Friday, October 02, 2009

Yo! Gotta Gaba!


I got a Gaba. A Gaba Psalter.

Actually, I have two: a rare first edition of The Book of Psalms in English and Latin, edited by the Reverend Deacon Latif Gaba, and a new and improved second edition, given to me as a gift by the editor. The latter came in the mail today as we were on our way out the door as a part of a care package from the Milwaukee deacon, which included a note from our dear friend and brother in Christ, along with three (count 'em!) three CDs by the Milwaukee bluesman Lil' Rev.

Lil' Rev. is known and loved in Milwaukee for his eclectic mix of traditional American blues, both vocal and instrumental (e.g. harmonica, guitar, ukulele) as well as old Yiddish folk tunes. Crazy, joyful, and unique stuff. In fact, one of Lil' Rev's bandmates was known as Big Rev - whose real name was Father Stephen Wiest. Fr. Wiest (of blessed memory) was a beloved LCMS campus pastor and college professor, whose proclivities for wearing a cassock, hanging out with non-Christians in blues bars, playing harmonica, and actually believing in Christianity got him removed from his ministry by vengeful bureaucrats (you know, the ones who tell us that traditionalist Lutherans cannot "relate to youth"). Wiest's ministry inspired a good number of men to attend seminary to devote their lives to preaching the Gospel, and probably more than a few to take up the mouth organ.

What a treat to be cruising around Gretna (insofar as "cruising" is an appropriate gerund for being transported in a white Toyota mini-van) on this the first day of the Gretna Heritage Festival actually listening to a digital recording of Fr. Wiest making his harmonica soar with both masterful virtuosity and spontaneous elan. You can hear him play on the 1996 album "Uke Town" by Lil' Rev. The liner notes thank Wiest with the tribute: "It should be known that no other mouth organ player has taught me more than big rev from folksongs to blues... a true blessing."

In fulfillment of an overdue promise, Mrs. H. and I were taking Leonidas Hollywood to the local Barnes & Noble. After leaving the cruising vessel, we found that Leo was singing Lil' Rev's "Old Milwaukee Runaround" after just one listen.

Before heading to the children's section, we stopped at the cafe for a bite. Being the liturgical rigorist that he is, Leo insisted on prayers before snack. He always leads the table grace in our house, and as he has done since about age two, he makes the sign of the cross, invokes the Most Holy Trinity, and prays the table prayer from Luther's Small Catechism. In imitation of me, he holds up two fingers and sweeps his hand in the form of a cross over the victuals at the words "these your gifts." At the prayer's termination: "through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen," he has picked up a curious rubric (maybe from Sunday School) in which he holds his hands together, and with his index fingers held together and extended, points to each person present. I have never seen this digito monstrare gesture in prayer before. But it has become his ritual. I'll have to check back issues of Gottesdienst for more information...

We were about to eat when our little traditionalist informed us that we would now pray in Latin.

With bellies rumbling, we patiently folded our hands again, and began anew ("In nomine Patris et filii and Spiritus Sancti, Amen."). He prayed the collect flawlessly, and we were about to dig into our pretzels, when the celebrant announced a tertiary oration in French. So, we thrice-blessed the repas in the language of Leo's Gallic ancestors, and at last, we able to dig in.

While sitting in the children's section with my Gaba Psalter, I ran across a Yo Gabba Gabba backpack. The above picture just sums up the kind of day we're having: Blues, books, Latin, prayers, Gretna, Gaba, and Yo Gabba Gabba. Later this afternoon, we will join a hundred thousand of our best friends a half block from the front door for seven music stages, carnival rides, and Louisiana cuisine. Maybe there will even be a daiquiri for Father Hollywood tonight (update: repeated rides on the Tilt-A-Whirl with Laughing Leo made even the thought of any kind of "Lutheran Beverage" not the best idea in the world).

Our gloriously unpredictable day in the life reminds me of a droll comment from Deacon Gaba: "Imagine an Albanian Lutheran son of a Muslim driving around Milwaukee with Yiddish folk songs blasting on the CD player. There oughta be a law against people like that."

And there probably is! Thanks again to Brother Latif for his kindness, generosity, Christian fellowship, and friendship.

And if you pray the Psalter, and would like to have a bilingual edition with both the Luther-influenced Coverdale translation (in glorious 1928 black and white) and the Gallican Psalter (as Luther actually memorized it) from the Clementine Vulgate in a side by side ready-to-pray format, well, (get ready for it...): You Gotta Getta Gaba! Click here.

Brobee prepares to pray the Preface

2 comments:

larry white said...

Thanks for the introductions to Gaba, L'il Rev, and Big Rev! Just in time to send my son for his 40th birthday L'il Rev's version of Artza Alinu, his childhood favorite for whirling to.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Larry:

My pleasure. Thanks for writing. Artza Alinu is indeed a beautiful, haunting song. Mazel tov!