Monday, November 25, 2013

Musical Thoughts While Awaiting "Turkey on the Beach"

Anguilla, British Virgin Island

Musical Thoughts While Awaiting

"Turkey on the Beach"

     I grew up having very traditional Thanksgivings just outside Princeton, NJ in a 1730 restored Dutch farmhouse. My uncle and aunt came from New York City, my Quaker grandmother from Princeton, was the matriarch, we four children were often relegated to the children's table when more family and friends arrived. There were the usual trappings of turkey, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, turnips because an uncle liked them, creamed onions because I liked them, and on and on. But Thanksgiving also marked the beginning of something else:


    Each of us in the family played an instrument. My father, who decided to take up the violin at the age of 26 after getting a PhD from Princeton in English Literature, my mother, who began the cello to compete with my father, my sister, Miss Know-It-All played the piano quite well, I played the violin, because my parents would not let me play the flute - my father liked to buy violins, my brother David, who tried many instruments was relegated to percussion, and my brother Michael, who played the clarinet. Somewhere my father had found an easy set of Christmas carol arrangements for orchestra and soon the music stands were set up in the dining room where the piano lived, the music was handed out, and every night after dinner with had "family orchestra." By the time Christmas came, we were ready to entertain every visitor who came to visit. 

     Many friends over the years have told me how they enjoyed those holiday Christmas moments and I must confess that I miss that very special part of the year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, particularly as my own children are now grown and living far away. But each family has its own traditions and somehow that Thanksgiving of my childhood morphed into Thanksgivings in Anguilla. We tried it once and then continued to come back to this beautiful beach year after year. We call family on Thanksgiving morning and miss them, telling them that we will be see them all at Christmas. But this year we are only 3, not 4, as we must tell all the islanders who knew and loved Stephen, that he is no longer with us. As we go through this process, we have reflected on what we remember from the many wonderful Thanksgivings that we did have together as a family.

    Son Number One ("The Amazing Baz" - see Maestro Classics 'The Soldier's Tale" CD, Track 3) - "I remember practicing the trumpet into a pillow and thinking my eyeballs might blow out!" But what is he doing now? A new duffle had to be purchased to carry the keyboard so that he could practice the piano. Old habits are hard to break, and sometimes that is a very good thing.

     Son Number Two, our engineer, is writing code, a bit of homework from CU Boulder. I also remember the homework sessions that accompanied many of these trips.

     What am I doing? Looking back and remembering the final off-site preparations for the many "Holiday Spectacular Sing-Along" concerts at the Kennedy Center that Stephen and I produced that always included new arrangements of carols, children's choir, gospel choir, large choral society, The were our version of "family orchestra." More polished and professional, more people (2,650 in the sold-out concert hall), but no less fun. Remembering Santa and Basil as the Elf until he was too big for the Elf suit and took over as the French horm playing Santa. Now, looking forward, I wonder who will be the first person to discover our new Maestro Classics store on Facebook. I am reviewing fingerings on the piano with Basil for F-sharp and C-sharp major scales, because they are somewhere in my muscle memory but I have not thought about them for years. And, of course, sorting files on my computer in response to "Your Start-Up Disk is Almost Full" again. The good part is is that I am re-listening to some of the music on my Mac and came across one of my favorites: Gustav Holst's ("The Planets") two and one-half minutes of total delight.


Gustav Holst

A Fugal Concerto, for flute, oboe & string orchestra, Op. 40/2, H. 152


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