I just love John Williams’ work, his music now a part of our culture. He has composed many of the most famous movie film scores and is actually the second most nominated artist, after that of Walt Disney. He brought violinist Itzhak Perlman aboard when he created the haunting score for Schindler’s List, and worked with both Itzhak and Yo Yo Ma after composing the score for Memoirs of a Geisha (the photo above from that collaboration).
Such musical genuis. Tomorrow it will be wonderful to experience their efforts as they become part of history.
A classical quartet gets the prime spot between the swearing-in of Vice President-elect Joseph Biden and that of President-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday. And along the way, a 56-year-old musical injustice will be rectified.
Two of the nation’s most familiar classical artists — cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Itzhak Perlman — will be joined by Metropolitan Opera clarinetist Anthony McGill and Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero in performing a new piece by composer John Williams.
It’s called “Air and Simple Gifts,” the centerpiece of which will be “an exuberant rendering,” in Williams’ words, of traditional Shaker hymn “The Gift to Be Simple,” which Aaron Copland made famous in his 1944 ballet “Appalachian Spring.”
Williams surrounds “Simple Gifts,” as the tune is also called, with an original, hymn-like theme. The whole piece will run about 4½ minutes and will be performed live by the quartet (although Williams will supervise a recording of it Sunday in D.C. as an emergency backup in case of inclement weather).
The president-elect asked Perlman and Ma to perform, and they in turn called Williams — a frequent collaborator with both artists — “to help them prepare something to play.” Ma chose the other two performers, Williams told Daily Variety.
Knowing of Obama’s appreciation for Copland, they chose the Shaker hymn, which Williams arranged for this unusual quartet, and then composed “a reflective and prayerful theme” as musical bookends.
Since Ma was in L.A. last week to perform with the Philharmonic, he visited Williams on Saturday to run through the piece. The quartet played it for the first time on Tuesday in New York and will rehearse again and record it with Williams on Sunday. Chamber groups are not usually “conducted,” so Williams will not be seen on Tuesday (although he said he may attend as part of the crowd).
In January 1953, Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” was scheduled to be performed at Dwight Eisenhower’s inaugural concert but was banned at the last minute when an Illinois congressman complained about Copland’s liberal politics. Later that year, Copland became a target of Joe McCarthy’s Communist witch-hunt.
In time, Copland was “completely rehabilitated,” Williams noted, performing at the White House and eventually receiving the Congressional Gold Medal. The performance at this inauguration of “Simple Gifts,” a piece widely associated with Copland, “describes a completed circle of events that is nice to think about,” the composer said.
“We all feel a sense of great privilege to be able to contribute in a very small way, musically, to an event like this,” Williams added. “It’s a great moment in our history.”
I just discovered the video below by Tom Chapin and simply love it. I would have blared it from all the intercoms in the schools where I worked as a school psychologist. I hated the testing so much and what it was doing to the curriculum that I would tell parents to keep their kids home on test days. I could not believe the number of hours that elementary students were subjected to through this testing. It was and continues to be awful. And, don’t get me started about no child left behind and how worthless that is. Too much negativity is not good for this blog.
Be sure to pass this on to any of our under appreciated and often maligned teachers out there. You can get a copy of the song for free by going here: http://notonthetest.com
Go on to sleep now, third grader of mine.
The test is tomorrow but you’ll do just fine.
It’s reading and math. Forget all the rest.
You don’t need to know what is not on the test.
Each box that you mark on each test that you take,
Remember your teachers. Their jobs are at stake.
Your score is their score, but don’t get all stressed.
They’d never teach anything not on the test.
The School Board is faced with no child left behind
With rules but no funding, they’re caught in a bind.
So music and art and the things you love best
Are not in your school ’cause they’re not on the test.
Sleep, sleep, and as you progress
You’ll learn there’s a lot that is not on the test.
Debate is a skill that is useful to know,
Unless you’re in Congress or talk radio,
Where shouting and spouting and spewing are blessed
‘Cause rational discourse was not on the test.
Thinking’s important. It’s good to know how.
And someday you’ll learn to, but someday’s not now.
Go on to sleep, now. You need your rest.
Don’t think about thinking. It’s not on the test.
In April 2008 Tom brought his musical message to the New York State United Teachers Convention convention. In a morning session highlighting the arts, delegates were brought to their feet with his satirical song, “Not On The Test.”
Tom Chapin performed this song, Puppy at the Pound, LIVE at Acoustic Long Island on April 16, 2008. This charming video was produced and directed by Rob Dircks. While it is online as a podcast, it kept skipping and restarting so we thought we’d share it here so folks could enjoy it.
And, for my political pals, we love this video as well (Go Away, Sarah Palin! written by Michael Mark, Jon Cobert and Tom Chapin.) This was performed for the first time on December 28, 2008 at The Turning Point in Piermont, NY. Tom is right when he said, “We keep thinking the song is already out of date, and she pops up yet again!”