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Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

30 November 2005
  If Music Be the Food of Love ...
How Many Lutherans Would Starve?

Lake Wobegon Loyalty DaysDr. Veith's musings on the Lutheran-based humor of Garrison Keillor (which were triggered by his own comments on Lutheran Invisibility) got me thinking about my personal favorite of Keillor on Lutherans. I refer to The Young Lutheran's Guide to the Orchestra, in which he carefully evaluates which instruments are suitable for the heirs of Wittenberg to play.

A number of sites list it, I'll point you to a couple after a few quotes, including comments on some of the individual instruments.

Intro: "To each person, God gives some talent such as comedy, just to name one, or the ability to suffer, and to some persons God has given musical talent, though not to as many as think so. So for a young Lutheran considering an orchestral career, the first question to ask yourself is, 'Do I have a genuine God-given talent, or do I only seem talented compared to other young Lutherans?' Because most Lutherans aren't musicians, they're choir members. Mostly altos and basses. And they can be sure that their gift is God-given, because who else but God would be interested? Nobody goes into choir music for the wrong reasons. But orchestra... do you know what you're getting into? You're getting into opera for one thing. Don Juan and Mephistopheles, pagan goddesses screeching and being strangled and thrown off balconies. And even if you stick to concert music, where are the Christian composers? Modern ones are existentialists, the romantics were secular humanists, the 18th century was all rationalists, and the 17th were Italian except for Bach. And you can't make a living playing Bach."

French Horn: "In some orchestras, the horn players are required to be celibate — sometimes by their wives."

Clarinet: "Many Lutherans start out playing clarinets in marching band and think of it as a pretty good instrument and kind of sociable. You pick up a clarinet, and you feel like getting together with other people and forming an 'M'. But the symphonic clarinet is different: clever, sarcastic, kind of snooty."

Oboe: "You start playing the oboe, you're going to have babies, take my word for it."

Flute: "It's like soloing on a pop bottle. The problem with the flute is that it vibrates your brain, and you start wearing big white caftans and smocks and eat roots and berries."

Bass: "A very deliberate instrument ... bass players do tend to be more methodical, not so spontaneous or witty or brilliant necessarily, but reliable. Which makes the instrument appealing to German Lutherans."

Viola: "I know violists and they're okay until late at night, they like to build a fire in a vacant lot and drink red wine and roast a chicken on a clothes hanger and talk about going to Mexico with somebody named Rita."

First Violin: "Did our Lord say, 'Blessed are they who stand up in front and take deep bows for they shall receive bigger fees?'"

Tuba: "The tuba player is normally a stocky, bearded guy whose hobby is plumbing. The only member of the orchestra who bowls over 250 and gets his deer every year and changes his own oil. In his locker downstairs, he keeps a pair of lederhosen for free-lance jobs."

Trumpet: "[Trumpeters] want to wear capes and swords and tassels; they want to play as loud as they can and see mallards drop from the ceiling."

Percussion: "There are two places in the orchestra for a Lutheran and one is the percussion section."

Harp: "It's an instrument for a saint. If a harpist could find a good percussionist, they wouldn't need anybody else. They could settle down and make perfectly good music, just the two of them."

For the full text, head to Boys Art Music, where you can order the CD Lake Wobegon Loyalty Days: A Recital for Mixed Baritone and Orchestra or download the libretto in ZIP or binhex.
 
Comments:
Garrison has a good ear for the nuiances of real life. I just don't believe he was a Lutheran in his life before comedy and radio. I've been listening to him for nearly 30 years and he tended toward the "gospel" type of music rather than the Lutheran Hymnal type of music. I think that he writes about Lutherans just because there are so many of us in the midwest.
 
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