Sunday, September 9, 2012

September 9th, 2012 - Constance & Her Companions

In 1878 the yellow fever returned to the city of Memphis, Tennessee, and by
the time the plague had receded, thousands of residents had died, including
Constance, the Superior of the Sisters of St. Mary, three other members of
the community, Sisters Thecla, Ruth, and Frances, and two Episcopal priests,
Charles Carroll Parsons and Louis Sandford Schuyler, all of whom had stayed
in Memphis to minister to the stricken when as many as 20,000 residents with
the means to do so had fled the city.

Indeed, Sisters Constance and Thecla had been away from town, on retreat in
Peekskill, New York, when the fever struck.  Upon receipt of the news, they
made immediate arrangements to return, despite the obvious danger involved.

Canterbury House's former music director, UM Professor Stephen Rush, once
asked the students in his class, "What would you be willing to die for?"
His hypothetical question was a means of prompting them to identify their
deepest passion.  I expect to ask the Canterburians the same question this
coming Sunday.  It's a challenging question for any one of us, and
especially for 18-22 year-olds who have been raised in safety and privilege.

Constance was only 33 when she and Thecla determined to return to Memphis on
the last venture of their lives.  While I do not claim to know what was in
her mind, I imagine that the question of her own death may have entered
little into her considerations.  She saw a duty and she responded.  The
hypothetical "ultimate question" is one we can truly answer only after we
find ourselves in the genuine ultimate situation.  Perhaps it is only in the
extreme circumstance that self-sacrificial devotion becomes the logical and
obvious response.  Human beings have a surprising capacity for this, and
they need not be saints nor even Christians to do so.  Annie Cook, the
keeper of a Memphis brothel, turned her house into a hospital, nursed the
sick, and died along with many other heroes of the town.

Was death, then, the victor in Memphis in 1878?  John Donne would not have
thought so:

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

-Rev. Reid Hamilton

Prelude - "Moonship Journey", Sun Ra
Processional - "Ain'a That Good News", Spiritual
Psalm Tone - "Shelter Tone", Ps. 25, Stephen Rush
Gospel Hymn - "Now The Green Blade Riseth"
Prayer Response - "Bendigo Al Senor", Taize
Offertory - "Salamu Maria"
Sanctus - Franz Schubert
Communion Hymn - "Breathe In The Spirit" Stephen Rush
Closing Hymn - "Sign Me Up", Spiritual
Postlude - "The Good Life", Ornette Coleman

Music Director's note: We've celebrated Constance & her Companions for the last nine years at Canterbury House, and typically we focus on the darker side of the their story. This year, Reid and I decided to emphasize the experience of running headfirst into an experience from which you may not return, but which you cannot turn away from. To me, Steve Rush's question "What would you be willing to die for?" implies this sort of inevitability: if you're willing to die for something, turning away from it is not even an option. It simply doesn't occur to you. So prepare yourself for the moonship journey ... journey on the moonship...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

September 2nd, 2012 - Augustine of Hippo

The sack of the City of Rome, 24 August 410, by the army of Alaric the Goth,
was an event as shattering to the Roman Empire - or moreso - than the
destruction of the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September 2011 was
to the United States.  Back then, people blamed the Christians for the
disaster.  Preachers of the old religion(s) accused the Romans of failing in
their obligations to the gods, and claimed that the invaders were a divine
punishment.  The more things change, the more they stay the same!

Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, wrote a defense of the Christians, that he
eventually expanded into his great work The City of God.  We'll observe
his feast day at our Jazz Mass on Sunday 2 September, and we'll touch on the
themes of apocalypse that are raised by the disasters that befall the
empires of the world.

-Rev. Reid Hamilton

Liturgical Music

Prelude - "Big Science", Laurie Anderson, arr. Quartex
Processional - "Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel"
Psalm Tone - "Praise Tone", Stephen Rush
Gospel Hymn - "He Is The Way", 1982 #464
Creed - "Blues Credo", Stephen Rush
Prayer Response - "Our Soul is Waiting For God", Taizé
Offertory - "Salamu Maria"
Sanctus - "Sanctus", Franz Schubert
Communion Hymn - "Prepare the way of the Lord"
Closing Hymn - "We'll Understand It Better By and By"
Postlude - "The Magic City", Sun Ra, arr. Quartex

Music director's note: One of Augustine's main ideas in The City of God is that human beings are inherently flawed and cannot create utopia by their efforts alone: that the grace of God (and the crucifixion of Christ) is needed to redeem humanity. This idea made me think of Laurie Anderson's "Big Science", particularly where she sings "Golden cities ... golden towns", but the rest of the lyrics are quite relevant as well. Anderson's wit allows a deathly serious lyric to have a slightly sarcastic tone, and vice-versa; Quartex will endeavor to capture the essence of "Big Science" without exactly replicating the version on Anderson's album.

As the postlude, I chose Sun Ra's "The Magic City". The melody to the piece is long and winding, almost four full pages of written music. In its original version (rec'd in 1966), the melody is played by Ra on a warbling synthesizer, which is often buried in rhythm and horn accompaniment. The recording runs nearly 30 minutes. Quartex will perform a stripped-down version of this, again attempting to capture the basic essence of it.

-Matt Endahl

Monday, October 3, 2011

St. Francis of Assisi - Oct. 5th, 2011

Having started Michaelmas term with a celebration of Albert Schweitzer, Reid and I couldn't help but notice the similarities between Schweitzer and St. Francis of Assisi. (Reid noted a possible difference: that St. Francis arguably treated animals better than he sometimes treated people.) His reform of Medieval monasticism, commitment to poverty as a value ("holy poverty"), and his reverence for life, were the themes that we drew on for our liturgical planning.

A central point which we focused on was: if all of us were willing to show other people the same compassion and respect which we treat our pets, world would be a much better place. Congregants were invited to bring along their pets for the "Blessing of the Animals". As it happened, no animals were brought in person (so to speak), but many people presented cell phone pictures which were blessed instead.

Service Outline

Prelude - "We Were Poor (But We Were Happy)" Paddy McAloon
Invocation - "Lord Make Us Servants Of Your Peace"
Psalm Tone - "Praise Tone" Stephen Rush
Gospel Hymn - "I Want Jesus To Walk With Me"
Prayer Response - "Beati Voi Poveri" Taizé
Offertory - "Wa Wa Wa Emimimo"
Sanctus - "Blues Sanctus" Stephen Rush
Communion - "Occuli Nostri" Taizé
Closing Hymn  - "I Know The Lord's Laid His Hands On Me"
Postlude - "Endangered Species" Ornette Coleman

Sunday, September 25, 2011

St. Michael & All Angels - Sept. 28th, 2011

Service Outline

Prelude - "A Call for All Demons" Sun Ra
Invocation - "I Shall Not Be Moved"
Psalm Tone - "Trust" Stephen Rush [Psalm 103]
Gospel Hymn - "We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder"
Offertory - "Way Down in the Hole" Tom Waits
Prayer Response - "Tu Sei Sorgente Viva" Taizé
Sanctus - "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord" Franz Schubert
Lord's Prayer - "The Lord's Prayer" Taizé
Communion - "Breathe in the Spirit, Breathe Out Compassion" Stephen Rush
Closing Hymn - "Redemption Songs" Bob Marley
Postlude - "Levels & Degrees of Light" Muhal Richard Abrams

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hildegard of Bingen - Sept. 18th, 2011

Hildegard of Bingen is one of Canterbury House's favorite saints. Her life and work is staggering in its depth and scope. In the past, we have tended to focus on Hildegard's ecstatic visions, and her relationship to scholarship and wisdom. This year we chose to commemorate her by exploring God's presence in the natural world, and the theme of healing: physically and emotionally.

Andrew Kratzat is a brilliant bassist and composer from Fort Wayne, IN currently based in Ann Arbor. He played with Quartex for several years, and I have had the pleasure of working with him in a number of contexts over the years, from freely improvised music to gypsy jazz. In late July, he and his fianceé Alicia Doudna were in a near-fatal traffic accident on I-94 just outside Marshall, MI. They are currently making extraordinary progress through constant and hard work, excellent medical care, and relentless devotion and support from family and friends. For updates on Andrew & Alicia, please visit:

As a prelude, we perform Kratzat's piece "Victor Jara", written for the Chilean musician and activist, who was martyred on Sept. 16th, 1973, five days after his country was taken over by the regime of Augusto Pinochet. The rubato and modal nature of Hildegard's chants lend themselves well to a John & Alice Coltrane-style interpretation. In the past we have done "O Virtus Sapientaie" and "O Felix Anima"; "Caritas Habindat" is new for Quartex:

"Loving tenderness abounds for all
from the darkest
to the most eminent one beyond the stars,

Exquisitely loving all
she bequeaths the kiss of peace
upon the ultimate King."

Service Outline

Prelude - "Victor Jara" Andrew Kratzat
Invocation - "There Is A Balm In Gilead" trad. (Spiritual)
Psalm Tone - "Nature" Stephen Rush [Psalm 104]
Gospel Hymn - "Breathe On Me Breath of God" Edwin Hatch, Robert Jackson
Offertory - "Could You Be Loved" Bob Marley
Prayer Response - "Da Pacem Cordium" Taizé
Sanctus - "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord" Franz Schubert
Lord's Prayer - "The Lord's Prayer" Taizé
Communion Hymn - "Kristus Din Ande" Taizé
Closing Hymn - "I Saw The Light" Hank Williams
Postlude - "Caritas Habundat" Hildegard of Bingen

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Constance & Her Companions - Sept. 11th, 2011

Constance & her Companions is the name given to a convent of nuns in Memphis, TN who provided aid and comfort to the many victims of the yellow fever plague of 1878. The nuns caught the fever themselves, and all of them died as well. For this, they are lauded as martyrs. Our service explores this sense of divine mission ("The Summons"), sacrifice ("Unsung Heroes", "Throw Down Your Earthly Crown"), and redemption ("Now The Green Blade Riseth", "And On The Third Day"). There are overtones which recognize the victims of Sept. 11th, 2001 but we chose not to refer directly to it during the service.

Service outline

Prelude - "Unsung Heroes" Bill Frisell
Invocation - "The Summons" John Bell
Psalm Tone - "Where Is God?" Stephen Rush [Psalm 25]
2nd reading is taken from Sandra Schneiders
Gospel Hymn - "Now The Green Blade Riseth" trad. carol (French)
Homily by Clara Bosak-Schroder
Prayer Response - "Une Soif" Taizé
Offertory - "Throw Down Your Earthly Crown" Dirk Powell
Sanctus - "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord" Franz Schubert
Lord's Prayer - "The Lord's Prayer" Taizé
Communion Hymn - "Our Soul Is Waiting For God" Taizé
Closing Hymn - "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" C. D. Martin, C. H. Gabriel
Postlude - "And On The Third Day" Mike Gibbs

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Albert Schweitzer - Sept. 4th, 2011

We begin Michaelmas Term this year by celebrating the life and work of Albert Schweitzer, scholar of the organ, revolutionary theologian and doctor to the Third World. In our discussion, Reid Hamilton and I were inspired by Schweitzer's philosophy of "reverence for life", as well as by his view of Jesus in relation to eschatological trends in Jewish society in the 1st century. Our postlude for this week is Wayne Shorter's "Armageddon".

In my research, I found that Rachel Carson dedicated her 1962 book "Silent Spring" to Schweitzer. I instantly recalled Carla Bley's composition "Silent Spring", which was commissioned from her by Steve Swallow in 1966. I could not find absolute proof of a link (like an interview where Bley said "Oh yeah, Silent Spring was written about Carson's book") but the similar time periods, and Bley's predilection for socially-conscious composition projects, I figured it was a safe assumption that the two were related. We do Bley's "Silent Spring" as our prelude.

Service Outline

Prelude - "Silent Spring" Carla Bley
Invocation - "Heaven Shall Not Wait" John Bell
Psalm Tone - "Praise" Stephen Rush [Psalm 150]
Gospel Hymn - "Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light" - J. S. Bach
Prayer Response - "The Kingdom of God" Taizé
Offertory - "He Came Down" trad. (Cameroon)
Sanctus - "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord" Franz Schubert
Lord's Prayer - "The Lord's Prayer" Taizé
Communion Hymn - "O Poverty" Taizé
Closing Hymn - "I Want to be Ready" trad. (Spiritual)
Postlude - "Armageddon" Wayne Shorter