Barley

Barley is probably my favorite grain – and not because it’s a key ingredient in beer and whiskey, neither of which I like at all. I frequently use this ancient grain in soups and stews, but even so, I was very surprised to have the word “barley” stare me in the face not once, but twice one afternoon recently. What are the chances that the word “barley” comes into your life twice in the same day, in ways completely unrelated to the actual food?

While reading an article about the hymns of Richard Wayne Dirksen before writing my post last week, I learned the story behind Dirksen’s hymn tune BARLEY.  It’s not found in The Hymnal 1982 unfortunately, but I had come across the tune in a choral hymn setting titled Praise the Spirit in Creation several years ago, and I find the tune as hearty and satisfying as its grain namesake. Dirksen named it, I learned, after Mr. Barley, the Great Cat. The Dirksens had adopted a bedraggled foundling one rainy evening, and several years later when the composer was pondering a name for a new tune he had written for the American Guild of Organist’s 1992 convention, he came back to his computer to find that Barley had stood on the keyboard as he crossed to the window for some squirrel-watching.  No, the cat hadn’t typed the word “barley.”  You didn’t really think that, did you? But Mr. Dirksen saw a feline equivalent in the six “k’s” that he found on his computer screen and promptly named his new tune with six other letters – BARLEY.  You can hear the choirs of Washington National Cathedral singing it here.

Barley made a second appearance when a neighbor emailed to share that she was completely taken with a new album, one by an artist I probably would not have heard about otherwise, Lizz Wright. Hers is an earthy, honest voice, more than worthy of the earthy, honest grain she sings about in the song “Barley,” found on her new album, Grace.  It’s a text that speaks of resilience, strength, and moving forward.

The wind that shakes the barley will not shake me
The fire that takes the kindling will not take me
And the rain that floods the valley will not drown me
The hawk that stoops the sparrow will not strike me
The dark before the dawn breaks will not bind me
The wind that shakes the barley will not shake me
Like my mama told me, this I know when I see.

The musical layers of barley. Who knew?

Peace,
Sonya

* * * * *

This blog represents my attempt to put thoughts together on various things that seem to connect – in my mind anyway. More often than not new ideas first involve reaching back to what was and I can only hope that the prehistoric San cave painting at the top of this page inspires all kinds of new connections between old and new.

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3 thoughts on “Barley

  1. Sonya, many thanks for sharing the background and the words of “Barley”. This post is a real keeper. I will share with my EfM group and the ASC Wow’s. Susan

    On Thu, Jan 11, 2018 at 6:34 AM, Notes for a New Day wrote:

    > Sonya posted: “Barley is probably my favorite grain – and not because it’s > a key ingredient in beer and whiskey, neither of which I like at all. I > frequently use this ancient grain in soups and stews, but even so, I was > very surprised to have the word “barley” stare me ” >

    Like

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