Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Trivia Day!
Here are two bits of interesting trivia for a rainy Wednesday.  Did you know that the Church developed a means whereby music could be remembered and shared? 
Think on this:  A button box accordion is not a chromatic instrument.  Not only are the buttons next to each other in harmony, the change keys when you are pumping in and out.  Writing music for such an instrument is extremely difficult although my uncle did develop a method.  But by and large, you learn how to play this instrument and various tunes by sitting down with another player and copying what he was doing.
Now consider music before musical notation.  How does one pass on music or be assured that one’s music will be remembered after one goes on to playing harps in heaven?  There are no recording devices and it would only take one period of people moving on to other more contemporary things to cause them to forget an old song.  “How did that go again?  No, that’s not quite right.”
Along comes Guido of Arezzo, a Benedictine monk (leave it to the Benedictines) who gave us the famous do re mi . . .” of Sound of Music fame.  He took the pitches from a hymn to John the Baptists (whose birthday we celebrated yesterday.)


Ut queant laxis resonāre fibris
Mira gestorum famuli tuorum,
Solve polluti labii reatum,
Sancte Iohannes.
Interesting bit of trivia #2:  Did you know that there are words to the Westminster Chimes, the song played on four bells at the top of the hour by your chiming clock – such as in the St. Sebastian bell tower?  According to my sources, “The music was inspired by a phrase from Handel’s symphony, “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth” and the words and music were arranged by William Crotch in 1793.”
Lord, though this hour,
Be Though our guide,
So, by Thy power,
No foot shall slide.
Westminster is also played unwittingly by “secular” universities, governmental institutions, and the like.  Please don’t tell them this.  Law suits will ensue.  And they can’t, for similar reasons, change to the St. Michael Chimes.  Perhaps they can go with the Whittington Chimes since their legend is more governmental.  Though they originated in a church tower, a young boy, who was running away from horrid conditions heard these bells and thought they told him Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of Londontown.  Later he found his fortune and indeed became the Lord Mayor.  But to ring this tune, you would need twice as many bells and that gets expensive, something most of these non-religious institutions can ill afford.  So let’s keep this story between us.

Interested in change ringing?  Here is an interesting site.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the inside story on the bell chimes and the Do-Re-Mi song. That is fascinating! Gosh, there is hidden meaning everywhere! Probably my favorite thing about Adam's Ale is how you've taught us those sorts of things through the years.

MaryofSharon said...

Just had to look this up and see it and hear it for myself. I found a page of sheet music for the John the Baptist song with "Ut, re, mi, fa, so" circled in the lyrics, and you can see how each of the notes is correct starting with middle C. Then I found a choir singing the chant and you can hear the escalating pitches of those key words.

How much there is that we will never know unless someone tells us

Michelle said...

The sharing of tunes between sacred and secular is more common than most people on either side of the fence want to know! What 15th century secular French song is the base for more than 40 mass settings (including at least two from Palestrina).

lgreen515 said...

L'homme arme. I asked Siri.