New Music for Christmas

Wednesday, December 1st, 2021     Marie Sontag     Start the Conversation

As you may know, my husband and I have been recovering from COVID the past few weeks, having landed in the hospital. We are doing much better – moving and breathing slowly, but doing better.

As I look forward to December, my heart turns to family and music.When I taught band and choir, long before “memes” were a thing, I created and posted one on our music room’s wall to give my students a common goal. The better we played together, the more we could accomplish this mission. The meme was: Music paints emotions with the palette of sound on the canvas of the soul. I wanted to instill my young musicians with the goal of stirring people’s souls.

Music Paints Emotions with the Palette of Sound on the Canvas of the Soul

I enjoy music, especially when it feeds my soul. I also love books. How much more powerful is the draw on my emotions when a dramatic piece of music also paints a story!

This month, Dvořák’s American Quartet did that for me. I read about it in Ashley Rescot’s novel, “A Change in Tune.” Dvořák, born in Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic), wrote this piece one summer while vacationing in the Czech village of Spillville, Iowa. Composing American Quartet shortly after his New Word Symphony, Dvořák writes, “I should never have written these works ‘just so’ if I hadn’t seen America.”

American Quartet seems an especially appropriate (albeit unique) focus piece for December when our thoughts turn to Christmas and family. In Rescot’s fictional story, the main character, Victoria, along with her two sisters and a friend, perform this piece at a family holiday dinner (they have a very musical family!) The author, herself a professional violinist, explains her fictional characters’ thoughts as they play the piece.

“The rich alto of the viola lent itself well to the [opening] folk tune. She [Victoria’s sister Adrienne] played with such emotion, as though the people’s stories [possibly from an Irish folk tune] resided within her.

“The music [in the 2nd movement] filled Jerry [an Asian-American] with a sense of belonging and cultural pride. In this country, people came from all over the world to live together in harmony.

“The melody [of the third movement] soared from Marie’s instrument like a caged bird finally given the chance to fly.

“…The melody flowed through her [Victoria’s] fingers [in the 4th movement] like water from a stream, as though she enjoyed the communal dance.

“…When the work drew to a close… Gigi patted Jerry on the back. “A true testament to the American spirit. The world is more beautiful when we work together as a family.”

I chose to share this music and excerpt from Rescot’’s novel because holidays always turn my thoughts to family. Good times, hard times, fun times, sad times. Every interaction makes me part of who I am. As I listen to the quartet, I reflect on past family scenes. I allow the music’s palette of sound to paint thankful emotions on the canvas of my soul.

I also think of the diverse families spread out across our nation. People from all walks of life, all nations of the world. This Christmas, I’m taking to heart the words spoken by Rescot’s character, Gigi, “The world is more beautiful when we work together as a family.”

That’s my goal, not only this Christmas, but all year round. How about you?

Link to American Quartet-
Link to New Word Symphony –
Link to Rescot’s A Change in Tune
Link to Background on American Quartet
Link to my Lean and Green Recipes

December Calendar Link: December, 2021


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