John Corson's Blog

for September 12, 2021


Well the bottom fell out today at Windsor Baptist. About thirty of our regulars sat this one out. Some had good reason, some were out of town, about fifteen were unaccounted for. The fear of Covid coming back around is going to keep about ten of our folks out for the rest of the year, I am certain of that. Just when many were starting to come back, the Delta variant has scared them back inside. We have re-instituted parking lot service again and we had eight folks outside, but there were times last year when we had just as many outside as in.

Nevertheless, I am here to report that one of our workers was out, as he was moving his mother out of the hospital and into rehab. A few of our folks have decided that it is always better to vacation at the beach AFTER the kids go back to school as it is, of course, less crowded so we had six of our regulars gone.

So, I am here to report that the bottom basically fell out as far as the attendance is concerned. We were off about 20% of our regular second Sunday of the month offering averages. Also, I am ashamed to report that I wasn't in the game either. I felt as though I was on auto pilot from both before and during the service. I mean I got through it all and had everything set up and going, but I seriously don't remember how I got through it without a hitch.

In yesterday's post, I reflected on my day back 20 years ago when the infamous 9/11 attacks occurred and I had already planned to ramble on about a couple of other things. To have done that would have rendered my two my ardent readers a brain ache as it would have been a long one. So today, let me tell you what is, or was, on my mind.

First, music - in particular Blue Grass music. I had a certain appreciation for that style of music way back in the early 70's when Hee-Haw was a regular Saturday Night program on television. I really enjoyed watching Buck Owens and Roy Clark, particularly Roy Clark as they and their team of co-stars rambled on about life in Kornfield Kounty. The show was inspired by Rowan and Martin's Laugh In but was not limited to the rural mindset, but was centered on country music and rural life. The particular type of country music was both Blue Grass and a touch of Appalachian Folk Music. I started watching it when it went into syndication after two years on CBS, back in 1971. Grandpa Jones used to make me laugh so hard I actually peed myself a couple of times. Archie Campbell and Minnie Pearl were also hilarious in character, but my favorite was Junior Samples and his car dealership with the phone number BR-549.

Anyway, Hee Haw was my real first introduction of Blue Grass and I always associated it with Country Music only in so far as it was, to me, so far removed from the "cry in your beer" country music of Hank Williams, et. al. I liked the beat and I was able to concentrate on the lyrics a lot better than in most other genres. Maybe it's because true and pure Blue Grass is all strings no drums and no piano; free from distractions, I guess.

In the last few evenings while sitting outside on the deck I have been listening to Blue Grass, or, at times, music that I call "toned down Country" like James Taylor or Allison Krauss and Union Station. Maybe I am mellowing in my older years, but Classical music has not lost its flavor with me and now Blue Grass seems to have replaced Classic and Progressive Rock as my area of musical interests.

Now speaking of music in general and classical specifically, I come to a composer who seems to have had a paralleled dimension to me. His name was Robert Schumann.

Born in Zwickau in the small Kingdom of Saxony (now located in Central Germany), was a semi-successful, although not so popular, composer who wrote four symphonies, a large number of piano pieces, a cello concerto, a violin concerto, a couple of major choral works, a few pieces for dramas and a good number of choral works.

Schumann had a sad life, often times he complained of not being able to harness the attention of the people who could help him with commissions and the like. During the summer of 1834, right after Schumann's 24th birthday, he became engaged to 16-year-old Ernestine von Fricken, the adopted daughter of a rich Bohemian-born noble. In August 1835, he learned that Ernestine was born illegitimate, which meant that she would have no dowry. Fearful that her limited means would force him to earn his living like a "day-laborer," Schumann completely broke with her toward the end of the year. He felt a growing attraction to 15-year-old Clara Wieck. They made mutual declarations of love in December in Zwickau, where Clara appeared in concert. His budding romance with Clara was disrupted when her father (Schumann's piano teacher) learned of their trysts during the Christmas holidays. He summarily forbade them further meetings, and ordered all their correspondence burnt.

After a long and acrimonious legal battle with her father, Schumann married Clara in 1840. A lifelong partnership in music began, as Clara herself was an established pianist and music prodigy. Clara and Robert also maintained a close relationship with German composer Johannes Brahms.

Now you would think that this makes for a good ending to a life's story, but Schumann, although successful was not what you would consider prolific enough to be able to make a living with his music. He first suffered from a mental breakdown back in 1833, before Clara entered his life.  He had what his doctors describes as a "severe melancholic depressive episode." These episodes recurred several times alternating with phases of "exaltation" and increasingly also delusional ideas of being poisoned or threatened with metallic items. What is now thought to have been a combination of bipolar disorder and perhaps mercury poisoning led to "manic" and "depressive" periods in Schumann's compositional productivity. After a suicide attempt in 1854, Schumann was admitted at his own request to a mental asylum. There he was diagnosed with psychotic melancholia, he died of pneumonia two years later at the age of 46, without recovering from his mental illness.

Now, what I want to say about Schumann is that he was a creative man with tremendous abilities to put music into the heights. His first three symphonies were truly well received and the critics were nearly unanimous in their approval. The fourth symphony, which was really composed first, but discarded a completed score while finishing the actually first symphony for publication. Both were written in 1841, but it was that fourth that he touched up and published in 1851 that pulls back the curtain into that dark, nearly black portion of Schumann's depressive states. When he first wrote it, it said to be lighter and more transparent in texture. The published revised version was heavier, more stately and "darker," at least as far as the first movement (written in a minor key, which is the mode that many dark works are composed) is concerned.

From 1851 until he attempted suicide in early 1854, most of his compositions were remarkably well written, but mostly "dark." It was after his failed attempt at suicide (he threw himself off of a bridge into the Rhine River in Germany) that he was committed for the remaining two years of his life in the asylum. During those last five years, Schumann had tinnitus and kept hearing a constant A note ringing in his ears. The symphony # 4 was written in a-minor and most of his later works were written in A or A-minor with the minor keys denoting his depressed modes.

One of his masterworks written during this last period was the Incidental Music to Lord Byron's "Manfred". Without going into the whole Manfred play, Byron's mind and Schumann's feelings when he wrote the music, suffice it to say that if you have read Manfred you would discover the mind of Lord Byron, a tormented early Romantic writer to suffered his own serious form of melancholia. Schumann, by writing the music to the play, placed his whole mind and soul into the work and immediately felt the torment that Byron did. It was if Byron entered to body of Schumann and put him into an immediate, black state of despair. The Overture to Manfred sets the stage and by simply listening to this thirteen minute driving force of darkness, you get the sensation that you are entering into a world from which you would never exit.

I was listening to Schumann's first symphony yesterday, the so-called Spring Symphony, which was totally different in mode, texture and drive than the fourth. The second symphony contains elements of unease and neurasthenia as we can already see Schumann exploring states of exhaustion, obsession, and depression. The third, the so-called Rhinish Symphony, was received with mixed reviews, "ranging from praise without qualification to bewilderment". To me, listening in 2021, it comes across as bright and positive. Schumann was inspired to write the symphony after a trip to the Rhineland with his wife. This journey was a happy and peaceful trip, which felt to them as if they were on a pilgrimage. He incorporated elements of the journey and portrayed other experiences from his life in the music. It would be is truly last positive sounding work. He would go on to composed several works, but after the third symphony (really his fourth, since the fourth was really the first), things went downhill.

This is a long diatribe and a way around to saying that I think I fully understand and feel the travesty of Robert Schumann's life. It takes the fourth symphony in a-minor and the Overture to Manfred to set me off. It's not that I sometimes feel like throwing myself off of the James River in order to commit suicide. In fact, I do not suffer from suicide ideation one bit. But, I do suffer from the sadness that comes from a lack of success, or from not hearing a word or two of approval for anything I say or do. It is not that I am looking for the approval of man. But, I am human, and one "at-a-boy" goes a long way to improving my disposition. Most of what I hear in church, around the neighborhood, in the news and within the family is sad, bad, or full of grief. I never hear, "I miss you Dad" from the kids - I do hear "I love you," but missing me really comes across more potently. I never hear "I appreciate what you had to say in the sermon today, Pastor." I never hear a "thank you" from a neighbor whose walkway I may have edged or whose leaves I may have blown out into the street for burning. I hear mumblings before complains, suggestions for the next time instead of you did a good job first. It all makes one want to stop doing for other people.

Robert Schumann wrote music for and performed with his wife, an accomplished soprano soloist and would become a composer in her own right. He has someone who could draw his attention away from the negative. Janice does that for me, but like Clara with Robert, so Janice cannot always be at my side in all of my life's adventures. I suffer a lot of things in silence and I don't have the heart to tell Janice what is wrong with me. Neither did Robert to Clara.

This is why, when I hear his music, I identify with him. After a while of listening to his compositions, I need the Blue Grass!! So, I am glad that I am eclectic in my musical tastes and that means that tonight, when Janice goes to bed at 8pm, I will be out on the deck with anything other than Schumann's music. I have already gone through my melancholia for the day and that was at church. Now I face the week ahead with the hopes that it gets better. And I truly hope that next Sunday will be at least fifty percent better than today., because it was nearly 100 percent worse than last week.

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Blogs are about the blogger. It's as if he or she merely toots their own horns about the things they do, say and love.

My life is boring. I read, I watch Glenn Beck and Mark Levin. I listen to Andrew Wilkow. I engage in some conversation with those who are willing to listen (they being masochistic and enjoy killing themselves with my banter).

I plan on just laying out the things that bother me and the things I love. Nothing in-between. I hope you find whatever I put here amusing.