Dedicated with gratefulness to Rachel, the wondrous talent who once uttered, during a skit in Music Theory Class, an absolutely unforgettable line. Referring to the form of a certain sonata movement, it was "SOOOO not a Rondo."
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
I just ran to one of my favorite go-tos. It's a heavy go-to, not one to dial up when you're feeling chipper, silly, or just plain OK. It is one that I use for melancholy moments, for sure, but this wasn't one of those either.
I had just had a chat with a colleague. We were talking about how composers have "a voice" in which they find the greatest or strongest connection with their audience. We then mentioned that not every work in a composers catalog is in that voice, and sometimes those works don't get played much. We agreed that Beethoven even had works that "fall by the way." I mentioned how much I enjoyed performances of Meeresstille und Glückliche Fahrt, Op. 112 (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage) on the rare occasion it pops up.
Then I mentioned Christus am Ölberg (Christ in the Mount of Olives) and we both lit up! We talked very excitedly about performances we had each conducted. These were great memories for each of us, wonderful moments in our careers. So when I was alone a while later, I wanted to pull up a recording and relive the opening tenor aria, and the powerful O Heil Euch. But it was not to be at that moment in that place.
What I DID have was Robert Shaw/Atlanta Symphony's recording of Verdi's Requiem. I had wanted to relive the fine moments of preparing and performing the Beethoven, but the next best thing for me at that moment was the Libera Me from the Requiem. And it did what it always does. Without trying to render any kind of theology, and perhaps owing to the operatic nature of Verdi's vision, I am without fail overcome by the power of the beseeching, pleading, begging, weeping, in what often seems to me to be an air of futility. It is as if the finest human beings on the planet, the best of mankind, cry out with all the strength, passion, perfection, and glory they can muster, to be freed, to be liberated, to be delivered from eternal death. "O Lord, O Lord, deliver me, deliver me..." Of course, as will undoubtedly be pointed out immediately, there is that final C major chord in which one may find assurance and comfort. And it probably is absolutely the most logical conclusion. But still; such pleading. It gets me every time.
I didn't think I had that much in my tear ducts at that moment, but I voided them for sure.
Requiem: sooooo not a rondo!
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Recently I surprised myself by singing a song from the early 60s. I paused and said, “Now what brought that to mind?” That question went unanswered, but that song, along with several others of the time, always puts me – in my mind anyway – back at my little desk in my bedroom when I was in sixth grade. I would’ve been doing my math homework. I’d mumble the math problem to myself: “326 times 42” and then sing part of one of those songs. “Goodbye Cruel World, I’m off to join the circus.” “Here he com-om-om-o-o-omes that’s Cathy’s Clown.” “There goes my baby, moving on down the line.” I’d try to get back to my homework: “326 times 42; hmmm.” How or why that music links me to my sixth-grade year is a mystery, but it does. There are others. When my mother’s mother passed, they asked me to play something on the organ for a postlude. They told me “Abide with Me” was her favorite hymn. We were all very close to “Nanny”, so I wanted to make the music “say” the text as best I could. I made that organ sing, both softly and loudly. I never hear or think of that hymn without remembering being seated at that organ console on that day, pouring out my own heart to "Nanny." There are so many other musical links.
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
A Holiday Story
250 years ago there was this composer living in London, England. He was, in a way, the J.J. Abrams and John Williams of his day. George Friderich Handel, wrote and produced operas – lots of them. He did well financially. He also invented a new thing: the English oratorio. It’s just like opera, usually on biblical stories; but oratorios are not acted or staged, nor do they use scenery or costumes. Handel began churning these out with the same frequency he’d done with opera.
Handel was known to be a follower of Christ; his concern for others was widely acknowledged. Having been presented a collection of bible verses, Handel wrote Messiah in 1742 - in 3 weeks. Every word sung for more than two hours is scripture – pure scripture, nothing but scripture. When one well-known composers of the day first heard the music, he said he wept “like a child.” Handel himself conducted dozens of benefit performances of Messiah. This led one author to write, “Messiah has fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and fostered the orphan more than any other musical production.” A friend wrote that Handel “would frequently declare the pleasure he felt in setting the Scriptures to music.” Another writer speculated that Messiah "has probably done more to convince thousands…that there is a God…than all the theological works ever written."
As we approach the Christmas season, replete as it always is with more performances of Handel's oratorio, it is worth noting how God’s Word "does not return to Him empty, without accomplishing what He desires, and without succeeding in the matter for which He sent it." (Isaiah 55)
Right. It's my blog. Craig Ferguson once said that a book is like a blog only bigger. Well, I could write a book, because I have so many stories. So I thought I would wander cheaply into the world of blogging.
You won't be able to comment here. On the other hand you are probably here only because I posted a link to this page on social media - and THERE you certainly can comment.