INGS. We truly live like kings in the year 2021. For example, I can type on my iPhone and within a few minutes anything I desire will (quite literally) be dropped on my front porch—courtesy of DoorDash, Postmates, InstaCart, Amazon-Prime, or some other company. A recent study 1 showed that the poorest Americans today possess more wealth (and modern conveniences) than 90% of Americans who lived in the year 1906. On the other hand, Americans are “poverty-stricken” when it comes to friendships and human interactions. Because most Americans never have to leave their homes, we end up addicted to screens, severely overweight, and lacking in Vitamin D (which comes from sunshine).
Incapable Of Conversing: Because Americans have become addicted to screens, we no longer engage in deep conversations with others. This is why—in my humble opinion—everywhere you go the music is played too loud: in restaurants, at wedding receptions, at parties, and so on. One must shout across the table to be heard. Wherever I go, I carry special ear plugs in my wallet. When I encounter loud music, I protect my hearing with ear plugs (made of wax). Never forget that hearing loss is irreparable!
Personal Experience: When I’m sick with a cold, my hearing becomes clogged and I can’t hear properly—which is a choirmaster’s worst nightmare. Last week, I suffered from a cold. Therefore, I really can’t tell how the following live recording from Sunday actually sounds. Without any rehearsal, we attempted to add harmony at each refrain.
I really hope it sounds okay, but I can’t tell for sure until my ears get back to normal:
Rehearsal videos for each individual voice await you at #759.
The Saint Jean de Brébeuf Hymnal has the most spectacular collection of hymns to Christ the King. To learn about several, please click here.
No Radio; No Recordings; No Cars! Earlier, I spoke of how Americans 100 years ago had none of the luxuries we take for granted. I found myself pondering these realities while reading a fascinating diary written by the wife of Josef Hofmann (d. 1957). Mrs. Hofmann’s diary entries contain numerous anecdotes, such as Hofmann’s private interactions with legendary figures like Ignaz Paderewski, Harold Bauer, Mischa Elman, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. It is fascinating to read about the extreme hardships faced by Hofmann and his wife (in spite of their wealth and fame) as they traveled to extremely remote towns throughout Russia to give concerts in bitter cold temperatures. The hotels, the food, and the pianos were frequently atrocious. These were the days before modern conveniences: no cellphones, no cars, no television, no radio, and no World Wide Web! The people in these tiny rural towns would surround and besiege Josef Hofmann, showing their adulation for the world’s greatest pianist. My question is: How did they know how great he was? After all, phonograph recordings had not been invented yet. Were those “peasants” (for lack of a better word) so familiar with Chopin’s Ballades, Liszt’s Rhapsodies, and Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes that they could tell how superior Hofmann’s interpretations were?
Deaf Composers: Even someone as phenomenal as Hofmann began to deteriorate in old age. At the age of sixty, Hofmann was still a million times better than any other pianist—which the greatest pianists freely admit—but when he reached 65, a sharp decline was observable in his playing (especially his live performances on the Bell Telephone Hour). Hofmann’s decline is somewhat comparable to composers who lose their hearing. In the history of music, several very famous composers have gone deaf, such as Gabriel Fauré (d. 1924) and Ludwig van Beethoven (d. 1827). Losing one’s hearing must be a truly horrifying experience for a musician.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Of course, some people had great wealth back then. The wife of conductor Leopold Stokowski (who, for the record, began his career as a choirmaster and organist) married an heiress named Gloria Vanderbilt, whose father once gave his son a monetary gift—and the amount of this “gift” was greater than all the money in the USA treasury! FDR was handicapped due to polio, but he didn’t like people to notice this. Therefore, whenever FDR visited a place, the Secret Service would arrive a few weeks in advance and build roads and bridges which allowed FDR to “walk” out of his car without having to go up and down steps. They would literally build a new road for Roosevelt’s 10-second walk—and these two examples demonstrate that wealthy people certainly existed back then!