Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Music and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving hymn
One of the joys of living in the SF Bay Area is the wealth of musical events. On a given weekend, there's early music, new music, chamber music, world class orchestral music, jazz, pop, experimental music. The list goes on...and on...and on...and...

How's a thoughtful person to choose?

Sometimes the piece or the composer will be the draw for me, and most typically I go to hear one of my friends perform or see one of their works played. Yet so often, for me, my own performances and rehearsals make it impossible to go to anything at all, which makes for an interesting blend of guilt for not being able to support my friends and colleagues (which I really like to do), happiness that I'm busily working, and excitement for said friends and colleagues. Still two out of three positive emotions ain't bad and balances out the guilt somewhat...

As we head into Thanksgiving week in a few days, it's a moment for me to be grateful that I'm lucky enough to live in such a culturally rich part of the country. This, too, can drown out the guilt, although it  can never drown out my thoughts and concern for those suffering in Paris and other parts of the world.

I'm grateful, as well, for the wonderful annual retreat I just attended with creative friends--a retreat I almost wasn't able to attend this year until the stars realigned themselves at the next-to-last minute.

For my family, it's a day of cooking and clan time--joyfully large groups of relatives converging with large pots, pans, and serving dishes and said convergence spread over several yummy days of family togetherness.  More on this next post...

Thinking of music, there are so many pieces for many holidays, but what about Thanksgiving? The only piece I know of is "We Gather Together," a Thanksgiving hymn in the U.S. that actually comes from the Netherlands, from around 1600, and was first published in the 1620s. With words were grafted onto a traditional folk tune, it is said to commemorate a Dutch victory in battle over the Spanish.  There is more than one story for how it made its way to the New World and to American hymnals. Interesting how a folk+war tune then becomes a Thanksgiving hymn in our hemisphere.  There may be some kind of social commentary not so deeply buried there.

What about you? Do you know other pieces of music associated with Thanksgiving?

What I'm reading: Rywka's Diary: the writings of a Jewish girl from the Lodz ghetto found at Auschwitz in 1945; I'll Give You the Sun.

What I'm working on: solos from the Bach Magnificat and Mozart Vespers for my upcoming Christmas concert on December 13,  plus Handel's Tolomeo, Debussy, and Boulanger for January.

What I'm listening to: Other than "We Gather Together," Handel and Boulanger.

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