Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Random Shots

Out doing errands this morning, I dropped by the Dykeman Spring Nature Park. We had some rain overnight, and a lot of the twigs and branches in the park still had droplets clinging to them. There were also some other things that caught my eye on my way through the park.

Rain droplets in the Dykeman Spring wetland
More droplets
I found this feral cat stalking along the Dykeman Walking Trail
Multiflora Rose hips in the Dykeman Spring wetland
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Monday, December 05, 2016

Yesterday's Walk in Black & White

As I said in yesterday's blog post, I had set out to do a black & white photo shoot but got attracted to the subtle colors revealed by the subdued lighting. But four of those photos also worked well in black & white, so here they are.

Branch Creek at King St.
A Dykeman Spring wetland scene with Purple Martin house
The creek in the park seen from the red bridge
My favorite corner of the north duck pond
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Perfect Light

This morning the quality of light was perfect. A total overcast, but it wasn't dark, it was what I'd call subdued. And in that subdued light every nuance of color and texture was visible, nothing drowned out by too much shadow or too much light. I found myself totally caught up in what I was seeing in the camera's viewfinder. I had gone out with the intent of shooting in black and white, but I was too entranced by the subtle colors I was seeing. I did process the shots in b&w, and I'll post the ones that worked tomorrow. But today is a day for reveling in the subtlety of subdued light. Enjoy!

Branch Creek at King St.
A section of the Dykeman Walking Trail
The Dykeman Spring wetland, with Purple Martin House
The creek from the red bridge
My favorite view of the north duck pond
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Burd Run

I went up to the Burd Run streambed restoration area this morning. The water level is down some, but the area is looking healthy nonetheless. Leafless trees and shrubs have their own kind of beauty; I hope I've captured that beauty here.

Looking down the creek floodplain
Burd Run in the restoration area
Another view of the creek; you can see how low the water level is. It was a very dry Summer and Autumn!
A stairway of Shelf Fungus climbing the tree
A feral cat stalking prey
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Bleak December

December begins today, the first day of meteorological Winter. The leaves are all down; the bare deciduous trees contrast with the deep green of the Spruces and Firs in the woods. And the turbulent gray skies form the perfect dreary backdrop for the inherent bleakness of early Winter. Now we wait for snow.

© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent Begins - "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland"

Martin Luther (left) and Johann Sebastian Bach (right)
As my friends on Facebook know, I post a Bach liturgical cantata on my timeline every Sunday morning, following the Lutheran liturgical calendar (the calendar with its associated cantatas can be found here). Well, today is the first Sunday in Advent, and Papa Johann composed three cantatas for that Sunday in the course of his career: BWV 61, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (1714); BWV 62, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (1724); and BWV 36, Schwingt freudig euch empor (1731). And all three share a common element - Martin Luther's Advent hymn Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (gee, how did you guess?). BWV 36 uses the hymn in the second movement, as a soprano/alto duet. But BWV 61 and 62 are chorale cantatas and the hymn is the major element in both.

So what is it about this hymn of Luther's that made it so important? Luther wrote the words, based on St. Ambrose's Veni redemptor gentium, in 1524 and set it to an old Gregorian tune. Because the first Sunday in Advent is the "New Year's Day" of the liturgical calendar, and because Luther created this hymn specifically for that event, it became the preeminent musical piece marking the beginning of the church year in Protestant churches for centuries. Here, take a listen to the hymn in its pre-Bach form.

This kind of hymn is called a chorale. A chorale is a melody to which a hymn is sung by a congregation in a German Protestant Church service. The typical four-part setting of a chorale, in which the sopranos (and the congregation) sing the melody along with three lower voices, is known as a chorale harmonization. The performance above by the Jena Boy's Choir follows that structure, although there's no congregation to sing the melody with the sopranos.

Bach used the chorale harmonization structure of this hymn as the basis from which he built his chorale cantata setting. Interestingly enough, in BWV 61 he plays with this, setting what would normally be the opening chorus as a chorale fantasia in the style of a French overture, which follows the sequence slow – fast (fugue) – slow. If the congregation was starting to nod off, that opening chorus was going to wake them right up! Here's the complete BWV 61, starting with that chorale fantasia. This is the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists (on authentic period instruments) directed by the great Sir John Eliot Gardiner; I'm a sucker for Gardiner's work, so naturally this is my favorite performance of this piece.

In BWV 62 Bach stuck with the familiar chorale cantata structure, so the congregation would have understood what they were listening to. This is the grand chorale cantata that he was working his way up to after the experimentation of 10 years before, and grand it is! The opening chorus charges right off in typical Bach style and sets the tone for the rest of the cantata. It's quite a ride! Here's one of my favorite performances, from the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman, considered one of the premier interpreters of Bach's orchestral music.

So there you have it, a look at the hymn that starts off the Lutheran liturgical year and its evolution through the centuries, especially in the masterful hands of the great Johann Sebastian Bach. All songs should have such a stellar history!

Text © 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Sight and Sound - November

"The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees."
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o'er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load."
-   William Blake, To Autumn

Photo © 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger