The Decline of Church Music Pt III

Okay, so we know that pop culture, and the clergy who have succumbed to its siren call, have had a substantial influence on the decline of church music.  We can only marginally blame congregations.  After all, who can blame the majority of the people for the choices they make.  When someone is inundated with virtually nothing but mind numbing, purely commercial trivia most of their lives, without reciprocal access to something better, how can than they be expected to make an intelligent decision about anything, much less the music they use for worship?  Moreover, it’s the church leadership who are supposed to give the “flock” what they need, not necessarily what they think they want (let’s face it, most people today don’t really know what they want; it’s much easier to have an authority figure tell you what you want than actually make a decision).

Yet, there’s still one more person whose influence in this matter is crucial:  the music director has much more influence than most are willing to admit; and that unfortunately, leads us to the serious dichotomy of church musicians who adopt the use of this lowest common denominator, not-even-good-pop, music:  They have either succumbed to the coercion of their clergy or the lay leaders; or they’ve gradually lowered their standards and descended to that nether world of existential relativity where Avery-Marsh ends up being “not so bad.”  Often, dare I say usually, the latter is a result of the former.  Church musicians, not unlike other highly specialised employees, are frequently susceptible to bosses who know little if anything about their craft, and who are more than likely unwilling to learn from the specialist as that would detract from their delusional sense of self-importance.  As a result church musicians, being the ever pliant beings that they are, adapt.   

Church musicians have the added disadvantage of dealing with the profligate practises of publishers who, through their diffusion of this form of church music, have aided in the metastasising of this cancer.  Every era has its mediocrity; however, mediocrity is a relative term.  Moreover, it’s an era’s mediocrity which gives us the yardstick by which we judge the overall quality of a society’s cultural intelligence and sense of direction. I realise that I’m treading onto much broader subject matter; but, it doesn’t take a lot see how the “mediocrity” of Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods compares to what is mediocrity today.  I mean, really, is there any comparison to John Amner, Francesco Veracini, Johan Albrechtsberger, Theodor Kullak to Marty Haugen? Less and less does the serious church musician have a choice in the matter.  It’s not that there isn’t high quality music being written for the church: Gerald Custer immediately comes to mind.  It’s just that it’s become harder and harder to find it amid the volumes of dreck cluttering a church musician’s mailbox — traditional or electronic.  If one is fortunate enough to find something new that is serious and well written then comes the quandary:  are the clergy, choir or congregation willing to accept this “high art?”  After all, this “highfalutin” stuff requires actual listening!

Curiously enough, we find out that it’s not the young who are interested in the kind of shallow entertainment that pervades the church nowadays; rather, it’s their predecessors, those who are now the leadership in the church, who seem so hellbent to make church “more fun.”  In a survey of over 13,000 people of different age groups done for a report for the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music for the research division of Church Pension Group (CPG) on the possible revision of the 1982 Hymnal of the Episcopal Church (don’t you just love bureaucracy?), the majority of people under 30 and over 57 (italics mine) are against revising the hymnal for fear of it being popularised. One of the respondents, a 22 year old, put it quite succinctly:

“I think there is a huge assumption made that the younger generation wants guitar- and piano-based praise and worship music. …What we want to hear in a Sunday Eucharist are the classic hymns played on organ. And occasionally we want to chant. Church is the one place where our musical taste is not based upon fad, but instead links us with a much more important, more elegant tradition. If I wanted to listen to acoustic guitar and piano, I’d pick up Dave Matthews or Ben Folds. If I wanted rap, I’d listen to Lil Wayne. …For  worship, I want music that connects to me a world outside of the in and out of my daily life.” †

This brings up an interesting issue, there is approximately a generation and a half who have a problem with ageing.  Granted this started with the baby boomers (of whom admittedly I am one); nevertheless, the concern for “relevancy” (the buzz word of the 60’s and 70’s) then had more to do with what the church was doing concerning the Vietnam War and civil rights than whether music in the church “rocked.”  Of course, the Roman Catholic Church, in its infinitely myopic approach to almost anything regarding its laity’s proclivities, as part of post-Vatican II thought that coming up with a “Folk Mass,” right at the time the folk music “craze” of the early 60’s had atrophied, would be a way of attracting younger people to the church.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  Somehow, somewhere, somebody in the church hierarchy got the impression that this low grade form pop music which they had determined would attract hordes of new, young congregants, actually believed it worked.  Moreover, this delusion spread to the protestant denominations.  For some, particularly, though by no means exclusively, the southern branches, of Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Pentecostal and an infinite number of fundamentalist denominations, it didn’t take much, since that kind of simple-minded music fits in rather snuggly with the their equally simplistic theology. 

                 Of course, a large part of it was financial.  For the Catholic Church it was: why spend money on trained musicians when you could have nuns and guitars lead in the singing for nothing?   With protestants it was any amateur with an electric guitar and a set of drums whose primary motivation was to have fun — under the guise of worship.  Nevertheless, it has turned out to be an abject failure. Churches that have resorted to this and the faux-broadway ballade style of hymnody haven’t experienced any growth.  On the contrary, the church continues to lose membership.  Bad pop music has not turned out to be the panacea that the church leadership had hoped it to be.  But, like so many other simplistically minded, ultra-conservative organisations or people, their minds are made up and can’t be be bothered with the facts. 

Unfortunately, there’s only so much church musicians can do in light of the odds against them.  But, at the very least, they could try not to become part of the problem.  Church musicians, not unlike the general public, are their own worst enemies:  as a church musician myself, I’m ashamed to say there are a number in the profession who, rather than merely acquiescing to the pressures from the clergy and lay leadership, actually embrace this degenerate form of worship.  They really like this stuff; i.e., their standards and taste are so corrupted, so vitiated, that they reify the Wyndham Lewis axiom:        

“Name anything where taste is at stake –– it will provide an example of the systematic forcing down of civilised standards.”§ 

Notwithstanding these encumbrances, it behooves the serious church musician to strive to bring to the congregation the kind of music which will give the listener a truly contemplative, mystical, transcendent experience that places one closer to God.  That means eschewing the musically, emotionally facile, and theologically jejune drivel that has come to dominate (as in most contemporary art forms) church music.  Good taste is taught.  It’s recognising that not all music and the arts are acceptable — that there are standards to be met, principles to be learnt.  I find it sad, and not a little pathetic, that church musicians who spent good money (either their’s or other’s) to go to a school and learn counterpoint, harmony, music history and perfect their performance skills are so willing, not just to compromise, but quash all of that scholarship for the sake of preserving what is usually a low paying, generally unappreciated job.  Yet, it is the church musician who has the expertise and dedication to music and its significance to the liturgy, who understands the power of great music, who has the obligation not only to exercise that influence, but to teach, teach, teach — preach the “Gospel of Great Sacred Music” as it were — to their congregations if they are to experience an authentic numinous or metaphysical propinquity with God, and have any hope of any rebirth of the Church as a spiritual and world saving entity.                                                                                                                                                                                    

† Church Pension Group (CPG), “A Report to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music”  pg.57                                          

§ Lewis, Wyndham: “Apes of God,” ©1981 by the estate of Mrs. G. A. Wyndham Lewis, printed 1984 by Black Sparrow Press.

R.I.P. WCC. Sorry, But That’s How I See It

I wish I could apologise for my sentiments, but I can’t because in the long run it doesn’t matter what any of us think or feel. As I look at the numerous postings of concerts and performances by the various WCC choirs, and seeing how lovely and heart rendering they are; all I can think of is: lets’s face it folks, Westminster Choir College as we know it (or at all) is dead meat — road kill. All the lovely postings, heartfelt protests, and — at this point — litigation isn’t going to change the inevitable. In maybe five years (or sooner) saying you graduated from Westminster Choir College will be not much more than saying you graduated from Trenton State College or Trump University; i. e., it will have little or no meaning.

I realise this is not something students or alumni want to hear; but, unfortunately that doesn’t preclude the ineluctable, occluding some last minute angel coming in and buying the school simply to save it. I hate to say this, but it ain’t gonna happen. Rider will sell the property and WCC will simply cease to exist. I want desperately to be proven wrong, unless there is a buyer, the WCC Foundation, or anybody with a serious interest in the future of sacred music or music education can find, or comes forward with the money to buy WCC, within a few years you can kiss the substance of your degree good bye.

Simply, the money is out there, but it has to be found; because it’s a minute before midnight. Happy New Year.

Why Americans Elect Mediocre to Reprehensible Presidents.

Sorry about the inactivity.  I simply have been struggling with what I wish to write.  I generally prefer to write about my art form; but, the past two years have left me in such a funk I can’t think of anything else but the disaster that is occurring within our federal government and our society as a whole.  

My concern is that the United States, constitutionally and culturally is dying.  The fact that after two years approximately 40% of the American electorate, which consists of millions — MILLIONS — of people still think of Donald J. Trump as, not only their preferred president, but actually love this racist, misogynist, narcissistic sociopath.  Ergo, this puts me into an existential dilemma.  You see, Trump with his immorality, pathological lying, pre-pubescent and generally disgusting behaviour, is not the problem:  it’s the gratuitous stupidity and wanton ignorance of the American public.  I know it’s convenient for news commentators on shows like “Morning Joe” to pontificate that “the American people aren’t stupid.  They know what’s going on.  They’ll get it in time, etc. etc., blah, blah blah…  Unfortunately, such is not the case.  The American public, for the most part (that includes those who didn’t vote for Trump), ARE stupid.  And (yes, this does sound conspiratorial, but then again, conspiracies do exist), it cannot be fully dismissed that those who would be most threatened by an highly educated electorate would have a lot to lose. It’s simply a matter that when people are educated sufficiently to think critically they will choose people who have their best interests in mind; i. e., they will vote for those, who like themselves, believe that public office actually means working for the public good.  

Needless to say that has been not been the case for a long time.  Witness the latest Senatorial elections in Mississippi and Florida, and the Georgia governors race. The GOP and those even further to the right (the so-called alt-right, i. e., nut jobs, racists (admitted or otherwise), the fascists (admitted or otherwise), religious fundamentalists (now under the problematic and overly inclusive blanket of “evangelicals”), and all other so-called conservatives,  have had this problem with the public good.  Oh sure, they love to prattle on about how free enterprise and the open, competitive, market, i.e. capitalism,  is supposed to solve the issues of public health, transportation, shelter, insurance, and just about anything else that appertain to those essential aspects of living in a truly civilised society; i. e., as being good for the general public; yet, they know full well that the only people who genuinely benefit from these policies are those who own or have vested interests in the profit margins of these highly monopolised industries — not the public whose interest they are supposed to avail.

The reason and solution to all of this is quite simple, albeit initially expensive, but is what I see to be the only true remedy for a true democracy:  education.  I mean education on a scale never conceived before in this society.  And it’s not just the math and science courses that have simplistically been espoused.  I mean an expansive, heuristic education which teaches children to think critically; which encourages them to read and reach rational conclusions that will better their immediate circumstances and those to follow.  

The current United States system of public education, by virtue of its Federalist beginnings, has become this terrible mish-mash of locally mandated curricula dependent upon the political bent of that local school board.  The end result is, of course those who are in most need of a well developed, intensive, broad education get almost nothing; whereas, others, usually the more affluent, get the benefit of the latest information and learning techniques.  This is why we have the miserable political situation we have.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why a prevaricating misogynistic, sociopath can be elected president of the United States; and then proceed to completely counterman virtually everything and anything that even remotely pertains to constitutional government.  When you have a populous that easily manipulated by virtue of the fact they don’t know how reason, distinguishing between the actual truth and what they are told by those invested with keeping them stupid as true, it comes as no surprise. Such is silage upon which the uneducated feed.

Simply put, you cannot have a truly successful democracy without, at the very least, a well educated electorate.


Watch Your Back Orpheus

Boston has had a conductorless chamber orchestra since 2007 who, at this point, are easily a serious rival to the more famous (hopefully for not too long) Orpheus Ensemble.  They are known as A Far Cry.  They’re primarily a string ensemble of 18 members (who refer to themselves as “Criers”) who call upon other instrumentalists as required by the chosen repertoire. More can be learnt at http://afarcry.org.  Saturday night’s (8/IX/2018) season opener at Calderwood Hall inside the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of  Art proved my point beyond a doubt in a resplendently played programme of, let’s say, interesting repertoire partially unknown or of otherwise borderline recognition.

Unfortunately, before the concert the audience had to forbear the blather of music curator George Steele, who not only chose to prattle on duplicately about what was already in the programme notes for over five minutes; but, chose to wait ten minutes after the concert was supposed to start.  ISGM already has had problems with concerts starting on time; this simply made things worse.  If Mr. Steele can’t resist the compulsion to palaver redundant information I suggest he do it BEFORE the appointed concert time.  Notwithstanding, the concert proceeded generally quite nicely after his departure.

The first such piece was the slow movement “Agathon” from Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade for violin solo, strings, harp & percussion with the prodigiously gifted Tai Murray as soloist.  Starting the programme off with this was a stroke of genius. It gave the strings (as led this time by Jesse Irons) a golden opportunity to show off not only their lovely tone, but the breadth of their dynamics.  We all know that strings have considerable dynamic range; however, the tightness of ensemble control, the ability to “sing” as one, especially in extremely soft passages is what separates the children from the adults; and adults they are.  As a result Ms. Murray was able give us a singularly perceptual and sensitive performance of one of Bernstein’s finest works.  I would love to hear the whole Serenade with Ms. Murray and A Far Cry sometime.  Let’s hope.

I love the idea of rotating “leaders” in what is essentially a conductorless ensemble because each leader still manages to put his or her individual stamp on the piece performed.  Robyn Bollinger gave a justly aggressive approach to the one highly recognisable work on the programme: Mussorgsky’s ubiquitous Pictures at an Exhibition. The difference, this time was a arrangement by British composer Jacques Cohen for string orchestra.  I must say, I am generally very tired of this piece: orchestras and classical radio stations constantly overplay the Ravel orchestration; moreover, it’s a miserable piano solo piece which obviously cries out to be orchestrated.  So, yes it was the piece that made me think twice about coming to this concert.  Notwithstanding, Mr. Cohen’s string orchestra version is not only ingenious, but actually surprisingly effective.  The secret, I believe, is not only the discriminating implementation of various string “effects,” but, ironically, the homogeneity of sound of a string ensemble avoids the tempering of dissonances that you get with and orchestra.  As a result you get even more of the “crunch” of the original piano version but heightened by the sustained tones of the strings: not unlike the organ, which, by the way, was a most effective causatum for the “The Great Gate of Kiev.”  Cohen’s arrangement uses the whole gamut of string techniques (sul ponticello, harmonics, snap pizzicato, etc.) to inspired coruscating effect.  Moreover, I especially like the highlighting of the violas, who, as with the entire ensemble, played like angels throughout the whole work.  

As with most concerts of this nature there always seems to be the compulsory, specially commissioned “world premier.”  And this was concert was no exception.  And, as in countless other “premiers” the audience was privileged to endure yet another one of the countless unremarkable pieces which fall into the category of ho-hum contemporary banality.  Such was Jessica Meyer’s meandering excessively ernest Grasping for Light.  Unfortunately, Ms. Meyers felt compelled (or was compelled) to tell us all about her inspiration; essentially repeating what was already in the programme notes.  Where do I begin?  First, having the composer come out ahead of time to tell us about the piece is the equivalent of the usually inane “Artist’s Statement” associated with gratuitously inferior works in galleries.  A musical composition should need no explanation; it either communicates to the listener or it doesn’t.  Let’s just say Ms Meyer’s depression laden exegesis was not only redundant to the programme notes, but completely useless in determining the quality of the piece.  Jae Cosmos Lee was offered the unfortunate opportunity of leading this time.  At first I was heartened by the lyrical opening viola solo; but then, it quickly descended into a mass of special effects by the larger group.  From there it was downhill.  The composer’s ardour for description simply resulted in commonplace, directionless, aleatoric sounding piles of notes crescendoing to unison violins over rambling lower strings. The piece finally diminished to a single pianissimo high note conclusion on Mr. Lee’s violin.  All in all, I’ve heard this piece countless times; i.e., it’s cliché.  This is the type of writing that became all the rage in the 50’s through the 70’s; and, unfortunately, so many composers (customarily academics) today still consider as their ticket to immortality.  The one saving grace Grasping for Light gave us was that it was only about five minutes long.  I’m certain that the ensemble played it masterfully as they did with the rest of the programme; but, who knows and who cares?

Fortunately, the audience was cleansed by the beauty of Ottorino Respighi’s Trittico Botticelliano.  This isn’t the Respighi of the Roman Trilogy in which huge resources and often frenzied demands are called upon the orchestra.  This work is more in line with Ancient Airs and Dances or Church Windows. It’s an elegant work of sublime transparent textures and clear melodic polyphony reminiscent of the period which inspired the music.  The piece calls for an expansion of the group with solo winds, harp, celeste, piano and percussion.  It was Annie Rabbat’s good fortune to lead this time; and, not unlike her other colleagues, did a superb job.  The one aspect of this performance was  what can only be described as perfect balance.  It could have been so easy for each of the solo instruments especially the trumpet, keyboards and percussion to overpower during full ensemble; however, everyone got it!  From Bob Schulz’s extremely light touch with the triangle, trumpeter Michael Dobrinski’s exquisite dynamic control, to Hazel Dean Davis’ remarkable breath control in which she is required to play long, very quiet, sustained pedal tones beneath the ongoing counterpoint among the flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and strings.  The subtlety of playing by everyone stood only to heighten what a masterful orchestrator Respighi was.  Quite simply put, an extraordinary performance by the entire group.

No less can be said about the the deliciously sublime Mother and Child of William Grant Still under the admirable leadership of Megumi Lewis.  Still is at last, finally, being recognised for more than just his Afro-American Symphony.  A master at combining spirituals, jazz, blues melodies and harmonies and blending them with late 19th Century-early 20th Century textures and harmony, Still’s larger output has been long overdue for hearing.  Mother and Child is quintessentially WGS.  The melodic writing is graceful, the harmonies absolutely sumptuous.  All I can add is the playing was equally sumptuous and so touching in the delicacy of each line. To get eighteen strings to sound like Eugene Ormandy’s Philadelphia Orchestra strings is the highest compliment I can give. Absolutely gorgeous.

 

I Don’t Get It (well, actually I do)

What is wrong with America?  My Lord, it’s as if the earth had tilted in a unique way and most of the right-wing screwballs rolled over and ended up here.  I see the polls (God knows where and with whom they take these things) and they continually show Donald Trump (I refuse to call I’m President) at an approximately 40% approval rating.  I have a questions: who are these people who have deluded themselves into believing that this man cares one iota about them?

Brains and Muscle Memory

As some of you might know, I’m back practising the organ with the intention of playing as part of a semi-dedicatory, or a full, recital (something I haven’t done in about 25 years).  Two pieces, the Cantabile by César Franck and Carillon de Westminster Op.54 #6 by Louis Vierne I’ve played before, albeit not since the previous mentioned time: then two other pieces I’ve never played in public, the J. S. Bach Fugue in g BWV 578 (the “Little”) and the Choral #3 in a by Franck.  I saved the Choral until late in life simply because of the life experience it requires to be truly able to play that piece with any integrity and sense of its profundity.  I had planned originally to include the J. S. Bach Prelude & Fugue in a BWV 543, but then I thought for the sake of the audience, and because the piece lends itself to innumerable stop/colour changes, I’ve decided to dust off the Toccata & Fugue in d BWV 565.  This last piece is something I haven’t played since I played it for “big” organ class at WCC in my freshman year.  One of the great pleasures I’ve had is remembering how I made the purists squirm in the pews of the chapel when I used a celeste near the end.

I guess the point I’m circumlocutingly trying to make is that after more than 50 years not even touching the piece since I last played it, after only two weeks of practise it’s all there!  After gradually reacquainting myself occasionally with the score, after a week or so I have it completely restored to my memory.  It’s an interesting phenomenon when practising; it has been a matter of my hands/feet catching up to my mind.  Since then I’ve been concentrating on fixing fingerings and adding new stop changes.  Nevertheless, I find it fascinating how the brain is able reclaim things that have laid dormant for so long.  As a result, I’ve just reclaimed from memory after more than a quarter century the first movement to Louis Vierne’s Deuxième Symphonie in e Op.20.  Again, it’s still a matter of the hands/feet catching up with the mind.

God knows if I’ll ever be able to have these (and anything else I plan to resurrect or learn) good enough for public performance.  I was never as technically proficient as others who started playing earlier than me and who have since managed to continue on a regular basis.  But, who knows.  I would like to be play in public again because most people still need someone to show them that organ doesn’t have to be the  monochromatic, boring, old fogey church instrument with which most people associate it.  We’ll see.

I’m not sure where to begin.  I guess the best point is now, near the end.  As I meander through the twilight of my life I wish I was better at dealing with coming  to   terms with  my life and what I’ve done with it in relation to the potential I obviously  squandered or (more accurately) failed to realise, I find myself trying desperately to make up for lost time  — at least as an organist.  I realise any ambitions I had as a conductor are virtually road kill.  After all, I’m not an established conductor, and don’t have, at this late stage in my life, the résume to be able to prove myself.

So, I’ve returned to the instrument of my first love — the organ.  I want to play a recital on the wonderful instrument upon which I’m blessed to have been given permission to practise.  But, then I figure:  who am I kidding?   I think of all the music I used to play — 20-50 years ago and, even though my memory has managed to restore the five pieces I want to play, so what?  The technical struggle (my manual technique was never all that great) and the memory slips make me wonder, am I up to this?

As I see it I have a good fifteen, maybe twenty, years left.  At seventy years old I’m not going to become the next Virgil Fox or Leonard Bernstein (as I once dreamed); or even a moderately recognised composer – or recognised at all.  So, what do I do? I would like to go back to composing; but, then I realise I’m completely wasting my time.  Do you have any idea, ANY IDEA, how that affects the creative process?  The very thought that you feel that you are completely wasting your time:  that nobody, NOBODY will EVER get to experience the beauty of your creations, even long after you’re dead, might — just might have an affect on your desire to create; do ya think?

I’m tired.  As I’ve said before, music is a very unforgiving mistress.  If you haven’t sacrificed everything for her, she not only abandons you, she shuns you, by ensuring that anybody with whom you are not intimately connected (and even some that are) completely dismiss you and — worse — your work.  I wish I had a dime for everybody (as tempting as it is I won’t name them) who gave me assurances that they loved my work and would do it and then disappeared.

So, I garden, I mow the lawn, I vacuum the pool, I drink Belgian beer, I cook dinner, I walk Blaze (one of the few true pleasures in my life.  The best dog EVER), and I practise the organ (vainly, as mentioned above); but compose?  Why?  I keep telling myself I need to get back to that which, even before the organ and conducting, was what fate had determined I was supposed to do (I almost said God; but, like everything else I believed in, is obviously a fallacy).  I figure with the few years I have left it’s not worth it to try and make up for lost time.  Music, to whom I will always be her slave, will simply laugh at me at my naïvety.

Impatience with the Impatient

Mostly Music and Curmudgeonry

When I was writing about my feelings about Boston area after we moved here, I got to thinking about why it was taking me so long to get through it, which in turn, got me to thinking about the impatience of those who have don’t have to struggle, or have little trouble expressing ideas or performing tasks, or learning things quickly with those of us who are more deliberate, or seem “slower.”  I usually find those who are impatient with people who don’t get it the first time — or even the second — to be a generally intolerant and non-empathetic group as a whole.  There’s an arrogance, and a smugness which accompanies impatient people:  they feel they “must” explain things twice to others when they (of course) understood or learnt the first time.  They simply can’t understand why others have to be so stupid or dense — or so…

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Dismayed: As Hope Dims

Sometimes I truly feel that this “great experiment” on which our democratic republic is based has finally, like so many other noble experiments, long surpassed its apogee — if one wishes to consider that there was such an high point at all. As Oscar Wilde supposedly said: “American is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilisation in between.”

I guess what dismays me the most is that so many of the American public are so gullible and easily manipulated by demagoguery that they are willing to turn a blind eye — no, go completely blind — to the unconscionable, morally and ethically bankrupt, sociopathic behaviour of Donald J.Trump and his toadies in the GOP. I don’t get it. Okay, I realise that he was not elected in true democratic fashion (i.e. by the public), but by the unmitigatedly antiquated system of the Electoral College; notwithstanding, that merely underpins the problem of why this man is not only unqualified, but completely and unapologetically corrupt. What disturbs me most of all is that he has blatantly lied to the people who have put the most faith in him and they refuse to see it. Instead they revel in conspiracy theories about the media (expect for Fox News of course). That in spite of what is figuratively slapping them in the face regarding employment, health care, taxes, fraud, misogyny, education, veterans rights, the “Wall,” immigration, his distain for the leaders of our democratic allies and adoration for dictators, his hatred for and attempts, if not to dismantle, at least discredit our criminal justice system, his “base” continues to worship this morally bankrupt sociopath.

Most noisome about all of this is:  these people, these fools, these lemmings, number, not in thousands, but in the millions! Approximately 40 (+ or- 2-3%) percent of the American public think he’s a good president! They ignore the constant inconsistencies, the compete and total lack of historical education, that his vaunted tax law is a sham: a tax law that throws a few crumbs to middle class Americans and small business, virtually nothing to working class/working poor Americans; but almost literally throws money at the extremely wealthy and the major corporations. He chooses a woman to head up the Department of Education who has summarily expressed her distain for our public school system and has done her very best (even before DE) to lobby for, not only charter and private school businesses but the for profit college industry. The public be damned. Then there’s Scott Pruitt, Ben Carson, Steve Mnuchin, Wilber Ross, and the overtly racist Jeff Sessions; all of whom are surrounded by criminality or some form of impropriety. And those are only the ones still employed! Trump has had largest turnover in White House personnel in history — 49 and counting; and that’s only after less than a year and a half.

His “believers” are so incredibly blind and stupid that, unfortunately, Trump was very likely right in assuming that “[he] could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose any followers.” Unlike what a lot of folks have concluded:  thinking that Trump’s devotees are ignorant (although that may also be the case in a substantial proportion of them), the vast majority are simply stupid. You see, an ignorant person can be educated because they simply don’t know; stupid people choose to close their minds: it doesn’t matter what the reasons are. Ignorance is unintended, stupidity is a decision. In the case of Donald Trump his appeal to the sordid, vulgar, jejune, even reptilian aspects of the human psyche has made it easy for people to find him compelling. Marginally educated, even relatively well educated people who live in and associate in primarily homogenous environments, essentially want simple answers to the complicated, sometimes inscrutable issues they see beyond their limited spheres.  If those answers happen to be racist, misogynistic, insulting to anyone who isn’t as simple minded as they, or just merely disgusting and vulgar to any civilised person, all the better.

One can show, prove over and over, without qualification how Trump has lied and consistently turned his back on his supporters, that he has impudently — in your face, as it were — not “drained the swamp” but, has deepened and promulgated it “beyond the dreams of avarice,” to no avail. There’s nothing more closed minded than a zealot.

So, my fellow Americans, I seriously doubt that even with a sea change in either or both houses of Congress, the damage perpetrated on our precious dream of an eventual economically and socially egalitarian democracy is most likely all but lost. Sorry, John, Jim, Alex, Tom, etc.

Update Since August 2017

Well, some things have changed, in most cases fortunately, since my last writing. In December I found a lovely Episcopal (remember that folks, Episcopal — Anglican Community) church who welcomed me with open arms to allow me (encourage me!) to practise on their new 3 manual Allen “Bravura” organ.  Rev. Clifford Brown was and has been more than gracious in his letting me play there.  It was almost kismet that after only one week of practising he approached me to substitute on 31 December, at which I was more pleased to offer my services.  The only caveat was that I hadn’t played the organ in almost five years, and warned him that I may not be as interesting as I would normally be.  Believe me, it was hard to restrain myself with having this wonderful instrument suddenly at my disposal; but, I was a good boy and kept things at a lower volume.  But, Oh, how much fun it was to introduce to the congregation “Mendelssohn” with the full Swell & Choir, “boxes” closed, then gradually opening up to just a foundation chorus when the congregation came in.  And then the “Engelberg:”  full smothered reeds and mixtures with 32′ in the manuals, up an octave, “boxes” closed, then opening up full right at the Dominant, then switching to pure foundations when the congregation comes in.  I managed to keep the “boxes” about half closed so as not to overpower the congregation when they were singing (it was the Sunday after Christmas after all); but, the effect was still the same.  Moreover, I got to read the Epistle lesson (I love reading Paul aloud; he’s so wonderfully intense and dramatic).  After the service Rev. Cliff thanked me and offered me a check which I, of course, refused telling him that giving me the opportunity to practise and become an organist again was more than enough payment, so he gave me a key to the church instead!

So, now I’m in the process of dusting off repertoire starting with the J. S. Bach Prelude & Fugue in a  BWV 543, the Fugue in g  BWV 578 (the “Little”), the Vierne Carillon de Westminster Op. 54 #6, the Franck Choral in a, a piece of cardinal significance for me especially at this time in my life, and the Cantabile from “Trois Piéces”.  It feels good to be practising again and I hope to play a recital in the not too distant future (keeping in mind it’s been over twenty years since I’ve played a recital).  It should be interesting.