Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An Irish folksong inspires Josh Groban, and at least one composer

The Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA on Sunday (Oct. 17) opened the main service with Jubilate Ringers performing Sandra Eithun’s arrangement of ‘You Raise Me Up”. This is the same song that Josh Groban performs (Sirius Radio often plays it), and it is based on the Irish traditional folk song “Danny Boy”. The theme is the similar to the main subject of the passionate “Irish Rhapsody #4” in A Minor ("The Fisherman of Loch Maegh and What He Saw") by Irish composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, a 20 minute orchestral tone poem that is surprisingly little performed (it is available on Chandos, Vernon Handley and the Ulster Orchestra, 1988) but rises to great majesty as it crashes to a close, like a great memorial postlude.

Last week, I drove the turnpike route to the little town of Kipton, Ohio (five miles west of Oberlin), for the service of my own aunt June, when the song played several times over Sirius. During the service, it was mentioned that June played the piano and often entertained people with it back during the war years (she was born in 1924). Her older sister Frances (passed in 2000) actually taught piano and played in bingo halls.  (That piano was an upright in the den of the "historic" Kipton house; once I banged out the infamous cadenza from Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto on it), I took piano from a woman in Arlington (also on an upright) who would pass away of cancer when I was in ninth grade, in 1958.

I thought about this yesterday during the concert at Le Poisson Rouge (previous post) in New York. For every musician who makes it big time in the public eye, there were countless family members (usually women, including those who never married but who took care of everyone else) who passed down the love of music to future generations.

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