Category Archives: Art

Christopher Tolkien and the legacy of his father J.R.R. Tolkien: The Steward of Middle-earth

Now, after more than 40 years, at the age of 94, Christopher Tolkien has laid down his editor’s pen, having completed a great labor of quiet, scholastic commitment to his father’s vision. It is the concluding public act of a gentleman and scholar, the last member of a club that became a pivotal part of 20th-century literature: the Inklings. It is the end of an era.
— Read on www.weeklystandard.com/hannah-long/christopher-tolkien-and-the-legacy-of-his-father-j-r-r-tolkien-the-steward-of-middle-earth

An excellent review by Hannah Long. Enjoy. And, God bless, the Tolkiens!

Music and the Arts Over Partisan Politics

Named for St. Cecilia, patroness of music and the arts, this blog, Spirit of Cecilia, highlights music, art, poetry, fiction, history, biography, and film. These fields of enjoyment and expression are creative and interactive, requiring both a transmitter and a recipient to achieve their fullest potential and profoundest effects.

It’s my hope that these fields, which we might usefully and with slight reservation label the humanities, can accomplish far more than partisan politics to expand the frontiers of knowledge and deepen our understanding of ourselves as human beings created by an awesome God.  Anger is not a constructive starting point for connecting with strangers or political opponents if the goal is mutual understanding. Hard logic puts strangers and political opponents on the defensive, causing them to question the logician’s motives and work through whatever problems and challenges the logician has presented.  But aesthetics: they provide pleasure and the kind of sensory experience in which people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs share and delight. This is not a grand claim about the universality of standards of beauty but rather a plain statement about the obvious draw of humans to phenomena that stir in them strange and wonderful emotions, that cause them to think about the timeless questions that the greatest minds over the centuries have contemplated with differing degrees of gravity and intensity. The fact that we have music, art, poetry, fiction, history, biography, and film at all suggests a certain commonality among human likes and desires across places and cultures.

I am an administrator in a law school, a recovering lawyer you might say, who happens to have earned a doctorate in English.  I am grateful to Dr. Bradley Birzer for including me as a contributor to the Spirit of Cecilia and have high hopes for what it can achieve. Life is difficult for everyone at some time or another.  Wouldn’t it be great if this site were a forum where friendships are built, ideas are exchanged civilly and in good faith, and a profound awareness of our shared humanity served as the predicate for our interpretations and communications?  I look forward to writing in this space. May it flourish.

–Allen Mendenhall

Why Spirit of Cecilia?

For six years, I was one of five folks who founded and ran a website dedicated to reviewing and promoting music.When we formed in October 2012, we originally wanted to be a fan site for the English (and now Anglo-American-Scandinavian) band, Big Big Train.  We broadened our reach almost immediately, attempting to review music of all forms.  

We ended up having a blast, to be sure.

After six years, though, several of us thought it was time for a change.  That is, time to take us not just into music but into all of our cultural loves: music, art, poetry, fiction, history, biography, and film. Certainly, we could’ve done that with the old site, but that site had taken on a life of its own.  We wish them nothing but love and success!  We’re certainly not leaving music behind with the Spirit of Cecilia, but we are adding quite a bit to it. So, not just Big Big Train, but Big Big Train plus Margaret Atwood, T.S. Eliot, Willa Cather, Miles Davis, Leo Strauss, Philip Melanchthon, Sir Thomas More, Edmund Burke, Alfred Tennyson, J.R.R. Tolkien, Kevin J. Anderson, Christopher Nolan, and Alfred Hitchcock.

We threw around a number of titles for this website, knowing all along that our inspiration was St. Cecilia, the Roman Catholic (and Anglican) patroness of music and the arts. Traditionally, St. Cecilia is depicted as a young woman, holding and performing on some kind of instrument, with an angel or two watching over her. Though quite Catholic, such depictions are most likely Christianized updates of the muses inspiring a Mediterranean musician.  

Kevin McCormick finally came up with the name, “Spirit of Cecilia,” and it stuck.  Indeed, more than just stick, it seems perfect for what we want to do. 

And, this brings us to a second form of inspiration for the title–arguably the greatest album of any type of music of the last six to seven decades, SPIRIT OF EDEN by Talk Talk. With all due apologies (and praise for) to James Marsh, the cover artist, I did my best (and, sadly, my best is pathetic!) to create an icon something akin to the original 1988 cover to that album.

My terrible imitation of Marsh’s work.
Ok, show off.  Art by James Marsh, 1988.

Well, as is natural for all human institutions and works, this website will evolve over time as well. No matter what, though, we promise to write our best, to think our best, and to give you. . . you guessed it. . . our best. Thanks for joining us.  We hope you enjoy the ride.

–Brad Birzer

Coming Soon. . .

A verve-acious blog pursuing the good, the true, and the beautiful and taking seriously music, art, poetry, fiction, essays, and film.

Guided by the Spirit of St. Cecilia, patroness of the arts.  Featuring the writing of Carl Olson, Father Jay Watson, Paul Watson, Dedra Birzer, Bryan Morey, Kevin McCormick, Stephen Catanzarite, Tad Wert, Erik Heter, and more.

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