Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Listening: Sea Chanters

I found a treasure a while back. While in the library returning some books, I picked up a CD off of the Friends of the Library Book Table. It cost me 50 cents. The CD is titled Sea Chanters on Tour. It is a NOT FOR SALE COPY that some library patron apparently got a hold of and later donated to the library.

WOW! What great music.

The U.S. Navy Sea Chanters are a 20-voice chorus of The United States Navy Band based in Washington, D.C. and perform a variety of music ranging from traditional choral music, including the sea chantey, Christian hymns, and tunes from Broadway musicals.

Three of the 21 selections on this CD are musical adaptations of Emily Dickinson poems. One of them is titled—

Belshazzar Had a Letter
BELSHAZZAR had a letter,—
He never had but one;
Belshazzar’s correspondent
Concluded and begun
In that immortal copy
The conscience of us all
Can read without its glasses
On revelation’s wall.

Dickinson's verse of course refers to the story in Daniel 5 about the finger of God writing on the wall and declaring that Belshazzar had been "weighed in the balance and found wanting." What a remarkable and convicting image God created with that story!

Another CD selection was drawn from Dickinson's poem titled—

To Make a Prairie
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

Dickinson's thoughts are laden with profundity. They made me think of the potential of one faithful soul armed with God's truth and grace. If one bee and one clover can make a prairie, surely one faithful respondent to God's call can make titanic waves in their world.

Other selections on the album include Can't Buy Me Love and Michelle by the Beatles, and the classic Oh Shenandoah.

Now I don't know a great deal about rap music of today. But I remember that when the Beatles first hit the scene in the early 1960's, many of our parents were aghast at their appearance and sound. Comparing the Beatles' melodies to the non-melodic, rhythm-based rap sound, I cannot conceive of any way that the Sea Chanters could do a rendition of the Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, Queen Latifah, or the Notorious Big. But maybe I don't understand.

My heart grew sad thinking of all the young folks growing up with little or no exposure to quality music, the music of their parents, grandparents, and beyond. It is a sign of our declining culture.