Mar. 21, 2006

A Little Tune

by Joseph Enzweiler

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Poem: "A Little Tune" by Joseph Enzweiler from The Man Who Ordered Perch. © Iris Press. Reprinted with permission.

A Little Tune

Here's a poem for the little girl
who sat with the band and hit the drum,
who swung her feet to a little tune.
At four years old, it's all that easy.
When she hit the drum, it was the drum
to hit. Time to go and go she went,
a curl of air at the flowered skirt,
her blonde hair hurrying to keep up.
We felt the distance between us then,
all the money she never spent,
deals never made or taxes paid,
no due considerations, sorrows
or tactful retreats. Our smiles
bore the loss of something pure
as mother held the coat she backed into,
laughing at the ceiling as she's buttoned up,
perfectly alone, the way water
is happy around a stone. We were watching
a field move, nothing to say, just the wind,
or how God was content with the infinite
and the dark, then by accident gestured
and made the stars.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of poet Phyllis McGinley, born in Ontario, Oregon (1905).

She wrote,
"A Mother's hardest to forgive.
Life is the fruit she longs to hand you,
Ripe on a plate. And while you live,
Relentlessly she understands you."

Her collection Times Three: Selected Verse from Three Decades (1960) became the first book of light verse to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

It was on this day in 1952 that Alan Freed organized the first ever rock and roll concert, the Moondog Coronation Ball, in Cleveland, Ohio.

In 1951 Alan Freed took to the airwaves for the first time under the name Moondog. He was convinced by a record storeowner named Leo Mintz to play rhythm and blues songs to an audience of mostly white teenagers. This was a new idea at the time, and it made Freed very popular with his audience.

Freed became a favorite in Cleveland, and so he decided to hold a concert, the Moondog Coronation Ball, for his loyal listeners. He hired bands like the Dominoes, the Rockin' Highlanders, Tiny Grimes and Danny Cobb to play the Cleveland Arena which held 10,000 people. At first, Freed was afraid the concert would be a bust because nobody would show up. But thousands of teenagers lined the sidewalks of Euclid Avenue, holding tickets Freed had printed, eager to hear these black artists perform their music. The arena filled easily, and thousands of teenagers were barred from entering, even though they had tickets.

The first performer that night was Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams. During his first song, the barred teenagers tried to force their way inside. They broke doors and windows, people were knocked down and pushed aside, and fights broke out all over the arena. The police closed down the concert after Williams had played only one song.

It's the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach, born in Eisenach, Germany (1685). He came from a family that had produced musicians for seven generations. Both his parents had died by the time he was ten, so he went to live with his older brother, a professional organist who taught him to play a variety of keyboard instruments. He went to the local music school where he sang in the boys' choir, and by the time he was eighteen he got his first job as a church organist.

Members of his congregation were annoyed by his habit of improvising while playing hymns, which made it difficult for people to sing along. But he developed a reputation as one of the best organists in the country. He eventually moved to Leipzig where he worked as the city's director of church music for the rest of his life, and where he composed most of his major works.

Bach earned a decent living in Leipzig, but he had a grueling workload. He had to write a cantata every month. In order to get ahead of the deadlines he wrote one every week for the first two years. In addition to serving as organist and musical director at church services, he had to teach a boys' class in Latin and music, and he was continually frustrated by his undisciplined students and the inexperienced musicians he had to work with.

Despite all his difficulties, he managed to compose some of his greatest works of music in history, including The Passion According to St. John (1723), The Passion According to St. Matthew (1729), Mass in B minor (1733), and the Goldberg Variations (1742). During his lifetime, almost no one appreciated his music. People thought of him has hopelessly old-fashioned. When he died in 1750 he was hailed as a great virtuoso on the organ but nothing more.

In 1829, the composer Felix Mendelssohn staged a revival performance of The Passion According to St. Matthew, and Bach finally began to be appreciated.

Johann Sebastian Bach said, "I was obliged to work hard; whoever is equally industrious will succeed just as well."

And he said, "There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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