Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Church Service Celebrates The Culmination Of Advent With “Festival of Lessons and Carols”

Kay Lynne and I just returned home from the Christmas Eve Church Service at our church, St. Andrews Lutheran in Bellevue, ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who changed the world forever. Pictured above is the choir and orchestra processional.

We have expectantly awaited Christmas Day for slightly more than a month during the season of Advent on the Church calender. The word advent means “coming” or “arrival” and is observed in anticipation of Christ’s coming to earth as a babe in a manger.

In celebrating the Festival of Lessons and Carols, we joined with many churches in observing an historic format for worship to honor the birth of Christ. The Festival tells the story of the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah, and the birth of Jesus in nine short Scripture readings from Genesis, the prophetic books and the Gospels, interspersed with the singing of Christmas Carols and hymns.

Our service included the participation of our church chancel choir and brass and strings ensemble, which added a wonderful sense of celebration. We concluded by lighting candles and singing several Christmas Carols.

Now we are ready to enjoy the full meaning of Christmas, the celebration of the coming to earth of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. In not too many minutes it will be Christmas morning.

Come, Lord Jesus. We are ready for your arrival.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Foot-Tapping Venture Into Cultural Heritage

Kay Lynne and I had a most interesting and enjoyable venture into (my) Finnish cultural heritage yesterday, when we traveled to Bainbridge Island (where we used to live) to see, meet and listen to the Finnish folk band Kaivama.   Finn cousin Joel Narva, his wife Sandra and daughter Lindsey, joined us at the concert.

The “band” consists of two accomplished Finnish musicians, Sara Pajunen and Jonathan Rundman (above), both born and raised in Midwest Northwoods areas closely resembling the environment of Finland – namely Virginia, MN and Ishpeming, MI. Both areas enjoy long winters, lakeside saunas, dense pine forests, rugged terrain, and solitude – replicating the Nordic country’s climate and landscape.

The music they play can be loosely described as Finnish/Scandinavian folk music, but their training and performance transforms it into so much more.

Here’s what their web site says about their music: Sara Pajunen's unique fiddle playing is the common thread of the album, a meld of technique and nuance. Jonathan Rundman adeptly adds various instruments to each track, from rollicking acoustic guitar to a WWII-era foot-pump harmonium (organ) to his Grandfather's tenor banjo—and some famously American textures thanks to a vintage Hammond organ and Wurlizter electric piano.

Pajunen’s classical training and flirtations with avant-garde string arrangements blend with her dedication to the Finnish pelimanni fiddle tradition. Rundman mixes the harmonic structures of Nordic hymnody with a rough Americana sensibility and hints of '70s-era progressive rock.

The web site also indicates that “Kaivama's first album is a landmark debut, and a worthy bridge between a new Finnish-American generation and the time-honored music of their heritage.”  For Joel and me, it was an opportunity to hear for the first time the folk melodies our departed parents often told us had influenced the times of their youth.

No doubt we'll be back to see and hear Kaivama again when they return to Seattle’s Phinney Ridge area for a concert next May.

Click here to see and hear a sample of their music. Click here for their web site.