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EXPLORING MUSIC: THANKSGIVING IS NOT A MUSICAL HOLIDAY by David White
THANKSGIVING IS NOT A MUSICAL HOLIDAY by David White
Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday season. It’s one day long. Thanksgiving. That’s it. No wild build up, no house decorating, no outdoor decorations, no shopping rush. Perfect. It’s what a holiday was meant to be – a single day, a day off, to remind of something. Like the saints days in times of old, you got the day off, you could celebrate almost however you like, and then it’s back to work again tomorrow.
I have to gripe about something, so my Thanksgiving gripe is that I get dogmatic about holidays – not in terms of dogma, but I think most good holidays (I’ll explain my thoughts on good holidays in other columns) have a unbreakable heart at the center. You can pile on around it, you can chip away directly at it, but time has proven that a good holiday has a good heart, and despite attempts to gnaw away at it, or overwhelm it with manure of all kinds, you still like the holiday. And Thanksgiving is one great reason to have a holiday.
The states of this great country used to designate certain days every year as days of Thanksgiving. You were given the day off to reflect on and place gratitude at the center of your life. What a concept! Abraham Lincoln was grateful for the successes of the Union Army and the progress of the war in 1864 (and possibly his own re-election) so he declared the first national day of Thanksgiving – the last Thursday in November.
FDR started the ball rolling in the wrong direction when he moved Thanksgiving up a week so that folks would start their Christmas shopping a week earlier…and he sent the signal that Thanksgiving’s real purpose was a day of rest before things got really crazy.
Oh dear…I’ve drifted off the path a bit. About America’s Favorite Hymns. We placed this recording in the Review thinking that the Review would come out just before Thanksgiving, and a few hymns would be a nice way to celebrate. We had some delays and we’re still offering America’s Favorite Hymns because it’s still a nice recording to listen to. But my original review was all about how Thanksgiving’s hijacking has made it a holiday where you can define it however you’d like and despite the idea that giving thanks and expressing gratitude is a great “heart” for a holiday, we’ve moved away from that.
So I think we ought to start to help out Thanksgiving – it needs music. For all my years in retail (over 40) I’ve offered many recordings with Thanksgiving themes. And none ever budged. Thanksgiving, for all its good intentions is NOT a musical holiday. The stories/mythology about Pilgrims, well, that lot got out of England and didn’t exactly bring a happy celebratory music tradition with them. And we’ve taken just about everything else from the native Americans but we left them their music, and I don’t see that moving to the mainstream.
Well, I’m giving up already. But, when I examine my Thanksgiving heart, I think some of these great old songs and hymns do a pretty good job of expressing some thoughts better than I can.
This mainly orchestral collection of the “greatest hits” of the American hymnal is really a starter kit, and the Royal Philharmonic gives these stirring hymns a lush treatment. -DW
1 Praise God, From Whom All Blessings Flow (Doxology) 04:18
2 Amazing Grace 02:403 Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me 02:264 Onward Christian Soldiers 03:175 Messiah, HWV 56: Hallelujah! 03:356 A Mighty Fortress Is Our God 04:307 Abide with Me 02:378 America The Beautiful 03:179 Nearer My God To Thee 02:3310 Battle Hymn of the Republic 03:44
A MIGHTY FORTRESS
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