How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place


Michael Murphy, my dear friend and esteemed colleague, and I don’t agree on very much.  He likes thin women, I prefer them plump.  He loves Guinness Stout.  I think it’s vastly over rated, and prefer Theakston’s Old Peculiar for my tipperwhacky of choice.  He likes Bourbon, I prefer Irish.

You get the idea.

But it is in the area of music that our differences are most pronounced.  Michael is a jazz guy with a profound knowledge of the genre.  I like classical.   He likes James Taylor; I have no use for James Taylor (although his boxed set makes an admirable paper weight).  I love Gene Clark; he once called Gene Clark a Roy Orbison wannabe.  Ouch.

And then there is Brahms.  In my opinion, Brahms was the greatest composer of the 19th century, even greater than Beethoven.  My love for the dark fires of the man’s music runs deep.  The D minor piano concerto and the German Requiem are pieces I can listen to over and over again.  And I have; many, many times.  The second movement of the B flat piano concerto was the inspiration for this poem. (I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself–comments invited).

Michael doesn’t like Brahms.

This has led to an interesting state of affairs at our cigar store that has been dubbed by the owner as the “Music Wars”.   More than once I have gone out with a Brahms piece on the CD player, say, the Piano Quintet in F minor, only to return with Miles Davis playing.

“Uh, Michael, this doesn’t sound like Brahms”.

“It is, Smitty.  It’s late Brahms.  I’ll be you didn’t know he experimented with Jazz idioms late in life.”

Of course, I bide my time and wreak my revenge.  As soon as Mikes back is turned, Art Blakey is supplanted by the Cello Sonata in E minor.

“Smitty, this doesn’t sound like Art Blakey.”

“It is, Mike.  Early Art Blakey.  Most people don’t know he was an accomplished cellist.”

Given our many differences, it’s amazing we’re even friends at all.  But friends we are.  Mike is one of those people who makes the workday go by quicker and far more enjoyably.  I miss him on his day off.

And of course, he is my blogging mentor, although I’m not sure he wants to cop to this.  No teacher ever had a more irksome pupil.  But through it all, he is there for me. He give me words of encouragement and an occasional kick in the ass, and always knows when I need which.  He continues to believe in me, as a writer and a blogger, even when I have stopped believing in myself.

And because of our friendship I found his reluctance to embrace Brahms most troubling.  It bothered me deeply that my dear friend walked in darkness in this regard.  Clearly I owed it to him to bring to the path of enlightenment.

I knew this would not be an easy task.  Many attempts were rebuffed.  His cavalier dismissal of the Intermezzo in C sharp minor was particularly disheartening.  But one day, he showed a chink in his armor.  It was during the aforementioned second movement of the B flat piano concerto that he looked up, and said,

“That was a pretty impressive keyboard run”.

“Did you really like it?”, I asked.

“Yeah, it was pretty good.”

“Do you want to hear it again?”

“Nah, I’m good”.

A chink in the armor.  Too small to exploit, perhaps, but it gave me hope.

And then one day:  a miracle.  I honestly forget how we got into this, but Michael mentioned to me that he was once in a high school chorus that performed “How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place” from the Brahms Requiem.

This was news indeed.  Now, unlike most of you, I’ve actually heard Michael sing, and he does have quite a set of pipes, but the German Requiem presents a challenge for a professional choir, let alone one made up of teenagers.  I was impressed.  I was also skeptical.

As it turns out, I have the German Requiem on my iPod.  Ironically, the only reason I have either an iPod or an iTunes account is because of Michael, but I’ve already covered that one.

And so, still skeptical, I brought the iPod into work one day.

“Is this the piece?”, I asked, and let him listen on my iPod.

“Yeah, that’s the one!  I haven’t heard this in years.”  His face instantly brightened and I knew I had him.

iTunes is a remarkable thing.  I had always assumed that it was just for kids, and how wrong I was.  There are no less than FOURTEEN different versions of the German Requiem available on iTunes.  Just for kids?  Hardly.

And one of the nice things about iTunes is that you can gift music to others.  Just click the little bow, and voila!  You’ve given the gift of music.  And so with a click of my mouse the Brahms German Requiem was on its way to Michael.

A few hours later, I got this email: “hey Dude-
Just downloaded the Brahms…It is a wonderful piece of music that I will enjoy for many years to come.”

Welcome to the light, my friend.  Now if I could only get you to appreciate Thomas Tallis. ;>)


14 Responses to “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place”

  1. April 27, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    I think Tallis will be a pretty tough sell with me.

    Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

    The castrato thing is just plain wrong for so many social (and physical) reasons. {OUCH!}

    Actually, castrati were far more common in Italy. They rarely appear in English choral music.

    The Brahms Requiem is a piece of music that should be heard by everyone, IMHO.

    Hmmm. Strong words, coming from you. I never thought I’d hear you say them. 😉

    The jury is still out on the soprano movement though. 😉

    Have you listened to the last 1:30 like I told you to? Hmmmm?

    Thanks so much for the linkLuv and the wonderful picture. (and the Requiem!)

    My pleasure. It was fun to do, and to write. I’m glad you liked the Requiem. I had a feeling you would.

    Do I have the beginnings of a pedo-smile? Yoiks.

    Not even goin’ there……

    Peace, my brother.
    Post something else this month, okay?
    Fucking slacker . . .

    Yeah, I love you too, Lasagna Boy. 😉

  2. 2 Sam
    April 27, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    If anything, this post makes me really want to go home and check out Brahms Requiem. And a little nudge towards getting an Ipod. Maybe not. 😀

    Believe it or not, I’ve actually come to really like the stupid thing. Part of my initial antipathy lay in the mistaken belief that iTunes was only for kids. Boy, was I wrong. Fourteen different versions of the Brahms Requiem was enough to convert me. 😉

    By all means check out the Brahms Requiem, and any other Brahms piece you can get your hands on. I’ll be happy to advise you. 😉

    Thanks for stopping by, Sam. Always a pleasure to see you!


  3. April 28, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    It was the ‘All-East’ Chorus,
    a general High School chorus could never pull a piece like this off.

    Ahh, now THAT makes a little more sense.

    Just wanted to be accurate. 😉

    Always a good decision.

    btw- to my knowledge, no one from my High School had ever gotten in to ‘All East’ before.

    Well, you DO have a set of pipes, I’ll give you that.

  4. May 1, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Love it!!! Welcome back!

    Thanks, enreal. Good to BE back. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  5. May 7, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    When Deathcab for Cutie does a cover, I’ll check it out.

  6. May 11, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Hey Smith,
    I find it really humorous that you are this concerned about your differences in musical tastes. I mean without our differences we would have little to argue about, right? Personally, I like both jazz and classical – though not big on Brahms – I’m more of a Chopin groupie – still, friends are like the proverbial box of chocolates, aren’t they?

  7. May 17, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    I’m tired of looking at the guy wearing the baseball cap.
    Christ in a sidecar.
    Put up a picture of a dead duck or something . . .

  8. May 27, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Hey, wherefore art thou, Mr. Smith?

  9. May 29, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Mr. Smith?
    I have been dead for a good number of years and am tired of looking at this fool masquerading as me. For the love of God, post something . . . a picture of my dead wife, perhaps

  10. June 3, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    How do you spell ‘nudge’.
    Thank God you don’t Twitter . . .
    ~B (back from the dead)

  11. June 10, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    smith, i can’t tell you how much i enjoyed this little snippet into the lives of you and mr. murphy…i can honestly envision you two bantering back forth on these topics all day long…you mentioned thomas tallis at the end…now i’m not familiar with him, but i’m going to go check him out….take care, kim

  12. September 1, 2017 at 6:32 am

    Awesome issues here. I’m very satisfied to look your article.
    Thanks so much and I am having a look ahead to contact you.

    Will you please drop me a mail?

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