Chapter Five, It Begins
A Call to War [page 158]
And now for something completely different. Sorry, but this requires running up a slope before we jump off.
When the author was a student at Indiana University in the mid-1960s, he lived in a twin-towered dormitory called Briscoe Quadrangle. Because of the dorm’s architectural structure, insults, catcalls, declarations of love or lust, shouted from the men’s tower towards the opposite women’s tower, possessed a remarkably clear, acoustic quality. Such activity typically occurred at night, emanating from open windows in darkened rooms on the ninth or tenth floor levels.
Administrators deplored such activity and issued threats of academic, even criminal, penalties, but to my uncertain knowledge, no perpetrators were even identified.
It was, of course, Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Historically, this composition debuted in August, 1882, in a tent outside the Moscow cathedral, Christ the Saviour, complete with chorus and sixteen muzzle-loaded cannons used in the finale. The cathedral was commissioned to celebrate Russia’s victory over an invading French Allied Army of half a million soldiers. The French invasion took place in June, 1812, corresponding, but unrelated to, the American declaration of war against Britain (effectively, against Canada.) The Battle of Borodino, which inspired the symphony, was a pyrrhic French victory, occurring on September 7, only a few weeks after General Hull’s defeat at Detroit. (Kudos to Wikipedia for the summary.)
But what does all this have to do with The Land Between Flowing Waters? We are nearing the top of the slope, almost there.
The author has always loved Russian literature – in addition, this experience prompted a deepening appreciation of Russian music, and eventually, of classical music in general. But it was only a few years ago the author learned something new about the 1812 Overture when he decided to buy all six of Tchaikovsky’s symphonic works. After purchasing and listening to Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra’s version of the Fourth on the living room system, the author walked away, knowing the Overture was up next. He expected nothing new. But there was a surprise, a wonderful surprise. In the kitchen, after a minute or more of seeming silence from the living room, the author heard a choir singing, which in moments built to a stunning crescendo, a marvelous, heart swelling paean, until at last the recording fell into the well-remembered musical strains of the Overture’s opening.
The author hurried to the stereo to restart the piece, listening for five seconds, to seeming silence, then at ten seconds something, triple pianissimo, stirred in the background, at thirty seconds, a choir was stirring, building, building, until at ninety seconds they were most definitely singing, something, the words still unclear but beautiful beyond description, until at two minutes a magnificent chorus was in full flight, rushing to a tremendous finale, before falling into orchestral notes of the Overture's beginning.
Mighty Lord, preserve us from jeopardy. Take thee now our faith and love, thine inheritance. Grant vict’ry o’er our treacherous and cruel enemies, and to our land bring peace. O Mighty Lord, hear our lowly prayer, and by Thy shining, holy light, Grant us, oh Lord, peace again. O Mighty Lord hear our prayer and save our people. Forever, forever.
Surely, now you would like to hear it. Well, here is the youtune link:
Do the words sound at all familiar?
Does their sentiment remind you of page 158 of The Land Between Flowing Waters?
Here is Kmonokwe’s prayer before the Odawa and Neshnabe warriors leave to fight General Hull’s Army:
The author cannot, of course, ever read this passage without the hymn rising in the background. higherge from the dining hall situated between the dormitory towers, off.