Friday, May 6, 2011

Lepanto: The Musical

Well, it's not really a musical.

It is, however, a sung version of G.K. Chesterton's poem Lepanto, performed and put into the public domain by Maureen O'Brien whose audiobook podcast, Maria Lectrix, features public domain works "for people with catholic tastes." As such, she features fantasy, poetry, science fiction, mystery, adventure, prayer, devotion, and early Christian literature. In other words, all the good stuff.

The battle of Lepanto was fought on October 7, 1571 by a fleet of the Holy League against the main fleet of the Ottoman empire. At that time, Islamic forces controlled the Mediterranean and were threatening to attack Venice and Rome which could have led to the collapse of Christian Europe. Despite overwhelming odds, the European forces, led by Don John of Austria, won a decisive victory. The victory was attributed to the intersession of Our Lady, Pope Pius V having called for the recitation of the rosary for that intention, and October 7th became the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, later known as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Chesterton's poem has a marital, drum-beat rhythm which is enhanced by Maureen O'Brien's recording. (I love Chesterton's poetry, but I sometimes stumble over his meter when I read his poems silently.) A copy of the text can be found here, but if you want to buy a copy, I would suggest the annotated edition published by Ignatius Press which has an introduction by Dale Ahlquist, the president of the American Chesterton Society. Besides notes, the book also includes an essay on the historical background of the battle, an account of the battle itself, an essay on the effect of the battle on world history, a bit of literary criticism, and two essays by Chesterton on related subjects. This book, especially when paired with the above recording, would be a good addition to the high school curriculum of Catholic homeschooling families.

(I don't suppose we ever will see Lepanto as a musical, but what about as a Gilbert & Sullivan style operetta?)

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