“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘it will be happier.” Alfred Lord Tennyson. Yes it will! Yes it must be! At last, we have much to celebrate, the passing of 2020 for a start! My celebrations will reach a peak at 23.58 on 31st December, when, with a glass bubbly in hand, I shall ‘prance’ out 2020 accompanied by Johann Strauss II’s Champagne Polka!
Auld Lang Syne is more pertinent than ever this year. We all know that the lyrics are attributed to Robert Burns in 1788, however did you know that although he sent a copy of the original song to the Scots Musical Museum in that year, he sent it with the remark, “The following ballad, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man”. It appears that this famous ballad of Burns’ is an adaptation of a poem on the old adage, ‘never look back’, called ‘Old Long Syne’, by James Watson, printed in 1711. It is remarkably similar:
Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
And never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On old long syne.
On old long syne my Jo,
On old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
On old long syne.
There are many composers’ names attributed to the music but who would have thought that Beethoven wrote an arrangement in the original brisk Strathspey rhythm– part of his 12 Scottish Folksongs (1814). Well worth a click!
Before a good ‘Voluntary’ to raise our spirits and hail the new year, a moment of calm with a beautiful refrain for the ‘blessing of the water of the font for baptism’ – a new beginning. ‘Sicut cervus’ by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina recorded during the first lockdown by Cambridge Chorale, directed by Owain Park, to the backdrop of Chichester Cathedral, seems very pertinent. This beautiful motet is the setting of Psalm 42:2.3. In it is embedded the beauty and dignity for which Palestrina’s music is known.
Now, for the Voluntary – musically and in the literal meaning of the word! Raise your glasses to herald in 2021! The vaccine – the EU deal bla bla – it is all here – and more locally the amazing and humbling community spirit and sheer good will of all those in our midst who instead of carping, go to the ends of the earth to assist their fellow men and women in so many different ways and at considerable risk to themselves; from caring for vulnerable people to stocking super market shelves; to the army sorting out the lorry drivers at Dover docks; to all volunteers everywhere. Who can resist an uplifting blast dedicated to them all of John Stanley’s Trumpet Voluntary, this is an excellent version performed by Jason Covey and Sean Jackson.
No coffee concertissimo this time. However, there is nothing like a good quiz to keep the mind on the coffee and off the leftover mince pies! The National Theatre have some challenging and very interesting questions for you presented celebrities such as Helen Mirren, Lenny Henry and Julie Walters among others.
For many, the Christmas period is just not Christmas without a production by the Royal Ballet of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. The story was adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s ‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse King’. Filmed and premiered on Christmas Eve. It is totally free and utterly delightful.
As the nights draw in, it’s time for some relaxing Winter Night Jazz music for winding down and preparing supper!
AND FINALLY: As we bid farewell to our former relationship with the European Union and welcome a new relationship with our friends in Europe, it would be quite wrong to sign off with anything other than the excerpt from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, the European National Anthem, ‘Ode to Joy’ sung by none other than Mr Bean himself, recorded in 2011!
We wish you all every possible good wish for a safe, healthy and happy 2021 when we hope to be able to hold our concerts again.