WAS LISTENING to a fascinating video. An elderly Irish man was explaining what it was like to fight in THE GREAT WAR (“WWI”). When the men were told to “go over the top”—in other words, enter no man’s land to attack the Germans—anyone who refused to leave the trenches was shot on the spot. The Irish soldier said he looked down and saw a young man grievously wounded. The man’s organs were no longer inside his body; his innards were spread out on the ground. The Irish soldier said this poor chap uttered only word before he expired: “Mother.” Many of the soldiers were only 16 years old. Perhaps that boy was calling out (as he lay dying) to the person who had cared for him.
But A Few Years • We recently scanned and uploaded the Graduale on Modern Staves (672 pages) published in 1909 by Father Karl Weinmann, an eminent German musicologist. His Graduale was published just a few years before World War I began [Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were assassinated on 28 June 1914], and his marvelous Vesperale on Modern Staves (651 pages) was published in 1915, during the war. I can’t get over the breathtaking typesetting and beauty of each page. Notice the German translation of the Latin, rigorously precise spacing, and splendid religious graphics:
A Different Time • World War I was utterly brutal. The dead bodies couldn’t be collected due to the risk of German sniper fire, so the young men were forced to watch their friends’ corpses decay for weeks (!) as the ubiquitous rats devoured them. The wounded had to exercise extreme caution, because rats would also attack them—and frequently such attacks were lethal. All the soldiers were infected with lice. They were not allowed to remove their boots. As a result, thousands had their feet amputated, as the frostbite often turned into gangrene. And yet, the soldiers did not hate the enemy. At Christmas, a 7-day truce witnessed English and German soldiers playing soccer together, exchanging gifts, enjoying pleasant conversation, singing Christmas carols together, and promising to “shoot high” after the truce came to an end. How different their lives were compared to ours!
Conclusion • Certainly, the vocation of a choirmaster is not easy. But let’s consider what our grandfathers suffered, and we will find the courage to continue on!