“Jewels of Music” is a new series that will appear on Mittwoch Matinee. All performances are conducted by Susan Lees. Lees is a musician who has spent her career as a bilingual special educator, serving children with disabilities and their families. She uses storytelling and music to encourage friendship among special education students, their peers, and regular education teachers. You can reach her at “Contact” on the navigation bar above.
by Susan Lees
When I was fourteen years old, I spent the summer between my freshman and sophomore high school years at the Interlochen Arts Academy. There, aspiring ballet dancers, choreographers, and orchestral and classical concert musicians gathered to study with recognized performing artists and to perform in a variety of concerts open to the public on the weekends.
Interlochen is located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, in the north woods, surrounded by two lakes. Cabins for students, grouped by age, studios for faculty, rehearsal spaces, and two, large, outdoor concert halls were spread out within the forest and around the lakes.
Each night at ten o’clock the stars had come out, the music of the forest began, and from our bunk beds we listened to the night music that was performed by the students of different cabins. Some nights there might be music performed by a string quartet, a vocal group, a cellist, or flautist. The musical offerings were not recitals or formal concerts. The music did not include whole musical works such as sonatas or suites. Each night, the forest collaborated with the musicians to bless the night with one, brief, luminous jewel of music: a communication from the interior.
I hope to share this with you, my friends. Each week we meet, I will share one, brief, luminous “jewel of music.” These jewels will come from all classical music genres: Romanian dances, nocturnes, waltzes, intermezzos, musical poems, sarabands, theme and variations, preludes, and more. These jewels will cover Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Impressionist, and Modern periods. There will also be a brief reflection for context. It is a joy and a privilege to share music with you.
The first jewel I will share is “Poems of the Sea” by Ernest Bloch, published in 1923. The poems are three: “Waves,” “Chanty,” and “At Sea.” I will play “Chanty.” These musical poems for piano were compositions based on Walt Whitman’s “In Cabin’d Ships at Sea” from Leaves of Grass (1891-92):
In cabin’d ships at sea, The boundless blue on every side expanding, With whistling winds and music of the waves, the large imperious waves, Or some lone bark buoy’d on the dense marine. Where joyous, full of faith, spreading white sails, She cleaves the ether ‘mid the sparkle and the foam of day, or under many a star at night, By sailors young and old haply will I, a reminiscence of the land, be read, In full rapport at last.
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