Keeping Time

Flipping through TV channels last night, I searched for a show that didn’t have a gun waving in it (If Jared Loughner had wanted a reference guide for his mayhem he had only to look at nightly TV programming given to us by Hollywood Left.). After a few minutes of (+) and (-) channeling, to my delight, I found a program about the Chicago Sinfonietta and its maestro Paul Freeman. I instantly perked up. The show set my metronome wagging. I love music, all kinds of music.

In short, the program related some of the history of the Sinfonietta and talked about the leaving of its founder Paul Freeman. Freeman, who founded the group in 1987, was someone who had met and spoke with Martin Luther King. This weekend the Chicago Sinfonietta is paying tribute to Martin Luther King, honoring King’s Dream: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Since its inception, Freeman’s musical program plays out the words of King’s dream with a diverse group of musicians using an equally diverse musical library.

Freeman is retiring at the end of the 2011 season. He will be handing the baton to Mei-Ann Chen. She will be named the new Music Director. Mei-Ann Chen is someone Freeman has worked with. He deeply respects her talents and her desire to help others, especially through education.

The Chicago Sinfonietta as described by its blog home page: “the nation’s most diverse symphony orchestra, presents an exciting blend of musical and artistic genres. Mixing the Classical and Romantic repertoire with bold contemporary works, the Sinfonietta shatters traditional boundaries through its collaborations, creating synergies between classical, dance, theater and other musical styles including jazz, rock, and World music.

I was impressed by the diverse group of musicians, the expansive repertoire and their unbridled desire to teach music to young people. While watching the program, I could see myself, cycled back in time, being involved with the Chicago Sinfonietta. I saw myself playing in this orchestra. I have played trumpet since fourth grade.

Seeing the maestro Paul Freeman conducting the group also elicited memories of times when I would stand in front of my family’s stereo and conduct an invisible orchestra. I wanted more than anything else as a child to conduct music. I saw myself as a conduit through which music became alive to others as it had become alive to me

The first LP I ever purchased (and conducted) was Antonin Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor “From the New World“. I was twelve years old at the time. The purchase used all of my saved allowances. The title of the LP immediately caught my attention and I decided rather quickly that I need this album. I would later read that Dvořák, interested in the Native American music and African-American spirituals of America stated:
“I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition, to be developed in the United States. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them.”

And so, music continues to bring together diverse people, each with their own lyrics, melodies, harmonies and rhythms. And, while discordant laws seek to enforce diversity music, simply and beautifully, endorses and cherishes diversity sotto voce or forté.

A Song of Summer

“I want you to imagine we are sitting on the cliffs of heather and looking out over the sea. The sustained chords in the high strings suggest the clear sky and stillness and calm of the scene…You must remember that figure that comes in the violins when the music becomes more animated. I’m introducing it there to suggest the gentle rise and fall of the waves. The flutes suggest a seagull gliding by.” The blind Frederick Delius describing his composition A Song of Summer to Eric Fenby.

As a child I could do no better than to lay sprawled out on the front room floor submersing myself in A Song of Summer by Frederick Delius. His music enticed me in a way that no other could: the hauntingly beautiful Irmelin Prelude  and the enchanting Walk to the Paradise Garden

Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 “Sorrowful Songs”

Song for Athene – Sir John Tavener (1993)

Miserere Mei Deus – Gregorio Allegri (1630)


Ever since high school I have enjoyed listening to the colorful Russian music of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. His Oriental themed symphonic suite, Scheherazade, has four movements:

1. The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship
2. The Kalendar Prince
3. The Young Princess and the Young Princess
4. The Festival at Baghdad. The Sea. The Ship Goes to Pieces on a Rock Surmounted by a Bronze Warrior

Rimsky-Korsakov’s brief introduction to the piece:
The Sultan Schariar, convinced that all women are false and faithless, vowed to put to death each of his wives after the first nuptial night. But the Sultana Sheherazade saved her life by entertaining her lord with fascinating tales, told seriatim, for a thousand and one nights. The Sultan, consumed with curiosity, postponed from day to day the execution of his wife, and finally repudiated his bloody vow entirely.

Here is the beginning of Scheherazade . The massive sounding notes heard at the beginning of Scheherazade represent the Sultan and then comes the enchanting and sensuous violin solo- Scheherazade (almost a minute into the piece).  She’ll entice you!!

From the liner notes of the my Seraphim CD:

“The music of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov is, in the orchestra, what Technicolor and Dolby stereo sound are in the movies – more of everything that delights the senses.”

I recommend buying a CD of Scheherazade and listening to the entire suite. Buy a disc that also contains Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture. На здоровье! (To our health!)