Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Flag of Appenzell

Faithful readers know that my Mass is premiering this fall in St Gallen, Switzerland. But they may not know that to the south of the city is the canton of Appenzell, represented by the flag above. In heraldry-speak: Argent, a bear rampant sable, armed langued and priapic in his virility gules. Translated: on a silvery white field, a bear is represented standing on one hind foot with its forefeet in the air, in profile, facing the dexter side, with right hind foot raised, in black, with red claws and erect penis of red tincture.


The bear on the flag is in fact that same bear previously discussed, shown in the above bas-relief befriending Gallus. Appenzell was a vassal state of the Abbot of St Gallen until 1403 when it threw off the yoke of the bear-loving abbey, retaining however a fondness for the bear, putting it in their flag but adding the bold red erection as a touch of defiance. The story goes that, in 1579, a printer in St Gallen removed the bear's hard-on from a collectible calendar, almost plunging the two sides into war until he toadied to the Appenzellers and the city agreed to destroy every copy it could find.

After writing the ordinary of the Mass, I decided to add an organ postlude. The Dom Cathedral has three organs, including two smaller baroque instruments in the choir, but the large organ is very beautiful, visually and aurally. It's a typical postlude, with a flamboyant opening, a memory from my youth listening to Norberto Guinaldo's florid improvisations, my own attempt a poor imitation. In the middle, it ventures into a more static territory, another poor imitation, this time reminiscent of Terry Riley's Shri Camel. Let's part with just a glimpse of it.
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