Like a Horse Smelling the Barn

Written by Father Bill 9 Comments

Don’t you just hate it when something like this happens?

Yes, the title of this blog and the photo below it are mixing metaphors.  Maybe.  When one is like a horse that smells the barn, one’s apt to do things like you see in the photo.  Fortunately, I avoided mimicking the photo.  Just barely.  But, I did learn how a horse feels when he smells the barn. 

Just about ten hours ago, Barbara and I returned home after traveling 3,382 miles in 17 days.  We’re already thinking about a trip about twice that length next fall.  Our wee lassie will, Lord willing, be out of high school, established in a university somewhere, and (if we can figure out a way to provide for the two dogs and the cat), we’d very much like to connect with folks in the south-east and along the Eastern seaboard whom we know only via the internet and the use of the curricula we research, write, field-test, and distribute. 

After this trip, several projects loom:

The Anglican jurisdiction I belong to will hold its annual synod at the campus of the parish I pastor, St. Athanasius Anglican Church, week after next.  So next week is full of preparations.

Did King David ever play anything like this?I’ve ordered a dulcimer from a craftsman I met on this recent trip – a retired missionary to Russia – who teaches music as well as building and/or repairing a variety of stringed instruments (dulcimer, violin, cello).  My goal, after learning to play the instrument, is to explore how to deploy it to accompany the singing of English psalm texts to Anglican chants.  David’s psalms were written to be chanted, with accompaniment to a stringed instrument – a lute or a lyre – and I’ve never heard this combination before.  All the CDs of Anglican chant I’ve ever uncovered accompany the singers with an organ, which amounts to adding one more artificial voice to the human chorus.  I don’t know how it will sound to accompany chants to plucked strings; but, I intend to find out.  Anyone want to recommend internet resources for this project?

After conferring with the original group of men in our Men at Worship project, I’ve got a few more projects: to compile a collection of collects (no put intended!) for easy reference as the men prepare their prayers before meeting to worship with other men.  Also, I’ve almost finished pointing the New King James version of the Psalms of David for the same men for the same purpose.  And, they have suggested several topics, issues, and Biblical/theological subjects for short men’s studies (6 to 10 weeks in length). 

Meanwhile, I’ve kept tossing things into my blogfodder folder.  This fall I plan to post far more here than I have been able to do this past summer.  Thanks for all you who keep checking back. 


  1. Rebecca   |  Friday, 12 October 2007 at 10:43 am

    Well, this isn’t what you asked for, but I think your project is exciting, so I’m jumping in with suggestions. I’ve seen listings of all of Isaac Watts’s settings of the psalms with their metrical patterns, and I’m thinking that would be helpful while you’re learning — you could sing his phrasings to whichever tunes you learn first, rather than having to set your own. Also, the dulcimer is usually tuned into different modal tunings (Ionian, Dorian, etc.) rather than the way most other instruments are tuned, and you might find it useful to look up the different tunings as you experiment. You see that I am imagining your starting from the beginning, which may not be the case. I’ll look forward to reports.

  2. Fr. Bill   |  Friday, 12 October 2007 at 11:59 am

    Hi, Rebecca,

    I will, indeed, post intermittant updates on the dulcimer project. The more I learn about it (and I haven’t even gotten the instrument yet!), it appears to be an instrument that is still evolving.

    The tuning, for example. It is indeed tuned to various modes — all of them are available, in fact. But, inventive dulcimer players have developed a way to provide all those missing notes on the diatonic dulcimer fretboard without adding more frets and strings or using capos.

    However, the most “uncharted” territory in this project is developing (from scratch, I fear) a way to play a stringed instrument (in this case, a dulcimer) to accompany the non-rhythmic singing of Anglican chant. All playing on fret-boarded string instruments I’ve ever heard (guitar, bango, mandolin, dulcimer, etc.) has been rhythmic — it had a beat, a meter. An Anglican chant has no rhythm at all. That’s one reason that “chant” is a regrettable term to apply to this form of singing. It is very melodic, it has no rhythm or beat at all. And, so, “chant” is a very odd thing to call it. “Freesong” would be a much more accurate way to refer to it.

    Anyway, I’m going to add a category to this blog called “Dulcimer project” and collect the updates in it.

  3. Kamilla   |  Monday, 15 October 2007 at 4:12 pm

    I hope you survived the weekend (physically speaking) and that it was a blessing (spiritually speaking).

    I keep wanting to say something terribly classist about the first photo – about how only a BMW driver would be so self-involved not to notice what he had ripped off and was dragging along with him – but I would never actually say something like that!


  4. Steve Ramey   |  Friday, 19 October 2007 at 11:42 am

    Bill and Barbara,

    Good to see that you arrived back safe and sound. It was an excellent time with you. Looks like we will continue contact with the group up north, due to your much appreciated time with them.

  5. Fr. Bill   |  Friday, 19 October 2007 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks for the prayers, Steve. And, it’s good to know the good folks up north and you will have further contact.

    Remember that Roni’s still pining away for a good date for pizza! Do you happen to know a handsome young man with red hair who’d make the trip to fulfill her dream of eating Double-Dave’s pepperoni and jalapeno pizza in front of some handsome-young-man-wannabees?

    Meanwhile, we’ve met some interesting Anglicans, including a bishop who is also an Old World Spanish Franciscan monk, a Puerto Rican Anglican Bishop who’s also an Abbot, the very patrician and saintly American retired Abbot of the same order, a Dutch-German Bishop from Pennsylvania, and a bishop who also serves as the Senior Chaplain of the Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani.

    Kamilla, if you had said something like that, it would have sailed right past me. I’m so low-classist when it comes to automobiles, that I didn’t know the car pictured was a BMW. Unfortunately, I’ve gotten so self-absorbed with something else that I’ve left things on top of my car, including wallets, groceries, library books, and once a 44-ounce Big Gulp diet soda. So far, I’ve avoided ripping off filling-hoses from gas stations.

  6. Kamilla   |  Saturday, 20 October 2007 at 3:37 pm

    Aw, you’re in good company then, Bill. It is rumoured that Albert Einstein used to shut his leg in the car door because he kept forgetting to put both in. . . . .


  7. Leigh Ann   |  Sunday, 21 October 2007 at 8:33 pm

    I see you are making friends and influencing people over at the “true womanhood” site:-).

  8. Fr. Bill   |  Tuesday, 23 October 2007 at 8:10 am

    Ah, yes. One learns so much about oneself that way!

  9. Michael McMillan   |  Thursday, 08 November 2007 at 3:16 pm

    Fr. Bill,

    I wish you success with your dulcimer project.

    We used to attend some of the festivals of the “Lone Star State Dulcimer Society,” (out of Irving) which always have a full schedule of workshops of all sorts interspersed among the performances. The Winter Festival is generally around Valentine’s Day, and we would do that as a date in years past. Note the Spring one is in Glen Rose.


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