Sumatra Stout

This is a bit unusual for me. I am reviewing a coffee flavoured beer.

Sumatra Coffee Stout (Trade Route Brewing Co.)

The body of the Stout suggests the body of Sumatra.

Upon sipping the stout taste is dominant. There is not much of a hint of the coffee until you stop the sip. Then  starting 4 second later and lasting for a good minute, the aftertaste comes forward giving a distinct indonesian coffee flavour, with a light sweet malty finish. This stout should be sipped slowly to get the benefit of as much of the coffee tones as possible. I recommend sharing a bottle with another beer/coffee lover.

 

 

Peru Organic

On one of my recent stops at Ootopia Roasters in Bremerton to get green and roasted coffee beans, I came upon an organic Peru they had recently roasted. Here is my review

Peru Organic – Ootopia

Sparkling citrus tones, but not overpowering. Excellent body. Good cocoa aftertones, and a micro-mini explosion of coffee aroma and flavour on the back of the tongue. Well balanced flavour. Very pleasant aftertaste

In sugar and cream the body holds up well. the citrus tones quiet down some. This serves to accent the cocoa tones.

This would make an excellent mid-day coffee

Review of Capella Romana’s Concert of Rachmaninov’s All-Night-Vigil

Capella Romana sings Rachmaninov All-Night-Vigil

Concert on January 7 2012

On olde calendar Christmas (Jan 7) Capella Romana performed the All-Night-Vigil at St. James Cathedral in Seattle. Capella Romana is a Chamber choir that beefed up its bass section for this concert. According to Chesnokov’s book on choral directing they should have had an additional bass and octavist to balance the sound (page 13). The octavist they did have did a magnificent job. When the choir went flat in the Velichit Dush (Magnificat) #11 the octavist were still able to sing a clear Low Bb (which by that time had become a Low A) and tune it immaculately. The choir gave a spirited performance which was augmented by including some of the other parts of the All-Night-Vigil that Rakhmaninov did not set. They included pieces by other Russian Masters that gave a sense of the context of the Vigil as a worship service. For this effort I must applaud the Capella Romana.

Communion

On Communion

Communion was inaugurated with the Kingdom of God. If our proclamation is to be the Kingdom of God, it is realized in this worship, which God Himself has left us. (full disclosure- I was born baptist and am now Orthodox)

God is eternal, so our worship of Him needs to follow in that. Worship should appeal to every part of our humanity (our seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching) but not our passions. I think that this communion being so much like the last time and the time before that is part of the message of the Kingdom of God and that it is eternal. I am most glad that it is ever the same and ever new.

Review of Recordings of the Rachmaninov All-Night-Vigil

 

A Review of Recordings  of the Rakhmaninov All-Night-Vigil.

 

The oldest available recording of the All-Night-Vigil is by the State Russian Academic Choir conducted by Alexander Sveshnikov. It was first recorded in 1965 by Melodiya, but not widely available. In 1973 they re-recorded this for the centennial of Rakhmaniov’s birth. Because of anti-religious ideology, it was mainly exported outside the former Soviet Union. Recently the 1965 recording was remastered and has been re-released.

Sveshnikov was a student of Chesnokov who was last conductor of the Moscow Synod Choir that premiered the All Night Vigil. Both Rakhmaninov and Chesnokov were students of Stepen Smolensky (Rakhmaninov dedicated the All-Night Vigil to Stepan Smolensky).

This makes Sveshnikov the musical “grandson” of Nikolai Danilin, who premiered the work.

The Svesnikov recordings feature lush bass and octavist that make the recordings very satisfying. When they go flat, they go flat together. A valid criticism of the recordings is that when syllables have a strong accent due to the text that both soloists and choir will scoop the pitch. While some may think this to be idiomatic, there is no reason why such strong accents could not be accomplished without bending the pitch. Additionally the Choir sounds vocally fatigued for the last 3 pieces, and the octavist that goes down to a low G1 at the end #14 sounds creaky, crickety and fried.

The tempos in the 1965 reading are a bit quicker; the transparency of the vocal parts is clearer. The quality of the recording engineering and the subtleties of shaping and the blend are better in the 1973 recording.

The attention to detail, the attention to intonation and overtones to the point where, at points, it sounds as if instruments were accompanying them playing notes that no one is actually singing, and that it is produced by a musical grandson of the original make these must listen to.

 

In 1986 the USSR Minster of Culture Chamber Choir under the direction of Valeri Polyansky recorded the All-Night-Vigil in Dormition Cathedral (also a Melodiya recording). The recording is every bit as respectable as the Svesnikov recording. For the most part they avoid the scooping that afflicts the Sveshnikov recordings. The tempos are also a bit livelier. For a chamber choir it is a good rendering. The intonation is, on the whole, good. A notable exception is at the beginning of #9 Blagosloven yesi Gospodi (Blessed art Thou O Lord/ Evlogitarion/ Angelski Sobor) when the altos come in on the Bb, they take a good second to find the pitch. While the recording is good, one misses the sound of a full choir.

Mstislav Rostropovich recorded the All-Night-Vigil with the Choral Arts Society of Washington in 1987 on the Erato label. The tempi are bold and energetic, making for a spirited performance. The recording suffers a light bass section.

Robert Shaw recorded the Vigil with the Robert Shaw Festival Singers in 1989 for Telarc. The intonation is beyond immaculate, the blend is wonderful. The recording has a feeling of “something missing”. What is missing is that the normal accents that are part of the Slavonic Text, that would not need to be notated as accented, are entirely missing. It is as if a very good french choir were singing that did not understand where the strong accents were required.

Recently (2010) the combined Church Choirs of Saratov recorded the Vigil, conducted by Svetlana Khakhalina. The recording was produced by the Eparchy of Saratov. The recording was done at Intercession Church in Saratov in Russia. This is a good recording of the Vigil. The balance between parts is very good and it has a transparency that is missing in the Sveshnikov recordings. It does have one draw-back. There is one Bass II (not an octavist) who is frequently off pitch just enough to draw attention to his voice.

Mahogany Bear – Spectacled Bear Columbian

 

Mahogany Bear – Spectacled Bear Columbian

Visual beans were uniform with slightest tearing  of oil, but not overly so. The aroma upon grinding was good with a hint of earthy tang. In a white porcelain cup the colour was brown with a slight hint of amber.

Auto drip: The coffee started with Citrus tones with some tang. The body was medium. Adding half & half suppresses some of the body but not dramatically so.

Espresso shot had very pleasant earthy tones with a slight bittersweet after taste with good creme and a better body than auto drip.

Press Pot: The color upon the  water pouring was a good brown purple. The crust broke with a nice looking foam. A slurp brought a good aroma. The body was on the slightly heavy side of medium (better body than most columbians). Sugar and half & half brought out some of the natural sweetness that seems to be a bit shy, and emphasizes the cocoa tones with just a hint of tang. The body held up to the half&half. The predominate aftertaste is of the earthy tang that the aroma of the grinding promised.

We have made a Covenant with Death

 

We have made a covenant with Death, and with hell we have an agreement; when the rushing storm shall pass through, it shall not come unto us. For we have made lies our refuge and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.

Therefore, thus saith the Lord, the Lord: Behold I lay for the foundation of Sion a costly stone, a choice, a corner-stone, a precious one for its foundations and he that believes shall by no means be ashamed. And I will cause judgement for hope, and my compassion shall be for measures, and ye that trust vainly in falsehood, the storm shall by no means pass you by. except that it also take away your covenant of death and your trust in hell shall by no means stand. If the rushing storm should come upon you, ye shall be beaten down by it. — Isaiah 28:15-18

skull Isaiah EE

We have chosen death, from the very beginning. Daily we chose death. We choose distractions of gadgets and things. We become more self centered and narcissistic. We look for new toys, new distractions, new ways of quieting down the noise that comes from within, that comes from the myriad assaults from media, politics, and commercials. We choose the noise over being present to the moment, to the people around us. We choose death in ignoring the people right in front of us. We choose death in ignoring our own hungry souls. The Lenten Triodion has a hymn for the last week of Lent that says, “I see my mind, O Lord, lying always like Lazarus before the gates of repentance, but with indifference I pass it by, and leave it hungry, sick and wounded by the passions. “ (St. Joseph the Studite, Triodion 6th week Monday Vespers)

While we are distracted, our world nears crisis, our countries move towards decay, our economies move to the brink of disaster. Right wing idealogues assure us that everything will be fine so long as we continue our covenant with death, and liberals are too co-opted by the same covenant to raise the alarm (except that they want to disagree on how the details of that death will be executed). We have “made lies our refuge and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.”

Our covenant with death shall lead us to perdition.

But it is not how it must be. Behold the corner-stone; behold hope and compassion. How do we get there? By ending our cooperation with death; by ending our escape from each other.

We are in this together. We will either cooperate together to end our march towards destruction, or we shall have that destruction be a rushing storm. Can we accomplish this own our own? NO. We can accomplish it through the precious cornerstone, the CHOICE.

We end it by ceasing our war on the sick, the poor, the hungry. We end it by ending our war on the planet. We end it meeting those around us instead of retreating into the temporary pleasures of our gadgets. We end it by ceasing to blame those people over there for what is going on. We end it by repenting. We end it by loving the Image of God in all people, even those we hate. We end it by loving God in the least of these. We end it by nourishing our starving minds (Nous) in encounter with God through communion, through prayer, and through communication with our fellow humans.

Precaffeinated Musings

 

3 cups of coffee a day … prevents musings like this

we’re supposed to pursue happiness ? What happens if we catch it? I suppose we’d need to build a barn to keep the happiness in. Then we’d have to feed it , water it, change it’s happiness litter. does happiness need to be walked? what about its doctor bills? would happiness qualify for medical insurance?

what if happiness is a pre-existing condition?

Umpire Estate Ethiopian

 

Review of Umpire Estate Ethiopian Raphael House Coffee

The medium dark roast balances what can often be an intense berry tone, typical of Ethiopian coffees. The flavour is a nice balance of a winy/berry tone, medium body, with a flowery finish. To enjoy it to its maximum it should be slurped up on the tongue. This coffee can be enjoyed hot or cold, with or without flavourings. It stands up well in all circumstances. It will pair well with spicy foods such as Indian or Asian cuisine. I recommend following the instructions on the bag for freshness with the exception of the one about freezing. Coffee does not freeze well and would do better being put in an airtight ceramic jar. A portion of the proceeds of the sale of this coffee goes to the Raphael House in San Francisco.

The End of a Great Debating Career

 

Story of the pentecostal preacher at Stetson in the parking lot.

When I was at Stetson University, I was known to be a very sharp debater, having honed my skills on the backs of many hapless deacons at churches my father had pastored or I had attended. I mention this because it has to do with a story of what happened one spring.

I was coming out of a NY Deli that was in an old burger joint’s building at the corner of Plymouth  and Woodland Blvd. As I left, I was accosted by a preacher in the parking lot. He had with him about a dozen of his Church. They were out “witnessing”. It is how he understood his service to Christ worked.

One of his come on lines was to ask the usual, “What’s your major?” My major was Music Theory and Composition. The preacher then said, “You know about music; I know about God.”

The preacher had no idea what he had done. He could not imagine how badly he had lost his argument before it even started. He could not comprehend the verbal drubbing that was in store for him.

I opened my mouth. And as I looked at him, I saw him surrounded by his church group. This would not be pretty. He would get the thoroughly trounced in front of people who looked up to him.

I closed my mouth. It occurred to me that in his assumptions and pride he had given me immense power over him. He did not know that I had taken multiple senior level religion classes; he did not know that I had full access to my Baptist minster father’s library since I could read. If I were an evil type person I could have shellacked him well in front of his congregation. I turned and walked away and mused about how this preacher’s pride gave complete control away to the mercy or mercilessness of whoever happened to be there. Then, as I walked back to my apartment I began musing about how I did that myself, how my own pride gave people, whose intentions may or may not be honourable, power over me.

Thus ended my debating career. There must be something more. Something important was missing, possibly more than one thing. I was beating my head against the wall of the culture I had been brought up in. And yet I believed  in a God Who IS beyond all culture and language.

In all this thinking about God abstractly (even high quality abstract thoughts), something was missing. Nothing in how I had been taught to “DO” theology included relationship with God, it was just well conceived, rigorously pursued ideas ABOUT God (along with a nagging warning to myself not to turn my thoughts about God into an idol).

This is not how I wanted it. I knew well the importance of Relationship with God; I knew that God was far beyond my words about Him. But, alas, the tools I was accustomed to using did not lend themselves well to dealing with God in relationship.

What was missing was COMMUNION (fellowship, participation) with God. I had a well studied idea about what fellowship with God was like. But it was a sort of foggy notion at best, since I had not allowed God to Incarnate Himself to me through communion. As a Baptist we believed that the Lord’s supper was a sort of Symbol of a Symbol of something that we did for reasons we really didn’t know other than Jesus said “This do….”

Having been to Russia during the last of the great Soviet persecutions of Christians, I had also seen their worship first hand. This gave me an excellent example of very high liturgical worship that didn’t fit my preconceived notions of “stuffy”. Rather, they combined the simplest of services with all the festivity and solemnity that we normally reserved for “Easter” and Christmas. What is more, they prayed as if their very breath depended on it. This, very lovingly, violated my assumptions.

Seven years later I was, myself, Orthodox. But a question occurred to me very early on: What do I do with all this theologizing that I had been taught? Of what use was it in this new space? I did not want to employ the old ways of thinking, but they were so much a part of my habit of thinking that it made me almost afraid to read scripture because I knew I would do to scripture what I had always done.

There is the tendency among both the non-believer and the believer brought up in the heritage of western thought to separate theological categories and consider them in isolation. We don’t do that. And this is because we are Catholic (Catholic means according to the Whole) and must consider the whole together (and we are accountable to the whole). How we do any particular thing always is related to our relationship with God and His self emptying love for us. Thus He desires not the death of a sinner but that he turn and live. It is easy to justify a multitude of positions when you consider them in isolation. When I found myself accountable to the Whole — to all of the saints that had come before, that were sharing this time with me, and those who were yet to be born — I had to think theologically in terms of all of them. When I said anything I remembered that I was in communion with the saints to whom the faith was once delivered, and that I was also in communion with those to whom I owed the responsibility of passing along the same treasure I had received.

The Church is the agent by which Jesus the Christ has provided that we commune with His Body and Blood and become His Body. This cannot be understood outside of relationship. We are healed in a relationship with the Healer, not because we deconstruct how we understand His spiritual medication and use that to self-medicate ourselves spiritually. This is a recipe for disaster and madness.

Acquiring the mind of the Church as a communion of the Body of Christ, is not something that happens overnight or by magic. I am still working on that in myself, having taken the approach of my Baptist forefathers to its logical conclusion and realizing that there was no “THERE” there. And, compared to what Jesus was up to, what I had been taught was extremely impoverished.

Our Relationship is with God Who took human flesh for our sake, Who came to our condition, Who stretched out Himself to us, for us, and through communion, IN us. That relationship is expressed in Holy Communion, and through prayer. Here I find the words of St. Maximus the Confessor echoing at me constantly: “Theology is Prayer, prayer is theology. Theology without prayer is demonic.”

It is a journey into that relationship that I now make. It is a journey that I do very badly very often. Christ calls me to a life-giving relationship with Him when I want it, and also when I want to run away from it. It is a journey that I don’t ever expect to master; and yet, it is the journey of Life to which He calls me. May He direct my steps and help me both when I want to follow Him, but especially when I don’t want to. As St. John Chrystostom said: “O Lord, save me whether I want it or not.”