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Reviews Written by
Timothy Kearney (Haverhill, MA United States)

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Idyll Banter: Weekly Excursions to a Very Small Town
Idyll Banter: Weekly Excursions to a Very Small Town
by Chris Bohjalian
Edition: Hardcover
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Book About A Small Town and Life in General, April 19 2004
For most people, Chris Bohjalian is best known as a novelist with books such as THE BUFFALO SLODIER and MIDVIVES to his credit. The people of Lincoln, Vermont and the vicinity probably best know Bohjalian as a columnist for THE BURLINGTON FREE PRESS. Now readers outside of Vermont can read and appreciate his reflections in small town life in IDYLL BANTER, a collection of these columns.
Bohjalian is hardly the first person to leave a major city and find a different pace to life in a small town. He is also not the first writer to explore life in a small town. The essays do not include tried and true clichés but rather give an honest and refreshing look at life in general. Most of the essays are upbeat and thought provoking. Bohjalian is involved in each of them, yet the book is not about the author and his family. Rather the author and his family give perspective to Bohjalian's observations. Perhaps the most moving passages in the book can be found when he talks about the Church where he worships and the his reflections on the town cemetery
The book will appeal to a wide variety of readers, but it is my guess that people involved in teaching and public speaking will probably find the book useful. People involved in preaching and ministry will also find in the book excellent sermon and homily starters.

Psalms for the Soul
Psalms for the Soul
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Muiscal Rendition of the Psalms, April 19 2004
This review is from: Psalms for the Soul (Audio CD)
To some extent, the title of this collection PSALMS FOR THE SOUL is a bit oxymoronic. The psalms that are set to music in this collection are from the Bible, and therefore all psalms from scripture would be psalms for the soul, so to speak. I would imagine that the person who came up with the title was trying to market the recording to a broader public than just those who would purchase a religious CD and thought it would be catchy. But I digress and should not poke fun of the people of Naxos who do a tremendous service to classical music lovers by providing a wide variety of music at affordable prices.

This collection contains musical settings of the psalms. Some of the settings are anthems from the Anglican tradition. Other settings are more liturgical stemming from the Benedictine monastic tradition. Some of the settings are contemporary, others traditional. The Choir of St. John's under the direction of Noel Edison and organist Michael Bloss, performs the pieces with both beauty and reverence.
This collection is relaxing. It makes wonderful background music while concentrating and could also be used as in prayerful reflective settings as well.

For Me and My Gal (Bilingual) [Import]
For Me and My Gal (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Judy Garland
Offered by MusicMoviesAndMore
Price: CDN$ 14.89
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4.0 out of 5 stars Finally Available on DVD, April 7 2004
FOR ME AND MY GAL could easily be categorized as promotion for supporting World War II. It was released in 1942 when the United States entered the war and support was strong, but still needed some help from outside sources. FOR ME AND MY GAL more than does its part for the war effort. It tells the story of two hopeful Vaudeville stars who want to reach the big time. Harry (played by Gene Kelly) will do anything to get to the top. The only thing that seems to stop him is his love for his dancing partner Jo (played by Judy Garland). Jo looses her brother in battle. Within minutes of hearing the news she learns that Harry injured himself on purpose to avoid World War I. She gets so angry at Harry's selfishness she vows never to see him again. Harry realizes both the error of his ways and his love for Jo and vows to be a hero. In true Hollywood fashion, Harry becomes a hero and he and Jo are reunited. At the end of the movie, people are encouraged to buy war bonds.
The film is predictable, but so are most Hollywood musicals. Kelly and Garland are excellent partners, and both are believable in their roles and add a depth to the film that lesser stars would be unable to do. We love the sweetness of Jo and Kelly is a believable semi-scoundrel, a role that he seems to master in this film and others. The dancing sequences are excellent and Busby Berkeley's direction captures interesting angles that highlight Kelley's talent. As predictable as the story may be, both Kelly and Garland give wonderful performances and make the movie come to life.
Movie buffs will love the fact that this film is now on DVD. Garland fans will enjoy John Fricke's commentary on the film as well as the shots that were not included in the final cut of the film. The Fricke commentary speaks not only of Garland, but Kelly, Berkeley, Fried, and others involved in MGM musicals of the time. This feature alone is worth the price.

Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths
Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths
by Bruce Feiler
Edition: Hardcover
60 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Feiler Again Gives Readers Much Food for Thought, April 7 2004
In late 2002, The Miami Book Fair was broadcast on C-Span. One segment had a panel which included Bruce Feiler. When I heard some of the titles of the books Feiler has written, particularly his book on the circus, I found him rather interesting, but wondered what he would have to say about his scriptural subjects. Well, all a person has to do is read his either WALKING THE BIBLE or ABRAHAM and one will quickly realize that Feiler gives the reader ample ways to look at faith and scripture.
In ABRAHAM, Feiler looks at the "father in faith" of three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and explores the ways each of the three faiths uses the story of Abraham. Feiler shows how each faith tradition uses the same basic story but interprets it in different ways. Feiler not only shows the different ways in which the Abraham story is interpreted, but also how these interpretations have often led to divisions as well. In light of the present world situation, Feiler's observations could be prophetic and could lead to a better understanding of that which decides so many.
The book is written from a perspective of faith, which is probably its greatest strength. Feiler has a great appreciation of scripture and seems to make a great effort at finding authorities on Abraham that are both experts and people of faith. For this reason, the book gives the reader a great deal to ponder. Readers also see that Feiler himself is journeying in his faith: he is both rediscovering the faith of his childhood and discovering a more vibrant mature faith. His ability to bring in his own experiences while not making the book about himself is admirable and allows the reader to become engaged in the book and perhaps see their own spiritual journey.
Readers should note that while this book is carefully researched, it is not a scholarly work and there are a few small errors in the book, but the errors are small and do not detract from the overall message of the book.

"The Typewriter"--Leroy Anderson Favorites
"The Typewriter"--Leroy Anderson Favorites
Offered by @ ALLBRIGHT SALES @
Price: CDN$ 47.99
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Recording of a Lovable American Composer's Music, April 7 2004
I've always loved the music of Leroy Anderson. It has a magical quality that tends to pull a person right into the piece. For example, who, when listening to "Sleigh Ride," does not imagine going on a ride through the snow in Vermont on a winter's day? Titles such as the" Waltzing Cat," "The Syncopated Clock" and "Belle of the Ball" all sound as their titles imply. While the music could be termed 'light classical," musicians playing the pieces have to be versatile as the solo parts for works such as "Bugler's Holiday" and "Clarinet Candy" easily demonstrate.
I will have to admit, when it comes to Anderson's music, usually no one beats the Boston Pops, especially under the direction of Arthur Fiedler. For many years Anderson was a collaborator of Fielder's and many of the Pops best known arrangements are those of Anderson. Perhaps this is why the Boston Pops performances of Anderson's music have an authentic feel to them. Yet if there is a close second to The Boston Pops' performances, it would be this collection by Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony. Slatkin has a love and appreciation for the music and lead the orchestra in a competent and enjoyable manner.
This collection includes many of Anderson's favorites such as "Blue Tango," "Phantom Regiment," "Trumpeter's Lullaby," and "Fiddle Faddle" as well as many of Anderson's lesser known works. Which make the collection a real treat.

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4.0 out of 5 stars A Wagner Opera That Could Possibly Please Everyone, April 2 2004
This review is from: Rienzi (Audio CD)
Most people do not associate Richard Wagner with having an "Andrew Lloyd Webber" period in his life, but his early operas were magnificent showpieces for the French opera stage that could best be compared with contemporary theatrical works such as CATS, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, or other great stage extravaganzas. The influence of composers such as Halevy and Mayerbeer can be found in some of his earlier works, particularly RIENZI. As a matter if fact, there are similarities between techniques of LA JUIVE in this opera. While some may scoff at this, some musicologists see similar techniques of LA JUIVE used in one of Wagner's most beloved works, DIE MEISTERSINGER.
For most opera fans, RIENZI is all but unknown. It does have a powerful overture and a great tenor aria "Allmacht ger Vater" (Rienzi's Prayer), but other than these two pieces, most people are not familiar with the work. It is a large scale work that requires many great voices, has scenes that include soldiers, crowds, and monks. The plot is long and convoluted and includes drama such as power struggles, family loyalty, star crossed lovers, and even an excommunication. Naturally the opera ends tragically with Rienzi and his sister Irene perishing. While the plot is not as sophisticated as his later works, Wagner's music creates drama. Though we do not hear the leitmotifs in this work that we begin to find in works such as HOLLANDER, Wagner's music is challenging for the performers. We also see the roots of Wagner's rich orchestration, as well as his ability to create a full evening of theatre. At times we may think we are listening to Gounod or Verdi, but in the end we know we are listening to Wagner.
There are not too many recordings of this work available and I took my chances with this recording. The set includes tenor Rene Kollo who is generally considered a good Wagnerian tenor (though not the greatest). I find his voice pleasing and have not been disappointed with his other interpretations of Wagner. I made an excellent choice. Kollo does a superb job. The other soloists are wonderful as well, particularly Siv Wennberg as Irene and Janis Martin as Adriano. The orchestra (Staatskapelle Dresden) under the direction of Heinrich Hollreiser is excellent and the choral parts are powerfully performed.
Every time I listen to this recording I wonder why the work is not revived, but the length and the number of top notch soloists needed make it unlikely that major opera houses will revive it anytime soon, but LA JUIVE was recently revived in Berlin and New York. Maybe a revival of RIENZI is a possibility too.

Dining in the Kingdom of God: The Origins of the Eucharist According to Luke
Dining in the Kingdom of God: The Origins of the Eucharist According to Luke
by Eugene A. LaVerdiere
Edition: Paperback
17 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book by a Practical and Readable Scholar, March 31 2004
Eugene Le Verdiere is a biblical scholar and popular speaker who respects the intelligence of his readers and audience and gives them a great material that is both sustentative and practical. I base this not only on his writings, but also from workshops he has given to religious educators. His book DINING IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD combines scholarly research but presents it in a way that is non-threatening. He assumes the reader has more than a passing knowledge of scripture and is looking for a practical way to understand the Eucharist in Luke's Gospel. La Verdiere divides the book into four major sections: Jesus' early ministry, his journey to Jerusalem, the Last Supper, and his resurrection appearances. La Verdiere sees the origins of the Eucharist in Luke's Gospel not only in overtly Eucharistic texts such as the multiplication of the loaves, the Last Supper, and Emmaus, but also at smaller meals such as his meal with Levi, his encounter with Zaccheus, Martha and Mary, and his famous (or infamous if you are the host) dinners with Pharisees. La Verdiere's treatment of these events shows that Luke's Gospel is truly the Eucharistic Gospel and challenges the way that readers approach the Eucharist and live as Eucharistic people. The book will more than likely appeal to Catholic audiences, but is biblical in nature as opposed to sacramental. The book is written in an easy to read style. It also contains maps to help give the reader as sense of place and tables that summarize information. While the book does not have a scripture index, there are ample footnotes that can help a reader do further research.

The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts
by Israel Finkelstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.25
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Thoeries on Biblical Archaeology, March 31 2004
Dealing with the Sacred Scriptures from a historical point of view is a daunting task, and only those with strong hearts should ever undertake such an endeavor. People generally have opinions before a book is even read, and more often than not read the book either to support or refute a claim. Authors need to be thick skinned to say the least.
My hunch is that Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finkelstein will need thick skins. The two extensively research current biblical archeology in regard to ancient Israel and Judah and look at the scripture in light of these claims. The two challenge a popular and prevalent hypothesis that even though specific historical details may be incorrect, the Bible is basically a sound historical document. Looking not only at the history of ancient Israel and Judah, but also other ancient civilizations, the two challenge much of the historical data in the texts. They also look at small details in stories such as Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, ET. Al. to back up their theories. Some of their claims are that there was no large migration of people which would have made the Exodus improbable, details of nomadic times do not match the stories of the Patriarchs, and the dates of David's reign do not square with a strong and powerful Israel. While the two do not question the religious significance of the great figures of the Hebrew Bible, they do question their historical identities which puts these figures on a mythic scale, not only as larger than life figures who teach us lessons about life, but also in terms of believability. I suppose this could be troubling for some readers, but at this point in time, so many theories about scripture come and go when new finds and discoveries are made, most readers are probbaly used to new ideas that startle and challenge readers. New dicoveries and books really do not shake a person's faith.
As a Christian reader, I am somewhat used to biblical scholars who question the historical accuracy of certain texts. My faith is strong enough that claims such as those in this book will not change my point of view. I will use what is helpful as I do with so many books I read. As I read the work I could not help but wonder if the authors do for the Hebrew Scriptures what authors such as Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan do for the Gospels. The book is almost guaranteed to cause controversy. Personally their findings are interesting, and deserve to be taken seriously, especially since the book is well written by two scholars who know their subject and have done ample research. Their research also helps people in exegetical work as far as dating texts would be concerned. Their work also stirs debate which means that the texts have to be examined and interpreted in order to be relevant today. This is not a bad challenge for ancient texts, especially texts that are ancient yet still are living.
Now, as a person who uses scripture both personally and professionally on a daily basis, I would urge some caution when reading this book. Often when a book such as this is written, especially a book that is researched as much as this one is, it often becomes the "final word", and please pardon the pun, "biblical truth." This remains the case until the next book is published, containing all the available research that is current at the time, and often has very different conclusions. In the future another book may be published that will refute the claims of this book. Since new theories and discoveries frequently arise, these findings may not be the final word. The book is worth buying and definitely worth reading, even if you do not agree with all of its conclusions, and should provide much information that can be helpful in preaching, teaching, Bible study, and other forms of ministry.

Arias And Scenes
Arias And Scenes
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5.0 out of 5 stars Rare Offenbach Muisc is a Real Gem, March 28 2004
This review is from: Arias And Scenes (Audio CD)
Jacques Offenbach was a composer who was popular in his day, but his music was not taken all that seriously by more serious composers. After his death, much of his music went into obscurity. Some of the overtures to his operettas survived, as did LA BELLE HELENE and his opera THE TALES OF HOFFMAN, but to this day he is under performed to say the least. While some of his music was adapted for the ballet Gaite Parisienne, if we look at his musical output, all that is remembered of this composer is all relatively small. This is perhaps why this recording by Anne Sophie Von Otter and Les Musiciens du Louvre is such a goldmine.
The disc contains scenes from some Offenbach operettas such as LA BELLE HELENE, LA GRANDE DUCHESSE DE GEROLSTEIN, and LE PERICOLE as well as some of his lesser known works. While most of the music showcases Ms. Von Otter's talent, she is also accompanied by other soloists and a chorus, all of whom perform exceptionally well. Listeners are not only exposed to lesser known works of this composer, but also to the composer's many talents. When we listen to this music, it is not too much of a stretch to see how he could create the masterpiece of TALES OF HOFFMAN (yes, the barcarolle is included).
Certainly people who enjoy this recording will hope that there are revivals of other Offenbach operettas on stage and maybe studio recordings so this great composer can finally have his due.

Best of Operetta Vol. 1
Best of Operetta Vol. 1
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Introduction to Operetta, March 28 2004
This review is from: Best of Operetta Vol. 1 (Audio CD)
An analogy describing operetta music could be as follows: operetta is to serious classical music as bubble gum pop tunes are to the music of the Beatles. While many opera fans enjoy operetta, it is not seen as all that serious, yet the musicianship that is required to perform many of the showpieces of operetta is the same as that of more serious opera. For this reason, when a full orchestra with competent singers performs operetta music, it is usually worth listening to, and this disc is certainly well worth listening to over and over again.
The disc contains showpieces from many of the great operettas including Strauss' GYPSY BARON, Lehar's GUIDETTA, THE LAND OF SMILES, and MERRY WIDOW, and Kalman's GRAFIN MARIZA among others. The Hungarian Operetta Orchestra is conducted by Laszlo Kovacs and the soloists are sopranos Ingrid Kertesi, Zsuzsu Csonka and tenor Janos Berkes. Perhaps the best pieces on the recording are "Fruhlingsstimmen", "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" and the duet from Grafin Mariza. The disc does not give credit to the individual performers, so it we do not know which soprano is performing, but in all cases the voices are strong and beautiful. Berkes' tracks are well performed, but "O Madchen mein Madchen" is not as strong as other pieces he performs, but then again, he has great competition from other tenor greats who have attempted many of these pieces. In most cases, he performs admirably.
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of this disc is the authenticity. Many operetta recordings include excerpts from studio recordings of the entire work. This recording seems to be a studio recording where the pieces are performed individually, but the listener would not know this from the overall quality. The disc also contains liner notes that provide the lyrics of the pieces performed, which is an added benefit to this disc.

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