I LOVE the Independence Day parade and festivities in Geneva, Florida. I've written about it many times. We were small in numbers this year, but infinitely bigger than in 2020, when there was nothing at all. Thanks to Liz, our organizer and director-by-necessity, and to the good people of Geneva, marching in the parade was still a blast. The event organizers tell us that our antics are "one of the most frustrating things, and yet one of the things that the parade goers enjoy the most."

Thanks to the fact that the Fourth was a Sunday this year, Geneva's party was held a day early. And the federal holiday is a day late, so we enjoyed three days of festivities. Less happily, our neighbors have been making it a week-long holiday with their fireworks. It's a good thing the drought has broken.

The best part of the parade is interacting with the crowd, and hamming it up with my cymbals as we march along. Porter does the same with the water wagon (and its following shark). All it takes is a willingness to leave all pride and self-respect behind as the parade steps off.

I'll have to admit that the cymbals get heavier with every year, and running to catch up with the band—after letting a small spectator "help me out" by banging the cymbals—now leaves me a bit winded. It's a good thing Porter (aka Gunga Dad) is always ready with a drink to keep me hydrated!

The people of Geneva are always so warm, friendly, and encouraging. They love our country, their heritage, and their band. We didn't start in Geneva; 30 years ago we were the World's Worst Marching Band and played gigs not only in Central Florida but as far away as Atlanta and Philadelphia. Geneva at its worst couldn't outdo the heat of Atlanta's Independence Day parade, when Peachtree Street's pavement melted under our feet and (thanks to Gunga Dad) we were the only band not to have someone faint. But when the World's Worst Marching Band put itself out to pasture many years ago, Geneva welcomed us as their own.

One of the exhibits we checked out this year was a travelling exhibition of artwork created using wood from The Senator, our much-beloved and long-lamented bald cypress, which was the oldest in the world when it was destroyed by a careless drug user in 2012. I was expecting something tacky and touristy ("Get your gen-u-wine Senator key ring here!") but it was nothing of the sort. Rather, it was moving and respectful, telling the story of the tree and displaying beauty from ashes through art.

All in all it was a beautiful day. It's good to be reminded of what really makes America (or anywhere) great. Next year I hope we will have more of our dearly-missed old timers, and much new young blood as well.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 5, 2021 at 9:28 am | Edit
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It has been a hard year with singing in church choir forbidden. I think that decision was a huge mistake, but our leaders are flying by the seat of their pants here and I'm not going to argue about it now. They're all doing what they think best, even if I disagree with it. But it has certainly been a great loss.

At times like this it is lovely to be part of a family large enough to include all voice parts. In December we were blessed to have a hymn fest with one set of grandchildren, and in April with the other. Call it our Christmas and Easter Festival Celebrations.

Of course we had to include our family anthem: St. Patrick's Breastplate. Nine verses, including two rarely sung these days. (Only a small excerpt here.) Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 6:44 am | Edit
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Maybe you never wanted to be a rock star.  Maybe you don't care much for that music and the genres it spawned.  Maybe you aren't interested in a career in the music world at all.

No matter:  In the first 22 minutes of this video, Rick Beato has a story to tell you, and some good advice for us all.  More of his interesting personal story is told in other videos on his Everything Music channel, but this summarizes his journey and how he faced the obstacles he encountered, including being rejected twice when he applied to music school.  He rambles a bit, but it's a good story. 

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 1, 2021 at 10:22 am | Edit
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Next up in this series of interesting YouTube channel subscriptions: Everything Music, by Rick Beato. I was going to say that I can't remember what introduced me to to Rick Beato's channel, but a look back at one of my own posts gave me the answer: Google apparently decided I would be interested in it, popping up a suggested video on my phone. For once they were right.

My gateway to Beato's channel was the musical abilities of his young son, Dylan. There are several Dylan videos, but this one is a good 13-minute compilation:

 

It turns out that the Dylan videos are but a small part of Everything Music. Beato covers so much; I'll let him give the intro (13 minutes).

Music theory, film music, modal scales, tales from his own interesting musical history, and a whole lot of modern music about which I know little and like less.

Remember what I said about Excellence and Enthusiasm?

I'm a child of the 60's, chronologically, but unlike most of my generation, I've never liked rock music, nor any of its relatives and derivatives. Granted, growing up when I did there was no getting away from it, and there were a few specific songs I did enjoy. At one point, I was even a minor fan of Jefferson Airplane, and attended one of their wild, live concerts. That point in my life, while embarrassing, reminds me of this line from C. S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters: "I have known a human defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Who knows what trouble I might have gotten into in my college years had I not had a stronger taste for what is loosely called classical music?

What, specifically, don't I like about the rock genre(s)?

  • The music is almost invariably played at ear-splitting volume, literally ear-damaging.
  • Most of the music comes with lyrics, and with a few exceptions, I find that they range from boring to abominable.
  • The heavy emphasis on pounding rhythms drives me crazy; I never have liked playing with a metronome.
  • The timbre of the electric guitar, nearly ubiquitous in rock music, is one of a very few that I generally find unpleasant (saxophone is another).

Enter Rick Beato. If his son's abilities are astounding, Rick's aren't all that far behind, and his experience, knowledge, and enthusiasm keep me interested in his analysis even though most of his examples are from music I can't stand. It helps a lot that he uses short excerpts, in which neither lyrics nor pounding beats have a chance to do much harm. Plus, I control the volume.

I especially enjoy Rick's videos on modal music, as that has always interested my ear. It does seem really odd to hear him talk about modes without any reference to church music, in which modal music was once really big. But I had no idea how important modes are in rock music and film scoring, and learning through Rick's videos has been a delight. Hiding underneath all that raucous sound and those objectionable lyrics is a lot of complex and very interesting music. It's not going to make me a rock music fan, but it gives me more appreciation for the skill of the musicians behind it—if not for their sometimes questionable moral compasses. (I know, classical composers were not necessarily saints, either. There's a reason I generally prefer instrumental music.) It has also heightened my awareness of the music that undergirds our movies and television shows, and why it is often so powerful.

Here's an interesting Gustav Holtz/John Williams comparison from one of his movie music videos (16 minutes):

That's enough for an introduction; I'm sure I'll be posting more Everything Music videos in the future.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 18, 2021 at 6:15 am | Edit
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altSo In Love by Ashley Locheed and Chris Rottmayer (Timucua Arts Foundation 2020)

At this time in our country, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep has left me an exhausted mess. Enter: music. I needed a non-political post and this is just the thing.

We've known Ashley for nearly 30 years, and her voice is as beautiful as ever. 

I downloaded her album from Amazon. For the physical CD the price (at the moment) is better from her website. I'm told the album is also available on iTunes and other places I don't bother with.

You don't have to take my word for the quality of Ashley's singing. Here, here, here, and here are some reviews. And then there's this:

Congratulations, Ashley and Chris!

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, November 8, 2020 at 12:33 pm | Edit
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When visiting Rome, we prayed in far more churches that I can possibly remember, from the incredible St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, to the personal chapel of the popes at the Scala Sancta, to the little churches everywhere on the streets of Rome, each filled with museum-worthy artwork.

But we only attended two services on our trip, both in Switzerland, both official state churches, one Reformed and one Catholic. The way I figure it: on average, we were Anglican.

The first church was just about what you'd expect from a Reformed church: a pulpit, a cross, an organ, and some chairs. Scripture, a long sermon, and a little music (no choir). I'm told there's sometimes more music than we experienced. Of course it was all in German, but it's amazing how much you can understand of Scripture readings if you know the Bible well enough, and we even figured out a tiny bit of the sermon. Singing in German is almost easy if you (1) have the words and the music, and (2) know even a very little bit about German pronunciation.

Our second service was Catholic, and it's not really a fair comparison, because it was a special day for the church, a celebration of the saint for whom it is named. Therefore the music was special, and included the choir, which doesn't always sing for the services. (That's not all bad, as it allows Stephan to sing in the choir and still attend most of his usual church's services.) It's a modern building, but not nearly as bare as the Reformed church.

Once again, we could pick up a little bit of the Bible readings and the sermon, but of course it was mostly lost on us. On the other hand, if only we had been provided with a written transcript of the liturgy, we could have participated in most of it and known exactly what was going on, even if we didn't understand most of the German. It was recognizably very much like our Episcopal (Anglican) service. (To be fair, the Catholics would say the Anglican service is very much like theirs.) At one point, Janet leaned over and asked, "Do you say this at your church?" referring to a part of the liturgy not used in the Episcopal churches of her experience. "We do now," I replied (thanks to our current priest). I could tell you what the priest and people were saying, but I couldn't join in without the German words to read.

Here's one fun hymn (#95) we sang, fun for me because I knew the tune as that of The Glory of These Forty Days. Close enough, anyway. (Click on the image to enlarge.) Note that the Catholic hymnal attributes the music to Martin Luther, while Hymnary.org to Johann Sebastian Bach. It actually is Martin Luther's music, but Bach did base a famous cantata on it.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, October 14, 2019 at 11:01 am | Edit
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Jessye Norman has taken her voice to a higher choir. In memoriam I offer two versions of one of my favorite choir anthems, Donald Fraser's This Christmastide, a.k.a. Jessye's Carol.

With Ms. Norman herself:

and with the American Boy Choir. Our choir sang this back in the late 1990's, and the memory still moves me. I find it almost as powerful to listen to as to sing.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 1, 2019 at 7:52 am | Edit
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While praying and working with Dorian taking aim right at us, it is impossible to resist some musical jokes about current events. Dorian is my favorite musical mode—I hope I still like it a week from now.

and

Enjoy!  Now back to work....

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 29, 2019 at 7:40 am | Edit
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The contrast between our children's high school music experience and our New Hampshire grandchildren's couldn't be greater. The band/chorus/school sizes differ by almost a factor of 10.

If I had to choose one over the other, I don't know which I would prefer. At first glance, I'd have gone with the larger programs hands down. Our Central Florida school opportunites are amazing, with music and theater performances (and equipment/resources) of near-professional quality. Plus the area also has magnet schools and private schools dedicated to the performing arts. The opportunities for serious students of the arts are wonderful here. Not perfect—when we were directly involved, the flaws were obvious—but further experience has shown me how much better off we were than many other places.

But what if you just want to have fun? Or even if you're dedicated to your art, is it better to be in the middle of a great talent pool, or at the top of a small one? I don't think there's an easy answer.

But one thing I do know: One advantage of small town schools is that they're more likely to be flexible, e.g. allowing a fifth grader to be in the seventh grade band, and another student to play in both the middle school and the high school bands.  (The elementary, middle, and high schools are all on the same small campus, making the latter possible.)

More to the point of this post, there's room in the spring concert schedule to add a blessing for your grandmother when she makes the 1300-mile journey to hear you play and sing.

This was a total surprise.

Earlier in the year, Jonathan had transcribed Seminole Wind, which I love, from a YouTube video, got together with some of his friends, and arranged it for the group. They played it for their classmates, and I'd had a chance to hear a cell phone recording of that, for which I was very thankful—but the sound quality was not all that great.

How Jonathan managed to persuade the music director to let their group serve as the introduction to the spring concert, I don't know—but Jonathan can be very persuasive and their director is very supportive. Here they are:

If I hadn't been wrangling the camera (which I had gotten out just that minute in preparation for taking a snapshot or two), I would have cried. What a gift!

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, June 2, 2019 at 6:58 am | Edit
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Sandwiched between 3:14 (Pi Day) and 3:17 (St. Patrick's Day) is

3:16 (Greatest Love Day)

John 3:16, that is.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

In honor of which I present this beautiful anthem, John Stainer's God So Loved the World. No, that's not our choir. But Porter and I have sung this many times and it's one of our favorites.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, March 16, 2019 at 7:02 am | Edit
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I've never seen the show, The Bachelor, never wanted to see it, still don't want to see it. But even I have to admit they did something right on their recent "live finale," whatever that was. Try to ignore the inanity.

Hear that piano? That's Mirko Tessandori. If you don't blink, you can even catch a few glimpses of him.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, March 15, 2019 at 6:42 am | Edit
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For the last Sunday of Advent, a somber note.

Sixteen Christmases ago, while the world was singing blithely of joyous birth, we were mourning the death of our first grandchild, whose last breath came but two days after his first. The haunting Coventry Carol spoke to me then as none other. Frankly, I could not handle all the songs about a newborn baby boy; with Coventry Carol I felt merged into an ancient and universal grief. 

This reminder that the First Christmas was not a facile Peace on Earth and Joy to the World, and that the first Christian martyrs were Jewish children, is for all who mourn this Christmas, especially those who have suffered the loss of a child.

Isaac Christopher Daley, I still think of you whenever I hear this carol.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, December 23, 2018 at 7:41 pm | Edit
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This list of "100 Hymns Everyone Should Learn" is not my own list of great hymns. For one thing, it doesn't include St. Patrick's Breastplate, nor any of the three versions of Hail Thee, Festival Day! However, it's a fun list and was sent as a challenge by a friend of mine whose experience with it turns out to be similar to my own. You can see the original article by following the above link; it includes more information, as well as—in most cases—a link to an image and/or recording of the hymn. I've listed them below in three catgories of familiarity. (The numbers correspond to the article's numbering, which is in reverse order.)

I find three things particularly notable in this exercise.

  • My eclectic denominational experience has stood me in good stead.
  • Knowing 85+% of the hymns on this list, I still find myself encountering a surprising number of completely unknown hymns when our grandchildren pick hymn numbers at random when we sing together.
  • Knowing 85+% of the hymns on this list of important, time-honored, congregational music of the Church does not help me in the least in a great number of church services, where I often stand mute during the singing (and those who know me, know that standing mute during singing is almost physically painful). I'll happily sing unfamiliar hymns if you give me the music—but these churches only provide the words, and I'm not a good enough musician (or psychic) to guess at the tune. Sometimes I can manage a harmony, as that gives more notes to choose from. :)

Hymns I know well (85)
98. There's a Wideness in God's Mercy
97. I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light
94. At the Name of Jesus
93. O Splendor of God's Glory Bright
92. When in Our Music God Is Glorified
91. What Child Is this?
90. God of Grace and God of Glory
89. Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee
87. Blessed Assurance
85. Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken
84. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
83. Take My Life and Let It Be
82. What Wondrous Love Is this
81. Go to Dark Gesthemane
80. To God Be the Glory
78. Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy
77. Savior of the Nations, Come (maybe in a different translation)
76. Come We That Love the Lord (but to a different tune)
75. Jesus, Lover of My Soul
74. Lead On, O King Eternal
73. Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending
71. O Jesus I Have Promised
70. Come, Christians, Join to Sing
69. My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less
68. Beneath the Cross of Jesus
67. Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me
65. For the Beauty of the Earth
64. It Is Well with My Soul
61. All Glory, Laud, and Honor
60. Ah, Holy Jesus
59. Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed
59. Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
55. Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart
54. O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus
53. My Shepherd Will Supply My Need
52. This Is My Father's World
51. Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones
49. O Worship the King
48. Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation
47. And Can It Be That I Should Gain?
46. This Is My Song (I know other words better to this tune, but I've sung these as well)
45. Praise My Soul the King of Heaven
44. Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life
43. How Firm a Foundation
42. O Little Town of Bethlehem
41. Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above
40. Come, Ye Thankful People, Come
39. When Morning Gilds the Skies
38. Joy to the World, the Lord Is Come
37. Be Still My Soul
36. Thine Be the Glory (aka Thine Is the Glory)
35. Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
34. Great Is Thy Faithfulness
33. O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go
32. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
31. Lift High the Cross
30. Rejoice, the Lord Is King
28. Come, Thou Almighty King
27. For All the Saints
26. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
25. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
24. Be Thou My Vision
23. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
22. Of the Father's Love Begotten
21. All People That on Earth Do Dwell
20. Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise
19. In the Cross of Christ I Glory
18. Holy God, We Praise Your Name
17. Tell Out My Soul
16. Abide with Me
15. Christ the Lord Is Risen Today
14. Crown Him with Many Crowns
13. Now Thank We All Our God
12. Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer (aka Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah)
11. The Church's One Foundation
10. O God, Our Help in Ages Past
9. O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
8. O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
7. The God of Abraham Praise
6. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
5. All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name
4. All Creatures of Our God and King
3. Jesus Shall Reign
2. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
1. Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty

Hymns I've heard of or sort of know (6)
96. There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood
86. Leaning On the Everlasting Arms
72. Come Holy Ghost Our Souls Inspire (I know the tune well)
79. Hymn of Promise (the children's choir sang this when our kids were young)
62. Christ Jesus Lay in Death's Strong Bands (the words sound familiar, but not the tune)
61. Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know (but I know the tune)

Hymns I don't know at all (9)
100. Built On the Rock, the Church Doth Stand (beautiful tune)
99. Forward Through the Ages (I know the tune well, though)
95. There Is a Higher Throne (the link mistakenly takes you to In Christ Alone, which I do know)
88. By Gracious Powers (it looks to be worth knowing better)
66. When the Church of Jesus (no tune is given so i don't know if that's familiar; the words are not)
63. King of My Life I Crown Thee Now (also apparently called Lead Me to Calvary)
56. The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended
50. I'll Praise My Maker While I've Breath
29. God Is Here! As We Your People

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, December 13, 2018 at 11:10 am | Edit
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I did not take the time to watch President Bush's funeral today, but now that I've seen the bulletin, I almost wish I had.

I don't even like funerals. And unlike many of my friends, I've never longed to be invited to a Royal Wedding, even if I am (ahem!) related to the present Queen of England. I've never felt the need or desire to attend a service at our own Washington National Cathedral. Until now.

In truth, what I really wish is that I could have been part of that service, because as I always say, "I don't do congregation well." Put me in the choir, and I'm happy. I imagine President Bush's funeral was like the biggest service I've ever been a part of, the consecration of our current bishop, Greg Brewer—only a few orders of magnitude grander.  Check out the bulletin (it's a pdf).  I'm practically drooling.

Well, look what I just found. YouTube comes through again. Here's a recording of the whole service:

Now I only need to find a spare 3.5 hours to watch it.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at 6:16 pm | Edit
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We're singing this lovely anthem for our Christmas Lessons & Carols service.

The Hands that First Held Mary's Child (Thomas Troeger and Dan Forrest, Beckenhorst Press, BP1928)

The hands that first held Mary's child were hard from working wood.
From boards they sawed and planed and filed and splinters they withstood.
This day they gripped no tool of steel, they drove no iron nail,
but cradled from the head to heel our Lord, newborn and frail.

When Joseph marveled at the size of that small breathing frame,
and gazed upon those bright new eyes and spoke the infant's name,
the angel's words he once had dreamed poured down from heaven's height,
and like the host of stars that beamed blessed earth with welcome light.

"This child shall be Emmanuel, not God upon the throne,
but God with us, Emmanuel, as close as blood and bone."
The tiny form in Joseph's palms confirmed what he had heard,
and from his heart rose hymns and psalms for heaven's human word.

The tools that Joseph laid aside a mob would later lift
and use with anger, fear, and pride to crucify God's gift.
Let us, O Lord, not only hold the child who's born today,
but charged with faith may we be bold to follow in His way.

At first, I was a litte put off by the words. Questions of logic kept getting in the way. 

Did Joseph really have steel tools? I looked that one up, and he certainly could have; steel had been invented long before. But was it common enough for an impoverished carpenter in Palestine to be using steet tools? That I couldn't easily determine.

Were Joseph's really the first hands to hold Jesus? This provoked quite a lot of comment from the women in our choir. We're talking more than 2000 years ago. Did men really act as midwives back then? I would guess only if absolutely necessary and they wouldn't have had a clue in any case. If Mary (wtih no experience) managed the birth herself, it's her hands that would have caught the baby. But how likely is it that in a very crowded Bethlehem there couldn't be found a midwife, or at least an experienced mother, to assist Mary when the birth pangs began? That a firstborn son should have been laid in the putative father's hands does not stretch the imagination, but that he was first? I'm skeptical.

Fortunately, our choir director is patient, and we just kept practicing the anthem. Lo and behold, I started to find it very moving. I finally recognized it for what it is: not literal, but symbolic. Symbolic hymns were once a lot more common, and modern folks generally think they're weird, e.g. the Christmas carol, I Saw Three Ships. But they can be very powerful.

I'm reminded of another, hauntingly beautiful, symbolic anthem that our children's choir sang many years ago.

A Legend (Christ, When a Child) (Tchaikovsky, Schirmer, ECS2200)

Christ, when a Child, a garden made, 
And many roses flourish'd there.
He watered them three times a day
To make a garland for His hair. 

And when in time the roses bloom'd,
He call'd the children in to share.
They tore the flowers from ev'ry stem, 
And left the garden stript and bare, 

"How wilt Thou weave Thyself a crown
Now that the roses are all dead?"
"Ye have forgotten that the thorns
Are left for Me, the Christ-child said.

They plaited then a crown of thorns
And laid it rudely on His head;
And from His brow all pierc'd and torn;
Sprang drops of blood like roses red.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, December 2, 2018 at 6:49 am | Edit
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