Blog Your Blessings: Music



I was in one of my usual spots on Tuesday as the president's inauguration unfolded--behind the wheel of my VW Jetta heading for the house. Though I was a bit frustrated that highway construction and traffic kept me from watching all of the event, it seemed to me at the time that this extraordinary, ordinary moment should take place for me where I always am anyway. So I accepted the traffic until I pulled into my garage--and then I ran like a mad woman to see what there was to see on TV, unlacing my boots even as I ran for the house. I wanted all of it.

Happily, I caught the performance of John Williams's arrangement of "Air and Simple Gifts" featuring Itzhak Perlman, Yo Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero and Anthony McGill. Here are the lyrics:

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,

'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain'd,

To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come round right.

That was for me the day. In fact, if I had to distill President Obama's inaugural speech into eight lines, these would do the job.

While the US Navy Sea Chanters concluded the ceremony by singing the National Anthem, I had the heart-warmingly obvious realization that the music of the day was familiar to me: "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," "Simple Gifts," and the Anthem. I sang the three of them (quietly so as not to offend the guinea pig in my lap). I knew these songs. These were my songs. I grew up singing them, standing for them, saluting the flag with them, and saying "amen" in my heart at the close of each one every time. "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" always followed the Pledge in elementary school. "Simple Gifts" was a church song that made the program every time we got simple, back to nature, or folksy. The Anthem is pervasive--I hear it at sports events, school events, on patriotic holidays. Like everything else about the day, it was as ordinary as it was extraordinary. And beautiful.

They are three sweet songs about being here and gladly calling you neighbor, that we are connected by this shared music even when we are all alone struggling to get our boots off. Extraordinary and ordinary, alone yet not at all alone. We know the story. It's ours. And it's beautiful in its utter simplicity.

Blog Your Blessings

Comments

  1. Tuesday's Inaugural is a gift that just keeps on giving, isn't it? So many of us are still inspired by what we saw (and heard) that day and it keeps informing our posts.

    Come by my blog for a link and an award.

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  2. Sandy, I have an award for you because you write posts like this one all the time! Come visit at my blog. The Mimosa award... :)

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  3. Sandy, that music was the highlight of the ceremony for me. I loved it and I love that song. I learned it as a child somewhere and I have always loved the simple tune and the simple message it contains!

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  4. Anonymous9:19 PM

    For me, too, that music was the highlight. To see the faces of gifted musicians of varied faiths and ethnicities, smile at each other as the magical beauty of them in harmony sang across our land- well I was crying from joy afterward.

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  5. United in the belief of a great nation... The writers of the Consitution and Declaration of Independence live on in the Songs that are still alive today, and was in evidence during the Ceremony in DC the other day!

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  6. "We know the story. It's ours." Such beautifully spoken words. God bless America and what she stands for!

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  7. i love the last line, sandy. and i agree that there are just songs which are so simple and pure-sounding that they are beautiful.

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  8. Sandy, I am content with Barack Obama's election and I appreciated very much his inaugural speech. Great hope for us all.

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  9. Simplest is the most beautiful

    And Barack Obama's simplicity and his composure captured me as I watched the inauguration...

    thank you for the lyrics, Sandy

    wishes,
    devika

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  10. I didn't know the music had words. They are as beautiful as the music.

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  11. sweet message, we certainly need to come together as a country under our new leader...

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  12. Isn't it wonderful how much music can convey? I, too, was very moved by the music -- it's music not only of that day but of America.

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  13. You are just too nice. Pappy

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  14. We don't hear "my country tis of Thee" very much - but when I do I can hear myself singing it in elementary school - a nice memory.

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  15. Like art, music moved me too. Is'nt that wonderful that the inaguration inspired many. My post is also about it, but the focus is on change.

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  16. Pappy alerted me to the fact that we both blogged on this today! Great minds.

    Willow x

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  17. I watched them play that composition. Remind me when we meet one day to tell you the story of John Williamson and Stephen Spielberg ....

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  18. I was in my car going to pick up lunch from work during the classical music portion and the swearing in. Wish I could have watched it. Was kind of bummed to find out after the fact that the Perlman/Ma piece was not live but pre-recorded due to the cold weather. I felt a bit misled by that.

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  19. i was so excited when i learned that john williams arranged the music for the inauguration.

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  20. ...and like all music, the best part is how easy it is to share! It was a stirring event, to be sure.

    {Comedic Moment Time} ...although Ireland and England want back "To Anacreon in Heaven" and "God Save the Queen"!

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  21. The portion I watched had U2, Sheryl Crow, Garth Brooks, Stevie Wonder, John Mellencamp and Usher. It was incredible to see Garth Brooks (country singer) singing soul and reggae. The chorus was teens, both black and white, and they were so excited. I had goosebumps several times and realized that a real sea change has happened. May it continue.

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  22. Congratulations, Sandy,
    on your Post of the Day award!

    I felt a wonderful warmth in my heart when I heard John Williams's arrangement of "Air and Simple Gifts" from the steps in front of the United States capital. This meant so much to me, so many memories of places and times lived, decades of memories created not so many miles from that same Capitol. What a wonderful choice that was and your essay affirms that. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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  23. A lovely post Sandy...and aren't we lucky to be one of the countries who can elect men and women to public office and watch them conduct themselves (for the most part) as ladies and gentlemen we would be proud to invite into our homes? I see from Merisi you've gotten a post of the day award! Haven't been to David's as yet, but congratulations!
    hugs
    Sandi

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  24. I loved hearing that song, played by those exceptional artist, on Tuesday. What an experience.

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