re-inserted into their pointy little heads.

Read it, and weep, gnash teeth, rent clothes, etc. etc.

This was contributed by Terry Charles.

I've been a long time. and I MEAN a LONG time admirer of all things musical at Saint Mary The Virgin in New York City!

A "clergy" friend, this evening, upon viewing the website for the organ/concerts at Saint Mary's and the photos of the main organ in the gallery, its history and specification, its appearance and position in the building... SAID -

I'm not at all convinced that a digital (Walker) organ could not replace that organ and, in doing so, create a magnificent and new appearance for the church by doing away with all that clutter up there. I'm not at all a musician, but the clutter of the organs pipes and related components, in my view, are a distraction to the beauty and reverence of the building.

Oh MY......... what can I say, folks? As said in Ben Hur, perhaps I have lived tooooo long!

And my reaction to that: Honey, it's a good thing you're not a musician!!! Organ pipes a distraction to the beauty and reverence of the building, indeed! IMHO, there are plenty of cavernous, barn-like "church" buildings whose stadium-like atmosphere with a decided lack of reverential environment are themselves distractions to its beauty!!! And, IMHO, organ pipes are never a distraction from beauty and reverence, but an addition to it!

... jumping off my soapbox now ...

JunoMagic's Sunday Feast

Okay, well I called it Sunday Feast because I'm filling it in on a Sunday, whereas she did hers last Friday. JunoMagic, who writes Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings fanfiction, had this interesting meme, and I decided I'd bite. Sorry for being a little long-winded here.

Appetizer: What is your middle name? Would you change any of your names if you could? If so, what would you like to be called?

My middle name is my mother's maiden name: Yalong. I don't think I would change any of my names, not now, not ever. I'm just glad my parents never named me "Joher," and glad that Lola Ina intervened at the right time. I'm named after the Patron Saint of mum's hometown, Sta. Elena.

Soup: If you were a fashion designer, which fabrics, colors, and styles would you probably use the most?

Oh dear. Definitely not a strong suit of mine as I generally never pay attention to stuff like this. I tend to like dark colours, especially black, dark blues (although thanks to living in NC, I've acquired a taste for Carolina Blue, as well as the Duke Blue Devil blue), dark purples, etc. People tell me I look great in orange and salmon type colours, but I don't particularly fancy them myself.

As for fabrics ... well, for me, whatever is comfortable works well. The only thing I'm not so keen on is wool as it's awfully itchy on the skin. I did crochet a maroon hat made of lambswool though, and it's become my signature hat - people can tell me a mile away when they see me wear it on a cold day.

I like to go for the simple look - everything I have in my wardrobe matches, polo shirts, mostly black or dark blue trousers. I love my scrubs though, very comfy, and I like to wear them in the lab. I particularly fancy the Professor Snape costume that Alan Rickman wears when filming the Harry Potter films - if I can have a frock coat like that, I would be in seventh heaven. Never mind that I'd look horrible in it.

Salad: What is your least favorite chore, and why?

Well, when Muki was with me, I absolutely loathed cleaning out the litter box. However, it was one of those necessary evils and I endured it every day.

Main Course: What is something that really frightens you, and can you trace it back to an event in your life?

Erm ... well, I am a little nervous about tomorrow, having to step into the role of Organist/Choirmaster. I know I can do the Organist bit; it's the Choirmaster bit that has me scared. I'm glad I've got friends like Mary Lycan and Kathy Parkins - they've both given me invitations to visit St. Luke's and First Pres, respectively, to peruse their collections for small choirs, and I will definitely take them up on their offers.

Dessert: Where are you sitting right now? Name 3 things you can see at this moment.

I'm sitting in a comfy chair in the living room right now. I am currently seeing:

#1: My sea urchin tank to my right. I started off with 14 hapless sea urchins that I rescued from certain death in the lab. More than a year and a half later, I have 3 still sticking to the sides of the aquarium, which is quite amazing, considering they generally only live 2-4 weeks after having been injected with potassium chloride, according to the research literature.

#2: A small table to my left, piled high with books I intend to read, and just beyond that, several pots filled with African Violets.

#3: a chair filled with General Chemistry and General Chemistry Lab texts. Gotta have my resources when writing up those lectures, designing those labs, and writing up those exams (ugh!) ... yes, kids, as much as you hate taking those Chemistry exams, your instructor likes writing them even less, and imagine having to mark those exams ...

Tag, you're it! Is there anyone out there who would like to give this interesting meme a go?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Tracker Organ, 2m, Catching Its Wind

This comes courtesy of PIPORG-L. Here's a YouTube visit with a 19th century two-manual British tracker organ built by Bevington and being refurbished. Fred Hohman demonstrates the organ's wind prostration caused by a malfunctioning blower and/or blown-out reservoir leather. There is a nice outcome for the organ as repaired by Patrick Murphy of Philadelphia.

First Day of Class ... !!!

Well, I did it. The first day of my taking over a Lecture Course, solo, has passed. I didn't have the students do much, really - we just went over the syllabus, showed them the features in Blackboard, and pointed out some areas that the students will need to pay close attention, gave my one hour lecture on Chapter 1, which is an introductory chapter anyway, and then after giving them a 15 minute break, launched right into a Lab Safety Orientation, sufficiently scaring them into remembering Common Sense whilst working in a Chemistry Laboratory.

After having them answer a few questions and sign a statement saying they read and understood the Safety Statements and such, I sent them on their way. The kids were out by 7.15 p.m. I told them I won't be as nice next time, but that the amount of time they stay in class on any given day will be dependent on how efficient they are whilst working on their experiments.

And that was that. I still feel like I need to take myself down a couple of notches - even with the introductory material I fed the students earlier this evening, they still gave me looks which told me I'm speaking over their heads.

Sigh. Teaching is not as easy as one would think. But hopefully, I got them thinking about the interesting Adventures in Chemistry that I hope to provide them this term.

The biggest challenge: trying to squeeze in what should be a 14-week semester course into an 8-week half-term. Considering the oodles of time allocated (8 hours/week, inclusive of actual and virtual time), theoretically, it should be no problem. It's the virtual bit that I think will be the challenge, as Intro Chem has traditionally been a face-to-face class.

We'll see what happens ...

In Memoriam: J. Michael Walker (1951 - 2008)

I just received this email from the ICRS, authored by Heather Bradshaw, Susan Huang, and Ken Mackie.

Dear Colleagues,

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the death of J Michael Walker [Saturday, January 5] of heart failure.

Michael was the Linda and Jack Gill Chair of Neuroscience and Professor of Psychology at Indiana University. To all of us who knew him, Michael was an inspiration and a cherished colleague. Trained as a psychologist, he adroitly incorporated behavior, anatomy, electrophysiology, molecular biology, and mass spectrometry into an outstanding body of scholarship. Beyond his scientific contributions, Michael also had a deep and genuine interest in teaching and mentoring. Above all, he was a warm and generous human being. He will be dearly missed, but his legacy will live on—both in his creative endeavors as well as through his many accomplished students. Michael was an ICRS past President, was a distinguished researcher, mentor to many, created the endowed Kang Tsou lecture series and was always willing to help the Society. He made great contributions to the Society, often quietly. The ICRS will present a memorial to his life at the 2008 meeting.

Please visit Michael’s website at:

If you would like to offer condolences to the family, please make contributions to the Kang Tsou Memorial Fund (a non-profit foundation founded by Michael, dedicated to neuropharmacology and education), c/o Misty Theodore, Indiana University, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, 1101 E 10th St, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA

Heather Bradshaw, Susan Huang, Ken Mackie and ICRS

He was taken from us too soon as he was only 57 years old. More may be read here. Resquiat in pace, Dr. Walker. It was an honour having met you.

Sigh ...

I wish the lectures would be able to write themselves. The syllabus is completed ... the lab safety orientation sheet is completed ... the overhaul of my Blackboard space is completed for the moment ... now all I have to do is complete at least 2.5 hours worth of lecture for tonight's class.

Yesterday's funeral of Barbara McMullan was just simply ... beautiful ... the choir certainly outdid themselves, but then again, she was family, having been married to one of the tenors. I didn't know Barbara personally, but she made a huge impact on the parish. The kneeler pads with the exquisite needlepoint/cross stitch that she designed for use in the Antebellum Chapel were brought into the church and used at the Communion Rail during Communion. Much was made of Barbara's talents, especially with her yarn and fabric work, and her idea of the arrangement of the poinsettias behind the altar, influenced very strongly by the Basque carol, The Infant King, which the choir sang during Communion.

The burial in the church grounds was just as poignant, and emotional. Many of those who packed the church stayed for the burial of the ashes, and then continued into the parish hall for a reception.

Here was the Order of Worship for her funeral. It went according to Rite I in the Book of Common Prayer.

J. S. Bach:
Wir glauben all an einen Gott, Schöpfe
Wir glauben all an einen Gott, Vater

J. Brahms: Chorale Preludes, Op. 122
Herzlich tut mich erfreuen
Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele
O wir selig seid ihr doch
O Welt, ich muss dich lassen

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! The strife is o'er ... (VICTORY)

Sequence Hymn
For the beauty of the earth (DIX)

Never weather-beaten sail (C. H. Parry)

Sanctus (Willan)

Communion Hymn
How lovely is the dwelling place (Brother James' Air)

Carol during Communion
The Infant King (Basque Carol, arr. David Willcocks)

Hymn after The Dismissal
Love divine, all loves excelling (HYFRYDOL)

Fugue in E-flat Major ("Saint Anne" - J. S. Bach)

Sigh. Back to the lecture. I'm working on Chapters 1 and 2 out of the Snyder text, The Extraordinary Chemistry of Ordinary Things, 4th Edition. I like this text so far; it's just a shame there will be no more updates to it.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Liturgical Musings ... or not ...

At my Faith Sharing group this morning, we had an interesting side-topic of discussion. I'll have to admit to having missed the 7.45 am Mass this morning. The Presider du Jour elicited just about as much discussion as did the Readings of the Day. I will call him Fr. A to protect his privacy.

It looks to me that people either love him or hate him. Upon first meeting, you get the impression that he looks like Santa Claus in a Franciscan habit. The very picky are discomfited by the fact he doesn't wear an alb underneath the chasuble. The even more picky criticise his tendency to ad-lib during Mass, cracking "need coffee" jokes to the 7.45 am folk, and ad-libbing some of the basic texts from the Order of Mass. (Interestingly enough, when he presided over the Filpino community's 5.30 am Misa de Gallo, he made no such comments, and he kept his ad-libbing to an absolute minimum ... actually, more like zero.)

They liked his homily, however. (We're pretty blessed in that this current group of Friars are also excellent homilists. Fr. Dan should be so proud of his charges; he was an academic at Washington Theological Union before he was assigned Pastor at Immaculate Conception.)

The largest protest came from his, er, introduction of sorts, before praying the Lord's Prayer. Let's see, how does it go ... oh yes, "Let us pray with confidence to the Father in the words our Savior gave us. Now, Whose Father?"

And then the people reply (with a little bit of nervous laughter): "Our Father, who art in heaven ..."

The first time I heard that, I just rolled my eyes.

So a couple of people were excoriating Fr. A over his liturgical ... er ... improprieties. However, he did get major points for helping the lone altar server fold the long cloth that covers the altar after Communion and before the Prayer After Communion. The other Friars would just return to their stone throne, watching the altar server struggle to fold the thing by himself.

Where Fr. A may lack in liturgical rubrics, he makes up for it in his pastoral approach. Most I've talked to say of all the friars, he would be the one to whom they would be more willing to confess their sins. When one woman expressed fear of some sort of ghost or demon taking up residence in her place, Fr. A comforted her and blessed her house. I know he spends lots of time in the hospital, visiting parishioners and giving them comfort. He will be taking a trip to New Orleans soon ... I think he mentioned looking forward to a Habitat for Humanity-like project whilst there. I've shared a couple of meals with him myself, planning for the Misa de Gallo, and I found him very easy to work with, and very flexible. He was also very knowledgeable about the little liturgical points I was bringing up to him. In short, I was very impressed by him.

One thing that I am curious about though - I noticed when he takes communion, he does it by intinction - he will dip the host in the chalice and then consume it. It raised a flag in my mind. First of all, I didn't think Catholics took communion by intinction. Or rather, I have never seen communion by intinction in any Roman Catholic church I've been to. Secondly - and I'm sure this is a valid concern - what if the priest is a recovering alcoholic. Would he need some sort of special dispensation or something similar to take communion in such a manner?

Ah well, enough of my blather. I have a Chemistry 101 syllabus to finalize. Classes start Tuesday ... !!! ...

Edit, 8 January 2008:

I posed a simpler question on the RPInet Boards, and thus far, the discussion has been very interesting. Naturally, it's taken off in a different tangent (when do discussions ever not do so?) but illuminating discussion nontheless.

6 January - The Epiphany of Our Lord

I played the 5.15 pm service at Chapel of the Cross. It will be my last 5.15 pm service for a while as I start my dual position at St. Joseph's Episcopal and the Episcopal Centre at Duke University next Sunday. The Duke position would only be for the academic year, so I will be available to return to the 5.15 pm organist crew during the summer.

I also had quite an emotional morning, bidding farewell to the Faith Sharing group I've been a part of, since with my new position, I will be unable to continue a lively Bible Study session over breakfast at the Appleby's. Everyone was happy for me and gave me much encouragement and well wishes. I told them they'll still probably see me from time to time as I will still cantor the 7.45 am Mass at Immaculate Conception. At this point, considering my situation, I may even be willing to sub from time to time for the 7.45 am Mass (and if I'm up for pain, possibly even the Saturday 5.30 pm Mass ... if I'm really really up for pain ...) and consider that as a donation of my Time and Talent.

Then at the end of choir rehearsal, besides sharing the sad news of Barb McMullan's death and upcoming funeral for tomorrow afternoon, Van also shared with the group that this would be my last Sunday with them as I would be moving into a church job of my own. People were generally happy, but I got an awful lot of pouty looks ("St. Joseph's gain is our loss") ... I'm generally not a huggy type of person, but I received lots of hugs and pats on the back this morning from the choristers. I'll have to send a thank you note as they've received me with open arms, and I truly enjoyed the friendship and fellowship they provided to me. I will be singing at the funeral tomorrow, in addition to the blessing of Lee's and Robert's union on Saturday. Plus, I will still be singing with the Compline Choir, so as I've been telling people all day, Chapel of the Cross will not be getting rid of me so readily.

Oh, here I am prattling on and on. I did mention I was providing a music list! Here it is. I didn't finalise my voluntary music until an hour before the service began.

January 6: The Epiphany of Our Lord (5.15 pm)

Prelude: What Child Is This (Gehrke); Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (J. C. Bach)
Pro: As with gladness men of old (DIX)
Sequence: We three kings of Orient are (THREE KINGS OF ORIENT)
Offertory: What child is this (GREENSLEEVES)
Sanctus: Community Mass (Proulx)
Communion: Two settings of Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her (Zachau and Moser; the latter sounding very notey, but at least it covered the whole of Communion, and the timing of finishing was perfect ...)
Re: What star is this, with beams so bright (PUER NOBIS)
Postlude: In dir ist Freude, BWV 615 (J. S. Bach)

So I threw these folks a bone - Van and I played the exact same piece for Postlude. He had access to a Zimbelstern. I didn't. But that's okay. People actually stayed for the Postlude and thanked me afterward. Hee hee.

Oh, I guess these service music lists will now be a weekly feature of my blog as I now have a regular job that requires them. I'll even get a go at planning the music for two churches. I might actually start feeling like a real Church Musician! What a concept ...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A meme! A meme! A meme!

This comes from an old high school friend of mine, Tess. It came from her MySpace page, in the Bulletins section.

Unlike Tess, I don't really have any concrete reason for filling this in other than to pass the time in nervous anticipation of Tuesday evening ...

1. Do you wear a name tag at work?
In the lab, yes. In class or at the organ, no.

2. What kind of car do you drive?
Honda Civic

3. What do you order when you go to Taco Bell?
I don't do fast food.

4. Have you ever had a garage sale?
No, but I helped a friend out with his.

5. What color is your iPod?
I don't own an iPod or any other mp3-type players.

6. What kind of dog do you have?
No dogs.

7. what's for dinner tonight?
I guess I'll just have to open my refrigerator and see when the time comes.

8. What is the last alcoholic beverage you had?
Wassail, spiked with something.

9. Stupidest thing you ever did with your cell phone?
I don't have a cell phone.

10. Last time you were sick?
Just shortly before Thanksgiving. Losing your voice doesn't work when you have to use it for teaching or singing or attempting to direct a choir.

11. How long is your hair?
between my butt and my knees.

12. Are you happy right now?
It depends

13. What did you say last?
Out loud?

14. Who came over last?
Chris L.

15. Do you drink beer?
Every once in a blue moon.

16. Have your brothers or sisters ever told you that you were adopted?
Not that I recall ...

17. What is your favorite key chain on your keys?
I don't have one ... although, regarding keys, my friends are amazed at how many churches in the area I have keys to. Hey, gotta have the chance to be able to play as many of the wonderful organs in this area, right?

18. What did you get for graduation?
My parents bought my academic robes for me.

19. Whats in your pocket?
Nothing at the moment.

20. Who introduced you to Dane Cook?

21. Has someone ever made you a Build-A-Bear?
What's that?

22. What DVD is in your DVD player?
Most likely a Harry Potter DVD.

23. What's something fun you did today?
Or what will I be doing? I'm going to be chained to an organ because I bloody well haven't been practising much, lately. Watch The Organist make a fool of herself at services tomorrow, and at Epiphany at that! :-P

24. Who is/was the principal of your high school?
It was Alan Something. Tall, older, bald. <----- yes, Tess, Alan Sachrison was his name. Beyond that, I don't remember. He was at least 6'5" tall, lanky, stringy, all arms and legs.

25. Has your house ever been TP'd?

26.What do you think of when you hear the word "meow"?
Minerva McGonagall. Naturally, a cat!

27. What are you listening to right now?
A Walton song - "Make We Joy Now in this Fest." Tomorrow's choral anthem, along with the more traditional Mendelssohn "There Shall a Star from Jacob Come Forth"

28. Drinking?
Decaf green tea

29. What is your favorite aisle at Wal-Mart?
The clearance racks. You never know what you can find. Kind of like a treasure hunt, if you will.

30. When is your mom's birthday?
4 February

31. When is your birthday?
10 September

32. What's the area code for your cell phone?
If I had one, it would be 919

33. Where did you buy the shirt you're wearing now?
I didn't - it's an old shirt of my brother's that doesn't fit him any more.

34. Is there anything hanging from your rear view mirror?
A jade rosary. (Filipinos. We always have a rosary stashed somewhere.)

35. How many states in the US have you been to? Which ones?
California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida ... I could go on, would you prefer me to continue?

36. What kind of milk do you drink?
Soya milk.

37. What are you going to do after this?
Finish lunch, have a bath, and then chain myself to an organ for the rest of the day.

38. Who was the last person you went shopping with?
Me, myself, and I

39. What is your favorite fruit?
If I had to pick one: peaches. I also love watermelon, mango (the ataulfo sort, not the big red flavourless sort), balimbing (what's the English word for that?), atis, lychee, rambutan ... etc.

40. What about your favorite dessert?
As long as it's edible. Minimise the chocolate though, not so keen on it.

41. What is something you need to go shopping for?
Hmmmm? Perhaps a time-turner - not enough hours in the day to fit what I need to have done.

42. Do you have the same name as one of your relatives?
Indubitably - we all have the first name of Maria. It's only our middle names that delineate differences between us.

43. What kind of car does one of your siblings drive?
Toyota 4-Runner

44. Do you like pickles?

45. How about olives?
They're okay

46. What is your favorite kind of gum?
Not much of a gum chewer

47. What is your favorite kind of juice?
Not much of a juice drinker either.

48. Do you have any tan lines?
Not that I know of, unless you consider a watch tan to be a tan line.

49. What hospital were you born in?
Naval Hospital in North Charleston, South Carolina. I don't think it still exists, however as that particular navy base is now closed.

TAG, YOU'RE IT!!! The meme gets passed on to anyone who cares to answer these silly questions.

Chemistry 101, Blended Course-Style

It's official. My class has made minimum enrollment, and so I will be teaching Chemistry 101 this term. First day of class is Tuesday. Not much planned, really - just a couple of hours of lecture on Chapters 1 and 2, and then after a break, I'm going to have the students sign an agreement of sorts that they will conduct themselves in a safe manner and that they understand the potential hazards of working in a Chemistry Lab. Not that I'm going to have them do anything dangerous. First day of lab, they're just merely going to weigh out stuff, and measure liquids, to get them used to the idea of doing that.

Because this is a Blended Class, Thursdays will be "virtual class days." So they will find a PowerPoint presentation on Blackboard for them to peruse, plus I will inform them that I will be tethered to the computer for the 4-hour period (5.15 pm - 9.00 pm). I am toying with the idea of asking them to Skype me, or if I can figure out a way to set up a chat room, I might do that as well.

Those of you with experience in Distance Education are more than welcome to toss any ideas my way. Just use the comment box for that purpose.

In the meantime ... I'm off to find an organ. This reading Harry Potter fanfiction has bloody well taken up way too much of my time. I stumbled upon another one that I just sat through, reading all 164 bloody chapters of it. I just couldn't stop reading it. Yet another Snape/Hermione ship, but fascinating, and this writer has put in a lot of research in writing it. It's called The Apprentice and the Necromancer, if you're so inclined to have a look.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year's Musings ... and an obsession

We are now at Day 2 of 2008. I'll have to admit to not having done much besides putter around the house ... and read some Harry Potter Fanfiction. I know, there are other things I really should be doing, like practising as I have a service to play at Chapel of the Cross this Sunday ... completing my Blackboard course through Campbell University (I still have yet to complete my Final Assessment) ... finish up preparations for the Chemistry course I'm to start teaching next week (if enough students enroll for the course that is - the RTP campus has a minimum enrollment number, and as of last Friday, that number has not yet been reached) ... do some major practising on the organ literature that I'm supposed to be working on ... visit the Music Library at UNC to check out the Bellotti text for more insight on Dietrich Buxtehude's keyboard works ...

Back to the fanfiction obsession I'm currently having: I've never really been much for fanfiction before, although when I was in junior high school, I wrote copiously on what might be termed as fanfiction today, mainly on stories based on a futuristic M*A*S*H and Battlestar Galactica (as those in the early 80s remember that show by).

Of late, my obsession has landed with a couple of very-well written stories, found on Admittedly, I never really identified with any one specific character from the Harry Potter series, the only thing I really noticed was my "placement" in Ravenclaw House when I took these silly little Sorting Surveys found rampantly on either MySpace or Facebook. However, for some strange reason, the two stories with which I'm currently obsessed focus on Severus Snape.

Why the Potions Master? Frankly speaking, I'm not sure. Sure, he's the evil teacher that every kid dreads having, is the sort of teacher who would cause kids to become chemophobes (my opinion only), but J. K. Rowling wrote his character to be so morally ambiguous that it sparked major debate among Harry Potter fans up until the release of Deathly Hallows. I will admit though - after having read the last book in the HP series, I have a new appreciation for the Snape character. And, one will have to admit that Alan Rickman understands how to portray Snape completely as reflected in his characterisation of the Potions Master in the Harry Potter films.

The stories I'm currently fascinated by were penned by Coral Grace and zee grindylows.

Coral Grace's story centers on a young Ravenclaw student named Armilla, who makes the startling discovery that the Potions Master is actually her brother. She does a wonderful job of keeping Snape in character, as well as keeping JKR's universe true to form, while exploring a more tender, caring side to Snape as the brother and sister get to know each other better. Coral Grace is currently working on a sequel to her original story, which may be found here.

zee grindylows' story, Where Your Treasure Is, is her take on the events of Deathly Hallows in the aftermath of The Battle for Hogwarts. It starts right after Nagini the snake administers the fatal bite to Snape in the aftermath of Voldemort's mistaken conclusion that killing Snape would enable him to be the master of the Elder Wand at last. I will admit to being completely enchanted by this story. Grindy does an excellent job of keeping all the major players in character, but also allows them to grow and expand in her universe as well. She claims the story will be Epilogue-compliant (as a reference to that IMHO less-than-satisfying epilogue as found in Deathly Hallows) with a couple of major exceptions. Her story is actually a Severus Snape/Hermione Granger ship, which in general I don't find very appealing at all, but the way she wrote this, and the way she sets up the story keeps you hooked. I will admit to not being able to stop reading this. She is up to Chapter 57 and is nearing completion of the story. It's riveting, extremely moving, and it makes you want to find out what happens next.

In the meantime ... I've had communications with the folks at St. Joseph's Episcopal Church, and we're already making some plans. I am hoping to meet with the choir for supper on Wednesday 9th to get a feel for who they are, and give them a chance to meet me. I would like to reassure them that I will be there to work with them, and hope that we will be able to learn and grow together. The more communications I have with the Vicar, Rev. Rhonda Lee, and the choir coordinator, Fred Hawkins, the more excited I'm getting about starting at St. Joseph's. It will be a new challenge for me, that's for sure.

Even teaching Intro Chem will be a new challenge for me as well this year. In the past, my teaching experience was limited to TA'ing lab courses, mainly Organic Chemistry, or one-on-one tutoring sessions. This will be my first lecture course. Yes, I did team-teach Forensic Science 101 last term with five other people, but it's not the same as leading your own course. I only hope I can do justice to that, as it really is all for the students' benefit. The main challenge comes in teaching this course as a "Blended Course," where 50% of the instruction occurs on-line. My in-class time occurs Tuesday nights, which will be taken up by hands-on lab experiments (no, I won't be asking them to bottle fame, brew glory, or put a stopper in death), while Thursday nights will be spent, tethered to a computer, ready to field whatever questions may come my way by inquisitive students. There won't be any formal lectures in this course; for me, that's what makes this scary and challenging. Chemistry is not an easy discipline to learn, and I think asking the students to do it essentially on their own will be challenging. I just hope they are up to the challenge.

So we'll see what the future days will hold in store for me. At least I have a few things to look forward to: my friends, Lee Thomas and Robert Wright will have their 20+ year relationship blessed on the 12th January (and I am oh so happy for them! Pity we're not in MA ...); Roberta Van Ness and Gerald Whittington will be married in April, and of course, the choir will be singing at both events; and my former labmate, Iris Obispo and her husband, Jared Peak will be renewing their vows in Hawaii in May, and they've asked me to play the piano in the church where Iris grew up.

Beyond all that ... we'll see what unfolds. Certainly, 2008 has promise to be a much better year for me already.