Everyone knows that I am an intentionally, overly trained classical musician and have been since about age six. Indeed, many may not know that I am also a big fan of pop music.
As a pop music fan, one of my regular television shows on the Fox Network from 2009-15 was GLEE, a story about a high school choir. I loved everything about GLEE, mainly the story lines about musical kids being fully accepted into the mainstream (or not).
When watching GLEE, I learned a new contemporary musical term: mashup.
A mashup is any creative work, most often a song, created by superimposing two or more pre-recorded songs. These songs may be sung live by two singers singing simultaneously or by a singer singing simultaneously with a recorded vocal or instrumental track.
A mashup may also be created by digitally combining and synchronizing two or more vocal or instrumental tracks into another new digital recording.
In the world of Bach and Vaughan Williams and the like, we do not attempt many mashups. As a musician, however, I am quite impressed by the ability to take two completely different songs and make them work stylistically and harmonically directly on top of each other. The compositional techniques used by mashup arrangers require great musical skill.
One of the earliest mashups, before we even knew it was a mashup, was covered by two of the characters of GLEE. From The Judy Garland Show in October 1963, we have this treasure of a mashup of Judy singing “Come On, Get Happy” and Barbra Streisand singing “Happy Days Are Here Again.” Though popular in style, I hear the significant scholarship in this arrangement.
I maintain that last week was a Thanksgiving Advent mashup. Almost.
Putting thoughts together for this blog this week, I landed upon the Advent II readings for this Sunday, December 8, and I immediately thought, “What happened to Advent I?”
Well, that was yesterday, the culmination of a week that included Christ the King Sunday, the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service (in which we participated), and our own Thanksgiving Day liturgy with full choir and music.
Startled in my desk chair, I began reading the proper readings for Advent II and was immediately restored to hope and health. Thank God for the rhythm of the Revised Common Lectionary.
This Sunday’s lesson from Isaiah 11 must be one the very favorites in the entire Bible. I know that is one of my favorites.
The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
This chapter from Isaiah begins with the imagery of Jesse’s tree, with its family branches that are tracible to Jesus Christ himself. Given that all the writers of the New Testament were Jews, the Epistle reading from Romans hearkens back to and references the Isaiah lesson in the Hebrew Scriptures.
I love it when that happens in the lectionary!
This Sunday's Gospel lesson introduces us again to that colorful character John the Baptist, who is present in our experience of expecting and making the way for the Messiah. Indeed, in the Revised Common Lectionary, Advent II and Advent III each year are about our experience of waiting.
The choirs will sing Martin How’s anthem “Advent Message,” with its text:
Come Lord Jesus, Amen, come Lord Jesus.
O come quickly, come Lord, come.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
“Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
The Choristers will sing a 15th century carol, the manuscript of which is in the Hunterian Museum of the University of Glasgow:
Nova, nova. Ave fit ex Eva.
(“Tidings! Tidings! Promise of salvation.”)
Hymn 67, also for this Sunday, contains some of John the Baptist’s words in each stanza, inspired by Isaiah as well:
Comfort, comfort, ye my people, speak ye peace, thus saith our God…
Hark, the voice of one that crieth in the desert far and near…
Make ye straight was long was crooked, make the roughter places plain…
Our closing hymn this Sunday, a text of Swedish poet Frans Mikael Franzen (1772-1847), ties the day and readings together for us:
Prepare the way, O Zion, your Christ is drawing near!
Let every hill and valley a level way appear.
Greet One who comes in glory, foretold in sacred story.
Oh, blest is Christ that came in God’s most holy name.
This Sunday is not a mashup; Advent is here, and we are well on our way again to Bethlehem.
Listen to Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand sing “Happy Days Are Here Again” and “Come On, Get Happy” from October 1963 here.
Photo Credit: Judy Garland (1940s publicity photo) and Barbra Streisand (1966 publicity photo). Wikipedia, public domain.