Thursday, February 26, 2009

Miserere Mei...

I posted about Emendemus in Melius yesterday (and you might want to re-visit that post; I found a YouTube recording for you to listen to if you're a fan of Renaissance music) but also mentioned Allegri's Miserere in passing. Of course, that piece deserves more than a passing remark. Most musicians are very familiar with the story, but it is worth re-telling. I remember the first time I heard this amazing choral work: I was sitting in my Medieval/Renaissance Music History class at Wheaton with Dr. Saylor, where there was never a dull or un-inspiring moment. After he told us the history of the piece and described the heart-wrenching, soaring soprano line, we listened to a recording in absolute silence. There probably wasn't a dry eye in the room by the time the piece drew to a close. I don't have Dr. Saylor's gift for bringing music history to life, but here's my best attempt:

Italian composer Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652) composed a setting of Psalm 51 ("Miserere mei, Deus," or "Have mercy on me, O God") during the reign of Pope Urban VII. The piece was written for use in the Sistine Chapel during Holy Week - specifically, during matins on Wednesday and Friday. The piece is in many ways "common" to 17th century choral music. It is, however, an uncommonly beautiful piece, and soon after its composition the Roman Popes reserved exclusive rights to the score and performance of this work. It became forbidden for the music to be copied or published, or performed anywhere outside of the Vatican at those two services each year. Disobedience on this matter was punishable by excommunication. The only authorized copies outside of the Vatican were un-ornamented - and it was and is the ornamentation practice that makes the piece so exquisite.

In 1770 young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, at the age of just fourteen, visited Rome and heard the piece during the first of the two Holy Week performances, on Wednesday. The story goes that after the service he wrote the piece down from memory - and then returned to the chapel on Friday to check his work and make any needed corrections.  

Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang's father, wrote in a letter to his wife,
"You have often heard of the famous Miserere in Rome, which is so greatly prized that the performers are forbidden on pain of excommunication to take away a single part of it, copy it or give it to anyone. But we have it already. Wolfgang has written it down and we would have sent it to Salzburg in this letter, if it were not necessary for us to be there to perform it. But the manner of performance contributes more to its effect than the composition itself. Moreover, as it is one of the secrets of Rome, we do not wish to let it fall into other hands, ut non incurramus mediate vel immediate in censuram Ecclesiae."
(From The Letters of Mozart and his Family by Emily Anderson)

Wolfgang's sister Marianne (called "Nannerl") recorded her memory of the event, as well:
"...they traveled on the 15th March 1770 to Parma, Bologna, Florence, [on] to Rome, where they arrived during Holy Week. On Wednesday afternoon they accordingly went at once to the Sistine Chapel, to hear the famous Miserere. And as according to tradition it was forbidden under ban of excommunication to make a copy of it from the papal music, the son undertook to hear it and then copy it out. And so it came about that when he came home, he wrote it out, the next day he went back again, holding his copy in his hat, to see whether he had got it right or not. But a different Miserere was sung. However, on Good Friday the first was repeated again. After he had returned home he made a correction here and there, then it was ready."
(From Mozart: A Documentary Biography by Otto Erich Deutsch)

Word of the work having been copied - and subsequently published - reached the Pope, and Mozart was summoned to Rome, where he was not excommunicated but rather was praised for his genius!

The history of the piece - its falsobordone composition style, harmonic structure, two-choir setting, ornamentations, and performance practice - is far more rich and complex than I can detail here, but if you're interested in learning more, I recommend this site.

Mostly I recommend you listen to it.

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation:
and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it:
thou delightest not in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:
a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Memento Homo...

Running through my head all day today: Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris. I like that when I think of that text, I usually find myself thinking of it to the setting of Emendemus in Melius (A Renaissance bi-textual motet) by Cristobal de Morales. It's very beautiful. Between that and the four different recordings of Allegri's Miserere we've been listening to, FavoriteBoy and I are trying to be in the Lenten spirit as we prepare to go to church this evening.

There are plenty of good Lenten thoughts to be had in the blogosphere these days, including Allen Yeh's at Scriptorium Daily.

Nothing really compares to Bonhoeffer, though. Not necessarily Lent-specific, but very repentance-specific nonetheless.

"That is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace, on the other hand, is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must the asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.

Costly grace is the Incarnation of God."

(From The Cost of Discipleship)

You can listen to Emendemus in Melius about 2 minutes and 45 seconds into this YouTube clip. Check out the score here and sing along. The 'Memento Homo' text I mentioned is throughout the second alto part. "Remember, man..."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Baby Shoes

Yesterday morning my friend Story and I headed to JoAnn's to pick out fabric to make baby shoes. We were so in love with the selections we got that we had to get to work right away, so last night we stayed up way too late working on the most darling shoes the world has ever seen. These are for my newest nephew, Josiah. I hope they fit him!

Story made a pair for her daughter Gwendolyn using girly colors:

The striped fabric I used is a nice, soft flannel.

We ended up using the Stardust Shoes pattern, with a few changes - a vinyl sole lined with cotton rather than a bonded fleece sole, and the addition of ribbon trim before sewing top to sole.

I was done with one shoe by around 1:30 in the morning, and since everything is hilarious at 1:30 in the morning, I declared, "One shoe is enough. It says, 'I love you, but I don't want to spoil you.'"

I did go on to finish the second one, though. Now I'm so attached to these darling shoes I can hardly bear to send them away to my nephew! Although I'm sure they will be that much cuter on his little feet.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


One of the things I love so much about the blogosphere is all the inspiration out there, mere clicks away. I'm really astounded by the number of creative, crafty, artsy, gifted, talented women who are so generous that they freely share their ideas on their blogs. It was Angry Chicken's blog, after all, that inspired my magnet-making obsession, resulting in cute sets like this one:

And it was Cocoa's blog that inspired me to try making my own lip balm - which I lovelovelove; it far surpasses any store-bought lip balm in my opinion.

I love the occasional Saturday, like today, when I have time to sit down and catch up on unread items in my Google Reader. I subscribe to feeds from quite a few design, craft, and sewing blogs - as well as lots of cooking blogs and coupon blogs - and it's always a pick-me-up to see the creativity of others and subsequently feel renewed inspiration of my own.

My "inspiration" folder on the computer overflows with tutorials, documents, and photographs - zillions of things I want to do someday. Here are just a few of the projects I'm dying to try:

Amy at Angry Chicken claims that this skirt takes five minutes to sew, so I'm guessing for a wannabe like myself that means five hours. I'm okay with that; it's so cute! Definitely on my to-do-before-summer list right now. (This woman is super-talented. If you don't read her blog, you should! Also, she does home birth and cloth diapering, and she even made a dress for her daughter to draw on.)

How cute are these barrettes? (If only my sister would add a niece to my pile of nephews, I'd have a little girl to make cute stuff for!)

Look at these adorable bitty booties from Little Birdie Secrets.  My friend Story and I are going to make some for her daughter Gwendolyn.  

And while we're at it, we might have to make some of the little Stardust Shoes I came across on Homemade By Jill.  

Check out these cool, modern-looking wall hangings, made of nothing but styrofoam and paper!  

A project like this is perfect for my obsession with scrapbook papers; I always feel like I could look at cute paper all day, and if I hung some on my wall, well, I could.  

This girl makes earrings and other jewelry out of recycled Starbucks gift cards!


The creativity just kills me! I'm hoping someone gives me a cute gift card soon so I can try my hand at the idea (once I've used the card, of course).

These framed monograms at Bless Our Nest are beautiful; I'm hoping to find some frames with potential at a thrift store and copy the idea for our bedroom.

I can't mention talented, creative women without putting in a little plug for my sister Emily's Etsy shop.  Emily sews beautiful slings for carrying babies, and cute burp cloths as well.

I'm so wowed and inspired by Do-It-Yourself-ers like these bloggers and so many others. It's my dream to be a DIY-er, but my little attempts at sewing, crafts, and cooking don't yet allow me to qualify, I'm afraid.

Many of the blogs I enjoy the most these days are mommyblogs, and whenever I see something particularly awe-inspiring that was recently created by, say, a mother of three, four, or five, I find myself thinking that when I'm a mother, I can't imagine being quite so ... capable. Something like this would be neat:

FavoriteBoy: Hey, honey, what did you and the kids do today?

SarahMarie: I made them delicious and nutritious meals, I sewed clothes for them while they napped, we made crafts and art projects together, their home schooling is going so well that they are reading chapter books at the ages of three and five, I baked two loaves of bread, and I have dinner in the oven and cookies in the cookie jar and...

But I picture something more like this, instead:

FavoriteBoy: Hey, honey, what did you and the kids do today?

SarahMarie: I kept them alive.


This morning I decided to try painting a little flower on my toenail. I've always thought designs like these are cute, but I don't pay for pedicures, so... I figured I'd try doing it myself. After doing the flower, it looked incomplete, so I added some scattered dots. I thought it turned out all right - not great, but okay for a first try. That is, until Nathan said, "What's that? A flower and a radioactive symbol?"

Friday, February 20, 2009

Homemade Yogurt

Sorry for the belated update, but the crockpot yogurt experiment turned out well! It is a little thinner than store-bought yogurt but it tastes delicious. I have two containers of yogurt in my fridge right now: one plain, and one with berries. To make the berry yogurt I just defrosted some frozen berries in the microwave and stirred them, along with a little honey, into some of the yogurt.

Then I poured it into a container to keep in the fridge. Beautiful!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Making Yogurt

I'm so excited I can hardly sit still, much less type.

I'm making yogurt in my crockpot this evening!

My parents started making their own yogurt recently using a yogurt maker. I felt sad because making yogurt sounded fun, but I didn't have a yogurt maker. Then I remembered that you can make yogurt in your crockpot! (There's another recipe here, as well.)

So I'm making my own yogurt! I can hardly contain myself. I'll let you all know how it turns out.

Economic Stimulus

Ever since I discovered coupons, I do way more shopping than I used to. I "buy" (without paying much, if any) products I used to think were too expensive. I buy things to give away to friends and food pantries. I buy junk food to cater to Nathan, and organic food for myself - things I used to think I couldn't afford.

Last week I bought 20 cans of organic crushed and diced tomatoes and 10 bags of organic frozen vegetables - all for under $20. By shelf prices that would have cost me around $70! Now we are really stocked up on canned tomatoes, which is great since I use them for spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and lots of soup bases. I also got four containers of hummus - two of which are organic - for under $2; usually it would have been $14.

This afternoon I picked up some granola bars (for me), fruit snacks (for my young violin students to practice making 'tables' with their bow hands), cold cereal (for the food pantry), and canned soup (for the food pantry). I spent $25.50 and got $27 back in coupons for my next grocery shopping trip. Not bad!

All this shopping is encouraging the exchange of goods and cashflow from manufacturers to stores. Meanwhile, minimal cash leaves MY pockets and bank account, meaning Nathan and I can save for stuff like living The American Dream.

I'm starting to think that I AM THE ECONOMIC STIMULUS PACKAGE.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

V Day Bouquet

Look what my husband got me for Valentine's Day:

I was quite surprised by the gift, since we've never made a big deal about Valentine's Day and this was the second time in four or five years that he's ever gotten me flowers. When I mentioned this, Nathan declared, "I got you flowers for both our wedding ceremonies, too!" I'm not convinced wedding decorations count, though.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Discovering Shostakovich

Last Saturday found me in a dress rehearsal for a Sunday afternoon performance of Shostakovich's 5th Symphony. A few listeners sat in the rows of seats during the rehearsal, family members of orchestra members, perhaps, or friends wanting to enjoy the music without shelling out the cost of a ticket. Towards the back of the room, two very small faces caught my eye. These young girls looked to be about five years old, and as the woodwinds and brass played their swashbuckling themes in the second movement - a sardonic, maniacal waltz, half humorous and half angry, always incongruous - I found myself riveted by their bright faces.

As I was counting rests, they were discovering the unique harmonies - now dissonant, now consonant for a moment, often surprising and always characteristically Shostakovich - of this great Soviet composer for the first time. Faces upturned, their heads began to bob rhythmically and their expressions burst suddenly into wide grins. Soon they bounced up and down in their seats in pure enjoyment of the music.

Those of us in the orchestra approached the music with a certain understanding of Shostakovich: the government oppression he faced, the angst written into each page of a piece like this great symphony, the irony and satire contained in this comical Allegretto. We cannot play the painfully lyrical melodies without hearing Shostakovich's lament for his mother country, and we cannot play the final pages of exhausting, never-ending A's without hearing Shostakovich's own words in our heads:

"What exultation could there be? I think it is clear to everyone what happens in the Fifth. The rejoicing is forced, created under threat, as in Boris Godunov. It's as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying, 'Your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing,' and you rise, shaky, and go marching off, muttering, 'Our business is rejoicing, our business is rejoicing.' What kind of apotheosis is that? You have to be a complete oaf not to hear that."

An oaf - or perhaps a modern-day American five-year-old. These girls approached the piece with fresh minds and fresh ears, with no preconceptions. Unaware of those who decried Shostakovich's 20th-century harmonies, unaware of social and political constructs, they took the music at face value - and they thought it was delightfully fun.

Watching the joy on those little faces, I heard the music afresh, too.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Vegetarian... Maybe

On Monday I made sausage lasagna for dinner.

On Tuesday I decided to be a vegetarian.

That makes it sound like a whim, but in actuality, it was all quite a process. I just haven't felt good about eating meat for a while now. I grew up in a family that ate meat, but certainly not as our primary source of protein or sustenance. We might have a couple of grilled chicken breasts for the whole family, tossed in a Caesar salad, or even eat hamburgers once in a while, but having meat-free meals was very common when I was young. Now I'm married to a carnivore, and while I love cooking for him, he really would have trouble if I tried to make him adapt to my eating habits.

What I've come to realize is that I've been equally unhappy adapting to his! I don't want to eat meat as a main course every night for dinner. In fact, I'm not sure I want to eat meat at all. I don't even really like most forms of meat! Add to that horrifying slaughterhouse practices, known hormones present in non-organic meats, and a general discomfort with making animals a prevalent source of protein in my life; all these things contribute to my current decision to give vegetarianism a try. It's not that I think eating meat is a sin, it's just that my conscience has bothered me enough about it lately to make me wonder if for me, it might just be the wrong thing right now. God gave us so many wonderful plant sources of protein, and when he gave mankind dominion over animals, it's hard to imagine that his plan was animals raised solely to provide massive quantities of food - animals that never see the light of day, never roam their natural habitats, never scratch for food or run free.

I've been a vegetarian for two and a half days now and I think I love it. I've eaten hummus spread on warm pita bread, roasted cauliflower, pear slices dipped in cashew butter, spicy lentil chili, roasted salted chickpeas, crunchy sweet apples, the best pizza ever, and other such deliciousness.

Since I'm excited about this new horizon before me, I figured I might as well share the decision with my faithful readers. Go ahead and chime in with your thoughts - I've already heard a few people exclaim how ridiculous I'm being, or that I'm adding further complexity to what is already a dietarily complex marriage (my husband doesn't eat fruits or vegetables) by creating additional divisiveness at the dinner table.

And sure enough, the New York Times doesn't bode well for our marriage: I Love You, but You Love Meat states, an age when many people define themselves by what they will eat and what they won’t, dietary differences can put a strain on a romantic relationship. The culinary camps have become so balkanized that some factions consider interdietary dating taboo.

But then again, there are plenty of couples who compromise in the kitchen every day for years, and are quite happy!

For now, being a vegetarian is temporary and I'm certainly open to changing my mind in the future. The important thing for me right now is that after contemplation, reading, and prayer, I feel good about this decision.

The Perfect Pizza

Last night Nathan and I went on a spur-of-the-moment date to use a gift card I'd received from a student for Christmas. I ate the best pizza ever. It was essentially a classic Margherita pizza minus the mozzarella cheese, with added spinach - tomatoes, garlic, spinach, and basil on a thin crust with a sprinkling of romano cheese. People think I'm so weird for ordering pizza without mozzarella, but I just like it better that way. And now I know something else I like - from now on I'm putting spinach on all my homemade pizzas.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Good Earth Tea

Have you ever tried Good Earth Tea? Their Sweet and Spicy tea is the best tea I've ever had. It's uniquely delicious and tastes naturally sweet.

Well, a week or two ago I went to the company website and filled out a comment saying how much I enjoyed their tea, and asking if they had ever considered offering coupons in the Sunday paper, since other tea companies (such as Celestial Seasonings) regularly offer coupons. Within a week I received the nicest letter from Good Earth, thanking me for my appreciation of their products and encouraging me to try some of their newer tea varieties, as well - and the letter included two $0.55 coupons, each of which will double to $1.10 off a box of tea.

Now, I'm not planning to go all 39 Dollar Experiment on you all, but I do think it's pretty cool that if you tell a company you enjoy their product, you can be rewarded for your consumerism!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How to Make a Happy Viola Teacher...

...Decide to do your elementary school biography report on Shinichi Suzuki. Oh, am I ever charmed by my student Tyler this week!

Curry Recipe

I'm just salivating over this chickpea curry recipe. I really want to try it! (Too bad my husband is a vegetable-abhorring carnivore... it really doesn't mix too well with my desire to be a vegetarian.)

I'm inspired by the way the guy at The Food In My Beard makes his own Garam Masala and curry paste! I love making curries, but I must admit I've just used store-bought Garam Masala in the past. I think I'll try this recipe sometime soon!

February 3rd

Happy 200th Birthday to Felix Mendelssohn! He's one of my favorites.