Music and Memories

Last week I attended the Amarillo Symphony concert. It was a semi-pops concert, with ballroom dancers performing to some of the songs.

I liked most of the music. The Latin-rhythm arrangement of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” did nothing for me, and having dancers shimmying to that piece left me both cold and angry. it felt sacrilegious to do that to that particular piece of music. I’m not certain if it is because I’ve performed that work on organ and so I have a certain possessive sense about it, or just that I get twitchy when people use religious and quasi-religions music for secular things. The Riverdance show Lord of the Dance made me very uncomfortable, because of the musical theme that was used as the background for a pagan story. On the other hand, I have no problem with Copeland’s Appalachian Spring, which uses the same tune. Go figure.

But back to the concert: what really caught me (before the Bach mash-up), was Strauss’s Kaiserwalzer (Imperial Waltz or Kaiser’s Waltz). I’m very fond of Strauss waltzes, and yes, they show up in the Cat stories pretty often. The conductor, Jacomo Bairos, pointed out that many people associated Strauss with Vienna because of the New Years from Vienna (guilty) or the New York City concert broadcasts. Then he started the waltz:

And that orchestra and concert hall is what I saw in my mind’s eye, followed by images of dancers swirling around in various palaces and museums in Vienna, and buildings from Vienna. This as dancers were performing on stage in front of me. But my memory and associations were almost stronger than reality, especially when I started imagining Joschka and Rada Ni Drako dancing.

“On the Beautiful Blue Danube” summoned similar images, interspersed with bits of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

On the other hand, “Sing, sing, sing” was so much fun that I kinda got busy watching the drummer and ignored the dancers. I got to watch a recording of Gene Kruppa playing “Sing Sing Sing” at a Battle of the Bands some years ago and wow! Drummer in paradise. I think the entire audience was rocking back and forth or tapping feet before that ended. And I was thinking about dancing with veterans and younger reenactors (or both) during various WWII anniversary hangar dances and military unit reunions during the 1990s.

The second half of the concert had less familiar music (unless one is of a certain age or listens to music of a certain age [Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, anyone?]) but still excellent performing and dancing.

I’m still surprised at how strongly Vienna has imprinted on top of the Strauss music for me. And I’m surprised by how angry I became at people dancing to the Toccata and Fugue. I guess, even though it is not “sacred” music per se, for me that composition is holy in a way even some “church music” is not. ‘Twas a fascinating reaction to have. And an excellent concert to hear and see.


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