Thursday, 3 December 2015

Christmas is not just for good times

Bah, humbug. This year I am going to have a religious Christmas, because it suits my counter-cultural miserabilism and means I can forget that the enlightenment happened. I've been reading Diderot lately (see previous blog-posts) and anything that allows me to ignore the rise of capitalist consciousness is a Vile Favourite this month.

After I have seen my last pantomime, that's it: I'm pretending that is is about 1500, and the only art I'm allowed is Christian. Beat that, ascetics.

On the positive side, I totally win the music. The oft-repeated phrase 'the devil has all the best tunes' is tested by Christmas. Apart from that one song by her off Titanic, Christmas music is rubbish, and mostly celebrates the secular side of the season. So you can have Roy Wood, Chris De Burgh and Slade. I've got Bach and Arvo Part. 

And I've got the Scottish Ensemble. Three Parts Bach is their Christmas offering, and there's plenty of Jesus stuff there. Have some of this for starters.

Here's the lyrics.

German.png German text
Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein
und wissen nicht, wo aus und ein,
und finden weder Hülf’ noch Rat,
ob wir gleich sorgen früh und spat:

So ist das unser Trost allein,
daß wir zusammen ingemein
dich rufen an, o treuer Gott,
um Rettung aus der Angst und Not.

Sieh nicht an unser Sünden groß,
sprich uns der selb’n aus Gnaden los,
steh’ uns in unserm Elend bei,
mach’ uns von aller Trübsal frei.

Auf daß von Herzen können wir
nachmals mit freuden danken dir,
gehorsam sein nach deinem Wort,
dich allzeit preisen hier und dort.

Paul Eber, 1566 based on In tenebris nostrae by J. Camerarius, c.1546
English.png English translation
When we in deep distress and grief,
knowing not where to seek relief,
can find no help nor comfort here,
tho’ we have sought it far and near.

Then this alone our comfort be,
that we may all in unity
still call on Thee, true God, and know
Thou’lt save us from all fear and woe.

See not, thou’ great our sins may be,
but by Thy grace, Lord, set us free,
be near us in our misery
and keep us all from sorrow free.

That we with all our hearts may raise,
once more our joyful, grateful praise,
submissively Thy word declare,
and ever praise Thee, here as there.

Seriously, check the rhymes. 'Deep distress and grief... no help nor comfort here'. I'm just asking - what sounds more like the UK in December 2015: this, or that bloke with sideburns bellowing 'It's Christmaaaaas!!!!'?

Okay, I am against the bombing of Syria, and the best way I can imagine to combat ISIL is to celebrate the best of the western tradition. David Cameron might think that an elite group ignoring both common sense and the opinion of a large proportion of the populace is part of the western tradition (and yes, that has been a bit of a theme, especially in the twenty-first century), I am going to listen to the compositions of reverential composers.

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