Video Clips

Blog May 2010

Today is Trinity Sunday, and if wasn't such a busy time of year in school, and if I was better organised, I'd have compiled loads of resources for the occasion. Oh well. Have a look at that beautiful Trinity picture on the home page, and there's a curious Trinity video on the spoken word videos page (Jesus B.C.). My favourite Trinity song is "Lord of Love" sung by Michael Card and Charlie Peacock - first track on the Coram Deo album - the song can be previewed here.

Had to watch that ending of Lost again! And still very moving. (See clip on left) And what about that beautiful background music - simple but effective.
Interesting that in its final moment the show opted for what's a largely religious approach. The main characters from the show gather at a church, which apparently is some sort of Limbo or Purgatory state, before they move on to the afterlife. One character, a man with the significant name of Christian Shephard (!), opens the door to reveal a heavenly light, as the characters take their seats in the church as if for a service. The light pervades the church in a beautiful optimistic moment. These scenes, and the earlier scenes where the characters re-unite emotionally in this most attractive of afterlife scenarios, are intercut with scenes of Jack dying. It's not that the characters were dead all the time on the island (at least I don't think so) - but that they all died at various stages on or off the island, and find each other in this "church" state where time doesn't matter and they prepare to move on together. It seems like a Christian church - there's a large welcoming statue of Jesus outside and most of the imagery is Christian, even Catholic, but the ante-room where Jack Shephard meets his deceased father features symbols and icons from many religions - in particular there's a stained-glass window with the symbols of the major religions - suggesting perhaps that there's room in heaven for people of good will from all faiths. I could see myself using this scene, as a discussion starter in RE class when dealing with the afterlife, and it has already sparked some discussion in class. There's also a lovely scene just before they go into the church where Ben (one of the show's nasties, who achieves a measure of redemption) asks Locke (one of the show's most enigmatic characters) for forgiveness and gets it very graciously. Definitely a good one for forgiveness and reconciliation themes.
[Added 1/6/10 - video clip of this scene now on videos page]
I mustn't get carried away however. The show doesn't coincide neatly with orthodox Christian thinking. There doesn't seem to a consistent purification process in this purgatory state. Some of the characters have very serious morality deficits that aren't really sorted out (murder, promiscuity and more), more a case of them being ignored. But I do like the way a good character like Hurley can find the residual goodness in Sayid, who is very down about the evil he has done. The most obvious omission in this afterlife scenario is God, unless we are to take "Christian Shephard" as some sort of God figure as well as being Jack's father, or unless we are to take Hurley as some sort of rotund Jesus figure. Maybe one could assume that the next phase in this death experience is to meet God, and I suppose it's not surprising that the programme makers didn't get too explicit about such a meeting.
Looking at reaction on the web it's evident that many fans were disappointed at the ending, but I don't share that. Some complain that all the questions were not answered, but isn't that ambiguity what gives the show its appeal? One of the most puzzling things for me was what to make of the alternate life scenarios we've been getting for the characters throughout this 6th series. It was a clever move for the script writers who haven't been content to sit on their laurels. In early seasons we got to see lots of flashbacks, telling us about the character's backstories. Then, in a startling move, it was flashforwards to how some of the characters got on when they managed to leave the island. Later we had time-shifting. Finally in series 6 we saw the characters having alternative lives - where they all met and interacted, but in different ways (impossible for the casual viewer to follow!). Gradually however this seemed to be a façade, one that in some way the characters created as a way of finding each other again (as Christian Shephard implies) and one that crumbled away as characters remembered their island lives - sometimes remembering how they died, and realising, with remarkable calmness and serenity that they were dead. But even in death there was solidarity, the bonds of friendship surviving death and becoming even stronger. That "church" reunion scene resonates with what we'd all aspire to - meeting those we love as we move into the afterlife.

Well, I'm reeling. Just after watching the final episode ever of US drama series Lost, and what a finish! Just a few initial reactions here. I'll return with a more detailed analysis.
It was one of the most hotly anticipated finales for years - even deserving of a schedule change from Sky and RTE 2 to bring it more in line with the American showing. It even got a mention on today's Morning Ireland on RTE Radio 1. Over its six impressive seasons it has had many religious themes. In this final double episode there was plenty of that - a very prominent role for a character called Christian Shephard, a statue of Jesus very prominent, a reference to Moses' burning bush, an answered prayer to escape the island, and a final, emotionally charged gathering in a church, one that seemed Christian and yet had symbols of many faiths, and seemed to border on heaven!
There were moving themes of faith, hope, love, sacrifice, forgiveness and redemption, and most of all some credence to the afterlife speculation that has followed the show from early on. The final episode exemplified what made the show such a hit - sharp scriptwriting, humour, characters we could care about, excellent acting even in minor roles, spiritual themes, adventure, unbearable tension and food for the brain. I think the hard-core fans will be pleased - they/we will dissect it for quite a while to come!

Managed to get to the Don McClean concert in the new Grand Canal Theatre last week. I was always a fan, but my appetite for his music was whetted by the recent "Ar Stáitse" concert on TG4 - see entry below for 1/5/10). In that entry I wrote about the religious themes in American Pie, which of course he performed on the night. It was going around in my head for days. Other songs of his also had spiritual themes. I'd always thought Genesis (In the Beginning) was an arrogant kind of song - "We have grown, we have captured the throne of the kingdom God made". But hearing it live and paying more attention to the words I'm not so sure. You could read it as a criticism of the arrogance of people, or a tribute to our maturing - the kingdom is described as one "God made for our winning". The song starts promisingly - "In the beginning there was nothingness and God but waved his hand/and from the endless void there sprang the beauty of the land", but I'm not so sure how God or humankind comes out of this line: "man was but a molecule that God had left behind". The Adam and Eve story is retold in a traditional fashion, but a warning, that sounds like a reference to original sin, is sounded ("though the father sets the price, the children pay the cost"). That warning is echoed in the chorus ("our children alone/have so little time left for beginning.") That might seem to support the idea that we are being criticised for not developing a kind of world that's helpful to our children. Jerusalem used that city as symbol of unity between faiths, though the ideas were more simplistic than is usual for McLean - "The markets and the alleys, the temples and the tombs. A place for all believers, it has so many rooms."
Apart from his own songs McLean performed a respectful version of an old Rev Gary Davis spiritual Keys to the kingdom, - "I've got the keys to the kingdom,/The world can't do me no harm",. He captured the righteous anger in Bob Dylan's Masters of War : "For threatening my baby/Unborn and unnamed/You ain't worth the blood/That runs in your veins." And includes a Biblical flavour - "Like Judas of old/You lie and deceive". But there's an understandable forgiveness deficit - "even Jesus would never/Forgive what you do". Homeless Brother (see clip above) is one of my favourite McLean songs - full of compassion for the homeless, and Jesus gets a mention here too - "Somewhere the dogs are barking and the children seem to know/That Jesus on the highway was a lost hobo". One could argue with that description but no doubt it is respectful and sincere. I've been listening to the "Homeless Brother" album of late after many years. That features a version of Crying the Chapel (remember the Elvis version?). I used to think that was an irreverent send up of tacky and sentimental religious songs, but now I'm not so sure. Now I find more heart in it.
In general the concert was enjoyable but while the new venue is impressive I thought the sound could have been better. And while it was good to hear such a wide range of songs, I was puzzled that there was nothing from his new album "Addicted to Black". Though it was on sale in the foyer it wasn't even mentioned. Hardly a vote of confidence from the artist! The backing group was musically proficient, but somehow I felt that a certain spark was missing.

Recently I was trying to think of musical resources for the theme of forgiveness and reconciliation and came up with a few ideas. Would love to hear more from anybody. Many of the songs are available on YouTube, iTunes, 7Digital etc. Some could probably be streamed live in class through the likes of Lastfm or Spotify, though I haven't tried these in class yet.
Sometimes having done the Sacrament of Reconciliation I use these songs in a prayer service or just at the end of class. Healing of the soul in general features in the calming song Healer of My Soul by John Michael Talbot. It's on his "Signatures" album and on the album "Brother to Brother" where Talbot duets with Michael Card. Only in God, also on the "Signatures" album implies reconciliation with God - "Only in God is my soul at rest". Where Do I Go, sung by Ashley Cleveland and Gary Chapman on the excellent "Songs From the Loft" album covers similar ground. Tell It All Brother is a little known song recorded by Kenny Rogers when he did music with an edge with the First Edition group (before the awful Lucille!) - mightn't be to everybody's taste but great for the confession theme (listen to the song above).
Under the Rug
(video clip on left) by RandyStonehill uses the title metaphor to convey the way we sweep our sins under the rug instead of dealing with them. In Paradise by Sal Solo (saw him giving a great concert in Rathmines church a few years ago) tells the story of the reconciliation of the good thief on the cross. It's on Solo's album "Look at Christ", which is hard to find, but well worth tracking down - it's a light rock version of the Rosary, though it wasn't marketed as such, I presume to appeal more widely than just a Catholic audience.

Last week American singer-songwriter Don McLean featured in TG4's Ar Stáitse - a great new series featuring well-known performers in concerts from the seventies. These are films which have been gathering dust in the RTE archives and have been cleaned up for the series. What a nostalgia trip! The McLean concert showed up the main fault with the series - the episodes are too short! Here we had what was probably a two-hour concert whittled down to less than thirty minutes - we didn't see him play the banjo he brought on stage and the ending of his best known song, American Pie, was cut off by the continuity announcer! Grouching aside the music was great - McLean was at his best when singing beautifully crafted songs of human interaction - we got only two of them in this show, the yearningly optimistic If We Try ("something yearns within to grow beyond infatuation"), and the poignant Empty Chairs ("although you said you'd go/Until you did I never thought you would"). There were some good-time songs like Lovesick Blues and the inevitable American Pie - it would take quite a while to decipher all the imagery in that one, and I'm sure thousands of words have been written trying just that. And there's plenty of religious imagery, not surprising for a guy that got a Catholic education, though it's not easy to detect the faith perspective. "Do you have faith in God above?" sounds like the renewal of Baptismal promises, but almost immediately the songwriter takes a different line and asks "Can music save your mortal soul?" It seems as if music becomes a kind of religion to the dedicated fans - "I went down to the sacred store/Where I'd heard the music years before". Yet there's also the suggestion that even God was sad when early rock singer Buddy Holly died - "the three men I admire most:/The father, son, and the holy ghost,/They caught the last train for the coast/The day the music died." (Three men?).