Gentle readers, you’re the best! I am grateful to you with all my heart for your loving and compassionate condolences. Thank you!
This post is my way of easing back into the saddle.
“Serenade to Music” by Ralph Vaughn Williams is one of my top five favorite musical compositions. I first heard it in 1970 or ’71 when I played bassoon with Maryland Symphonette, a group of adult musicians from the Baltimore area, conducted by Angelo Gatto. We rehearsed and performed at Morgan State College (now Morgan State University).
Mr. Gatto also conducted a regional group for talented high school musicians, to which I also belonged. I think we were called the Maryland Youth Symphony — that group rehearsed at St. Ignatius Church on St. Paul Street in Baltimore, near the Washington Monument and Peabody Conservatory. With that group I played two other compositions that are among my favorites: “Capriccio Espagnol” by Rimsky-Korsakov and “Symphony Espagnole” by Lalo.
Anyway, back to “Serenade to Music” — first, there is something about music from the 1930’s: haunting, poignant harmonies like no other era, which touch me deeply. Stirring, exalting, celestial — these are some of the words that describe this music for me.
The lyrics are taken from “The Merchant of Venice” by William Shakespeare:How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank! Here we will sit, and let the sounds of music Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night Become the touches of sweet harmony. Look how the floor of heaven Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold: There’s not the smallest orb that thou behold’st But in his motion like an angel sings Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins; Such harmony is in immortal souls; But whilst this muddy vesture of decay Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it. Come, ho, and wake Diana with a hymn: With sweetest touches pierce your mistress’ ear, And draw her home with music. I am never merry when I hear sweet music. The reason is, your spirits are attentive: The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is mov’d with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils; The motions of his spirit are dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus: Let no such man be trusted. Music! Hark! It is the music of the house. Methinks it sounds much sweeter than by day. Silence bestows that virtue on it. How many things by season season’d are To their right praise and true perfection! Peace, ho! The moon sleeps with Endymion, And would not be awak’d. Soft stillness and the night Become the touches of sweet harmony.