Sunday, May 18, 2008

Patriotic Prejudice

When my brother, sister and I were young, our family embarked on long car-trips nearly every summer. It was during those times that we learned a tremendous amount about the music favoured by our parents. It seemed only "fair", really-- most of the time that we were at home, we three (particularly my brother and I) expended a tremendous amount of effort, torturing our long-suffering parents with OUR favourite music. Much to our parents' chagrin, our tunes-of-choice were more often than not gleaned from sources like The Muppet Show, Marx Brothers movies, and choir practise. The "choir practise" part actually sounds kind of promising, in theory, doesn't it? Especially since my rawther talented brother often accompanied our choir on the church's pipe organ, so his musical accompaniment was unbridled perfection. However, quite often in fits of mischievous boredom, I would pass my time dreaming up alternative lyrics to the beautiful hymns we had learned, and thus managed to squelch any hope that my long-suffering mother might have had that we would grow up to be normal, responsible, respectful adults.

In the car, however, it was a different story. We were clamped into our seatbelts, prisoners in the back seat of the creaky old Volvo. Once we were gunning down the highway as fast as the engine could propel us forward (read: NOT FAST ENOUGH), my father would pull out a large bag of cassette tapes that he had pre-recorded, just for the occasion.

We three learned the hard way, to tell all of the Beethoven Piano Concertos apart, and by number, too. We wallowed through Wagner's entire Ring Cycle during a nearly month-long, cross-Canada tour. We learned our Mother's favourite composers: Brahms and Schumann, and of the historical relationship between the two (and of Johannes Brahms with Robert Schumann's wife, Clara. Woo-woo. Even though the relationship was apparently platonic, it was "heady stuff" for us kids to absorb at the time.) And this, my friends, is only the tip of the iceburg, considering that each of us lived and travelled with our parents until we were at least eighteen years old.

One summer, my father played a tape for us that immediately captured our imaginations. It was a recording he had made of "The Last Night of the Proms" concert, from the Royal Albert Hall in London, England. We kids were completely riveted by the unbridled patriotism of such songs as "Jerusalem", "Rule Britannia", and most of all, "Land of Hope and Glory". We had always been brought up to be ferociously proud of our British-Canadian heritage. Hearing such powerful music, accompanied by the rapturous cheers and outbursts from the exuberant crowd of people who packed the hall to the rafters, was an epiphany for us. We rolled down the car windows, cranked up the volume, and turned THAT trip into a travelling sing-a-long. It was bliss.

This is the Victoria Day weekend, here in Canada, and I do believe that I must be one of the few remaining Canadians who insist upon calling it just that: "VICTORIA DAY", rather than the more common "May 2-4 Weekend". Unlike many, I have no burning desire to re-name the holiday "Founders Day", or to try to whittle down the long list of great Canadians, in the hopes of finding just ONE to celebrate and honour...

This weekend, I choose to celebrate my family's history, and our link to a beautiful country I love.

I hope you will all have a happy, relaxing "Victoria Day" Weekend.

The "Pomp and Circumstance" March No. 1 , "Land of Hope and Glory", by Sir Edward Elgar, from The Last Night of the Proms, 2007.


mrinz said...

Oh Candy I did enjoy your You Tube clip. Yes those three songs are so very stirring!

We would sing all three at school, the whole school assembly, and with 400-500 voices, raise the roof!

The other one we loved was 'I Vow to Thee my Country'. And 'Men of Harlech'.

Candygirlflies said...

We used to sing "God Save the Queen" at school as a part of our National Anthems, but it has long since been abandoned... Alas.

"I Vow to Thee My Country" is also one of my favourites. When my eldest came home from school having just heard Holst's "The Planets" in music class at school, she was thrilled to discover that there were WORDS to go along with her favourite part!! It is, indeed, a lovely and stirring hymn.

Much love to you-- xo CGF

shawn said...

Having more than a fleeting knowledge of the various characters depicted in this posting - I must say, what I remember most about your childhood home was the omni-present music ... Your father in his little music room off the living room ... your sibs practising various instruments ... BUT ONE memory stands out ... your brother practising the piano in another room, while you and were having tea in the kitchen and your dear old mom was banging pots and pans and muttering under her breath while you smiled ... you later told unenlightened me that dear old Brother was using is immense talent to play cross handed (left hand playing the right notes and the right playing the left), playing the piece from end to beginning, and from time to time playing with the sheet music upside down ...

It was ALL part of the fun of your familial home that left me in awe.

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