Moravian Love Feast

Wake Forest holds a Moravian Lovefeast every year on the first Sunday in December. It was started by some Moravian students back in 1965 and has become one of the longest running and most beloved traditions at the school. It was always my favorite event of the year when I was a student there.

There are Christmas carols sung by the choir, played on brass instruments, the organ, and played the handbell choir interspersed with short scripture readings and a very short reflection sermon. Towards the end of the service everyone partakes in the feast part of the Lovefeast which consists of a Moravian Lovefeast bun and Moravian coffee. The bun is a potato roll spiced with nutmeg and mace and citrus rind. The coffee is a super sweet and milky coffee. I don’t like coffee and even I didn’t mind drinking it. The feast is followed by the passing of candlelight with the beeswax candles everyone is given when entering. It was always so beautiful to stand there and sing together in a sea of candlelight

They’ve been livestreaming it for years, but I’m usually always so busy at this point in the year that I have never tuned in for it. This year I’m obviously not enjoying all my normal holiday fun, so I decided it would be the perfect year to finally participate. I had the idea that I would bake some Moravian Lovefeast buns, make some coffee, and order some of the beeswax candles online. I had no idea that the red wrap on the candles to catch the wax is actually a Moravian candle skirt. I always assumed it was a generic wax drip catcher and that it would be easy to find. It was not. I had to order them from a Moravian candle shop in Old Salem, NC.

I was going to take a little Lovefeast kit with all the stuff to my friend who also lives in the area and is a fellow alum. Great minds apparently think alike because she also bought some candles and sent them to me. She wanted to bake her own buns, so I didn’t wind up giving her anything. Hopefully next year we can celebrate it together. We texted each other during the service this year instead.

This year’s feast was obviously a bit different than normal due to COVID. There was a not a crowd of people gathered together inside Wait Chapel for the service. Instead everything was pre-recorded with only the people participating in putting on the service present, but not at the same time. Everyone was wearing masks and was well spaced out. The choir was spaced out in the audience part of the chapel rather than up on the stage. There was obviously no live serving of the feast or passing of the candlelight. Instead they interspersed some footage of those things from previous years with the choir singing.

It was not the traditional Lovefeast, but it was still lovely and it reminded me of what a wonderful tradition it is. I am hopeful that next year it will be able to return to normal. I’m thinking I would love to make some time in my always full December plans to invite some friends to my house next year to celebrate it with me. It would be wonderful to have friends share in the experience and to be able to pass the candlelight to someone rather than me just yelling at my cat to not jump in my lap while I’m holding a lit candle.

Advent in the Time of COVID

Usually the weeks leading up to Christmas are a whirlwind of activity. There are so many holiday related things I try to cram in every year including the Hampden Christmas parade, multiple annual holiday parties, baking Christmas cookies, Christmas shopping, and usually a couple of theatre performances plus whatever else might come along. That’s in addition to heading off to some other state for about a week to spend the holiday with either my family or my husband’s family.

This year aside from baking some Christmas cookies and doing a little online shopping none of that is happening. It’s obviously sad because these are all things I look forward to every year and bring me a lot of joy. Instead of spending the next several weeks ruing over the fact that I’m once again missing out on things due to COVID, I want to let this advent season be a time of rest, reflection, and anticipation.

Advent is all about waiting and expectation, but it is also about waiting on the unexpected and not having things turn out like we planned. Before Jesus the Israelites were expecting a savior to come down and overthrow the government that was oppressing them. What they did not expect was that their savior would come in the form of a baby who would grow up not to overthrow an earthly kingdom but to create a heavenly one while subverting many of the things they held to be true. He called them to be servants and to care for the poor and the marginalized. What they were anticipating did not look like what they were expecting.

Recently while we were all glued to social media and the internet waiting for the 2020 presidential election to be called I threw out a question on Facebook to have a little fun. I asked people to name something that used to bring them great joy but that people younger than them would never understand with the example of discovering a hidden track on a CD. The interesting thing that I found was that the majority of the responses people gave were based on anticipation for all kinds of things like not knowing who was at your door or calling you, waiting to develop photos to see what actually turned out, actually finding a new release movie in Blockbuster, standing in line to buy concert tickets, waiting to hear your favorite song the radio, and so much more. So much of our lives these days revolves around receiving instant gratification. We have forgotten that there can be great joy in waiting and anticipation.

This advent and Christmas season more than any other is all about the waiting and anticipation. We are all eagerly awaiting a time hopefully in the not too distant future where our lives will return to some semblance of normal. So this season while we’re all waiting I hope we can learn to wait in hope and eager expectation but not necessarily for the way things used to be. Let this be a time where we can stop and reflect on the future that Jesus came to create not one of earthly kingdoms but one of social justice and servanthood where we are focused on caring for the least of these while on this earth but also anticipating the heavenly kingdom he is preparing for us.

New Music Friday: If We Make It Through December by Phoebe Bridgers

I don’t think I have ever written two New Music Friday posts by the same artist two weeks in a row let alone two covers by the same artist. But we have now hit the time of year when not much new music is coming out and it’s also time to start listening to Christmas music. In my last New Music Friday post I wrote about Phoebe Bridgers’ and Maggie Rogers’ cover of the GooGoo Dolls’ song “Iris”, which they put out as a one off single on bandcamp. This week Phoebe released a 4 song EP of Christmas songs that she has been covering over the past several years. The new one that she added was a cover of Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December”. It really is the perfect Christmas song for 2020. It feels like it was written for this year even though it was written back in 1973. Here’s hoping we all make it through December to better times.

Things to Be Thankful For

I’ve done a couple posts over the course of the pandemic trying to remind myself that there are still good things in the world because a lot of the time these days it doesn’t feel like it. It’s especially hard to be thankful right now when we’re supposed to be thankful at Thanksgiving because all the usual traditions are being upended. Instead of spending the holiday with family and friends it will just be me and my husband. But I’m trying to put on my thankful hat and do another one of these posts on things that I’ve been thankful for recently. This is obviously not a comprehensive list of all the things I’m thankful for. Just ones that I’ve been thinking about in recent weeks.

  1. Online Game Night – Pretty much every Saturday since the pandemic began I’ve been hosting an online game night with some friends. We play a variety of casual games from board games where no one else needs access to the board, games that have online versions, and stuff inside the Board Game Arena website. There’s a core group of us every week with some other people who have come and gone or occasionally drop in. It’s a nice little social thing I can look forward to every week even if it’s not as good as getting to hang out in person. The benefit is that with these friends having kids and also all living out in Harford county I get to see them every week now instead of just the handful of times during the year we would normally manage to get our schedules to align. Who knows maybe we’ll still do it on occasion even after the pandemic is over.
  2. Thanksgiving food – Even though I will miss out on the other aspects of Thanksgiving, I’m still super excited for Thanksgiving food. I love Thanksgiving dinner and am very excited to dig into a big old plate of stuffing and mashed potatoes and some pumpkin pie which I will eat for breakfast for several days after the holiday. In addition to regular Thanksgiving I’m sad to also be missing all the annual Friendsgivings I’m a part of that allow me to eat even more Thanksgiving food. But don’t get me wrong this food only belongs in November in conjunction with Thanksgiving. That’s what makes it special.
  3. People trying to slow the spread of COVID – There aren’t enough of us, but I’m thankful for the other people that are sacrificing their holiday and many other things in their lives to help keep themselves and others safe. It’s a thankless job, but I see you.
  4. Vaccines – It’s absolutely incredible that we potentially have 3 highly effective vaccines that should hopefully be rolling out in the new year. It’s going to help us get our lives back so much quicker than if we had to wait for people to develop herd immunity naturally. Yay science!
  5. Biden’s Cabinet picks – It’s just so nice to not have to care that much about Biden’s Cabinet picks because he’s actually picking people qualified to do the jobs instead of political cronies who have no experience and/or just want to dismantle the organization they’ve been tapped to lead. Until this year I don’t think I’ve ever been thankful for a Cabinet pick, but now I am.

Iris by Phoebe and Maggie

On election night Phoebe Bridgers tweeted that if Donald Trump lost she would cover the song “Iris” by the GooGoo Dolls. Maggie Rogers responded with something to the effect of she would love to harmonize on it and now they have actually made it happen. They released the song on bandcamp this morning.

I have always loved the song “Iris” by the GooGoo Dolls and will go on record saying that the City of Angels soundtrack, which this song is on, is one of the best soundtracks of all time. This cover by two of my current favorite artists collaborating is wonderful. It is my favorite type of cover song in which artists take a song and make it completely their own and don’t just faithfully rerecord the original.

Weirdly based on Maggie Rogers’ Insta Story it sounds like they’re only making it available for 24 hours. Maybe they mean they’re only making it free for 24 hours? It seems odd to only have it available for 24 hours in total, especially since proceeds from it are being donated to Stacey Abrams organization Fair Fight. Anyway, get yourself over to bandcamp to grab a copy while you still can.

New Music Friday: Autonomy by Stephanie Lambring

Here at this late ate in the year I discovered a new album that is definitely in contention for my favorite album of the year. Stephanie Lambring’s Autonomy is an amazing Americana/indie country album that tackles a lot of really deep issues including faith, the weight of expectations both familial and societal, and suicide through wonderfully crafted story songs. Basically it’s like my catnip.

The whole album is fantastic and you should really listen to the whole thing, but I’m going to focus on the song “Joy of Jesus”, which is the song that drew me to the album in the first place. Ann K. Powers of NPR Music named it her favorite song of October which is how I found out about it.

It, like other songs on the album, “Save Me Tonight” and “Someone Else’s Dress”, addresses wrestling with faith and looking at the moralistic judgement that masquerades as Evangelical Christianity today and wondering if that is the joy of Jesus and if so who would want that?

Based on the lyrics of some of the songs I don’t think she wound up in the same place I did, but I very much connected with her questioning as I too, especially in the last five years, have wrestled with my own faith and being a Christian when the face of Christianity I see in the world is not what I see in the Bible. Thanks to a church family that I do think is focusing on the important things and trying to be the love and grace of Jesus and whose mission is reconciliation in addition to writers like the sadly taken from us way too soon Rachel Held Evans and of course my own personal experience of God I’ve been able to salvage a faith that has certainly at times been precarious at best.

There is so much new music coming out all the time its rare that I listen to an album more than once, but this will be one of the few albums that I’ll be listening to over and over again.

TV Diary

The Path

The Path is a Hulu show about a cult that is I think supposed to be somewhat of a take off on Scientology, though not entirely the same. It stars Hugh Dancy as the new leader trying to take over the cult as the original founder is dying (or most people believe off writing the final parts of their bible). Michelle Monaghan plays a woman whose parents were part of the original founders and who grew up in the movement. Aaron Paul plays her husband who has begun to have doubts, which strains their marriage. I really enjoyed this show. It’s set in what I believe is the Hudson Valley area of New York and especially in much of the first season it is set in fall and has a beautiful fall feel to it that I was really digging just as it was starting to be fall here as I was watching. The characters are really well drawn and the show looks a lot into questions of what makes us believe things and why we hold onto them. I didn’t like the third and final season as much as the first two. It got really plotty with a bunch of side stuff that ultimately had no bearing on anything and spent way too much time with all that nonsense. It also retconned some things about the founding of the cult in order to introduce some new characters that I did not love as well as made some of the other characters, especially Aaron Paul’s character act in some ways I didn’t buy. Overall though I liked the show a lot and even though the third season was weaker than the first two I still enjoyed spending time with the characters. Whenever I finish a show where I really love the characters it takes me awhile to start something new because I’m not ready to let them go. It’s been a week and I still haven’t started binging a new show, so I know this is one that is still sitting with me.

Emily in Paris

People seem to be very mixed on whether they love this show or think it’s terrible. The answer to whether it’s good or terrible is yes. It is in fact a stupidly written show where the writers seemed to barely care enough to keep up with their plots (Emily says her Masters degree is in something different every time she’s asked), it’s entirely unrealistic with Emily somehow brilliantly saving the day in every episode, and it writes French people in a ridiculously stereotyped way. And yet it was beautiful to look at, it was nice to sort of know that everything was going to work out well every episode, and it was just stupid enough to be fun. Basically Lily Collins plays Emily an American who gets sent at the last minute to represent her company in the Paris marketing firm they just acquired after her boss, played by Kate Walsh who appears for like 30 seconds in the entire show, gets accidentally pregnant and decided not to go herself. (Seriously someone get Kate Walsh an actual show or bring her back to Grey’s. I always really liked Addison and she and Meredith can be besties now that Derek is gone.) Emily doesn’t speak a word of French and her boss in Paris hates her and is always trying to get rid of her. She also befriends her neighbor who she winds up in sort of a love triangle with as he already has a girlfriend who she becomes good friends with as well. So in short the show is dumb but also a pleasant distraction in these terrible times.

Watchmen

I have no experience with any previous Watchmen property like the graphic novel or the movie, so I came into this show cold. For most of the series that resulted in me having very little clue what was going on, which I really didn’t mind. In fact once they started tying things together in a way that actually helped explain what in the world had been happening in the first 3/4 of the show I thought it got worse and much less interesting. Regina King and Jean Smart were absolutely fantastic in this show. I liked it’s commentary on race and it felt like a very prescient show for 2020. Overall I enjoyed watching it, but I found the last few episodes a little bit of a letdown though the very end ties everything up nicely.

Song Exploder

Netflix turned the popular podcast Song Exploder, in which artists break down one of their songs and how they wrote it, into a tv show. I’m not entirely sure why. They only made four episodes and I don’t really think the visual aspects add much to what you get in the actual podcast. The episodes were still good and I will watch more if they make more, but ultimately I think the show is unnecessary. Just go listen to the podcast.

Lucifer

We’re about halfway through season 2 of Lucifer. I think they’re up to season 5 now. Lucifer as one might guess is the devil who has escaped hell and come to earth where he runs a night club and somehow winds up working as a consultant with the police. There’s a sort of will they or won’t they romance with his detective partner. He also has a therapist as he’s grappling with living as a human and developing human feelings. It’s an average but entertaining network show. It’s got your case of the week, but also ongoing storylines for the season which I always find a nice mix and something that seems to be rarer and rarer these days.

Travel Man

Travel Man is a British Show that is now on Hulu. It’s a travel show starring Richard Ayoade. He travels to some location for 48 hours with a rotating cast of fellow comedians. They usually go to some popular tourist location in the destination and then do a lot of non-standard things including often eating some kind of terrible local food. It’s quite amusing while also making me really want to travel and wondering if we’ll ever be able to do that again.

Sing On

Sing On is a karaoke game show on Netflix hosted by Titus Burgess. Contestants basically sing karaoke to songs and some machine measures how close they are to the original artists. The one with highest score automatically gets to stay and up until the final two rounds the contestants get to vote on which of the other people competing are voted out in that round either because they didn’t sing well enough to earn them money towards their final jackpot or they are worried they are too much competition. There are new contestants every episode so it’s a really easy show to throw on and not think much about if you’re looking for something like that to watch. Whenever a contestant gets kicked out they go stand on a balcony to sing along with the crowd. As they’re leaving Titus always asks them if they want to stay and sing on. Just once I want a contestant to throw down their mic and say absolutely not. They never do they. They always act really excited to stay.

Muppets Now

Muppets Now is the newest reboot of the Muppet Show that is on Disney+. It is sadly not good. It’s basically written as the Muppets producing sort of YouTube like series. Miss Piggy has a lifestyle show. The Swedish Chef has a cooking show. Bunson and Beaker have a science show. Pepe has a game show. Scooter is in charge of uploading everything and there’s always an issue with that. None of it is particularly funny and the way that it’s written leaves them all very segmented and not interacting at all. It’s only 6 episodes that are less than 30 minutes so if you’re a Muppets completist for some reason by all means, but otherwise don’t bother.

New Music Friday: Duets

I took last Friday off not because I didn’t have a song I wanted to write about but because I just didn’t feel like writing. I’m back this week and originally planned on writing about the song I was going to talk about last week, but then some other songs popped up that I felt like writing about more. I thought about doing a threefer post, but I also really want to devote a whole post to last week’s song so I will probably wait and write about it later in the year when new music releases really start to trickle off in December.

Instead today I have two duets for you, one a cover and one a brand new song.

Under Pressure by Karen O and Willie Nelson

Earlier this week Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Willie Nelson released a cover of Queen and David Bowie’s song “Under Pressure”. Apparently she connected with him in trying to find people to do stuff to support NIVA, the association working to save independent music venues. It’s unclear to me if money from this song actually goes to support it or not. I assume so, but I’m not 100% sure. Anyway, it’s my favorite kind of cover in that it really adds a new feeling to the original song and is not just recreating it. It’s definitely going on my playlist of cover songs.

A Beautiful Noise by Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile

Last night there was some get out the vote type special on CBS and as part of it Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile performed a new song called “A Beautiful Noise”. It’s about women coming together and using their voices to fight for a better future. It was written by a cavalcade of fantastic songwriters: Ruby Amanfu, Brandy Clark, Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey, Hailey Whitters, and Linda Perry. It is indeed a beautiful noise. Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile sing beautifully together.

New Music Friday: Wildflowers & All the Rest by Tom Petty

It’s no secret on this blog that I love Tom Petty and that Wildflowers is my favorite album of his and one of my all time favorite albums period. Several years ago it came to light that Tom Petty had originally recorded Wildflowers as a double album, but his record label at the time didn’t want to release a double album so 10 of the original songs were left on the cutting room floor. I immediately wanted to be able to hear those songs but thought that it was probably never going to come to pass.

For awhile Tom Petty said he had no interest in releasing those songs as a separate album because they were written at a certain time that he was no longer living in and he only wanted his music to keep moving forward. Apparently though as he was doing his 40th Anniversary tour he began planning a project to revisit Wildflowers and bring those songs to light. Obviously he was never able to bring that dream to fruition as he sadly died a few short weeks after ending that tour.

But happily his dream has been brought to life by his daughters Adria and Annakim, his wife Dana and two of the Heartbreakers Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell. Today they released Wildflowers & All the Rest a box set that includes remastered versions of the songs on the original album and the 10 songs that were cut from the original album. It also includes early home recordings of some of the songs as well as live versions so that you can get a sense of their evolution.

I immediately skipped to the songs that were cut and haven’t even managed to make it through those yet. There is going to be so much to dig into here. I know what I will be doing this weekend. 2020 isn’t all bad, just mostly. Here’s a YouTube playlist of the 25 album versions of the songs. You’ll have to pop over to somewhere like Spotify to hear the home recordings and live versions or you know do something crazy and buy it.

New Music Friday: The Highwomen Edition

I was already planning on writing about Maren Morris’s new song “Better Than We Found It”, which actually came out a little over a week ago but which I had not yet heard in time for last week’s New Music Friday post. In keeping with the tradition I seem to have started over the last few week’s for my New Music Friday posts it’s another song about thinking about the world we’re creating and leaving for the next generation. It’s a song Maren Morris wrote for her son and the video very sweetly includes him and a little love letter to him at the end.

Then I woke up this morning to a surprise drop from Yola, who is one of artists that sang on some of the songs for the Highwomen album, the country super group mainly composed of Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, Amanda Shires, and Natalie Hemby and also featuring Yola and Sheryl Crow. “Hold On” features Brandi Carlile and Natalie Hemby on backing vocals, Sheryl Crow on piano, and Jason Isbell on guitar which he also played on the Highwomen album. According to Yola “‘Hold On’ is asking the next [generation] to take up space, to be visible and to show what it looks to be young, gifted and Black.”

I usually try to post YouTube videos rather than Spotify links because I know not everyone has a Spotify account, but for whatever reason there doesn’t seem to be a legal version of the song up on YouTube yet. Though somehow there are already multiple illegally uploaded versions. It’s available through all the streaming services so go listen wherever you have an account.