I post a weekly diary of historical notes, arts & science items, foreign news (often receiving little notice in the US) and whimsical pieces from the outside world that I often feature in "Cheers & Jeers".
OK, you've been warned - here is this week's
tomfoolery material that I posted.
CHEERS to Bill and Michael in PWM, our Laramie, Wyoming-based friend Irish Patti and ...... well, each of you at Cheers and Jeers. Have a fabulous weekend .... and week ahead.
ART NOTES — an exhibition entitled The Rossettis — with works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (as well as watercolors and drawings by his wife Elizabeth Siddal) — is at the Delaware Museum of Art in Wilmington through January 28th.
YOUR WEEKEND READ is this essay by Lee Harris of The American Prospect, observing the effect of private equity on even HVAC: “Corporate consolidation, an aging workforce, and high costs could keep heat pumps, a key technology of the Inflation Reduction Act, out of reach”.
THURSDAY's CHILD is named Félicette the Cat — who was sent-up into space sixty years ago this week by the French aerospace administration (on a short suborbital flight) and survived it.
JUST AS OKLAHOMA was an outlier in red states as far as offering above-average pre-K education … now, the increasingly culture-war state of Iowa seems to be doing better than other red states in the child care area by not offering (ineffectual) tax breaks … but instead, upfront matching funds to employers willing to invest in retaining employees. (Albeit that its GOP governor advocated for this legislation in part as ... her daughter had to leave the workforce due to a lack of child care).
FRIDAY's CHILD is a Polish kitteh that a man brought to the polls the other day in the important national elections (couldn’t catch the name; Kykula?). Hey, if this helps to unseat the present right-wing government in Poland … moar kittehs.
BRAIN TEASER — try this Quiz of the Week's News from the BBC ...… and the usually easier, less UK-centered New York Times quiz.
FATHER-SON? — the recently deceased philanthropist Charles Feeney (who gave away $8 billion anonymously) and the retired conservative anti-Trump federal judge Michael Luttig.
...... and finally, for a song of the week ...........................… just as our national anthem was created by the matching of a poem (by Francis Scott Key) with the music from an English men’s club (To Anacreon in Heaven, written by John Stafford Smith) — so too was there a similar pairing of a famous patriotic poem with music ... not intended to be paired with it. And since America the Beautiful is my favorite patriotic song, its origin needs a reminder from time-to-time.
The lyrics of this song are what’s famous, as its composer Katharine Lee Bates has been noted for her truly extensive career as a Wellesley College professor and social reformer in the late 1880’s. One of her early novels won a prize that enabled her to study at Oxford from 1890-91, and she not only wrote poems and books, she also wrote for the NY Times and magazines such as The Atlantic. Her relationship with a fellow professor/activist at Wellesley (Katharine Coman) was profiled extensively in a DK diary from 2010, which I couldn’t hope to equal.
She travelled the world until her retirement in 1925 and died in 1929, a few months short of her seventieth birthday.
Just as the composer of the music to the national anthem is little-known, even less well-known is Samuel A. Ward, who was born in 1848. A lifelong resident of Newark, New Jersey, he became the organist at Grace Episcopal Church as well as a composer of orchestral works. He was the founder of Newark’s Orpheus Club (which are traditional men’s glee clubs) — although its present-day incarnation allows that “we now include women who can sing 1st-tenor parts”. Samuel Ward died in 1903, three months shy of his fifty-fifth birthday.
As was also documented in the 2010 diary referenced above, Katharine Lee Bates wrote the poem on a summer trip to Colorado:
One day she joined a group of teachers for a trip by wagon and mule up Pikes Peak in the Rocky Mountains. When they reached the top, joy at the beauty of the landscape replaced Bates’s exhaustion. Back at her hotel, she wrote the first draft of the poem that would become “America the Beautiful.”
From her perch on top of one of the “purple mountain majesties,” Bates was able to look out over the prairie grasses and wheat fields of Kansas. She memorialized them in the song as “amber waves of grain.” The line “thine alabaster cities gleam” nods to Bates’s experience visiting the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The fair was the first one to be entirely powered by electricity. Bates’s experience as a reformer and her frustration with the inequalities of American life also made their way into the poem. “America! America/God shed His grace on thee,” read the original version, “Till selfish gain no longer stain/The banner of the free!”
The original poem was first published in 1895, and was initially set to a different piece of music (by Silas Pratt) that did not catch on. In 1904, she re-worked the poem to make the wording more suited for music.
Years earlier, Samuel Ward had written the instrumental tune Materna — which he had intended to be the music for a different poem/hymn O Mother Dear, Jerusalem — credited to a Scottish minister named David Dickson (1583-1663) — which was published in 1882. (Yes, this is truly getting complex).
Following Ward’s death in 1903 (and the aforementioned 1904 re-working of the poem) a different publisher matched Bates’ poem with the instrumental Materna — and this combination is what we know today as America the Beautiful. Katharine Lee Bates and Samuel Ward never met, and she later noted:
“That the hymn has gained, in these twenty odd years, such a hold as it has upon our people, is clearly due to the fact that Americans are at heart idealists, with a fundamental faith in human brotherhood."
And while Katherine Lee Bates is not known for any other memorable published song, nor does Samuel Ward have a major catalogue of published works: the two were jointly inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.
There are innumerable renditions … but the Ray Charles version stirs my soul.