25 August 2007

A Saint's Mother

Coronation of Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile in 1223, Miniature from Les Grandes Chroniques de France

Today is the feast day of King Louis IX of France, who embodied all that a king ought to be: he ruled with justice, integrity, generosity, and holiness. He and Queen Margaret of Provence bore eleven children, their line reigning over France until the French Revolution put an end to it. (As the guillotine fell onto the neck of King Louis XVI, Abbé Edgeworth cried, Le fils de St-Louis, montez au paradis!)

It was St. Louis' mother who left the deepest impression on his faith. She told him often as a child, Je t'aime, mon cher fils, autant qu'une mère peut aimer son enfant; mais j'aime mieux que tu soit mort à mes pieds que tu commettes un péché mortel. ("I love you my dear son, as much as a mother can love her child; but I would rather see you dead at my feet than that you should commit a mortal sin.")

Many years later, St. Louis would write in a letter to his eldest son, Phillip III, "You should, with all your strength, shun everything which you believe to be displeasing to Him. And you ought especially to be resolved not to commit mortal sin, no matter what may happen and should permit all your limbs to be hewn off, and suffer every manner of torment , rather than fall knowingly into mortal sin."

Quel saint! Quelle mère!

20 August 2007

Peter Cincotti

Another rising star (although his star has been rising for some years now). A fabulous voice, coupled with good fingerwork. He's not a household name yet (as Michael Bublé is), but is a refreshing addition to the roster of youthful singers reviving the big band/classic jazz genre.

Here he is performing one of my favorites, "Sway".

For a wonderful contrast, see and hear Bublé's spicier version here.

And the original: Dean Martin singing "Sway".

And since we're on the subject, a nostalgic nod at Bobby Darin performing "Mack the Knife" in 1959. A few years later, here he is singing the English version of one of my favorites, Beyond the Sea--but Charles Trenet is undoubtedly most wonderful when he performs La Mer.

So much good music in one post--what's one to do?

A Severe Mercy To Be Made into a Film

Barbara Nicolosi discusses the project here.

I read the story fifteen years ago, and it left such an impression on me that I personally telephoned Mr. Vanauken in his Virginia home to tell him how much I loved his work. He thanked me and very politely suggested I write him a letter.

The story is a romance--the romance he had with his wife, with Oxford, and with faith. He recounts warm evenings in their flat with his young wife and their circle of acquaintances (including C.S. Lewis), their theological discussions, the poetry he shared with Lewis, and his wife's battle with cancer. It's a good read, and I hope the film does the story justice.

18 August 2007

Renee Olstead: the 14-year-old with the 40-year-old voice.

I have her self-titled CD, which is fantastic. If you love jazz standards and big band as I do, you'll enjoy her music (and marvel at her voice). In this clip, she adds her own flair to Gershwin's Summertime.

12 August 2007

Beethoven's Piano Sonata, Op. 31 ("Tempest"), 3rd Movement, performed by Wilhelm Kempff, Paris 1968.
Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, Op. 11, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin.

01 August 2007

Les Choristes

Les Choristes is a charming, heartwarming French film about humility, perseverance, and hope. Set in 1950s rural France at a boys' reformatory, it tracks the story of one lad whose life was changed by music and the kindness of a teacher.

The music was composed by Bruno Calais and sung by Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint Marc, a Catholic boys' choir from Lyon. You can hear an NPR program on the film here.

The theme song is particularly lovely. To hear it, watch the following clip:

Vois sur ton chemin
Gamins oubliés égarés
Donne leur la main
Pour les mener
Vers d'autres lendemains

Sens au coeur de la nuit
L'onde d'espoir
Ardeur de la vie
Sentier de gloire

Bonheurs enfantins
Trop vite oubliés effacés
Une lumière dorée brille sans fin
Tout au bout du chemin

Sens au coeur de la nuit
L'onde d'espoir
Ardeur de la vie
Sentier de la gloire.

Look to your path
Children lost, forgotten
Give them a hand
To lead them
To other tomorrows

Direction in the darkest night
Wave of hope
Passion for life
Path of glory

Childhood pleasures
Too soon forgotten, erased
A golden light ever shines
At the end of the path

Direction in the darkest night
Wave of hope
Passion for life
Path of glory