EX HARRISON in childhood contracted measles, which took away the sight from his left eye. Nevertheless, he went on to became a very famous actor. Johnny Depp has been legally blind in one eye since childhood—yet he became a famous actor, just like Rex Harrison. Winston Churchill had a serious speech impediment, yet today he’s remembered as an outstanding orator. (Churchill seems not to have extremely popular with the English “in real time”—immediately after WW2 they voted him out of office.) The left arm of Kaiser Wilhelm II (d. 1941) was paralyzed at birth. For the rest of his life they tried to “cure” him, even wrapping fresh animal carcasses around his arm for years, hoping the warmth and vigor of the animal would revitalize his arm. In spite of all that, Kaiser Wilhelm II was obsessed with woodchopping, and it’s estimated he chopped down 40,000 trees. Both Vincent Van Gogh and Robert Schumann suffered from bouts of insanity. Thomas Edison, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Gabriel Fauré all struggled with deafness.
Hymn List • I’ve been listing people who—in spite of serious disabilities—became famous all over the world for their accomplishments. I have no illusions of ever becoming “great,” but I try to do my part in whatever small way I can. I was asked to assemble a list of excellent hymns for Sundays and feasts, and here’s what I came up with:
Too Many • Of course, choosing hymns depends on numerous factors. Which singers will be present at which Mass? Which tunes have you introduced to your congregation? Which melodies have you introduced to your choir members? And so forth. Creating a “perfect” hymn list—as far as I’m concerned—is impossible. I will assemble another list before too long, hopefully reaching all the way to Easter 2023.
Experimentation • We like to experiment with different ways of singing hymns. For example, here’s something recorded last Sunday by the volunteer choir I direct:
Verdict? • You can see that some of the verses begin with trebles only, and then SATB parts are added halfway through. What do you think of that technique? I’m not quite sold on it…but I need more time to think about it.