Posts Tagged ‘Appalachian Spring’

Felix’s Fortress Forté

August 4, 2019

While tuned into radio WDAV a day or two ago . . .

listening to Felix Mendelssohn’s 5th Symphony,

we suddenly discerned a developing  melodic surprise:

gentle strains of a classic religious tune, A Mighty Fortress is Our God . . .  drifting into the 3rd movement of the music.

Twenty-three minutes into this performance,

Orchestra

those first melodic snippets of Luther’s famous hymn—I heard, venturing in discreetly, during the slow Andante phase of Mendelssohn’s 1832 orchestral composition.  By the end of the piece, however, the understated entrance of that well-known melody had morphed into being the very core of the symphony’s dynamic, forceful conclusion.

This gentle arrival of a familiar melody that incrementally develops into a forcefully conclusive forté—this is a composer’s technique found in several classical music masterpieces. . . most notably Beethoven’s (last) 9th Symphony, and a favorite American piece of mine, Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

In the case of Ludwig van Beethoven’s use of  a developing melodic theme that overpowers all other musical elements, Ludwig used his own emphatic original tune to fortify a potent message of popular 18th-century zeitgeistuniversal brotherhood. The words that Beethoven chose to accompany his theme had been composed by Friedrich Schiller, a primary 18th-century poet of the Romantic period in our western history.

In the similar case of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, the composer employs a traditional religious melody—the “Shaker” theme, Simple Gifts, as a musical fulcrum for propelling the idea of mere simplicity into a commendable lifestyle.

The emphasis on simplicity is a powerful motivating factor in American history. The Puritans. for instance, who landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, were fleeing an oppressive European religious straightjacket culture; they wanted to simplify their worship of God and to enable the practice of glorifying our Creator in community life.

Like Felix Mendelssohn, a great composer whose family heritage was Jewish,  20th-century composer Aaron Copland chose to utilize a well-established Christian melody as the basis for  fortifying a powerful musical masterpiece.

In other trends of this earthly life . . . in the realm of, let’s say, political compositions—as compared to musical ones—recently I read a book that represents a similar dynamic of compositional accomplishment. David Horowitz’s timely book, Dark Agenda brings to light a contemporary American Christian culture that is under attack from secularizing—yeah, even aggressively anti-religious—zealots.

Perhaps we simple-minded Christians of this era–as well as those more complex Reformed believers whose reforms originated with Martin Luther five centuries ago–will find fortifying encouragement and strong inspiration in these classically-inclined masterpieces:

~~ Felix Mendelsson’s 5th Symphony

~~ Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring,

     oh, and btw. . . honorable mention . . .

~~ Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony

King of Soul

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Appalachian Spring

March 17, 2019

We are reminded that life is good when bright sunshine lifts the  slumber out of these old brown hillsides.

We know life is good when ten-month-old granddaughter contributes smiles to our quiet enjoyment.

Then she leaps with joy in her jumperoo.

Just outside the glass door, Appalachian Spring bursts forth in sunshine, warmth, and quiet celebration of a winter that is gone, gone, gone, and again I say unto thee, gone!

Gone with the snow, gone with the tragi-tales of our human’s wintr’ous struggle . . . at least for a season, at least for today, at least for a few moments. . . while spring tumbles in outside . . .

And lo, what is this amazing sound on the  inside?. . .  here in the inside of our mountain home . . . Harken: Violins, clarinets! cellos, flutes, even trumpets sending out yon first tender shoots of sonorous celebration, as first strains of mountainside spring penetrate the forest floor outdoors, accompanied orchestrally by vibrant  woodwinds and reeds. They agree to ascend  in jubilant rondos, ultimately trotting toward some old Shaker praise.

Life abounds with simple gifts if you wait for them, and even more sweetly if you have worked for them.  Now we pause to appreiate their arrival as the shoots come burstin’ out all over!

Yes, Life is good when bright sunshine lifts the slumber out of these old brown hillsides.

And reflections unfold in memory of springs long ago. . . a different time, a different place. . .

Many and many a year ago I was a clueless college student way down south, down in the bayou country where the coming of spring was too soon overtaken by the fierce heat of summer.

I would escape the routinous sweating of  academic chores. Slipping into the cool music listening room at LSU Student Union, I’d request a big vinyl platter whereon was somehow wondrously tracked the sedate, celebratory strains of Aaron Copland’s masterpiece orchestral work—Appalachian Spring. At that time I listened to Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. This morning, however, the quick search lands us on:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMaAe2aH6pw   

AppSpring2

While listening, I am remembering . . . escaping through miracle of sound-tracked vinyl, that early-’70’s sweltering Southern day. I would dream, it would seem, of days ahead when I would experience Appalachian Spring, the real thing!

AppSring1

And now that I have seen, oh, forty-or-so of these Springs, as an inhabitant, I find myself once again sacramentally satisfied with the blooming outcome.

I was pleased when, 39-years ago, my chosen bride of Appalachia (a New Jersey transplant)  bloomed forth in her wonderful hips and delivered the beginnings of our family.

According to that first child’s  January birthday, it must have been about this time of year—early spring—when we conceived him.

Sap’s rising, yes indeed . . . was then, is now.

‘Tis true. Life is good when again you celebrate Appalachian spring’s crawling-in. The season sneaks in through splashing outside sunshine. While tiny granddaughter babbles here on the floor,  we revisit our  old musical companion once more: Appalachian Spring.

King of Soul