Abortion still devastates the African-American community at an alarming and disproportionate rate, but black pro-life activists are fighting for lives
An unusually laid-back song for the pugilistic rapper that includes tasty bongo licks and a tale of teen pregnancy, which “ain’t the way she went and planned it / … Another story on our little planet / A little compromise, break a few commandments / So the baby’s coming, she starts to panic.” Some of the other lyrics are too generic, but KJ gets credit for refusing a saccharine picture after the choice for life. Amid ongoing moments of fear and despair, the young mother grounds herself by looking at her son’s “fingers and the little handprints / She might be broken but she’s gonna manage.” (From the album Five-Two Television)
‘Life Inside You’
The unborn life is an image of the nascent spiritual life inside every human heart, requiring another kind of intervention to survive: “That’s why God sent His only son to die / So that every broken heart could have a life inside.” West’s pop-anthem mastery appeals across genre, with solid drums, keys, and guitar building to a big, singable chorus: “Life inside you / There’s a beating heart / There’s a child of wonder / Shining like a star.” (From the album Something to Say)
Christafari’s laid-back reggae style makes it all the more surprising when they pull no punches to decry abortion in blunt terms: “Them put a knife in your womb and make a crime scene / But this life inna you is a human being!” Abortion doesn’t merely extinguish a human life but cuts off all future beauty and healing from that life, since “you really don’t know who’s life you abort / Could be a lawyer, doctor, preacher, or priest.” Hypnotic bass and communal vocals lend the feel of a movement song: “We’re fighting for the lives of those without a voice /… Fighting for the rights of those without a choice.” (From the album No Compromise)
Former Kansas lead singer John Elefante retells the events surrounding his daughter’s birth mother, a 13-year-old girl seconds away from aborting Elefante’s daughter. In the song, abortion workers escort the girl to the procedure room with meaningless reassurances, sung by Elefante with haunting nihilism: “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine / You’re still young, we see this all the time.” Ascending violins, guitars, and drums frame the chorus around God’s declaration: “You’re not taking this one! She’s mine! / She’ll grow up and seek My name / … You’re not taking her this time.” High production value and artful composition humanizes the girl, her struggle, and the life in her womb. (From the album On My Way to the Sun)
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Decca’s two-disc The Good Book: Stories from the Holy Bible in Words and Music contains 54 thematically arranged Scripture passages read by the actors David Harewood (Supergirl, Doctor Who) and Anton Lesser (Endeavour, Dickensian), the actress Imelda Staunton (Psychoville, Vera Drake), and the TV presenter Diane Louise Jordan (Songs of Praise, Blue Peter).
All four hail from England, and to listen to them is to understand what the critic John Simon meant when he wrote, “British English is like classical music; American English is like a marching band.”
It’s a distinction that the melodies of the 16 well-known hymns accompanying the readings bring out nicely. Played primarily on acoustic guitar or piano, they reinforce both the “classical musicality” of the oral performances and the themes of the Scripture passages themselves.
Sometimes the melodies do so directly. John Stainer’s “God So Loved the World,” for instance, plays during Lesser’s reading of John 3:1-16 and Staunton’s reading of John 19:25-42, while “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” plays during Harewood’s reading of 1 Corinthians 15:20-26.
But at other times—“Jesus, Lover of My Soul” playing throughout Harewood’s Genesis 15 (God’s covenant with Abraham) and Jordan’s Exodus 3:1-15 (Moses and the burning bush), and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” playing throughout Lesser’s 1 Samuel 17:38-51 (David and Goliath) and 2 Samuel 7:8-16 (God’s promise to David via Nathan)—the connection between music and word presupposes a distinctly Christian hermeneutic.
So do the 17 headings under which the readings are grouped, which include “God’s Covenants,” “Baptism,” “Forgiveness and Salvation,” “Crucifixion and Resurrection,” “Miracles,” and “Pentecost.” Were copies of The Good Book to be tucked away in the drawers of motel- and hotel-room nightstands, the Gideons International might soon find itself out of business.
The sole drawback is that the translation of the Good Book that The Good Book employs is the gender-neutral New International Version, a choice that afflicts several passages, none more so than Matthew 4:19: Even Harewood’s dignified diction can’t keep “and I will send you out to fish for people” from sounding acutely contrived.
That objection aside, the overall attention to detail is impressive. In a “marching band” world, Jordan’s correct, two-syllable pronunciation of “blessed” in her reading of the Beatitudes is classical music to the ears.
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The Christmas Revels
Diego’s Umbrella & Friends
The season’s most earthily festive offering comes courtesy of musicians billing themselves “San Francisco’s ambassadors of gypsy rock,” although they’re more “gypsy” than “rock,” what with fiddles, rudimentary percussion, the Hanukkah tango “Ocho Kandelikas,” the alms-giving round “Christmas Is Coming,” and a lustily sung “Lord of the Dance” making mincemeat of commonplace decorum. Only “Sleigh Ride” and “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas” fail the revel test. Everything else—the carols, “Auld Lang Syne,” and John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” included—feels freshly and vigorously hewn.
Un Niño Nos Es Naçido
Joel Frederiksen, Ensemble Phoenix Munich
The 19 selections by at least 16 composers (the Anonymouses and questions regarding who composed the infectious “Ríu Ríu Chíu” complicate the math) flesh out the subtitle: Christmas Music of Spain and Latin America from the 16th and 17th centuries. The four-part singing, like the period-faithful instrumentation and the texts, is reverently solemn but not severely so—“Dadme albricias” practically gambols. For that matter, portions of Bartomeu Càrceres’ 10-song medley “La Trulla” (which combines Christological precision with, believe it or not, bunion humor) do too.
Folkjul Ii: A Swedish Folk Christmas
Gunnar Idenstam, Ulrika Boden, Sandra Marteleur, S:t Jacobs Kammarkör
The metaphysically suggestive sonorities of nine of these 17 selections arise from the 28 dynamics-spanning voices of Stockholm’s S:t Jacobs Kammarkör and Gunnar Idenstam’s rumbling Allen Q350 digital organ. The metaphysicality of the changes of pace, whether sprightly or hushed, owes a good deal to the lithe expressiveness of Ulrika Boden’s voice and Sandra Marteleur’s violin. “In dulci jubilo” provides the melody most likely to be recognized by non-Swedes. The full-ensemble rendering of Martin Luther’s “Från himlens höjd” will leave even the garrulous speechless.
Silent Night: Early Christmas Music And Carols
Arianna Savall & Petter Udland Johansen, Hirundo Maris
Hirundo Maris is an early-music/folk-music ensemble co-led by Savall and Johansen, who get top billing because, in addition to playing harps (Savall) and the Hardanger fiddle and mandolin (Johansen), they do the singing (in multiple languages, no less). But while the purity of their voices makes an ideal vessel for lyrics celebrating the virgin birth of Christ, what most evokes the unique mystery of the event is the sounds of their bandmates’ citterns, flutes, whistles, border pipes, mute cornetts, dobros, bells, claves, and ayoyotes.