Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Boxing Lessons

by Anne White

D. E. Stevenson’s Five Windows is a coming-of-age novel set in a Scottish village. The early chapters tell about a nine-year-old boy, David, and his friendship with Malcolm, a local shepherd. Malcolm is also a woodworker, and one day David goes to his shop and shows him a picture frame he has made at school, as a gift for his mother. “I was rather proud of it,” the older David remembers. Malcolm’s reaction is not what he was expecting. “Did they learn you to make that at school? It’s dreadful! And the wood is good, too. A good piece of wood doesn’t need to be cut about and ornamented with whirly-gigs and scrolls. A piece of wood has its own beauty which just needs to be brought out.” Malcolm realizes quickly that he has hurt David’s feelings, and apologizes for his abruptness; but David notices himself that, even against the plain polished wood of the worktable, his project looks “tawdry.”  And then the amazingly wise Malcolm says, “Well, lad, I tell you what we’ll do. We’ll choose a piece of wood and you’ll make a box for your mother. You’ll do it all yourself—every bit of it—and I’ll show you how.” And he does. It takes them from the Christmas holidays until sometime in March, but finally the box is finished.

It was a solid chest, made of beautifully grained wood, about three feet long and two and a half feet broad, perfectly plain, with no nonsense about it. The lid fitted as snugly as the lid of an air-tight container. It stood upon the bench shining like a chestnut and I it was beautiful. Malcolm ran his hand over it, and said, “You’ve made something worth-while, Davie. That box will still be a good, useful box long after you’ve gone…When you’re dead and gone—and perhaps forgotten—that box will be as good as ever. The work of your hands, Davie!” It was a new idea to me—rather a frightening idea, but interesting too. Somebody would own that box, he would open it and shut it and use it to keep things in…

Worrying a little that his makership might be forgotten, David carves his initials and the date on the bottom of the box.

A year later, Malcolm is killed, fighting in France. In his grief, David begins to write Malcolm’s story, telling what they had done together (including fishing and taking care of the sheep), and what Malcolm had taught him. “Then there would be no danger of forgetting him.” He shows the story to his mother, who loves it, and not just because her boy has written it (as she might have felt about the picture frame), but because it truly is a good story. (Those  who have read Jan Karon’s To Be Where You Are might see a resemblance to the story young Grace writes about her “adopted grandma” Louella.) David’s mother stores up everything that he writes in the wooden box, and, much later in the book, the adult David, now a novelist, comes back and re-examines his early work. Some of it he thinks not bad, some he discards. But the box itself matters just as much as the stories. “It was the same sort of thing,” the adult David writes; “Malcolm had had a hand in making me.”

This story is only a small part of Five Windows, but it can be unpacked in several important ways. First, for those who are concerned with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education, Malcolm’s gentle lesson in contrasts can be taken as both a general principle and a practical example. Even quality materials, as Malcolm points out, can lose their beauty if we insist on decorating them with “whirly-gigs and scrolls,” or if we praise that which is quickly completed but which holds no lasting value. We are content to have a slow but solid method of teaching.  David’s box took him weeks to make, and Malcolm told him that it would last for a hundred years. What are we giving our children that will be that solid, last that long? When someday they look back on their education, will they remember only the small projects, or will they have any recognition of the box itself?

Second, there is a spiritual sense in which we may spend years making things we consider beautiful and valuable, even quite big and important things in the world’s eyes, things of which we are “rather proud”; but when we lay them on God’s worktable, they are shown in their true light. As Robert Boyd Munger writes in his classic My Heart—Christ’s Home, God has come into our workroom and is not impressed by the few “little toys” we have managed to knock out. He does not scold or reject us for our lack of skill or taste, but He does ask us to let Him teach us his better way of box-making. And box-filling.

Third, we have the opportunity to make beautiful, lasting boxes. But even a clumsy handmade picture frame is, these days, still a step beyond something stamped out of a machine. Though we may have begun polishing our own boxes (in whatever sense), we are reminded to be gentle with those who need encouragement to enter the workshop and view the work of the master. We have all been there once.

And finally, we are reminded of the need to value the past, including its artists and craftspeople, those who had skills and knew things we have forgotten. We also need to appreciate the work of those  who are still with us. A thing that has been carved, or embroidered, or painted, or built with stones, or hammered out of iron, or baked, still carries something of its maker (as well as its Maker).  Our care, our ideas; our initials, our fingerprints.

Ma made the cornmeal and water into two thin loaves, each shaped in a half circle. She laid the loaves with their straight sides together in the bake-oven, and she pressed her hand flat on top of each loaf. Pa always said he did not ask any other sweetening, when Ma put the prints of her hands on the loaves. (Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie)

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Folk Song for May 2025: Leave Her, Johnny

This month’s folk song, “Leave Her, Johnny” (or “Leave Her, Johnny, Leave Her”) was suggested by Advisory member  Leslie Laurio, who always loves a good sea shanty. Leslie also found this helpful article explaining its meaning and history. 

"The popular sea shanty, 'Leave Her, Johnny' was usually kept for the last day of a voyage as a way of communicating any grievances, knowing they would be soon leaving the ship (her)." 

The song has been recorded over the years by various folk groups, but became more popular recently with the resurgence of interest in sea shanties.

Lyrics and Links

There are many variations and possible verses for this song (not all of them family-friendly). We recommend the lyrics (below) from this version by veteran folk musician Stan Rogers.  An alternative would be to learn the with-lyrics version by Assassin’s Creed 4.

I thought I heard the old man say

"Leave her, Johnny, leave her

It's a long, hard pull to the next payday

And it's time for us to leave her"


Leave her, Johnny, leave her!

Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her

For the voyage is done and the winds don't blow

And it's time for us to leave her!


Oh, the winds were foul and the work was hard

Leave her, Johnny, leave her!

From the Liverpool dock to the London yard

And it's time for us to leave her


Leave her, Johnny, leave her!

Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her

For the voyage is done and the winds don't blow

And it's time for us to leave her!


Oh, the skipper was bad, but the mate was worse

Leave her, Johnny, leave her

He'd blow you down with a spike and a curse

And it's time for us to leave her


Leave her, Johnny, leave her!

Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her

For the voyage is done and the winds don't blow

And it's time for us to leave her!

It was rotten meat and moldy bread


Leave her, Johnny, leave her!

You'd eat it or you'd starve to death

And it's time for us to leave her


Leave her, Johnny, leave her!

Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her

For the voyage is done and the winds don't blow

And it's time for us to leave her!


Well it's time for us to say goodbye

Leave her, Johnny, leave her

For now those pumps are all pumped dry

And it's time for us to leave her


Leave her, Johnny, leave her!

Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her

For the voyage is done and the winds don't blow

And it's time for us to leave her!


Video Links

Stan Rogers and friends, live performance from 1983

Assassin's Creed 4 (with lyrics)

The Longest Johns Mass Choir Community Project  From the notes on Youtube: “It's so amazing to watch this video and see the faces of people still keeping Folk Music and Sea Shanties alive all around the globe! A huge thank you to everyone who took part, and remember to keep singing!”


Our helpful intro post is sure to liven up your folk song adventures.
For more information on our folk songs, and for Amazon affiliate 
links to purchase individual songs, see our AO Folk Songs page.
These affiliate links help support AmblesideOnline.

Folk Song for June 2025: Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen

"Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" is an African-American spiritual song that dates back to the  early nineteenth century.  The American contralto Marian Anderson recorded it in 1925, and many other singers have recorded it (in their own styles) over the years.(It was sometimes titled “Nobody Knows the Trouble I See.”)

Wikipedia notes that “Nobody Knows” became not only a song sung by groups of people gathering together, but also something that moved easily into more formal arrangements and performances. “In the late 19th century African-American music began to appear in classical music art forms, in arrangements made by Black composers such as Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Henry Thacker Burleigh, and J. Rosamond Johnson. Johnson made an arrangement…for voice and piano in 1917, when he was directing the New York Music School Settlement for Colored People.”

We should also note, however, that in popular culture, the song is used (often in a humorous way) as a prisoner's lament, or by someone who believes they are being mistreated. (One fun example from Walt Disney's The Lion King)

Lyrics 

This is one set of traditional lyrics.

Nobody knows the trouble I've been through
Nobody knows my sorrow [or “Nobody knows but Jesus”]
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Glory hallelujah!

Sometimes I'm up, sometimes I'm down
Oh, yes, Lord
Sometimes I'm almost to the ground
Oh, yes, Lord

Although you see me going 'long so
Oh, yes, Lord
I have my trials here below
Oh, yes, Lord

Nobody knows the trouble I've been through
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Glory hallelujah!

If you get there before I do
Oh, yes, Lord
Tell all-a my friends I'm coming to Heaven! [or “coming too”]
Oh, yes, Lord

 Video Links

We particularly recommend the following videos:

Alfred Street Baptist Church (ASBC) Male Chorus

Louis Armstrong (live performance with trumpet and voice, 1962)

The Seekers (live performance, 1965/66) 

And one more, because this is music for everyone: National Taiwan University Chorus


Our helpful intro post is sure to liven up your folk song adventures.

For more information on our folk songs, and for Amazon affiliate 
links to purchase individual songs, see our AO Folk Songs page.
These affiliate links help support AmblesideOnline. 

Folk Song for April 2025: When You And I Were Young, Maggie

“When You And I Were Young, Maggie” (sometimes called simply “Maggie”) sounds like it might be an old Irish or Scottish ballad, but it was actually written by a Canadian schoolteacher and poet, George Washington Johnson, for his sweetheart Margaret “Maggie” Clark, in 1864. They married that year, and the poem was published in Johnson’s book Maple Leaves. Sadly, however, Maggie died less than a year later. (A 2017 article in the Toronto Sun tells more of George and Maggie's story.)

An American composer named James Austin Butterfield set the poem to music, and it quickly became popular worldwide.  It was recorded as early as 1905, and has been sung  (or played) and recorded by artists as diverse as Slim Whitman, Gene Autry (check out this fun clip from the Gene Autry T.V. show), Perry Como, and Benny Goodman. There are also variations on the song: “When You And I Were Young, Maggie Blues” and “When You And I Were Young, Maggie Boogie.” 


Lyrics


1. I wandered today to the hill, Maggie,
To watch the scene below;
The creek and the creaking old mill, Maggie,
As we used to long ago,
The green grove is gone from the hill, Maggie,
Where first the daisies sprung;
The creaking old mill is still, Maggie,
Since you and I were young.

 
CHORUS
And now we are aged and gray, Maggie,
And the trials of life nearly done;
Let us sing of the days that are gone, Maggie,
When you and I were young.
Let us sing,
 

2. A city so silent and lone, Maggie,
Where the young and the gay and the best,
In polished white mansions of stone, Maggie,
Have each found a place of rest,
Is built were the birds used to play, Maggie,
And join in the songs that were sung:
For we sang as gay as they, Maggie,
When you and I were young.

CHORUS 

3. They say I am feeble with age, Maggie
My steps are less sprightly than then,
My face is a well-written page, Maggie,
But time alone was the pen.
They say we are aged and gray, Maggie,
As sprays by the white breakers flung;
But to me you’re as fair as you were, Maggie
When you and I were young.

CHORUS

(Source: Johnson, George W. and Butterfield, J A., "When You and I Were Young, Maggie" (1908). Historic Sheet Music Collection. 1723)

 

Video Links

John McDermott, with piano accompaniment. 

Foster and Allen, titled “Maggie” (vocals plus guitar and accordion, along with an interesting video)

The Alexander Brothers, also titled “Maggie” 

Anne’s pick: Donna Stewart and Ron Andrico, a.k.a Eulalie


Our helpful intro post is sure to liven up your folk song adventures.

For more information on our folk songs, and for Amazon affiliate 
links to purchase individual songs, see our AO Folk Songs page.
These affiliate links help support AmblesideOnline.

Folk Song for March 2025: All Through the Night

This is one of the most well-known Welsh folk songs, which has been translated into several languages. Wikipedia notes that “The song is highly popular with traditional Welsh male voice choirs, and is sung by them at festivals in Wales and around the world.” Sir Harold Boulton wrote the best-known English lyrics in 1884.

The melody has been used for Christian hymns such as "Go My Children With My Blessing” (1983), “God That Madest Earth and Heaven” (1827) and "Father in your Love Enfold Us” (author unknown). It is also used for the hymn "For the Fruit of All Creation" by Fred Pratt Green. 

Lyrics

These are the lyrics by Sir Harold Boulton. Additional verses can be found on Wikipedia


Sleep my child and peace attend thee,

All through the night

Guardian angels God will send thee,

All through the night

Soft the drowsy hours are creeping

Hill and vale in slumber sleeping,

I my loving vigil keeping

All through the night.

 

While the moon her watch is keeping

All through the night

While the weary world is sleeping

All through the night

O'er thy spirit gently stealing

Visions of delight revealing

Breathes a pure and holy feeling

All through the night.

 

Video Links

On our AO Folksongs page we have included links to these four Youtube videos:

Sara Gunter’s recording of the song (plus a montage of sleeping children) 

The JCtribute recording (male voice, easy to sing along with) 

Richard Sharp’s instrumental version (guitar)

This version sung in Welsh by a men’s choir, showing a montage of photos of Wales, including some of coal miners 

One more from Advisory member Anne White: Peter, Paul and Mary’s version from their 1970 album Peter, Paul and Mommy.  More for listening than for singing along, as they do a fair amount of creative harmonizing and their lyrics are slightly simplified; but a beautiful rendition just the same.


Our helpful intro post is sure to liven up your folk song adventures.


For more information on our folk songs, and for Amazon affiliate 
links to purchase individual songs, see our AO Folk Songs page.
These affiliate links help support AmblesideOnline.

Folk Song for February 2025: Mairi's Wedding

“Mairi’s Wedding” is not a folk song in the traditional sense, as it was written by one person (and translated by another). In 1934,  a Scottish singer named Mary C. MacNiven won a gold medal at the National Mòd.  J. R. Bannerman composed a song in Gaelic in honour of her performance (and not about a wedding at all), which was later expanded to a Scottish country dance tune.

Sir Hugh Roberton, the conductor of the Glasgow Orpheus Choir, wrote an English version of the song, but changed the context from “Mairi’s Gold Medal at the Music Festival” to “Mairi’s Wedding.” It is also called the “Lewis Bridal Song.” MacNiven’s 1997 obituary stated that “among Mary's prized possessions was the original copy of the translation autographed by the choral maestro.” 

Lyrics

As the song is under copyright, we recommend that you use the lyrics found on the Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary. 

Video Links

We recommend the following videos:

The High Kings, performing on a PBS T.V. special (they call it “Marie’s Wedding”) . This one may be useful for singing along as it does not go as fast as some versions. 

The King’s Singers, from their album Annie Laurie: Folksongs of the British Isles

This video recorded at the Portadown Summer Party in 2009 is instrumental only, but shows people dancing to the tune. 

A note from Advisory member Anne White: There are several videos of the Rankin Family performing Mairi’s Wedding, but our family particularly liked this very lively live version, especially because of the young dancers. (There is an additional fiddle tune called “Malcolm Finlay” at the end of the video.) 

 

Our helpful intro post is sure to liven up your folk song adventures.

For more information on our folk songs, and for Amazon affiliate 
links to purchase individual songs, see our AO Folk Songs page.
These affiliate links help support AmblesideOnline.

Folk Song for January 2025: Keys Of Canterbury

"The Keys of Canterbury” (some versions say “to Canterbury”) is a dialogue song from England, similar to “A Paper of Pins,” a song which is better known in the United States and which you can read about here.  The verses are often performed in turn by a male and a female singer. The song is sometimes titled “Madam, Will You Walk?”

Lyrics 

This version is from the Contemplator folk song website.

O Madam, I will give you
The keys of Canterbury,
And all the bells in London
Shall ring to make us merry.
If you will be my joy, my sweet and only dear,
And walk along with me, anywhere.

I shall not, Sir, accept of you
The keys of Canterbury,
Nor all the bells in London,
Shall ring to make us merry.
I will not be your joy, your sweet and only dear,
Nor walk along with you, anywhere.

O Madam, I will give to you
A pair of boots of cork,
The one was made in London,
The other made in York,
If you will be my joy, my sweet and only dear,
And walk along with me, anywhere.

I shall not, Sir, accept of you
A pair of boots of cork,
Though both were made in London,
Or both were made in York.
I will not be your joy, your sweet and only dear,
Nor walk along with you, anywhere.

O Madam, I will give you
A little gold bell,
To ring for your servants,
And make them serve you well.
If you will be my joy, my sweet and only dear,
And walk along with me, anywhere.

I shall not, Sir, accept of you
A little gold bell,
To ring for all my servants,
And make them serve me well.
I will not be your joy, your sweet and only dear,
Nor walk along with you, anywhere.

O Madam, I will give you
A gallant silver chest,
With a key of gold and silver
And jewels of the best.
If you will be my joy, my sweet and only dear,
And walk along with me, anywhere.

I shall not, Sir, accept of you
A gallant silver chest,
With a key of gold and silver
And jewels of the best.
I will not be your joy, your sweet and only dear,
Nor walk along with you, anywhere.

O Madam, I will give you
A broidered silken gownd,
With nine yards a-drooping
And training on the ground,
If you will be my joy, my sweet and only dear,
And walk along with me, anywhere.

O Sir, I will accept of you
A broidered silken gownd,
With nine yards a-drooping
And training on the ground,
Then I will be your joy, your sweet and only dear,
And walk along with you, anywhere.


Video Links

We recommend the following videos:

Lisa Theriot’s recording 

This slightly slower version, from the album Nevermind Catherine's Chants Of Love And Death (2009)  . The Youtube video shows performers from the dance studio “Kadans.” 

Families with younger children may enjoy this less “arty” but very fun Wiggles video, titled “Madam Will You Walk,” from The Emma and Lachy Show. (Note that it refers to the “keys of Cheshire” rather than Canterbury.)

One upbeat (more contemporary) recording is by the folk group Show of Hands from their album Arrogance Ignorance and Greed, but we add the caution that they insert an original verse which contains mild profanity.


Our helpful intro post is sure to liven up your folk song adventures.

For more information on our folk songs, and for Amazon affiliate 
links to purchase individual songs, see our AO Folk Songs page.
These affiliate links help support AmblesideOnline. 

Folk Song for November 2024: I's the B'y

“I’s the B’y” (sometimes spelled “I’se the B’y”) is a dance song from the Canadian province of Newfoundland. Its authorship is unknown; it became widely known in the mid-twentieth century after it was published in at least two collections of folk songs. The title, for anyone not understanding the Newfoundland dialect, means “I’m the Boy” or “I’m the Guy.” 

It is not necessary to define all the vocabulary used in the song, or turn the places named into a geography lesson, but it is important to point out that the words are not nonsense but words relating to life in Newfoundland, particularly the business of fishing. There is an interesting article with definitions here. You can also read more about the song here.

Lyrics 

1. I's the b'y that builds the boat

And I's the b'y that sails her

I's the b'y that catches the fish

And brings them home to Liza


Chorus: Hip yer partner, Sally Thibault

Hip yer partner, Sally Brown

Fogo, Twillingate, Moreton’s Harbour

All around the circle!

 

2. Sods and rinds to cover your flake

Cake and tea for supper

Codfish [caught] in the spring o’ the year

Fried in maggoty butter.

(Chorus)


3. I don't want your maggoty fish

They're no good for winter

I could buy as good as that

Down in Bonavista.

(Chorus)


4. I took Liza to a dance

As fast as she could travel [or, Faith, but she could travel]

And every step that she did take

Was up to her knees in gravel.

(Chorus)


5. Susan White, she's out of sight

Her petticoat wants a border

Old Sam Oliver in the dark

He kissed her in the corner.

(Chorus)


Video Links

We suggest the following recordings:

Great Big Sea

Ryan’s Fancy, from their album Times to Remember 

“I’se the B’y” is included in Sharon, Lois and Bram’s “Newfoundland Jig Medley.” 


Our helpful intro post is sure to liven up your folk song adventures.

For more information on our folk songs, and for Amazon affiliate 
links to purchase individual songs, see our AO Folk Songs page.
These affiliate links help support AmblesideOnline.

Folk Song for October 2024: Early One Morning

“Early One Morning” is an English folk song apparently dating to the eighteenth century, yet which sounds like it belongs to an even earlier time, perhaps of minstrels with lutes. (Canadians over a certain age may associate it with the sound of harps and recorders, as it was the theme of the Friendly Giant children's T.V. show.

Someone has commented that it’s a very cheery song in spite of its tale of lost love, and perhaps that has contributed to its longevity. Nineteenth-century music publisher William Chappell wrote that “If I were required to name three of the most popular songs among the servant-maids of the present generation, I should say, from my own experience, that they are Cupid's Garden, I sow'd the seeds of love, and Early one morning.” However, its popularity was not limited only to servants;  composers such as Benjamin Britten and Percy Grainger also arranged the song as a choral work, and it was incorporated into longer pieces such as the Nell Gwyn Overture by Edward German.

Lyrics

As with many folk songs, this song has different versions. These are the lyrics most typically heard.

Early one morning,
Just as the sun was rising,
I heard a young maid sing,
In the valley below.

CHORUS:
Oh, don't deceive me,
Oh, never leave me,
How could you use
A poor maiden so?

Remember the vows,
That you made to your Mary [made to me truly],
Remember the bow'r,
Where you vowed to be true,
Chorus

Oh gay is the garland,
And fresh are the roses,
I've culled from the garden,
To place upon [bind on] thy brow.
Chorus

Thus sang the poor maiden,
Her sorrows bewailing,
Thus sang the poor maid,
In the valley below.
Chorus


Video Links

We suggest these recordings: 

Nana Mouskouri, from her album Quand tu chantes. Nana’s lyrics are a bit different from those we have given above.

This acapella arrangement from the CD “Early One Morning” by Diane Sutherland and Bruno “Elevteros” Libert.

The Celtic Ladies have an arrangement that we think might have met with the approval of our friend and Advisory colleague Lynn Bruce. 


Our helpful intro post is sure to liven up your folk song adventures.

For more information on our folk songs, and for Amazon affiliate 
links to purchase individual songs, see our AO Folk Songs page.
These affiliate links help support AmblesideOnline.

Folk Song for September 2024: The Whistling Gypsy (Gypsy Rover)

“The Whistling Gypsy” or “Gypsy Rover” is an example of a folk song written by one composer, Leo Maguire, but which has its roots in much earlier Irish songs that were transported to Appalachia. In earlier versions, a married woman is abducted by someone posing as a “Gypsy,” and things do not end well. However, Maguire set out to write a song with a happier ending. Here is an article with more background information (please preview before sharing with children). 

The song was first recorded in 1952, and became well known through that decade and the next because of the increasing popularity of folk music. The running joke about this song is that you don’t ask which folk group recorded it, you ask which ones (if any) didn’t. You really cannot go very wrong with any recording, from the Clancy Brothers to the Irish Rovers to the Seekers, or even the Wiggles.

It seems important to point out that the word “Gypsy” is not without its controversy, even though the “Gypsy” in question turns out to be a wealthy landowner in disguise, and not a member of the Roma/Travellers/Gypsy people. As the Limeliters pointed out in the introduction to their 1961 recording, his real attraction may have been his talent for whistling.

This song is especially dear to those who were taught to sing it by our friend and Advisory colleague Wendi Capehart.

(Photo of Wendi at our first AO conference in Dallas, 2005)

Lyrics 

As the song is under copyright, we suggest using the lyrics on Tommy Makem's website. (Updated July 2024)

Video Links

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem perform the song for a 1962 PBS T.V. special

The Irish Rovers from their album Gems

The Seekers (with lyrics)

 And here is one more lively version:

Bernie Heaney, from her album Pictures in the Clouds


Our helpful intro post is sure to liven up your folk song adventures.

For more information on our folk songs, and for Amazon affiliate 
links to purchase individual songs, see our AO Folk Songs page.
These affiliate links help support AmblesideOnline. 

Introducing the AO Folk Songs for 2024-2025

 TERM 1


TERM 2

TERM 3

Some of you may remember these songs from the last time we worked our way through the cycle of folk songs. But if you're new here, and even if you're not, we think you'll get more out of these songs if you read the blog posts we've put together for them.


For selected video links, please visit our Folk Songs page at AmblesideOnline.org. 

We are also featuring each folk song on its very own post here on Archipelago, linked in the list above. These posts will be linked from the AO Folk Songs page, too. This way, when you start preparing to introduce a new song, it will be easy as pie to click straight to that song's blog post. Be sure to check out each song's post for recommended lyrics and recordings, and interesting info about each song.


And Now For A Few Helpful Hints


If you’re new around here (and if so, welcome and we’re so glad you’re here!), please (we beg you!) read/re-read Wendi Capehart’s post Folk Songs: Some Back Story. It'll do you good.

Then read her brief but terrific introductory comments here, where she shared some of her easy but brilliant ideas for living the folk singing life.

You may also enjoy this essay by Lynn Bruce: Folk Songs, Unplugged

And if you’re still not quite sure why we AO folks make such a fuss about singing, please read Folk Songs: Some Real Life Experiences for a hearty dose of encouragement. 

Here's to another great year of singing! 

Friday, March 29, 2024

For Me

When my oldest daughter Bethany was just about six years old and our 'only,' I had begun using the 'Picture Study' that is one of the many hallmarks of a Charlotte Mason education. Simply put, it's to show a child a print of a great work of art (usually doing around six works of the same artist, over several weeks), letting them see it silently for a minute or two, and then having them, without looking at it, tell back what they've seen. That process is called narration - and that's it. No lecture, no added biography or lessons, no big teaching, just that. The painting speaks to the child. Then the print is usually hung nearby for that next week or so. 

We were doing Rembrandt. I had gotten prints from a respected family-company, and there were some interesting notes that went with it that helped me understand a bit more about Rembrandt. So one day at lunch, which was when we always had Picture Study, I showed her the large print I had gotten of Rembrandt's "Raising of the Cross." 

It's not a happy picture - Christ's nearly naked body is lit up on a diagonal, as the cross is being raised upright. There aren't the usual gashes or streaks of blood, but it's intense, nonetheless. Surrounding the cross, in increasing darkness, there are people - most notable is a man helping to lift the wood in place. He's dressed in clothes that don't fit Bible times - he's got a blue beret, and it's easy to understand that it's a self-portrait. Rembrandt put himself at the scene of the cross as one of the very people who crucified Jesus. It's jarring, haunting, even disturbing, and I admit that I wondered if I was introducing something too intense to my little girl.

There's another dominant figure in the painting - though not as significant as Christ and the self-portrait of Rembrandt. It's a man on a horse - like a centurion - looking official and noble. He's looking directly at the viewer - which is very different, even troubling - and his hand is outstretched. He's got something in his hand - and it appears to be a sword. But - the sword is held backwards - he's extending it hilt side out - so that you, the viewer, would grab it as if to use it yourself. Rembrandt seems to be saying, "I was there, I'm the reason Christ died, my sin is what crucified him - and now take the sword because you're a part of it, too."




Several days after this Picture Study moment, Bethany asked if she could paint. I always felt reluctant to get out the paints - it seemed as though I'd set up the easel in the kitchen, find the paints and brushes, spread newspaper on the floor, and her art time would take less than the time it took me to put it up and clean it afterwards. But that day I didn't make an excuse or try to distract her, and instead I found something else to do (no doubt something I thought was so vital at the time, but probably was very insignificant) while she fussed with her own art time. 

After a little while, I saw her painting. On her own, with garish, bold colors and with stick figures, she painted a kind of narration of Rembrandt's Raising of the Cross. There was Christ, hanging on the tree, and beside him was a little girl, her long yellow braids evident, holding her own sword, with a tearful face. 

The 27-year-old Dutch master had spoken across three hundred and fifty years to help my little girl see her part in Christ's death on the cross. There is no junior Holy Spirit. God speaks to children, too - and uses means we often think are too hard, too difficult, too complicated. 




I've never forgotten that - and the power of the truth of Good Friday. I have sometimes struggled with Good Friday services that focus on intense medical analyses of the torture Christ suffered - but I know I need to hear it. So I sit through whatever is presented, whether the details of the crucifixion, a dramatic or choral portrayal (grateful - or wishing - I was in it), or even an afternoon of the seven last words from the cross (like when I was a kid) - to remember that this is what Jesus did for me. I was there, because I was on His mind. It's all for me

I know it from the Gospels, from Rembrandt, and I know it from my own child.