Heyr himna smiður – Hear, Heavenly Creator

For my first post back since the summer I thought I’d share this video that a friend just sent me.  Heavenly, otherworldly, and sublime.

The original poem was penned by Kolbeinn Tumason (1173–1208), one of the most powerful Icelandic chieftains of the 12th century, on his deathbed.  Here is the text:

Listen, smith of the heavens,

what the poet asks.

May softly come unto me

your mercy.

So I call on thee,

for you have created me.

I am thy slave,

you are my Lord.


God, I call on thee to heal me.

Remember me, mild one, 

Most we need thee.

Drive out, O king of suns,

generous and great,

every human sorrow

from the city of the heart.


Watch over me, mild one,

Most we need thee,

truly every moment

in the world of men.

send us, son of the virgin,

good causes,

all aid is from thee,

in my heart.


Of Anniversaries and Theatre Organs


It turns out that eight days ago was the four year anniversary of my starting this blog.  Happy belated birthday, blog.  Granted, I’ve been rather inconsistent with posting over those four years, usually only posting when I’m traveling or doing something that I think my 3 readers might find interesting.  And thus, I am posting today because I was traveling again, this time to North Tonawanda, NY.  It was well worth the trip.

During the summer I’ll often work for my dad, which is what brought us to North Tonawanda for a festival.  Normally on these sorts of trips we work all day, outside, selling our wares and then go and collapse and do it again the next day.  Today was a little different since it started out with thunderstorms and pouring rain i.e., not looking very good for festival weather.  We ended up taking refuge from the rain at the Riviera Theatre which was, blessedly, a short sprint from where we were.  Walking into this theater is like stepping back to 1926, to all the glitz and gilding of the age of the great movies palaces that once dotted the U.S.  What completed the scene was the sound of the Mighty Wurlitzer organ roaring from the auditorium.

It turns out that North Tonawanda was the home of Wurlitzer Pipe Organ Co., which manufactured all the grand theater organs in movie palaces across the country, and throughout the world.  The company ceased production of organs in 1946, but the organ at the Riviera miraculously remained.  It was a showpiece, a masterpiece of the Wuriltzer craft that almost went the way of the dodo many times when the wrecking ball threatened to destroy this landmark.  However, in 1989, after years of uncertainty, the theater was purchased by the Niagara Frontier Theatre Organ Society and has been restored to its current beautiful state.  The organ was also restored and continues to be lovingly cared for by the members of the N.F.T.O.S., who had opened the theater today and arranged for organists to come and play throughout the day.  And that’s where I met them.

This was the first time I’d heard a theater organ in person.  Those of you who know me know my organ geekery knows no bounds, however I had never actually heard a theater organ except on recordings.  So I had a little moment when I walked into the theater and heard the behemoth instrument playing popular tunes (circa 1930).  I had another little moment when one of the society members took me on a tour of the organ and the building.  And then I had heart palpitations when the organist paused between songs and asked if I’d like to play.  Now, for those of you who have sat at an organ console of a big church, it can be a bit confusing.  But I’m at home at them.  This one was different, delightfully different.  Elements were similar (keyboards, pistons, stop tabs, etc.), but putting them together was a challenge I was glad I had a coach for.

One of the "house organists" playing during the afternoon.

One of the “house organists” playing during the afternoon who so graciously let me play

The organ is, perhaps, one of the most frequently played theater organs in the country; the organ is used before each and every event, concert, and show at the theater as well as on Tuesdays and Saturdays by the organ society members.  Did I mention I was invited back to try it out again tomorrow?  Oh, yes.  That is happening, and it will be glorious.  Who knows, perhaps I’ll have to make another pilgrimage out here on a Saturday in the future to take advantage of their very kind invitation.

Suffice it to say, this was just one of those things.  One of those crazy things.  One of those bells that now and then rings, it was just one of those things.



That Weird Part of Youtube…

We all know that there are parts of YouTube that are… well, strange.  They’re not just strange, they’re bizarre and bad.  Yet, we also know that there are some real gems in That Weird Part of YouTube that are really worth going and watching.  So I’ve decided to inaugurate a new category of blog posts entitled “That Weird Part of YouTube” which will highlight some of my favorite bizarre/strange/amusing videos on YouTube.  I will naturally be accepting submissions as well from you, my dear readers.

To inaugurate the weirdness, let’s enjoy what was the summer anthem two years ago for myself and my roommates.  The song is Moskau, by the group Dschingis Khan.  Hope you like weird German disco and delightful color coordinated outfits!

Media Vita


“In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased?

Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.”

Cast us not away in the time of our old age; forsake us not, O Lord, when our strength fails us.

Yet, O God most holy, O holy and mighty, O holy and merciful Saviour, give us not over unto bitter death.”

-Responsory at Compline for the 3rd week of Lent, Dominican Rite

Bach on a Mandolin? Yes, please.

For your “Just Too Cool” file, Chris Thile (of Nickel Creek fame) plays the Presto movement from J.S. Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 1 BWV 1001 on his mandolin.  Apparently we can look forward to an album of Bach’s work played by Thiles sometime in the not too distant future.  I, for one, am very much looking forward to it!


Here is Chris playing the Prelude from Bach’s Partita in E Major BWV 1006. Unfreakingbelievable.