Posts Tagged With: Piano

An Ode to Joy

How many times have you sung along to a song, not completely certain of the lyrics?  A few hundred at least? Yeah, me too. When you do find out the actual lyrics it sometimes changes how you feel about the song. Or it just makes the song make more sense.

Three and a half weeks after those first ominous days of uncertainty after her stroke, I watched my Mom sit down at a grand piano in a quiet wing of the hospital cafeteria. Her occupational therapist sat nearby as she put both hands on the black and white keys and played a simplified version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

Surely orchestrated by some angel in charge of perfectly timed moments, for me that brief experience felt like serendipity!  That song played within an hour of arriving at the hospital, captured my emotions at finally, blessedly being with Mom after so many weeks of enduring the tug and pull of needing to be in her physical presence.

Page 12 (right) of Ludwig van Beethoven's orig...

Page 12 (right) of Ludwig van Beethoven’s original Ninth Symphony manuscript. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every time I’ve heard “Ode to Joy,” especially the final movement when the chorus joins the symphony and raises the roof with Schiller’s German poem put to music, my heart has soared.

Imagine how my heart felt then, hearing my Mother, a pianist all her life, play the piano again, albeit, hesitantly. Relief, at her ability to read music and have it translate from eye to brain to hand to ivory, flooded through me. Surely as more healing takes place, as more therapy trains and retrains synapses and connections, she’ll be able to sit down and enjoy playing the piano with ease and confidence again.

I’ve never known the translation of the German lyrics. I only knew that my head and heart responded to the music with a sense of exultation and energy.

Surely, I thought, as I watched Mom struggle through some other simplified piano music, the lyrics to “Ode to Joy” must be very powerful to lend themselves so strongly to the impact of the music.  Of course, I looked up the translation and wasn’t surprised.

Sorry to say it wasn’t a poem about the joy of a mother and daughter reunited. But it’s not far off. It’s a song of brotherhood, of relationships, of the joy that can occur because of those connections.

Honestly, the whole of humankind is a family. The potential for joy astounds when looked at that way. But of course, we personalize and take things in small bites. We learn how to interact in family groups and then let that translate out into the world.

That’s just my take on the music and lyrics.

But don’t take my word for it. I’ve included the English translation below.  And I also want you to be able to feel the joy in this music, so, of course, I’ve included a phenomenal flashmob link for you to click on. I recommend having tissues nearby.

Now that I know what the lyrics are, it changes how I feel about the music. From here on out it will remind me of my mother, of my family, of those most important of connections. Those permanent bonds of love and caring bring more joy than anything I know.

Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Thy sanctuary.
Thy magic power re-unites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.

Whoever has created
An abiding friendship,
Or has won
A true and loving wife,
All who can call at least one soul theirs,
Join in our song of praise ;
But any who cannot must creep tearfully
Away from our circle.

All creatures drink of joy
At nature’s breast.
Just and unjust
Alike taste of her gift ;
She gave us kisses and the fruit of the vine,
A tried friend to the end.
Even the worm can fell contentment,
And the cherub stands before God !

Gladly, like the heavenly bodies
Which He set on their courses
Through the splendour of the firmament ;
Thus, brothers, you should run your race,
As a hero going to conquest.

You millions, I embrace you.
This kiss is for all the world !
Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving Father.
Do you fall in worship, you millions ?
World, do you know your Creator ?
Seek Him in the heavens !
Above the stars must He dwell.

Categories: Hope, Joy, Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Big Yellow Songbook

One particular music book held a special place on the piano as I was growing up.


I called it MY big yellow songbook. Of course, I had to share, but it felt like mine.

I loved that book.


Mom would play the tunes on the piano while I sang along as best I could. I couldn’t pick a favorite song because each spoke to a different part of who I was or who I planned on becoming.

There were songs about visiting Grandpa’s farm, riding in an airplane, roller-skating, puppies and fluffy bunnies. These were wholesome lesson-filled songs about manners, songs of the seasons and of holidays, of family, extended family, nature, songs about things that young children love to see and do.

The train song got the most play time because we’d sing it on the way to either Grandparent’s homes when we saw a train, which seemed fairly frequent.


Making the songs even more entertaining were accompanying illustrations of brightly colored cherub faced children with shiny cheeks. A little girl rocks her dolly, children dressed for Halloween, a grandmother with her granddaughter on her lap reading a book, two kids on a pony racing a train, a giraffe and an elephant at the zoo.

My siblings and I loved that book to shreds. We colored in it, wrote in it, traced over the notes, wrote our names. The cover came loose, pages became ragged and worn, torn, and slowly went missing.

If there was anything left of that beloved music book by time Mom and Dad’s house fire took its toll, there was nothing after that. The piano was a loss, as was all of Mom’s music books and half the house.


Sixteen years ago a 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition of “My Picture Book of Songs” came out and I got my hands on one. I felt I’d found buried treasure, won the lottery and hit the jackpot (sorry for the clichés) all at once. I gently turned the pages and felt a rush of nostalgia as my childhood swooped into the room and caught me up in a whirlwind of memory and delight.

Oh my!!

I had sung those songs as best as I could remember to my own children as they were growing up. With the new edition I could share the pictures with them, too. I could also share the songs I had forgotten.

I’m sure that Alene Dalton, the illustrator; Myriel Ashton, who wrote the music; and Erla Young, the lyric writer had no idea the impact their book had on so many children and families. “My Picture Book of Songs” was originally written as preschool book for children and their teachers during World War II. MA Donohue published it in 1947.

Now, 66 years later, their book is part of my two-year-old granddaughter’s life. She adores the “choo choo” song among many others. Her eyes sparkle with joy as we look at the pages and share a sweet melody, a moment of timelessness.

Likewise, my own eyes sparkle, but mine are filled with tears and laughter and wonder.

Categories: Books, Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

It’s Gratituesday! Musically Reclined, Inclined, Realigned

Piano pedals on a Grand Piano.

Piano pedals on a Grand Piano. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hey, guess what?  It’s Gratituesday!

One of my earliest memories is pretending to play the piano on a wooden shelf while one of my mother’s piano students banged away at a song in the adjacent room.  I was an extraordinarily gifted pretend piano player.  When my mother played I became a prodigy of the imaginary keyboard in front of me.

Later, I graduated to playing my own compositions of rainstorm, the high notes, and thunderstorm, the low notes, and tornadoes, running my hand up and down the keyboard.

How anyone tolerated this noise is miraculous to me.

Mom taught me the basics.  “Here we go, up a row, to a birthday party,” became my favorite song for a few months, because I could play the entire song.  Even if it was only eight measures and one hand.  When I learned to add the left hand to make a harmony with my right hand, I was ecstatic.

English: Photograph of bust statue of Ludwig v...

Photograph of bust statue of Ludwig van Beethoven by Hugo Hagen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My favorite cartoon character wasn’t Bugs Bunny or the Road Runner.  It was Schroeder, the piano playing, wise man of the of the Peanuts gang.  I longed for a miniature piano with the range and ability Schroeder had.  I wanted my own Beethoven bust overseeing my progress.  I was sure if I mastered the piano I would be master of everything and, even better, that boys would flock to me.  I didn’t really pay attention to the fact that Lucy was the only one drawn to Schroeder and she was a bit nuts, a bully even.

For a couple of years I had a piano teacher that Mom and Dad paid for.  I suppose that was helpful.  I was probably more disciplined about practicing for someone other than a relative.

For as long as I can remember, Mom always taught piano lessons in our home.  Every day after school, and every morning during the summer, students would file in and file out, filling the house with what passed as music.  It was the theme music to our lives.  If any house had a soundtrack, ours surely did and it was filled with stops and starts, hesitation and things played off-key.  But it was a weird, joy-filled music.

Mom’s income helped pay for all kinds of “extras” and let her be a stay at home mom, still caring for us kids. She was always there for us if catastrophe struck, still there for us if a sibling was being unfair, still there for us if we needed the reassurance that she was there.

I’m sure it wasn’t easy.  We probably drove her crazy with near constant interruptions, too much noise, too many questions.  But she taught a gazillion kids the piano, and she taught me the piano.  She also taught me and patience and persistence.

She also gave me the gift of music.  I’m not a concert pianist. I quit lessons as a teenager.  But I can plunk out a kids  song, accompany a choir, and play for enjoyment.  I am blessed beyond measure by this singular gift. How grateful I am for my piano teacher mom.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Music | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Few Notes about Infinity

Analyzing a piano keyboard when I was very young, six or seven years, maybe younger, I remember thinking that all the possible songs that could be written would have been written by time I was old enough to try to write one myself.  With only eighty-eight keys, I was certain that there were a great many possible ways to arrange them into songs, but that it would be a limited number.  Surely, eventually, all the notes would be arranged in all their possible arrangements.  My young brain tried to figure out eighty-eight times eighty-eight times eighty-eight without much success.  Not that math of any kind would have helped my flawed thinking.

I told you I was very young.

Tickling the ivories

I’m sure there’s some developmental thing in a child’s brain that keeps them from recognizing the idea of unlimited or of the infinite.

It’s been more than a few decades since my naïve theory on the limitations of musical possibility and I still can’t fathom the infinite.  Unending numbers? Gaaa!!  The Universe?  Too big!!  My brain does this twisty, jerky stuttering thing, like our old Toyota truck does at intersections, the idle not quite keeping the engine running smoothly.  And my stomach joins in with this weird rumbling, sputtering thing when I attempt to grasp the idea of forever.

Maybe there’s something in the human brain that only recognizes limits, boundaries, the corporeal and the tangible. Maybe it’s just me.

It’s not that I don’t believe in those kinds of things, it’s just that I can’t get my head around the ideas.  There’s no experience to measure it against and no comparison to give me perspective.

Call me childish.  Call me naïve.   Rather than putting too much energy into the unfathomable, I’ve chosen to simply enjoy the music.

You can revel in the music today, too!

The links below will take you to some fun and varied piano selections.  It’s just a tiny taste of what’s out there.   Enjoy!

Flight of the Bumblebee

Bruce Hornsby (The Way It Is)


Horowitz in Moscow 

Piano Guys (five of em) 

Victor Borge (on the muppet show)

Boogie Woogie

Jarrod Radnich

Categories: Music | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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