Once a Year

Once a Year

Well, it’s that time of the year again when people all over the country share a formal sit-down meal with loved ones. A year ago I commented ex post facto about finding appropriate music to acknowledge Thanksgiving, so I won’t go there again. Although I’m always interested in learning about repertoire possibilities I might have overlooked, so feel free to post them here if you come up with any.

Of course, this holiday means very different things to different people. To sports obsessives, the fourth Thursday of November is all about football, both college and pro. To players in marching bands across the country, it’s all about the parade. Admittedly, to most Native Americans and scholars of history, the holiday is bittersweet: It’s an incongruent reminder of what the ultimate outcome was of indigenous people’s generosity toward the folks who first settled here from the other side of the Atlantic, which few celebrations acknowledge. And for those who are vegetarian, vegan, or otherwise non-pavophilic, the day can be a bit of a challenge, but for most, the main focus is a meal centered around the exact same entree: a stuffed turkey.

But what I find so fascinating about Thanksgiving is that it is the one day when folks with all levels of culinary skill become engaged with cooking, even those who otherwise find kitchens anathema. What would happen if there was one day of the year where everyone sang or played musical instruments together, just for the fun of it? What would such a holiday do for the American psyche? How could such a holiday improve the general public’s appreciation for music overall, and how could such a heightened appreciation make us a better society? Of course, I’d hope that such a holiday would happen more than once a year.

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2 thoughts on “Once a Year

  1. JimB

    “What would happen if there was one day of the year where everyone sang or played musical instruments together, just for the fun of it?”
    Do you have any idea how awful that would sound? Anyone can put a turkey in the over, but playing an instrument requires talent and practice and stuff like that. If this idea ever catches on, I’m spending the day deep underground in a soundproof bunker.

  2. Lyn Liston

    I think Frank has a good idea. I believe that singing or playing an instrument or other such music making is a human need. Many times I’ve seen people driving down the highway singing along with the radio very passionately and uninhibitedly. I’ve heard neighbors singing in the shower completely uninhibited. I’ve heard people in my community singing at the local Uno’s on karaoke night. It’s too bad that we often feel inhibited when expressing ourselves musically and need the context of karaoke or the privacy of a car or seeming privacy of our bathrooms. Too bad we’re such a judgmental society. And those of us who have degrees in music tend to be very judgmental about any music making that we hear.

    When I was growing up, my extended family gathered around the piano on holidays and sang hymns and popular songs together while my mother accompanied us on the piano. Some folks sang well and others sang…not so well, but we all had a great time.

    There’s something about making music together that is a sort of spiritual experience–something we all could probably use a lot more of, and that’s coming from someone who is not religious. It’s really about the connection we have when we are making music. And in this day and age, when folks are wired up to their own individual mp3 players, keeping to themselves in their own worlds, we could use a lot more connection–connection to what it is to be human. That’s what the arts are about–what it is to be alive (to quote Chris Rouse)–what it is to be human. And to connect to the common human experience via music is not hard to do. You just need at least two people who want to do it.

    Perhaps next time I find myself driving somewhere and see someone else singing along to the music playing in their car, I’ll motion to them to roll down the window, and I’ll sing along with them–it could make a traffic jam a lot more pleasant. And if we ever have a day dedicated to making music together, then perhaps that will be one day when we can, as a nation, connect to each other and be genuine. I think I’d like to start with Shackles by Mary Mary…..


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