Tuesday, December 16, 2008

...a little more about that

I ended the last post noting how I'd heard Barack Obama and family inserted into a beloved Christmas carol on A Prairie Home Companion. I also updated the post with a link to the entire audio for that show and my own on-the-fly transcription of the lyrics. I don't want to overstate this - I'm not really that offended because I don't think that ill will was intended. Rossetti's original text is meaningful to many people and I'd rather not see it conscripted in this manner, but I don't see the words as sacred in a way that means they shouldn't be altered. (Whoops, it looks like I altered them myself at the end of this transcription.)

The whole situation does support the Republican talking point that Obama followers tend towards worship of the man, but that's hardly news. It's certainly not true of all his supporters, but clearly, many, many Democrats think Christmas came early this year. Given that Christmas is pretty much a secular holiday at this point, it's not too surprising that even the more sacred carols would be interpreted in a more humanistic way; I suspect many people want to feel something spiritual at Christmas, even if the original story doesn't work for them. I will say this - bleak midwinter probably describes Chicago better than just about any day in Bethlehem. Still, for the record, I'm much more moved by Christina Rossetti's beautiful words. (I don't know who wrote the words for Fleming (Keillor, perhaps?), but rhyming 'Washington, D.C.' with 'festivity'? Or "People rise at dawn and do what must be done"?

One other note about Renee Fleming on PHC. Earlier in the evening, she sang Strauss's Zueignung. [86:21 into the show.] I was thrilled to learn when it ended that the pianist was Bradley Moore, a fellow Arkansan and fellow classmate of mine - but, why did Fleming burst in on the wonderful big piano solo that occurs just before the end? That's our moment, Ms. Fleming! When I heard it live, I first thought she'd made a mistake, but a rehearing makes it clear that she knew what she was doing. Does anyone know the story of this alternate version? (And, let me repeat, it's THE big moment in the song for the pianist. Please let us have that, songsters. We don't ask much.)

[Note: the Zueignung score linked above has some friendly coaching advice for singers.]

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