That’s my new name . . . at least until the end of June.
couple of months ago the Golden Valley Chorus (GVC) of the Barbershop Harmony
Society (BHS) was contacted by the director from the Modesto Performing Arts
(MPA) to see if we had four guys who would like to perform in a production of
the musical classic, The Music Man.
I jumped right on it! It was Meredith Willson’s production of this musical play
where I first heard a barbershop quartet that captivated my interest in this
uniquely American musical genre. Even as a kid I always wanted to sing in a
barbershop quartet. Years later I discovered there’s an entire organization of
barbershop singers (BHS – formerly, SPEBSQSA, Society for the Preservation and
Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America) across the United
States, and in recent years it has expanded around the world. There are
choruses as small as 10, and other choruses that top out at 125 or more. I am a
member of the GVC here in Modesto, California which is a chorus made up of 20
men. I also have a membership with the Alexandria Harmonizers (Virginia) which
boasts 120 or more. My nephew, Josh Roots, sings with these guys as well. I
wrote about singing with the Harmonizers last June as part of the week-long
activities in France celebrating the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. I’m
still basking in the glow of that phenomenal trip.
play first opened on Broadway in 1957 at the Majestic Theatre. The movie came
out in 1962 and had a run of 1,375 straight performances. We were living in
Norway at the time, but we certainly heard about it. We moved back to the States
toward the end of 1963 when I was finally able to see the movie. My
sister-in-law also performed in it with the Dallas (Texas) Repertory Theater.
The quartet that sang in the movie was from one of those big barbershop
choruses located in Dallas – the Vocal Majority. The performing quartet for
both the play and the movie was the Buffalo Bills, who were the International
Quartet Champions in 1950. They are icons within the hallowed halls of
barbershop history and lore.
who is Ewart Dunlop? He is the fellow in the quartet that sings the Lead part
(usually the melody line). That’s my role. I had never paid attention to the
stage names of the quartet until this year when the opportunity presented
itself to be in this Modesto production. The setting for the musical is in a
small town in Iowa in 1912. As a point of interest, Ewart is an old English/Scottish/Gaelic
name which means “guardian of riches.” The literal meaning is “a ewe herder”
(one who leads female sheep). It is a name rarely seen today, and it’s not even
on the top 1,000 names for baby boys today. Nevertheless, my name in the
musical is to be Ewart Dunlop. Very British, don’t you know!
quartet I am in will be primarily singing, but also with some short speaking
parts. The performances will be toward the end of June at the Gallo Center in
Modesto. The dates are June 20, 21, and 26, 27, & 28. The songs in the
musical are ones you are certainly familiar with because they have captured the
spirit of the whole story of Marian the Librarian who falls in love with the
con man and scoundrel, Professor Harold Hill. The songs our quartet will sing
are: Ice Cream/Sincere; Goodnight, Ladies; It’s You; and Lida Rose.
the next two months I will be engrossed in learning to sing these songs with
the three other quartet members. So should you see me in passing, and you
notice that I have a glazed look on my face and my lips are moving but there’s
no sound, you will know that I am going over the songs and speaking parts for
the musical until I’ve nailed it! Not to worry – I’m harmless.
You can find information on the Music Man at www.GalloArts.org,
or call 209-338-2100. Ticket prices run from $19.00 to $34.00.
next part is for the guys . . . If you ever had the thought that you might like
to try singing with a bunch of men, then come join us on a Tuesday evening from
7:00 to 9:30 at Mancini Hall, 718 Tuolumne Boulevard, Modesto. We’ve heard all
the excuses for not coming out and singing. Our favorite is, “I can’t carry a
tune in a bucket!” Trust me! Our director, Mr. Bruce Sellnow, and our assistant
director, Howard Barber, will have you singing and ringing chords in no time. We
have a lot of fun, and so will you!
when you come on a Tuesday evening, don’t call me Ewart!
have wondered at times why I have such a love for the hymns of the Christian
faith. You might be thinking at this moment that I’ve slipped a cog, seeing
that I am a retired pastor from the Free Methodist Church. But hear me out.
a church of any kind while growing up was a rarity. And the one church we did
attend infrequently was not even Christian. It would be classified as a cult,
meaning it had many of the trappings of being Christian but its doctrine clearly
missed the message of Jesus and his love. And the hymns of the faith were not
sung in this place of false worship.
I did not understand why, I found myself drawn to the old hymns even as a
child. The opportunities to hear these blessed songs were few. But even in that
day they were far more often heard on radio and television, and even sung in public
school, than is the case for today. They were part of our secular culture
because of the strong Christian influence that had built this nation of ours.
was a wildly popular singer in that day who was, and still is, a favorite of
mine. He could sing Gospel songs better than anyone else. I have a couple of
his religious albums on 33 LPs and CDs. The singer is none other than Elvis
when I walked into a Christian Servicemen’s Center on September 8, 1972 as a sergeant
in the Marine Corps, the place where I surrendered my heart and life to Jesus,
the hymns became a permanent fixture in my life. Over the next forty years I
had the great privilege to sing in gospel groups, choirs, duets, musical productions
for churches, and acappella singing.
church my wife and I attend is the same one I pastored for sixteen years until
my retirement last May. There are two services on Sunday morning. The service I
prefer is the first one at 8:30. The reason is the singing. It is in that
service that we sing the hymns of the faith that have stood the test of time.
During the offering our pianist played arguably one of the greatest hymns ever
written. It was written by Frederick M. Lehman in 1917. It is entitled, “The
Love of God.” Though this minister wrote more than 100 hymns during his life,
none ever touched the soul with divine inspiration the way this hymn has done
and continues to do.
song is written with three verses and a refrain. But it is the third verse that
is so powerful, speaking of God’s infinite and eternal love for us. Hear these
words in your own soul: “Could we with
ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made, Were every stalk on
earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade, To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry, Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Tho
stretched from sky to sky.” Then the refrain: “O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It
shall forevermore endure – the saints’ and angels’ song.”
story is told of an anti-Jewish priest in Worms, Germany in the 11th
Century who laid out some damning accusations against the Jews of that city.
The king of that city challenged the Jewish leadership to publicly defend
themselves against this vile accusation. If they were successful, they could continue
to live at peace in Worms, otherwise the Jews would be killed. A poem was
written by Rabbi Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai which was read aloud in defense of
their religious faith, saving the day for the Jews. Part of that poem reads, “Were the sky of parchment made, A quill
each reed, each twig and blade, Could we with ink the oceans fill, Were every man
a scribe of skill, The marvelous story, Of God’s great glory, Would still
remain untold; For He, most high, The earth and sky Created alone of old.” Clearly
Fredrick Lehman had read this poem, incorporating some of the same wording into
his now famous hymn.
all been touched by the sinful nature of man, and the evil intent that resides
in the heart, and the horrific actions brought against others. Only God can
eradicate this from our soul. That’s what Jesus came to do.
me conclude with the first verse of this hymn. “The love of God is greater far, Than tongue or pen can ever tell, It
goes beyond the highest star, And reaches to the lowest hell; The guilty pair,
Bowed down with care, God gave his Son to win: His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.”
I love the old hymns, but I love the message even more. It is said that
theologian Karl Barth was asked to summarize his twelve-volume set on church
dogmatics which deals with the theoretical truths of faith concerning God and
his works. His reply? “Jesus loves me,
this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
you been touched by the love of God?
are certain inexplicable events that occur in life that are not easily
explained or resolved. What are frequently identified as miracles are typically
dismissed as being coincidental.
look at this matter of miracles, or the miraculous, then we must first
understand what defines a miracle. “Miracles
are God’s intervention into the natural world – His special work for a specific
purpose.” (5 Minute Apologist, Dr. Rick Cornish, NAVPRESS - 2005).
Old and New Testaments are replete with miracles. The exploits of Abraham, Isaac
and Jacob (Israel) quickly come to mind. But it’s hard to beat all the
miraculous occurrences during the time of Moses. And, of course, you have a
plethora of miracles recorded in the Gospel record of Jesus’ life and ministry –
most notably – the event celebrated at this time of year by Christians – the Resurrection
of Jesus from the dead.
are basically three kinds of people in the world when it comes to the
miraculous. You have those who believe in miracles; those who do not believe in
miracles; and those who don’t know if the odd and strange happenings are
actually miracles or just some of life’s imponderables.
God, the maker of heaven and earth, can perform true miracles. Miracles are
intended to bolster the faith of believers, and to challenge the skepticism of
those who do not believe. What we actually witness in miracles is God throwing
down the gauntlet, asking us to believe what cannot be naturally explained.
who choose not to believe in the existence of God (atheists) must also dismiss any
possibility of miracles. Why do I suggest this? Because the moment the
miraculous is introduced into the equation, by necessity, the existence of One
who is greater must be considered.
the case in all things in this world you have those who are on either end of
the faith/belief spectrum. On the one end, atheists categorically rule out any
possibility of miracles because they open up an element to life that, in their
mind, cannot be explained by natural law. The Ten Plagues which God visited on
the Egyptians were all very real, and supernatural, which could not be easily
explained away, either then or now.
religionists, on the other hand, are quick to attribute every little thing in
life as being miraculous. For instance, I cringe when I hear a news reporter
interviewing someone who is the sole survivor of a deadly tragedy. Invariably,
the comment is made, “God was with me!” Now, I know the person is expressing exuberance
in being alive. That’s perfectly understandable. However, such a statement
troubles me because it makes it sound as though God is playing favorites. Wasn’t
God with the six people who perished?
“Miracles become possible if God
exists because the One who could create a universe would be able to intervene
into His work any way He wanted.”
And not just that, but the Bible declares that God simply spoke everything into
existence. The classic challenge to theists (believers in God and his
existence) is formulated in this question which is designed by unbelievers to
trip up the believers: “Well, if God made
everything, then who made God?”
answer to this question is simple enough. No one made God because he has always
been. He is All Powerful. Again, the Bible often states this rhetorical question:
“Is anything too difficult for God?” Or
put another way, “Nothing is impossible
language used in the Bible regarding God and His power is precise. The wording
is definitive. For instance, throughout the Book of Job, God challenges Job to
consider God’s many attributes in confirming that Job had not been abandoned by
God during Job’s time of testing. Later we see such descriptive terminology
attributed to Jesus, where we read in the Book of Revelation, “I am the Beginning and the End. I am the
First and the Last. I am the Alpha and the Omega. I am the One who was, who is,
and who is to come.” All of these expressions are given to us to help us to
understand that God is, always has been, and always will be.
accepting this premise about the existence of God, then miracles become a
natural phenomenon in the faith journey for the believer. And as such, miracles
not only occur, but are to be expected. You see, miracles are not miraculous to
God. It is the way He chooses to operate in our world. And it’s no big deal to
me leave you with this thought: Consider Miracles!
I ran across a story on the Internet which piqued my interest. However, the
topic initially repulsed me in such a way that I found myself debating with
myself whether or not I really wanted to delve into this macabre historical
suppose at this point I’ve either totally lost you and you are questioning
whether you want to continue reading my article for this week, or you are
intrigued enough to stay with me to find out what in the world I’m talking
about. So, hang on, and you’ll see where I’m going with this.
subject has no specified name or title. It does, however, go by numerous
descriptive terms. The one I believe is most aptly stated is, Post-Mortem
Photography. Memorial Portraiture, Mourning Portrait, Death Portraits and Death
Photography are also common terms for this practice.
painting of dead people has a long history, particularly among the elite class.
Yet even those paintings were performed to have the person appear fully alive.
So when photography began replacing paintings in the mid-1800s, the shift from
painting dead loved ones to photographing the same is not too much of a leap.
It was during the Victorian Era that post-mortem photography came into its own,
not only in England, but all across Europe and America. In many instances, due
to a much higher infant mortality rate, it was not at all unusual for an infant
or small child to have never been photographed at all. A photo image thus
became the memento mori for the
family, a photographic keepsake, if you will. In this way it reminds those
still living that death ultimately comes to us all.
a practice as post-mortem photography to us today seems exceptionally creepy. “During the first few years of its
existence, the daguerreotype--a small, highly detailed picture on polished
silver--was an expensive luxury. As the number of photographers increased
throughout the 1840s, the cost of daguerreotypes diminished. Other, less costly
procedures were introduced in the 1850s, along with novel forms of portraiture
like the ambrotype (on glass), the tintype (on thin, cheap metal), and the
carte-de-visite (on paper). By the 1860s, photographic portraiture was
affordable to virtually all members of society.” (Memento
Mori: Death and Photography in 19th Century America, by Dan
are today many of these photos from the 1800s which clearly show the dead
person in a casket, or seated in a favorite chair, or even posing with living
family members. One picture I found particularly interesting was an elderly man
seated in what appears to be a favorite stuffed chair. He is propped up in an
attempt to make him look natural, dare I say, alive. His two favorite dogs, very
much alive, are curled up on either side of him. Another shot I had difficulty
with was a gaggle of children (six, as I recall), standing in a row from the
oldest to the youngest. The first five children are alive. The sixth and
youngest child has died, yet there she is, propped up in a standing position,
posing with her brothers and sisters.
family that desired to have a portrait in death made of a loved one was facing
possible economic hardship due to the over-the-top costs being charged by
photographers. One factor that made these pictures expensive was geography. Typically
a person to be photographed in the mid-1800s would go to the studio where the
photographer had everything set up. However, with a dead person, the photographer
would have to pack up his gear and go to wherever the deceased was being kept,
usually in the loved-one’s home.
the same time that I was reading about post-mortem photography, I was also
engrossed in one of my favorite genres of books – the Western. Coincidentally,
the western I was reading at that very same time had a character portrayed as a
photographer of the dead. He was creepy and ghoulish and was himself killed in
the story. But in the little town out west where he chose to set up shop, he desperately
wanted to be the first to take a photo of a dead gunfighter who was a shade too
slow on the draw. And if there were any other gruesome deaths he could
photograph, all the better.
as a society we no longer continue this practice of creating photographs of our
dearly departed. Many have speculated as to why this is so. To me it doesn’t matter.
Why? Because this physical body merely transports my soul for a brief time on
earth before it is forced to relinquish my soul and spirit into the bosom of
Jesus, my Lord and Savior.
Apostle Paul fairly shouts in 1st Corinthians 15:55, “Where, O
death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” In Jesus, death no
longer holds us in fear.
celebrates Jesus’s sacrificial death on the cross for you and me. He overcame the
penalty of sin and death by rising again from the dead.
enough with the creepy, morbid, ghoulish visions of death. Because Jesus is
alive, so am I – forever!
Easter is this Sunday, April 5.
For Christians, this specific date each spring
is a time to remember the sacrifice of God’s son, Jesus, who loved us enough to
become the sacrifice necessary to pay the price for our sin. It is a time for
reflection. If God is real, then I must have some connection to him. Therefore,
what are his expectations of me? What are the things I should expect from God? Easter
is also a time of celebration. If Jesus actually is raised from the dead, then
his promise to raise those who followed him by faith is true. We are eternal
beings, meaning we’re going to spend eternity somewhere. The choices the Bible
offers are heaven or hell. And you get to make the choice as to where. It’s all
based upon your relationship with Jesus.
On the other hand, if Jesus did not rise
from the dead, then there is no God, and we are all doomed to a soulless grave.
The atheist will have been proven right that there is no God, and the
evolutionists will no doubt have been correct in espousing that we are simply a
cosmic biological accident. Obviously, as a man who made a very conscious
decision to trust Christ as his Savior during my time in the Marine Corps,
1972, I categorically reject the atheist/evolutionist arguments against the
existence of God.
So, tonight my wife and I watched the
movie, “Killing Jesus,” taken from the book written by FOX newscaster/political
commentator, Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly has done a series of books on the theme, “Killing
(fill in the blank).” He is a former high school history and English teacher
who has become a news celebrity with FOX.
O’Reilly is an avowed Catholic, and makes
no bones about this on air. Perhaps this is why I was disappointed with the
movie, “Killing Jesus.” Now, I understand that he was writing this book from an
historical perspective, and not based upon the truths of the Christian faith. I
But drawing on historical references means
you often accept the testimony of people who may be the only written source for
a given event. For instance, in our high school history class we learned that
Julius Caesar, emperor of Rome 50BC, launched a series of military campaigns
against various Gallic armies in what is today France and Belgium. These armies
were soundly defeated which greatly expanded the Roman territory. However, we
only have one source for this war – Caesar. No one else wrote about the events
of this war. So historians accept one man’s account. That one man was the
victor – Julius Caesar.
I mention this historical anomaly because
major events, in particular the resurrection of Jesus, are nowhere presented in
the movie. Yet hundreds are reported to have witnessed the resurrection. This
is even affirmed by the historian Josephus not even 100 years following the
Further, none of the miracles are shown,
with the exception of a huge catch of fish. Even this was presented as an
answer to prayer which was initiated by Jesus, who looked a bit surprised when
the nets filled to bursting. Later, Jesus has an encounter with a woman and her
son, both horribly infected by leprosy. Jesus has the woman sit in front of him
while he unwraps her face, then he gently wipes her face filled with open
sores. Again, no indication that he has healed the woman or her son.
But it comes back to the resurrection. We
see him miserably treated by the Jewish officials and of course the Romans
under Pontius Pilate. He is lead away to crucifixion. On the cross Jesus utters
his final words, “It is finished.” It was about noon, and the Bible says, when
the sky darkened as if it were night. In the movie? Nothing. Then a Roman
soldier pierces Jesus’ side to determine death right after Jesus had spoken his
last. Again the Bible says Jesus had been dead on the cross for some time
before the Roman soldiers were sent to put all three of the crucified men to
death because the Jewish Sabbath was to start in a few hours and it would be
bad form to have these criminals hanging out there for all the world to see
when religious ceremonies were to take place. That’s when the soldier realized
Jesus had died. To confirm this, he shoved his spear into Jesus’ side up into
the heart. If he wasn’t dead at that point he would have certainly reacted to
the sword thrust.
Most telling in this is that after the heart
stops beating, it takes time for the blood to separate into what we call fluid
(water) and plasma. The fluid looks like murky water, and the plasma is the
thick, sticky red blood substance. Think of vinegar and oil. It has to be
constantly shaken to be mixed, otherwise it separates. The Bible says the fluid
that ran out of Jesus’ wound was blood and water.
And lastly, there is no resurrection of
Jesus portrayed in the movie.
In closing, listen to what the Apostle Paul
writes in I Corinthians 15: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first
importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he
was buried, that he was raised again on the third day according to the
Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas (Peter), and then to the Twelve (Disciples).
After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters
at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep
(died). Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he
appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”
The movie certainly portrayed the killing
of Jesus. They succeeded in that part of the story. But the real good news is
that the story doesn’t end there.
Jesus has risen from the dead. And he’s
coming back! Are you ready? You can be. Confess that you are a sinner and you
will have eternal life with Jesus.