Google+ Followers

Friday, September 19, 2014

Romany Life*

Just a quick blurb to welcome the 30th country to visit the blog--Romania, who put down nineteen hits today. Great to see you.  Just a gentle reminder that discourse on this blog is welcome and too infrequent.  Answer back, will ya?

*--Victor Herbert, 1898.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Victors*


I can't believe it.

The call came out of the blue last Friday, and it's totally changed my life.

The director of the music library at Rowan University (Glassboro NJ) called and asked if I would still like a job. I was in utter shock; he told me that my name was high up on the list of candidates for a position that I applied for in the beginning of 2014, but for some reason wasn't selected for an interview.  Anyway, there's been a lot of movement in the department and now they need someone to fill in on an adjunct basis, with the definite possibility of moving to a permanent position.

There are a couple of down sides to this development.  First, on the purely silly: I can't run the practical joke I was going to play on the local classical music radio station, and I'm really vexed about it. Second, if the job becomes permanent, I have to establish residency in New Jersey. My girls want to finish high school where they are.  I can apply for an exemption to the rule, but who knows what it will take?

On the other hand, my dream of working in an academic situation to help my kids pay for school is about to come true. God is good, and he has truly showered his blessings on me this week. Combined with getting to do a concerto with the Warminster (PA) Symphony, this has been one of my best weeks ever. Alleluia!

I must get some sleep. Onward.

*--Louis Elbel, 1898. Fight Song of the University of Michigan. Go Blue!!!

UPDATE:Yesterday evening, of one of the best days of my life, I attended rehearsal for Archdiocesan Choir.   We sang music of Faure, Stanford, Palestrina, Mozart, and Herbert Howells.  At the end, we did Vaughan Williams' O Clap Your Hands. Perfect end to a near-perfect day. My heart is full.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Strife is O'er*

The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun: Alleluia!

In the Lutheran tradition (and other Christian churches, I'm sure), the funeral service emphasizes the Resurrection, with corresponding hymns.  I couldn't think of a better prelude to my remembrance of my high school orchestra teacher, Gerrit Van Ravenswaay. This was originally posted on Facebook:


Today I learned of the passing of my high school orchestra teacher, Gerrit Van Ravenswaay, or as most of his students called him, “Mr. Van”.  Although it’s been over thirty years since I last played under his baton, the lessons I learned in his 5th period orchestra remain with me to this day.  My first concert with the orchestra featured the Grand Rapids-based Jubal Brass Ensemble, who joined us on the finale for a performance of the last movement of Mendelssohn’s “Reformation” Symphony.  As a lowly sophomore tooting away on my Bundy trombone, I felt overwhelmed, overmatched, and really out of place. He didn’t have to say anything; the expectation was that I would improve, and even though I earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Music, I’m still practicing, forty-plus years later.

The music was always important, and Mr. Van challenged us with the best. Symphonies by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Haydn, student performances of concertos by Lalo, Wieniawski, and Gordon Jacob, and Wagner’s Parsifal were all on the program during my time at Holland High.  He encouraged us to seek out more demanding performance venues, like Grand Rapids Youth Symphony, music camps, and All-State ensembles.

But the music, as exalted as much of it was, paled in comparison to the life lessons we learned.  He had so much to teach that would make us better people and better citizens, and I remember the orchestra would sit patiently while Mr. Van held forth on some topic totally unrelated to what we were playing that day.  It never seemed like preaching—although I can imagine some folks might have seen it that way—and  I often wondered what his sons Steve and Gary, as well as his daughter Julie, were thinking as we sat together in class.

The people with whom I performed in the Holland High School Orchestra have grown up and grown older, and some perform on the instruments they did in high school, but most have gone on to other things. I won’t say I was one of the lucky ones; even though a good part of my adult life has been spent performing music of the great composers—which is truly a blessing, make no mistake—the greater blessing was to have learned life lessons from Mr. Van as a trombonist in his orchestra, and later as a teaching colleague and trusted friend.  Thank you, Mr. Van, and well done, thou good and faithful servant.

Amen.
Onward.

*--Words: Un­known au­thor, poss­ib­ly 12th Cen­tu­ry (Fi­ni­ta jam sunt prael­ia); trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Eng­lish by Fran­cis Pott, Hymns Fit­ted to the Or­der of Com­mon Pray­er, 1861.

Music: Vic­to­ry (Pal­es­tri­na), Gi­o­van­ni P. da Pal­es­tri­na, Mag­nif­i­cat Ter­tii To­ni, 1591