Funereal notes

  • One of the nice things about state events -- funerals, inaugurals, and such -- is that it's a rare opportunity for good music to get some public exposure. Choral music usually takes a back seat to orchestral works and opera. It was a treat to hear choirs at the Capitol, at the National Cathedral, and at the Reagan Library. Peter Wilhousky's arrangement of the Battle Hymn of the Republic is a favorite. William Harris's "Faire is the Heaven", which preceded the entry of the casket into the Cathedral, was a perfect fit for the occasion. And there's something thrilling about hymns and baroque music played by a brass ensemble.

  • It's also a treat to watch the replay of the services on C-SPAN, without commentary. I listened to the Cathedral service on the radio while at work, and found myself switching back and forth between KFAQ, KRMG, and KWGS trying to find the station with the least amount of annoying chatter. Brian Gann did a fine job of describing without being obtrusive as KFAQ simulcast the audio from Fox News Channel, but when they switched to Fox News Radio, we had to listen to John Gibson speak in all the wrong places. Announcers please note: Hymns and anthems are not bumper music or filler. They are an integral part of the service. Likewise, the liturgy is not fluff. You can wait until former Senator John Danforth is done with the opening words of the service ("I am the resurrection and the life") to tell us that John Danforth is speaking. American broadcasters could learn a few things from the way the BBC covers these sorts of events.

  • John Derbyshire, on NRO's The Corner: "It was, as the English say, a lovely funeral. The British, in fact, used to boast that they did this kind of thing -- pomp and circumstance -- better than anyone. I don't see how that boast can any longer be maintained. This was done as well as it possibly could have been." But I think that the pomp and circumstance was a reflection of President Reagan and in accordance with his wishes, as he understood the importance of tradition and the place of formality and manners. Recall his first inaugural, when the dress code was not business suits but morning dress. (And many of us learned for the first time that black tie is not appropriate for formal events in midday.) Insisting on the full pomp and circumstance of tradition for his inaugurations, rather than trying to remake the ceremony in his image, was not an act of egotism but an act of respect for the nation and the institution of the presidency.

  • Along the same lines: A reader's e-mail to The Corner: "So I'm sitting in my home office, lump in throat, tears on cheeks. Watching the precision of the honor guard and the unbelievable reverence and beauty of the moment. And it dawns on me: he's done it again. He has an entire nation realizing again how beautiful this country is. Its people. It's respect for things great. Tradition. Class. There could not have been a departing gift so powerful. His first lesson to me in 1980, when I was 10. His last, today."

  • The most often played soundbite from President Bush Sr's eulogy was the moment where he says, his voiced choked, "As his vice president for eight years, I learned more from Ronald Reagan than from anyone I encountered in all my years of public life." But I think it was the words immediately preceding that got him choked up, because they choked me up too:

    And to the Reagan kids -- it's OK for me to say that at 80 -- Michael, Ron, Patti, today all of our sympathy, all of our condolences to you and remember, too, your sister Maureen home safe now with her father.

    That heaven is a place where we are in the immediate presence of God ought to be overwhelming enough, but the thought of heaven as home, where we are reunited to those who passed on before us, touches something deep. And I wonder if President Bush's thoughts turned just then, as mine did, to the little one who's been waiting for him there for fifty years.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 12, 2004 12:29 PM.

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