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What I'm (not) Reading Now: 13 January 25

Not reading a thing except occasionally some music. We're joining a co-worker to play some recorder trios at a house concert. She plays easily as well as I do, and certainly reads music better than I do... and yet, as far as I know, she's played recorder half a dozen times before. Ah, to have studied music with a major in woodwinds...

Anyway, we're playing a Tom Horn piece called Dancing Butterflies, an arrangement of a Robert Jones song called Farewell, dear Love, and our own version of In Thee is Gladness. Once we know the notes, we'll start having some real fun. And we'd better learn the notes soon, as the concert is a week from tomorrow.

Akron: 13 January 25: Two things about last weekend

Well, the parents are safely home now, in spite of missing a connecting flight at O'Hare due to de-icing delays. We had a most enjoyable time with them (and our family friend, who joined them). In the spirit of making the most of their limited visiting time, we went to a number of places and events. Two from this last weekend stand out for me.

1. We visited Shady Maple Smorgasbord. First of all, the place is huge. The lobby can hold a few hundred people quite easily; the dining room (including the side rooms that can be opened up for public dining or closed off for private groups) seats 1200 people. The tables and chairs aren't really anything exceptional, but the interior design otherwise is quite luxe, with some very beautiful light fixtures. And let's not forget the smorg, which was the reason we were there. There were the usual serving tables, with dishes held at appropriate warm and cold temperatures. Two were seafood (mostly shrimp) only; I visited those more than once, for shrimp scampi, shrimp alfredo, steamed shrimp, coconut shrimp, battered shrimp, and krab (misspelling intentional) au gratin. The scampi was lovely, and I would have eaten more of the alfredo if I thought I could get away with it. Sadly, much as I love alfredo sauce, it doesn't love me. There were also salad tables, other meats and dishes, and a serious selection of desserts. The desserts were not as good as the scampi (or so I'm told - I slighted them in favor of the shrimp selection). The drinks selection was quite impressive as well - dispensers offering coffees, flavored creams (actual cream!), coffee drinks, soft drinks (including some local specialty ones made with cane sugar instead of corn syrup), milk, juices, tea...  And I forgot the four grilling stations, where things like tilapia and catfish were made to order.  Quite overwhelming, and mostly quite tasty.

In the basement of Shady Maple is a gift shop. It's huge, and filled with many things I do not have need or desire for. However, one corner is occupied by a separate shop called Family Farm Quilts. Beautiful, painstakingly made quilts, with a store person who knows what she's talking about and is happy to show off the quilts. If I want to buy an Amish-made quilt, I'm going there first.

2. Lancaster Bible College put on a musical this past weekend (and this coming one, if I remember correctly) called Once Upon a Mattress. It's a spin on the Princess and the Pea story, and it was quite well done. The story started off a bit slowly, I thought, but with the arrival of Prince Winnifred ("YOu can call me by my nickname, though?" "Winnie?"  "Fred!") it picked up speed. The actress playing Fred did a superb job, as did the actor playing the drunken-sot jester (who was a lot more alert than he let on). It appears that Carol Burnett played Fred in the original Broadway production, and went on to play the wicked queen in a 2005 Disney TV movie. I'm now interested in seeing at least a snippet of any of the productions with Carol Burnett.

I think I hear youtube calling me...

Akron: Flashback - December 22, 2012 & the Moravian Christmas Vigil

There were a few things about Christmas celebrations this year that were noteworthy, but I was too wrapped up in things to blog about them. I'm going to catch up on those over the next little while with some flashback posts.

As per the title, this is about the Moravian Christmas vigil. I was told one morning, at the morning coffee break, that we really should try to get to one of the Christmas vigil services at the Moravian church in Lititz. "The music is good," I was told, "and they have a Love Feast." I'd heard a little bit about this phenomenon, and I was intrigued.

The first step was getting tickets. It's not that admission is charged to this, a worship service, but simply a recognition that the building has limited capacity, and this allows you to reserve a spot. Seating is unassigned - they just issue X tickets per service (of which there are six, if I remember correctly). When I called the church office, I was told that they were out of tickets for each of services that we would have been able to attend. "But we can put you on the waiting list." I agreed, thinking that this was a very long shot.

The next day, I got back from lunch to find that the church had called whilst I was away to say that two tickets were now available for one of the services. I called back to lay claim to them and we picked them up the next day.

Now, the church - it's old, as you might guess, and built in something resembling Colonial style. It has definite architectural interest. The sanctuary seems wider than it is long, with a balcony wrapping around three sides. All of the pews had a dividing wall bisecting their width. And in front, hanging from the very high ceiling, was a 110-point Moravian star, lit from within.

We sat relatively close to the back, just out from under the rear balcony. Said rear balcony was occupied by a choir and a small orchestra, in addition to the organ. (Audience/congregation sat in the side balconies). A six-voice children's group sat up front in the alcove at the back of the platform, and the pastors sat on the platform proper.

The service began with a prelude of orchestral and organ pieces. The service itself was mostly music - a lot of congregational singing, and some choir/children's choir/orchestral pieces. Most of the carols were ones I hadn't heard before, but they were familiar enough in style that I could sing along. We sang a number of them as a lead-in to the Love Feast.

The Love Feast... what it is is this: it's like a celebration of Communion, except that instead of wine, there is a cup of coffee (fairly traded, decaf, with half-and-half) or chocolate milk; instead of bread, a Moravian sugar cake - a rich sweet bun with an indent that holds extra sugar and cinammon. One passes on one's preference for coffee or chocolate milk to the person at the end of the row, and a male diener (server) passes down the appropriate number of appropriately-filled mugs. A female diener passes napkins and a basket of sugar cakes; the basket is passed to the divider at the middle of the aisle, and then, as it is passed back to the outside, each person takes a sugar cake. All the while, the congregation is singing. Once everything has been distributed, the pastor says a few dedicatory words, and the choir sings while the congregation eats. Then there's more congregational singing while the mugs and napkins are collected.

There was yet more singing, one of the pastors had a short message, and still more singing. They made good use of lowering the sanctuary lighting and increasing and decreasing the illumination of the Moravian star at significant points. Finally, the dieners came out again, carrying trays of lit beeswax candles. The trays were drilled to hold the candles upright, and each candle wore a little frill of tissue paper. These lit candles were passed down the pews until everyone had a candle, and in the last verse of the last song, we held them up high. (It says something about me that my first thought on seeing the dieners enter with the candles was "ooh, pretty!" and my second, immediately following, was "ooh, fire hazard!" I am informed that there were people at the end of each aisle with blankets for the purpose of smothering any outbreak of flames, but still, it makes me antsy.)

It was a lovely service, and I rather like the idea of having a Moravian star now. I don't know how I would get it home safely, though, as it's rather bulky and fragile at the same time. My sweetie thinks it would be interesting to celebrate a Love Feast in our home congregation when we get back.