We are pleased to release a new composition by musician Meaghan Burke, a response to Jesus’ foretelling of his second coming in Matthew 24 in which he describes to his the disciples that all the horrors of war and famine will be a mere prelude to the sorrows of the apocalypse – only “the beginning of birth pangs.”
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(Mark 13.1-23; Luke 21.5-24)
1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. 10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. 11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
This image of birth led me to imagine the chagrin that earth must feel to be told that all the catastrophes it suffers, from earthquakes to civil war, are nothing in comparison to what will come. I envisoned the earth as a mother unable to believe that, after suffering over and over and over again, there is any suffering left to spare. The song alternates between the perspective of this weary world, forced to destroy the children it has borne, and that of a human being, with the very human concerns of being separated from those she loves (“what if I am taken and you are left?”) and being deceived by the so-called “false prophets” (“what if I see Him where I’m not supposed to?”). The final chorus asks, simply, in an anguished bluesy lament, why anyone or anything would build such a beautiful thing as this world, only to destroy it.
Meaghan Burke’s debut album Other People’s Ghosts (for cello and voice) sounds like what would happen if if Jacqueline Du Pré were raised on rock and roll, and folk, and cabaret, and blues, and free jazz, and spent too long in Vienna. Or if Tom Waits picked up the cello, drank several pots of coffee, and had a sex change. Whatever that means.
Above all, Other People’s Ghosts is about stories – of bedbugs, of bedfellows, of things like love – and Burke’s rich yet vulnerable, smoky-toned voice and deep, growling cello keep these stories playing over and over in our heads long after the last track is finished.