Earth Day

Symphony 6, mvt. 1 “Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in the countryside”  L. Beethoven (1770-1826)

Canticle of the Sun      W. Zeitler

“Blue Danube” Waltz Op.314           J. Strauss II (1825–1899)

It’s a commonplace in Christian thinking that God reveals Herself in ‘the Book of Scripture’ (the Bible) and ‘the Book of Nature’. Personally I think there are more than these two, but who’s counting! Meanwhile, this last Friday was ‘Earth Day’, so I thought we might give some musical attention to the ‘Book of Nature’.

In 1802 it was becoming clear to Beethoven that his growing deafness was going to be complete and permanent. His despair is reflected in a letter he wrote to his brothers (called the ‘Heiligenstadt Testament’) that almost reads like a suicide note. So he withdrew from Vienna to the countryside to be alone. And there he had a profound encounter with Nature, which inspired his magnificent ‘Pastorale Symphony’ No. 6 (completed in 1808).

St. Francis (1181-1226) is arguably the most famous of the official Christian saints. The son of a wealthy merchant, he forsook all to embrace ‘Sister Poverty’ — and Nature. He wrote very little — easily his most significant writing is his poem “Canticle of the Sun”, considered the first poem in the Italian vernacular (and not Latin). In this poem Francis praises personifications of Nature; in my piece are found corresponding ‘musical personifications’:

  1. Brother Sun (organ)
  2. Sister Moon and the Stars (piano)
  3. Brother Wind (organ)
  4. Sister Water (piano)
  5. Brother Fire (organ)
  6. Mother Earth (piano)
  7. Sister Bodily Death (piano & organ)

When Strauss’s step-daughter Alice asked Johannes Brahms for his autograph, he wrote down the first few bars of the “Blue Danube Waltz” with the added notation “Alas! Not by Johannes Brahms!”

Our guest pianist Peter Camden Orgain earned his B.A. in Music from Stanford University and studied in Florence, Italy at the Conservatorio di Luigi Cherubini. He earned an M.A. in Piano from Virginia Commonwealth University followed by doctoral study at the University of Maryland. He lived in New York City for 15 years, working in Wall Street as a computer programmer and performing chamber music works and the occasional concerto with orchestra. He was a founding member of the Atlantis Quintet and the Cerberus Trio. He then co-founded and directed the “Great Music Series — Sundays at Five” in Provincetown, MA for four seasons, putting over 100 local and regional instrumentalists and solo singers on stage, plus choruses, in over 50 concert performances. In 2004 Camden started a new Life Trajectory with a Master’s in Nursing. He is now an RN MSN CNL living in Palm Springs.