Lent 2023


Some random bits for Lent 2023.

No Earthly Good – Johnny Cash. This is a song John wrote. It was on The Rambler album in 1977 and the posthumous Unearthed Collection in 2003; this is the latter version.  “Some people are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good” was attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

The lyrics of the song include:

The gospel ain’t gospel until it is spread
But how can you share it where you’ve got your head
There’s hands that reach out for a hand if you would
So heavenly-minded, you’re no earthly good

I’ve come across responses suggesting the premise is false because they didn’t know anyone so focused on heaven that one could forget their neighbor on earth. In my experience, I have known a few who are so captivated by the hereafter that their Now is bereft of compassion.

I was taken by John Green’s recent four-minute vlog post Empathy and its Limits. Among other things, he notes, as I have noticed for decades, about the word invalid. One meaning is “a person made weak or disabled by illness or injury.” Another is “being without foundation or force, in fact, truth, or law.” They are spelled the same, though pronounced differently. And often, the sickly are invalidated.

Requiem pieces

I’ll admit to feeling a bit grumpy about a snippet of Lacrimosa from the Mozart Requiem being used for a pain reliever advertisement. I was so annoyed that my brain blocked out the product’s name. I’ve sung the Mozart Requiem thrice, the last time on September 11, 2002.

When I was at my former church back in the 1990s,  we sang the Rutter Requiem. My favorite section is Out Of The Deep.

How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place is from Brahms’ German Requiem, done in English. Members of the choir of my old church, some other singers, and I sang it at the funeral of my friend Jim Kalas in 2022.

The John Rutter requiem

Rutter was born in 1945

john rutter requiemI am a sucker for a good requiem. The John Rutter Requiem is one of my two favorites.

I’ve sung the Mozart, Faure, Durufle requiems, and probably a couple more. There’s often a certain pattern, to which the composer may add or leave out. The Wikipedia discussion is useful.

I must admit that the Verdi Dies Irae, a theme that shows up repeatedly in the piece, is both one of the most recognized and my favorite single two-minute musical pieces.

While I’ve never performed the Brahms German requiem, my former church choir has sung the fourth movement quite frequently, in English. One of my favorite people at my old church wants the choir to sing How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place at their funeral.

Published in 1985

Still, the Rutter as a whole touches me greatly. Requiem aeternam, the first movement, “opens with a steady beat of the tympani, to which instruments enter, first without a defined key.” And I think I like the musical uncertainty

The second movement, Out of the Deep, begins with a cello solo; I love a good cello solo. The voices join, and they’re low in the register as well. The text is from Psalm 130; I’ve learned that the text is commonly used at Anglican funerals. The quartet from my choir sang it in the autumn of 2021. Ultimately, this could be transformed into a blues piece, and I can hear it clearly that way.

Pie Jesu is the third movement, featuring the soprano, then the chorus. It includes the prayer to Jesus for rest.

The fourth movement, Sanctus, is ” a lively, and exclamatory movement which is brightly orchestrated with bells, flute, and oboe and occasional timpani recalling the passage in Old Testament scripture in Isaiah 6, and the worship of the six-winged seraphim in the heavenly throne-room of God.”

Choirs I’ve been in have performed The Lord Is My Shepherd, the sixth movement. The text, of course, is Psalm 23, scripture commonly used at many funerals.

Finally, Lux aeterna, for soprano and solo, “includes words from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer Burial Service (‘I heard a voice from heaven…’)”

The recording I own is this one.

Fauré: Cantique de Jean Racine

Verbe égal au Très-Haut

Gabriel Faure 1864
Gabriel Fauré, 1864
I love the Cantique de Jean Racine by Gabriel Fauré, Op. 11. In French, of course. The problem singing it that it’s so beautiful that I have to fight back breaking into tears.

“The text, ‘Verbe égal au Très-Haut’ (‘Word, one with the Highest’), is a French paraphrase by Jean Racine of a Latin hymn… The nineteen-year-old composer set the text in 1864–65 for a composition competition at the École Niedermeyer de Paris, and it won him the first prize.

“The work was first performed the following year on 4 August 1866 in a version with an accompaniment of strings and organ.”

In my church, the members may ask the choir if it would sing at a funeral. This was the case in mid-September. The member’s father had died, in his 90s. Although the now-deceased had an ambivalence about religion and God, he specifically requested that his service be held in his son’s church.

The music staff had offered five suggestions of appropriate pieces in the choral repertoire. Jean Racine was one. Another one, which was also selected, was the final movement, In Paradisum, from Fauré’s Requiem in D minor, Op. 48, composed between 1887 and 1890. Jean Racine is similar in style to the Requiem, and “the two works are often performed together.” I’ve sung the entire Fauré Requiem at least twice.


I wonder if one of the other pieces recommended, but not chosen, for the service came from a piece from Ein Deutsches Requiem by Brahms. The Fauré Requiem resembles it in structure, “although Fauré set Latin liturgical texts to music, whereas Brahms chose German Bible quotations.”

The fourth Brahms movement, How lovely is thy dwelling place, in English, is a funeral standard. One of my friends from my former church I know has specifically requested it for his service. If invited, I would surely sing it, hopefully, years from now.


Fauré: Cantique de Jean Racine
Fauré: In Paradisum from the Requiem
Brahms: How lovely is thy dwelling place from the German Requiem

Music throwback: requiems for Holy Week

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Requiem. Orozco, José Clemente: Mexican, 1883 – 1949
There was a pastor of my church who considered himself a Lenten person, rather than an Easter person. I totally got it. And requiems are the music I most associate with the period between Mardi Gras and Easter, arguably more interesting that the tunes associated with the culmination of the season.

Maybe it’s because it’s the music I have sung personally most often that it resonates so. Or, to quote Elton John yet again, Sad songs say so much.

I’ve only sung one movement of A German Requiem by Johannes Brahms (1833–1897), and that in English, but several times during services. But I’ve sung the requiems by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) in the mid-1990s, Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924) in 2000 and 2005, Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) in 2008, and John Rutter (1945- ) in the mid-1990s. the ones from this century I have recording of.

The famous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) requiem I’ve sung thrice, once in 1985, once in the mid-1990s, and most recently on September 11, 2002, outdoors on a windy day, the only time I’ve ever worn a tuxedo to work.

There’s usually a pattern, starting with the introit:

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine:
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Kyrie, eleison.
Christe, eleison.
Kyrie, eleison.

It ends with In paradisum deducant te Angeli -May the angels lead you into paradise.

Not every requiem uses every element, or exactly the same text, but they are quite similar.

Listen to:

How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place (from A German Requiem by Brahms) – Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra

Verdi: Requiem, UC Davis Symphony Orchestra and University Chorus

Faure: Requiem Opus 48, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus

Durufle: Requiem, Opus 9, Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Rutter Requiem, Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, and members of the City of London Sinfonia

Mozart – Requiem, Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields

Music Throwback Saturday: Mozart Requiem

:Mozart’s widow Constanze was responsible for a number of stories surrounding the composition of the work.”

One of the most popular composers in movies and television today is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Pretty impressive for a guy who’s been dead for over 225 years. Check out out his over 1,275 credits in the IMDB.

And of those, more than 100 are for the Mozart Requiem in D Minor K. 626, including The Big Lebowski and Robot & Frank. The movie Lucy used the Introitus: Requiem Aeternam. Life of Brian went with Dies irae. Both Eyes Wide Shut and The Wolverine were fond of Rex Tremendae Majestatis. Here is X-Men 2 using Dies irae.

Of course, the movie Amadeus used several movements, including Dies Irae, Rex Tremendae, Confutatis, and the segment I hear most often, even in car commercials, Lacrimosa. Here is the Lacrimosa scene in Amadeus.

The movie also explains, as does the Wikipedia, that the Requiem was incomplete upon the composer’s death on December 5, 1791 at the age of 35. “Mozart’s widow Constanze was responsible for a number of stories surrounding the composition of the work, including the claims that Mozart received the commission from a mysterious messenger who did not reveal the commissioner’s identity, and that Mozart came to believe that he was writing the requiem for his own funeral.” However, the film took some liberties with the facts.

I love requiems in general, and, as I’ve noted, the Mozart Requiem is one of my favorite pieces of music I was in choirs that have performed it thrice in my life, in 1985 and at some point in the 1990s at Trinity United Methodist Church, and in 2002, with Albany Pro Musica, as part of the commemoration of the first anniversary of 9/11. So I never used Cyberbass to learn the work, though it could be useful for you.

Listen to Mozart Requiem In D Minor K. 626
Arsys Bourgogne live performance

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