Today is the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, or at least the anniversary of the day he was baptised, but he has been celebrating all year; though like everyone else, he had to cancel all his live concerts and parties. So today’s window opens in Germany once more, to a very special Christmas performance and plenty of Freude!
Freude! Freude! … Alle Menschen warden Brüder. / Joy! Joy! … All men shall become brothers.
On December 23rd 1989, only a month and a half after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Leonard Bernstein led a concert in West Berlin. Two days later, on Christmas Day, he led an identical concert across the border, in what was previously East Germany. The music was Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Ode to Joy was first written in 1785 by German poet Friedrich Schiller as a celebration of the brotherhood of man. Beethoven set the words for the final, choral movement of the Symphony completed in 1824. Having soloists and a choir burst into joyful singing in a symphony was revolutionary, but it has obviously stood the test of time.
Bernstein made one change for this two-concert series: he directed the choir to sing “Freiheit” (freedom) instead of “Freude” (joy).
The Ode to Joy is also the anthem of The European Union; an instrumental ( and much shorter ! ) version for a continent of many languages. Alas for British Remainers, this music is now a bitter reminder of the Brexit disaster and all that we are about to lose. Luckily Tidalscribe will be remaining in the European Union and adhering to Schiller and Beethoven’s optimism and belief in the brotherhood of man – brotherhood in the figurative inclusive sense .
Today’s window opens joyfully in Germany. Jauchzet, frohlocket! ( Shout for joy ) is a 1734 Christmas cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach that forms the first part of his Christmas Oratorio. It was incorporated within services of the two most important churches in Leipzig, St. Thomas’ and St. Nicholas’. Bach, a devout Lutheran, composed music for the Lutheran Church and was Thomaskantor responsible for church music at four churches in Leipzig. Enjoy this music in a beautiful Dresden church.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) was a composer, organist and violinist widely regarded as one of the greatest classical composers of all time. Not only did he compose great works every week for church services, but his home life was also busy, though full of tragedy. He was devoted to his family. In 1706 he married his cousin Maria Barbara Bach. The couple had seven children together, some of whom died as infants. Maria died in 1720. The following year Bach married a singer named Anna Magdalena Wülcken. They had thirteen children, more than half of them died as children. But he still managed to leave the world so much.
You can read the poignant history of that amazing church with this link.
The Nutcracker is an 1892 two-act ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky based on E. T. A. Hoffmann’s story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”.
On Christmas Eve, family and friends gather to decorate the beautiful Christmas tree in preparation for the party. Once the tree is finished the children are sent for. The party begins and the March of the Toy Soldiers is played. Presents are given out to the children, but Clara is the only one to be entranced by a wooden nutcracker carved in the shape of a little man. Fritz breaks it and Clara is heartbroken.
During the night, Clara returns to the parlour to check on her beloved nutcracker and that’s when the magic begins. A rather scary story perhaps, with the Nutcracker growing to full size and a battle between gingerbread soldiers and mice. Fortunately the nutcracker turns into a handsome prince who takes Clara to the beautiful Land of Sweets.
With its story it has naturally become a Christmas favourite, especially as it is full of well known tunes!
My thanks to Miriam Hurdle, whose blog gave me the idea to include The Nutcracker in my calendar. She shared two very different films of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and most of us preferred this Russian version.
Today’s window opens in France with L’adieu des bergers – The Shepherd’s Farewell, not as we might imagine, the shepherds taking their sheep back to the hills after visiting the new baby Jesus.
L’enfance du Christ (The Childhood of Christ), Opus 25, is an oratorio by the French composer Hector Berlioz, based on the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, first performed on 10 December 1854, with Berlioz conducting. The second part of his sacred trilogy shows Mary, Joseph and Jesus setting out for Egypt to avoid the slaughter of the innocents, having been warned by angels.
And what a journey lay ahead with Jesus now a lively toddler, from Bethlehem to an unnamed location in Egypt. If they headed for the big city, Alexandria, it could be about 320 miles as the crow flies. On motorways this is a long journey with young children, even with the electronic entertainment modern parents install in their cars. What route Mary and Joseph followed we do not know, so it is likely the journey was longer than 320 miles and arduous.
Today’s window opens on a digital Christmas Card with a visit to Cyberspouse’s Facebook page. He wasn’t interested in Facebook, but he did create a website and a Facebook page for his photography and digital images. The last picture he put on his page was a Christmas card. There are lots of other interesting pictures worth looking at on his page. The Christmas picture was taken at Kingston Lacy, Dorset, a lovely National Trust historic house with beautiful grounds worth exploring at all times of the year.
The Gesualdo Six is a vocal consort formed in March 2014 . I first saw them on Facebook, actually I’ve only seen them on Facebook, but when they pop up it’s a lovely peaceful interlude amongst the other Facebook rubbish or the Christmas hype, or this year an escape from Covid and Brexit. Visit them on Facebook to see them singing a German Christmas Carol. The picture is of one of my favourite cathedrals, Lincoln, where one of the group was a choirboy. At the top of the city it looks wonderful illuminated for Christmas.
Today Elf is playing jack-in-a-box and has chosen to open the window and let in the snow. Fly away and escape 2020 with his favourite Christmas cartoon. Many of you will know this song well. The film became a Christmas tradition.
“Walking in the Air” was written by Howard Blake for the 1982 animated film of Raymond Briggs’ 1978 children’s book The Snowman; the fleeting adventures of a young boy and a snowman who has come to life. In the second part of the story, the boy and the snowman fly to the North Pole. “Walking in the Air” is the theme for the journey. This is the original recording of the song with Peter Auty, a choirboy from St. Paul’s Cathedral. His name was omitted from the original credits. He is now a fiftyish operatic tenor.
Today finds Elf in contemplative mood so the window opens in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge University; a place inextricably associated with Christmas. For over a hundred years A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols has been broadcast on the radio and more recently on television, from here to millions of people around the world.
Ralph Vaughan Williams was a composer of great importance for English music. He was born on 12 October 1872 in a Cotswold village. At the turn of the century he was among the first to travel into the countryside to collect folk songs and carols from singers, notating them for future generations. He died on 26 August 1958; his ashes are interred in Westminster Abbey, near Purcell. In his long and very productive life music of every genre flowed in profusion.
Wiener Sängerknaben or Vienna Boys’ Choir is the world’s foremost children’s choral group. It is among the oldest of musical organizations, founded following an Imperial decree of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I on July 7, 1498; the Emperor wished boys’ voices to be added to the choir of the Imperial Chapel, or Hofkapelle. There are actually four choirs that tour the world, though Covid has put that on pause.
A frosty morning made Elf think of wintry things so he asked the boys to sing Sleigh Ride.
Over seventy years after Leroy Anderson created Sleigh Ride, the composition is still ranked as one of the 10 most popular pieces of Christmas music worldwide. Though the word “Christmas” is never mentioned in the lyrics, which Mitchell Parish wrote several years after Anderson finished the composition. Anderson ( 1908 – 1975 ) was an American composer of short, light concert pieces and his music is instantly familiar and sure to cheer us up, whether you want to dance to Belle of the Ball or write at speed to The Typewriter ( which gives me an idea for another blog! )