Chamber Music: The Lost Settings – Poems & Songs

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post on Joyce’s Chamber Music and the research done by Myra Teicher Russel on the lost settings by Geoffrey Molyneux Palmer. Of the many settings that had been created for Joyce’s poems, Joyce liked Palmer’s the best and hoped that he would publish them to go along with his poems. Palmer, however, made no attempt to publish his settings of Joyce’s poems until after Joyce’s death. The post yesterday was biographical. Today’s post is about the poems.

Critics said that the poems in Chamber Music lacked substance. Russel says another way of looking at them is in terms of the “lightness” you find in Elizabethan verses. The images of the beloved in the poems is vague and featureless. Joyce told Nora that the beloved was a girl of his imagination, “fashioned into a curious grave beauty by the culture of generations before her, the woman for whom I wrote poems like “Gentle Lady” or “Thou leanest to the shell of night”. [Italics are Russel’s.]

As in Elizabethan verses, the beloved is impersonal and presented in traditional language. The moods and feelings of the speaker are celebrated and the object of love and desire is the sounding board. There is a suggestion of artifice. Love is a game and the lovesick hero of the poems is in search of an ideal. Music is as much a theme in the poems as is love. In fact, music is everywhere in the poems and there are many references to musical instruments. Nature also plays a vital role in the poems.

The word “air” and its rhyming counterparts occur multiple times (air, hair, there…) and every possible use of “air” is used: air as melody, celestial air, breezy air, pretty air (as in demeanor), putting on airs… Russel says Chamber Music could be called “a book of airs” and that those who wrote Elizabethan verses prior to Joyce would have applauded. (Campion, Dowland, Morley…) Joyce was an excellent student of the generations that came before him.

Joyce wrote to Stanislaus, “It is not a book of love-verses at all, I perceive. But some of them are pretty enough to be set to music. I hope someone will do so, someone who knows old English music such as I like.” Many musicians did set Joyce’s poems to music, but very few were in the old English style that Joyce liked. Palmer, however, understood what Joyce was going for and created music Joyce liked. Palmer was able to capture the gracefulness of each lyric in a way other musicians had failed to do.

Russel says that Palmer’s music belongs to the tradition of the early twentieth-century British art song which is a period sometimes referred to as a second English renaissance in song. He recognized, as did Joyce, that the music had to be well-sung. Because of this, Palmer’s settings require several hearings to be well-listened to as well. As Russel puts it, Palmer’s “settings augment and transform the poems; they become the poems. As in “Greensleeves” or “Danny Boy”, words and music are entwined and inseparable”.

I loved reading Chamber Music and wish I could hear the poems alongside Palmer’s music. I used to play piano and still own one that was recently tuned. Maybe I can brush up on my skills over the next year while studying Joyce and learn to play Palmer’s settings on my own. That would be a fun goal for the New Year! (I am completely incapable of singing them “well”, however.)

Russel mentions some correspondence and an “inferior” Palmer setting housed here in Austin at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas. I’ll put checking that out on my goals for the New Year, too!

Chamber Music: The Lost Settings – Myra Teicher Russel

Myra Teicher Russel found Geoffrey Molyneux Palmer’s songs set to James Joyce’s Chamber Music at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale when she was in her 70s. The Morris Library at the University had the songs for 22 years and said she was the first person to ever ask for them. Palmer had set 32 of Joyce’s 36 poems to music, but despite Joyce practically begging Palmer to publish them, he never did. Chamber Music: The Lost Settings provides the music of the previously unpublished songs along with an introduction by Russel.

Russel was first inspired to look for Palmer’s settings after reading a paper entitled “The Elizabethan Connection: The Missing Score of James Joyce’s Chamber Music”. The premise of the paper was that Joyce’s early poems were patterned after Elizabethan airs and that without the appropriate musical accompaniment, they were incomplete.

Russel says that music was so important to Joyce that he includes it in all of his works and that he reaches his “apotheosis” in the finale of Finnegans Wake, in the “Anna Livia Plurabelle” section.

Her journey in and along with the river Liffey gradually builds into a crescendo, culminating in an allegro giusto as she rushes into the arms of her father, the sea. Somehow, we too are carried along to become part of her rapid, darting movements and the joyous sweep of her reunion, as the passage becomes an amalgam of words and music, a flowing together, quicksilver. It is music, as those who listen to the recorded voice of James Joyce reciting it can verify.

Joyce came from a musical family that considered literature “an aberration from the proper art of music.” Joyce, of course, favored literature above all art, but he was also very musical. He believed the singing voice, especially a tenor, was the highest form of music and as a young man, he loved the “ayres” of Elizabethan composer-lutenists. His brother Stanislaus said Joyce would spend hours copying them in the National Library of Dublin.

Palmer asked Joyce for permission to set the poems in Chamber Music to music in 1907. He was one of the first composers to do so. This initiated a correspondence that continued for 25 years. (Much of the correspondence was amongst the songs that Russel discovered in the Morris Library at Southern Illinois University.) In that time, several people had put the poems to music, but Palmer’s settings remained Joyce’s favorites throughout his life.

Palmer received a Music Baccalaureate from Oxford at the turn of the century. At the time, he was the youngest recipient ever to receive the degree at Oxford. In 1902, his final year at Oxford he was stricken with Multiple Sclerosis which caused him problems for the rest of his life and eventually led to being confined to a wheelchair. But in 1904, he recovered enough to enter the Royal College of Music in London and studied with Charles Villiers who had a profound influence upon him. He received a degree in composition and piano and organ, despite his inability to play the piano or organ because of his MS.

In 1907, Palmer’s last month at the Royal College of Music, Palmer received Joyce’s just published Chamber Music from his mother as a gift. He first wrote to Joyce that same year. In 1910, he settled in Dublin and was comfortable enough with Joyce, who was then in Trieste, to ask his opinion on affordable housing in the area. In 1920, Palmer moved into his family home on Sandycove where his sisters could take care of him. (Their home was within site of the famous Martello tower where Joyce lived with Oliver Gogarty. The tower is now a James Joyce museum.)

In the correspondence, Palmer barely mentions his illness to Joyce. Joyce, however, frequently encouraged Palmer to set more and more of his poems to music. Joyce told Palmer that if he was a musician, he would have set them himself.

Amongst the Palmer settings kept by the Morris Library at Southern Illinois University was correspondence between Joyce and Palmer which shows just how enthusiastic Joyce was about Palmer’s settings. As late as 1934, Joyce was still enthusiastic about the settings. He wrote to his son, George:

“30 or 40 musicians at least have set my little poems to music. The best is Molyneux Palmer. After him are Moeran and Bliss.”

“Am sending Goossens’ settings of some of my verse. I wish I could find Palmer’s which are much finer music…”

Palmer, however, was much less enthusiastic about publishing the settings. Joyce was able to find publishers for Palmer’s music, but Palmer’s reluctance continued. Joyce even offered to pay for much of the cost, but Palmer remained ambivalent about publishing them. In 1931, Joyce wrote to Palmer:

It is a great pity you were not able to proceed with the publication I had arranged with Slivinski in Paris some years ago. Still I hope you will find a publisher in England for the songs. If I can do anything to that end let me know as I liked them very much.

Russel thinks the reason Palmer was reluctant to publish Joyce’s poems is because of Joyce’s reputation in Ireland. Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and especially Ulysses, were not well-received in Ireland and were not accepted amongst “polite society”. Palmer’s oldest sister had been headmistress at a wealthy Irish school for girls for 30 years. (Both of the sisters that took care of him were highly respected.) Russel said that when she asked one of the sister’s previous students if they were aware of the connection between Palmer and Joyce, they were shocked that any Palmer would have had a connection with Joyce.

Palmer, himself, was considered to be a “19th century gentleman”. It is likely that his reluctance to publish Joyce’s settings was because he did not want to upset his sisters upon whom he relied. In 1949, eight years after Joyce’s death, Palmer was asked to give the letters he had received from Joyce to the National Library of Ireland. He sent the letters and offered to send the songs as well, for the first time expressing real interest to have them published.

The change of heart was likely due to the impending retirement of his sisters, but may also have been because of the positive attitudes about Joyce outside of Ireland. (Even in 1949, Joyce was still not accepted in Ireland.)

The first hearing of Palmer’s music took place at Elizaabeth Seton College in 1982. It was a centennial celebration of both Joyce and Palmer and included a narrative of Palmer’s life, a dramatic presentation of the correspondence between Joyce and Palmer and a recital of several of the settings. In 1987, the BBC presented a program based on Russel’s research and all of Palmer’s settings of Chamber Music performed by Peter Dickinson and piano and Martyn Hill as tenor. There have been several other performances as well.

I think Russel’s book originally came with a tape of Palmer’s settings performed by Samuel Sanders on piano, but I couldn’t find it. The only thing I could find of Joyce’s poetry with Palmer’s settings on the internet was “Winds of May” from the Southern Illinois University Concern Choir…

There is a lot more information from Russel on the poems and songs I’d like to note, but this is probably a good stopping point for today. I’ll continue tomorrow.

It Might Get Loud

My son and I went to see It Might Get Loud, today.  I thought it was fantastic, my son (the musician) not so much.   Probably better for us old foagies, although my son is completely familiar with all of the music. I introduced him to Led Zeppelin and the White Stripes when he was very young. U2 a little later.  He probably knows every Led Zeppelin, White Stripes and Raconteurs song there is to know. The show is supposedly a history of the guitar, using a discussion between three generations of guitarists: Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. They don’t actually engage in that much discussion. 

That’s what disappointed my son. He wanted more discussion and joint jam sessions, which definitely would have been nice. Their jam session of “The Weight” (originally by The Band), is a lot of fun because the guitarists are obviously having a lot of fun with it!

I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin. They were by far my favorite band in high school and I listened to them non-stop.  Who needed drugs when you had Led Zeppelin?  Seriously, almost every friend I had was into pot and/or acid.  I was never a drug user, but could get totally lost inside Led Zeppelin. Time would stand still and there was only music.   When my friends talked about their experiences with drugs, I thought I might actually kind of know what they were talking about because of my experience with Led Zeppelin.  No other band did that for me. Even today I can go into a sort of meditative trance just by listening to “D’yer Mak’er” or “The Battle of Evermore”.  I have no clue why.  It does something to my brain.

For whatever reason, I was never that big of a fan of U2 which I know many of you consider a travesty. They are my generation, after all.  But even during the movie, I found myself wanting to get back to the stories told by Robert Plant and Jack White.

I am completely and totally infatuated with Jack White.  My first encounter with him was through the White Stripe’s cover of “Stop Breaking Down”.  It was love at first listen. To me, this guy is the real deal. True artistic creative talent and totally outside of the box.  He shows up in the most unusual places, too! I watched Cold Mountain the other day and there he was, a very young Jack White turned bluegrass singer performing an authentic version of  Wayfaring Stranger.  At the beginning of last week, KUT (The University of Texas radio station) was doing a countdown of the best songs of each year.  For 2004, they played a duet by Loretta Lynn and Jack White called “Portland, Oregon”.  I hadn’t heard anything by Loretta Lynn in years and here she shows up with Jack White!

My son says that the only reason The Edge was used for the film is because he was the direct opposite of Jack White.   That may be, although he is loved by millions and Jack White is much lesser known in comparison. Even though White is the youngest and probably the lesser known of the guitarists, I think The Edge was just a tad out of place. He’s all about the technology, while Page and White are about the old school stuff.  White takes us all the way back to the Delta blues! He says his favorite song is “Grinnin’ in Your Face” by Son House which is just singing and clapping – no technology whatsoever! Technology, to White, isn’t soul. Which is kind of interesting because at the beginning of the film, The Edge is doing some form of yoga while using his Blackberry.

My Interpretation of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen

There are so many versions of “Hallelujah” and almost all are different from Cohen’s original 1984 version. The lyrics are typically much less ambiguously sexual in the covers than they are in Cohen’s original version.

John Cale was the first to cover “Hallelujah” and he said when he asked Cohen for permission to cover it, Cohen sent him 15 different lyric versions!!

I’m posting the lyrics from the 1984 version with my thoughts in between to try and work through why some covers work for me and some don’t. .

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
that David played and it pleased the Lord,
but you don’t really care for music, do you?

It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth
the minor fall, the major lift;
the baffled king composing Hallelujah!

You probably remember that King David was the Jewish ruler who united Israel and Judah and made Jerusalem the capital. He is presented as a gentle poet/musician and sheep herding saint in the Bible. King Saul was the first ruler of Israel but he was subject to fits of melancholy and rage. Before David was King, David came to Saul’s court and played the lyre for Saul which was tremendously soothing and pleasing for Saul. And it got David into Saul’s inner court. This was a very smart political move on the part of David because it eventually allowed him to orchestrate the takeover of the King’s throne. David wooed the King with the beauty of his lyrics and song. The baffled king composing hallelujah is Saul who has been betrayed by David. (It was Saul’s murder that made David King.)

I suppose it would also work to think of David as the baffled king – not knowing where his music comes from? But Leonard grew up in a Jewish family that believed they were the direct ancestors of Aaron so I imagine he knew his Biblical history backward and forward.

Your faith was strong but you needed proof.
You saw her bathing on the roof;
her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you.

She tied you to a kitchen chair
she broke your throne, she cut your hair,
and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah!

The Bible presents David as utterly innocent until he becomes King. Then it presents the more human side of him. Now King, David looks out the window and notices Bathsheba bathing on the roof. He is overcome with desire. He asks around and discovers that she is the wife of Uriah, a leader of David’s troops currently fighting on the the front battle lines. But David calls her to him anyway and sleeps with her. She ends up pregnant which is really bad for both David and Bathsheba (a stoneable offense for Bathsheba and grounds for being dethroned for David). David calls Uriah home in the hopes Uriah will sleep with Bathsheba so he won’t question the pregnancy, but it doesn’t happen because Uriah feels a sense of duty to the men still at the front. So David has Uriah secretly killed and marries Bathsheba. The Bible says this displeased the Lord (unlike the music David played which pleased the Lord). David keeps having to make worse and worse transgressions to cover up the first one. King David has been wooed by Bathsheba. She broke his throne (threatened the stability of his leadership) and cut his hair (when Jewish leaders and priests in David’s time had their hair cut, it was an outward sign that they had committed a terrible sin – it was shameful to have short hair). But still, the Hallelujah is drawn from David’s lips just as it was being composed by Saul (the baffled King).

You say I took the Name in vain;
I don’t even know the name.
But if I did, well, really, what’s it to you?

There’s a blaze of light in every word;
It doesn’t matter which you heard;
the holy, or the broken Hallelujah!

This gives me goosepimples. Broken or holy, it’s all still Hallelujah!! Every word. Every event. Whether pleasing or displeasing to the Lord.

I did my best; it wasn’t much.
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch.
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you.

And even though it all went wrong,
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!

We’re all fallible humans. Sometimes we totally screw up or have horrible things done to us. But even when everything seems dark and we feel betrayed by our own choices or other events in our life, what else is there to do but stand before life with our gratefulness? Our broken hallelujah? (Hallelujah means to express joy or thanks).

So to me, the primary theme of the song is about the inability of being anything but grateful, no matter what horrible, awful things happen in our lives. Even if it is a broken hallelujah, it’s still hallelujah! There is nothing else!!

John Cale uses the first two verses but replaces the last two verses with a different version Cohen wrote (Jeff Buckley uses the exact same version as Cale):

Baby I’ve been here before, I know this room
I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you

I’ve seen your flag on the Marble Arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

There was a time you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?

I remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Maybe there’s a God above,
all I ever learned from love

Was how to shoot at someone who out drew you

And it’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Love is not a victory march – it’s not a conquest, something to win. It’s about being vulnerable. Being willing to let go of the “self”. The line about “I remember when I moved in you, and the holy dove was moving too, and every breath we drew was Hallelujah” is gorgeous. Sort of Kierkegaardian, maybe? It makes you realize beauty. The love he is referring to is not agape love, it’s desirous love. But that desirous love has the potential to humble you and bring you to your knees. It can make you vulnerable and until you become vulnerable, it’s impossible to experience any type of Hallelujah.

That’s my take on it. I love this song for the same reason I love David Lynch. It’s so incredibly compassionate!! So when it’s performed like it’s nothing more than a bitter love song, it falls flat. It may be about bitterness, but that’s only the tippy tip of the surface. It’s so much deeper than that. It’s too depressing. Lang’s version is very showy which makes me think she’s missed the point of the song altogether. Buckley has a much better execution – much more simple (and very much like Cale’s.) But both have a slight air of giving up, rather than acceptance. I do think the song is about surrender. But surrender is not about giving up, it’s about accepting what is and in that acceptance, recognizing the beauty of what is.  I am deeply moved when Buckley sings it, but not in a joyful way like I am by Crowe, Wainwright or Cohen. I just feel sad. (Of course, someone else could experience it completely differently.)

Two things I noticed while working through this. Crowe uses Holy Ghost instead of Holy Dove. Wainwright uses Holy Dark instead of Holy Dove.

Gustav Mahler

Watched an interesting documentary on Gustav Mahler called A Wayfarer’s Journey: Listening to Mahler. I know a little of his music but didn’t know anything about him. Interesting guy! I think, perhaps, he was a mystic. He was born a Jew in Bohemia in 1860 and was raised in Moravia. At the age of 15, he was admitted to the Vienna Conservatory. By the time he was 20, he had a growing reputation as a conductor and composer. At 37, he was offered the directorship of the Vienna Opera which was the most prestigious musical position in the Austrian Empire.

Problem was, he was a Jew and according to Austrian law, Jews could not serve imperial posts. So, he converted to Roman Catholicism and took the position. Much of the music he wrote has elements of Catholicism within it, but the conversion had been somewhat problematic for him spiritually. He was never able to adopt the idea of the trinity, yet maintained a sort of mystical view of God and the universe.

Mahler actually met with Freud because of troubles in his marriage, but Mahler had difficulty understanding Freud’s lack of belief in God. Freud believed that belief in God was based on a need for certainty. Mahler confronted him…

You don’t believe in God. There is a division between who I am and who I am. As a conductor, as director of opera, as a performer, I am certain of everything. I have no doubts whatsoever. But as a human being, I am riddled with doubt. And as a composer, I describe the chaos, the confusion, and uncertainty of life – my life, your life, all life. And the beauty, too. Love, nature, fleeting rays of happiness – but mostly, uncertainty and the descent into destruction. That is why people resist my music. Our world is disintegrating, and they cannot face it. God only knows what lies in store for us – a vision of a new horrifying universe. And that’s also why my music is so unpredictable because life is also unpredictable, savage, cruel. To be human is to be uncertain.

Mahler coped with this uncertainty through music. Christoph Eschenbach, distinguished conductor and pianist, offers thoughts throughout the documentary. He believes that Mahler depicts human kind through his music which can become therapeutic for the listener. It’s a means to view problems through a mirror and solve them through compassion. Mahler’s life was full of struggle, loss and pain but his music is of hope. Eschenbach quotes, Kafka: “A book or any piece of art should be the axe for the frozen ocean in us.”

Eschenbach was born in a Jewish family in 1940 in Germany. His mother died giving birth to him and his father was slaughtered in a Nazi punishment camp shortly after his mother’s death. As a small boy, he was sent to live with his Grandmother and they had to flee. After a year of flight, his grandmother died and he was left alone in a refugee camp. Death was all around him, and he nearly died of typhus. He had lost the ability of speech and communication because of the trauma. Thankfully, he was rescued by a foster mother who did her best to revive him. What finally worked was music. His foster mother asked him if he wanted to express himself through music and he managed a “yes”. This expression opened his soul. He said his pain joined with the pain in the music. Minus plus minus equals plus and he became happy. But he cautions, “The roots of the inner pain and the knowledge of it can never be wiped out or blown away. It stays with me all my life, fortunately, because no where have I found more of that magical healing than in music.”

In his late 50s, Mahler’s heart began to give out on him and he was confronted with his mortality which threw him off balance. He said he had lost all of his clarity and the sense of peace he had achieved and had to start over again. He did finally came to a place of acceptance. Someone in the film explains that acceptance is not a giving up, it is an active integration of reality. Instead of being done out of desperation, acceptance is done out of a sense of freedom. It recognizes our freedom to choose – how we respond – in a given set of circumstances.

Like Beethoven and Bruckner, Mahler’s last completed symphony was his ninth. He died just before his 51st birthday.

Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus

Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus is an amazing documentary. I’m almost in tears after watching it. Which is strange, really, since I don’t identify with the backwoods south. But I think, without a doubt, the backwoods south is in my blood.

I live in Central Texas which is pretty far south. However, Texas is Texas and we don’t consider ourselves to be part of the South. We’re more like our own country. But really, we are closer to the south than we are to any other culture in the U.S. Most of Texas is part of the Bible Belt. But go any further south just past Austin where I live – onward to San Antonio and it is primarily Latin American Catholic.

Austin is eclectic – it’s where everything kind of merges and mixes together: a mix of the Bible Belt culture, Latin American Catholicism, Native American spirituality, intellectual atheism, and experimental Buddhism and eastern religions. Which is why I have always loved Austin so much and wanted to move back here so desperately when my husband told me he wanted to move us back to Texas. My response, “That’s fine dear, but if you are going to move me back to Texas, the only place I’ll go is Austin.”

Of course we ended up in Austin suburbia, but we almost made it. If we could have afforded to live in Austin and afford private schools at the same time, we’d be in Austin. But we couldn’t. Instead, we chose to dwell within transient corporate America. And not just transient corporate America, but transient corporate America in the south where 70% of the population attends a corporate evangelical church and very few are actually from the south.

Our kids are constantly the target of massive evangelical Christian marketing. I’m not always sure I’m OK with this choice. But as my children get older, I realize they are doing exactly what I did – befriending the few liberals in the area. So maybe where we live doesn’t matter nearly as much as who it is we are and what it is we stand for. That’s what the evangelicals count on. Perhaps we progressive, non-evangelical types should as well!

At the same time, however, I have a major problem with how hateful many progressive Christians are toward fundamentalism. Righteousness is righteousness. To be a scientist and believe that your truth is the only truth is really no different from an evangelical theologian who believes his truth is the only truth.

It’s all based upon utopian ideals. And these utopian ideals will never exist. Life will never be perfect because every single human being in the world views perfection differently. You can’t create a utopia unless every single human being views perfection exactly the same. Which – get a grip – is never going to happen! Every body wants what they want. Just because you think what you want is more right than what somebody else wants doesn’t mean that what you want is more important.

If you think what you want is more right – then you believe your world view will create a utopia. Put this into perspective. Hitler’s idea of society was utopian. Utopian world views are nothing more than narcissism based upon your own personal desires – believing that if everyone bought into your world view, the world would be perfect. But you aren’t looking at perfection. All you are looking at is your own reflection.

I guess that is what I loved about this documentary. Two British filmmakers who appreciate the music of the American South, are able to present it in such a way that doesn’t denigrate it.

At one point in the film, Jim White, their guide through the south, uses an ice cream cone to exemplify the south. He squeezes it down and says that most everyone in the south goes into the cone. But there is the fringe element, the part of the icecream that doesn’t fit into the cone, that is the fringe element. These are the criminal element, the extremist religious element, and the artists. They don’t fit within the cone, so they have to figure out a way to express themselves somehow.

The thing about the extremist religious element in the south is that it is nothing like corporate fundamentalism. Corporate fundamentalism is as intentional as is any major marketing endeavor. But the deep fundamentalism of the south is far more artistic than it is business-like. As Jim White says, you have to check your mind at the door. It’s all heart. All spirit. And as the filmmakers noted – it’s highly sensual. It’s really not that much different from hanging out at the bar on Saturday night. Both are completely consumed with the idea of intoxiation. And you think – intoxication of what? The spirit! It’s no wonder that alcohol is also known as spirits!!! They are extremely closely related. Partying on Saturday night is not all that different from attending a Pentecostal church and speaking in tongues on sunday morning.

I don’t consider myself to be southern, but having gone to college in College Station and country western dancing in every single honky tonk between there and Dallas, I can relate to a lot of the stops made along the way of this film, including the creepy prayer rooms in truck stops, Jesus Saves signs on roofs of houses, and bizarre theological discussions about the revelation being held in bars.. My mother grew up in the Ozarks so we’d regularly make the drive from Texas to Arkansas to visit her family. We went to New Orleans and Florida regularly so travelled through southern swamplands.

My father was from outside of Chicago, but his favorite musicians were honky tonk. He loved Jerry Lee Lewis who was from one of the little southern towns this film visited. It’s probably no accident my father married a woman from the south.

I loved this movie. Especially because it was made by Brits who took such a compassionate view of the American South. They made the film as fans of the south even though none of them are Christian! Yet, they were able to find value in some of the crazy evangelical churches that they visited.

Check your mind at the door – let something else work within you when you enter here.

Watch this film. It is wonderful. Kind of funny that non-Christian British people would manage to do such justice to the American south!