This eve of the Jewish New Year 5771--that's five thousand, seven hundred seventy-one years since Adam spoke--is an emotionally precarious time.
More immediately, it's pressure to bake eight round challahs (loaves of egg bread) for our celebrations, cook five formal meals for twelve (there are six sit-down gatherings over the next three days, but we're invited to friends' for one of them), prepare for the arrival of my daughter and soon, my son, on their school holiday breaks, finalize the guest lists and go into full holiday-entertaining mode.
I'm really not ready.
So, I asked my husband, who is a connoisseur of classical music, for help. It's a near-secret that he has been obsessed with classical music since well before middle school. He asked for specific record albums for his bar mitzvah gifts. Instead of carrying photos of his parents and siblings in his pre-teen wallet, he carried portraits of the classical masters.
And he memorized music. Play four notes of any classical piece and he can instantly recite the composer, the opus number, the key, the conductor, the year composed and the record label and date of release. Obscure composer? No problem. Not only will he spell and pronounce his name, complete with umlauts, but provide a short biography--embellished, if you choose, with histories of illegitimate children and venereal diseases.
What I asked for was some "happy music." I needed encouragement; I needed optimism; I needed something external and catchy and instantly accessible. My request made him smile ear-to-ear.
What is it about music that connects to the soul, that can provide "happy" with just a succession of tones? Similarly, a series of sounds can bring tears and melancholy, recreate memories, or provide the stuff of fantasy flight. Rosh Hashana and the Jewish holidays include liturgy with distinctive tunes that are heavy, as weighty as the decision of who will live and who will die. We're inspired to repent, all right--hearing those melodies feels like a hammer about to crash down, at times.
This is balanced with the strong, shrill blare of the ram's horn shofar, the symbolic sound of this time of year. When God gave the ten commandments, the sound of the shofar stirred the hearts of the Jews with an understanding of the importance of the moment; similarly, we feel that same piercing, emotional force when the ram's horn is blown in the synagogue. Babies stop crying; nobody moves; the visceral grip eliminates verbal thoughts.
Such is the power of a single sound. Equally affecting is the human construction of sounds into phrases, with syncopation and rhythm and harmony. Give me "happy music" to make this transition into productivity, into dedication and appreciation and repentance. Music to motivate gratitude and ongoing enjoyment; attention not to take one moment for granted.
Here is a partial list of my "happy music" from the expert. Perhaps some piece from this list will add to your excitement and earnestness about the new year. May it be one of health and sweetness and soaring song.
Brahms: Serenade #1 In D, Op. 11 - 1. Allegro Molto 12:57 Yoel Levi: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Brahms: Serenade #1 In D, Op. 11 - 6. Rondo: Allegro 5:30 Yoel Levi: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Haydn: Symphony No. 88, IV. Finale: Allegro con spirito 3:28 Fritz Reiner: Chicago Symphony Orchestra Reiner - Haydn Symphones 101, 95, 88
Walking Tune 3:34 Percy Grainger, Music of Percy Grainger
Molly on the Shore 3:53 Percy Grainger; Music of Percy Grainger
Grainger: Handel In The Strand 4:46 Kenneth Montgomery: Bournemouth Sinfonietta, Music of Percy Grainger
Dvořák: Symphony #6 In D, Op. 60, B 112 - 1. Allegro Non Tanto 12:37 Stephen Gunzenhauser: Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra Dvořák: Complete Published Orchestral Works [Disc 5]
Dvořák: Symphony #6 In D, Op. 60, B 112 - 4. Finale: Allegro Con Spirito 10:41 Stephen Gunzenhauser: Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra Dvořák: Complete Published Orchestral Works [Disc 5]
Symphony No. 3 ("Espansiva") Carl Nielsen, FS60: 1. Allegro espansivo 10:38 Herbert Blomstedt: San Francisco Symphony Orchestra Symphonies 2 & 3
Holst: Suite #1 In E Flat - March 3:12 Dallas Wind Symphony Holst: Suites #1 & 2, A Moorside Suite
Holst: Suite #2 In F -Song Of The Blacksmith 1:20 Dallas Wind Symphony Holst: Suites #1 & 2, A Moorside Suite
Suite #2 in F: 4. Fantasia on the "Dargason" 3:21 Dallas Wind Symphony. Holst: Suites #1 & 2, A Moorside Suite
Rodeo - Buckaroo Holiday 7:19 Aaron Copland. Aaron Copland: Prairie Music - JoAnn Falletta, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Classical
Rodeo - Hoe Down 3:26 Aaron Copland. Aaron Copland: Prairie Music - JoAnn Falletta, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Classical
Rodrigo: Concierto Serenata - 1. Estudiantina 8:34 Enrique Bátiz: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Rodrigo Orchestral
Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Guitar Concerto #1 In D, Op. 99 - 1. Allegretto 6:26 Pepe Romero; Neville Marriner: Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields Villa-Lobos;Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Guitar Concertos
Wiren: Serenade - Marcia: Tempo Di Marcia, Molto Ritmico 4:48 Richard Studt: Bournemouth Sinfonietta Scandinavian String Music
Symphony No. 4 Op 90 - Allegro Vivace 10:30 Felix Mendelssohn Symphony# 4
Handel: Alexander's Feast - Harp Concerto In B Flat: Allegro Moderato 6:06 Maxine Eilander; Stephen Stubbs: Seattle Baroque Orchestra Handel's Harp
Beethoven: Symphony #1 In C, Op. 21 - 4. Finale: Adagio, Allegro Molto E Vivace 5:16 David Zinman & The Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich Beethoven: Symphonies [Disc 1]
Beethoven: Symphony #2 In D, Op. 36 - 4. Allegro Con Brio 6:13 David Zinman & The Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich Beethoven: Symphonies [Disc 1]
Bach: Jauchzet Gott In Allen Lande, BWV 51 4:32 Helmuth Müller-Brühl: Cologne Chamber Orchestra, Dresden Chamber Choir Favourite Bach Arias & Choruses
Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto #1 In G Minor, Op. 25 - 3. Presto 6:09 Rudolf Serkin; Eugene Ormandy: Philadelphia Orchestra Mendelssohn: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 and Violin Concerto, Op. 64.
If you've read this far, you're ready to go listen. And be happy you can!