I was never very knowledgeable about “serious” music. but I do recall a few years ago a program on public radio about piano pieces by Jean Sibelius that intrigued me, that made me say to myself, “I wish I could play”. He wrote a song cycle about trees. I don’t have any specific recollection about what these pieces sounded like. And perhaps it was merely the idea, that someone from snowy northern Europe would write about trees, that I found attractive. Today I sat wondering what five trees were so honored by Finland’s most famous composer. I was curious enough to look it up and I found that the five trees are the rowan (mountain ash), pine, birch, aspen, and spruce. Sibelius did write about other trees. But these were special, and all familiar to me. The rowan is another name for mountain ash. Its brilliant red berries are sought our by birds as a food source. People eat them too, in jellies, liqueurs, syrups, etc. The rowan has many legends and mystical stories attached to it. The most famous of these piano miniatures is The Spruce. Since winter is so long and lonely, here in MN as well as in Finland, I may as well look it up. Maybe try to play it.
An old landmark, saved from the wrecking ball, and hopefully a venue for arts, education, and community
Musical instruments on this property: two acoustic pianos. The one in the barn has survived dust, mice, and fifty below temps. Electronic keyboard. Two piano accordions, one a ladies size with mediocre tone, and a beautiful sounding 12 bass. Button accordion that plays in C and G. Two mini button accordions. Standard drum set. One hundred year old bass drum from the community band. A bass horn that looks like a Sousa phone but has another name. It’s missing a mouthpiece. E-flat melophone shaped like a French horn but it has valves, not keys. 3 clarinets, one Albert system. A collection of trumpets including one played by my grandfather for silent movies. A boehm flute. Violin that belonged to my grandmother. My dad refinished it once and it’s due for another refinishing. Soprano and bass recorders. Some odd Czechoslovakian flute. Pan-flutes, a gift from my uncle. An Egyptian drum I gave my brother for Christmas. Two melodicas. I quit playing them because too many people asked, “What do you call that instrument?” Guitar got from Green stamps (remember those?). My grandmother’s ukulele. A tonette or two. Bucket of basic rhythm instruments such as tambourine, maracas, castanets, sleigh bells. Wind chimes. I’m sure I’m forgetting something….oh yes…the old washtub bass……
I just lost another uncle. A musical uncle. He was also an artist. And a teacher. If my brother and I have any gifts to share with the church, I can honestly say we got some of them from him. We had a memorial service. I spent a lot of time documenting his life, with photos and memorabilia and eulogies. The day of the service arrived. A few family friends came, along with the lunch ladies from church, and our small family. This was in stark contrast to another recent funeral to which the entire congregation turned out. It’s not too late. I still have the memorabilia. If the same folks who stayed away would come to my house, I would serve coffee and tell my uncle’s story. The day after the service I sat in the front pew staring at the funeral flowers and I couldn’t help it. Tears flowed.
I met an old friend who I remembered as a composer. He is still composing. He said my brother has a lot of music in him, and he asked “What is your forte?” I said I was a writer and he asked, immediately, “Would you consider writing a libretto?” I said yes, but I’m going to have to research this to see what I am up against. The subject he has been studying is about the Biblical King David. I thought to myself, what do I have in common with David? What can I grab onto that will keep my energy and interest level up? Not slaying a giant. Maybe the fact he was a shepherd? The way he put a soldier in the front lines so he could steal the man’s wife? Then….it occurred to me that David was a poet……
Åland is an autonomous region of Finland, Swedish speaking and with its own flag. It is an archipelago consisting of numerous islands. I looked up Åland music and found a calendar of events that includes no less than fourteen music festivals. Styles range from organ music, country, jazz, chamber, medieval, rock, pop, punk, alternative, big band, and Christmas music. They also have their own folk music.
Every Sunday in a virtual world called SecondLife, a Danish electronic music composer gives a concert at the Open Arms Cross Church. He always includes a hymn selection from the Danish church. It is an hour for meditation and reflection, and immensely enjoyable. Yes, it’s pixels but the sound is real, the surroundings induce reveerence, and there are real people in attendance.
I hadn’t heard this one before. My brother’s piano student discovered it. Google Howl’s Moving Castle and you will find the theme to an animated Japanese film, award winning, and somewhere on youtube, the composer Joe Hisaishi playing his composition on piano and then jumping up to conduct the symphony. It’s absolutely charming.
I discovered a Back to the Fifties cafe in SecondLife, at the Swedish sim. The music stream is English language, with some rather mediocre remakes, but the patter is Swedish and it’s cool. My avatar dances there a lot. By herself. How do you like her saddle shoes and poodle skirt and kittykat glasses? On second thought I think this snapshot is from the Hell Bop Bar but who cares?