What makes you jolly?

Ha ha. I just realized that title makes me think of Christmas. A little early, I know, I’m sorry. That’s not what I was thinking when I wrote it though. I’m sitting here trying to think about what to write today. Not much happened out of the ordinary so I don’t feel the need to give a detailed account of my day. I decided to put some music on. In the CD player right now is Gustav Holst’s The Planets. I know I’ve mentioned this next bit somewhere else, but I don’t remember if it was in a comment or a blog post so I’ll just mention it again. I love this work. I was in grade 12 (so 17/18) when I was first introduced to the wonders of Jupiter and Mars. The Wind Ensemble in my high school was performing selections from these two movements. Well, with Mars it was more just a condensed (and simplified) band arrangement. Jupiter was different because we only played the Chorale. I think even a simplified band version of Jupiter would have been too complicated for us. As it was Mars had (well, has) all these odd time signatures shifts; 5/4, 3/4, I don’t know what else/4 and so on), but other than that for me it was basically one or two notes (I was on the Baritone Saxophone – totally awesome).

Because those were the first two movements of the work I heard – and the only two for a few years – these two are my favourites. Mars – the Bringer of War, and Jupiter – the Bringer of Jollity. Now, I’m not advocating war here by saying the movement that represents it is a favourite, just that, I know it fairly well (I’ve played it), and if you’re in the mood for grand, somewhat dark, and drilling music, this movement fits the bill. It was a challenge to play, to keep time and keep up with all the time changes. It’s definitely a piece that keeps you on your toes even if you only play one or two notes ;).

The 7 movements are as follows:

  • Mars – the Bringer of War
  • Venus – the Bringer of Peace
  • Mercury –  the Winged Messenger
  • Jupiter – the Bringer of Jollity
  • Saturn –  the Bringer of Old Age
  • Uranus – the Magician
  • Neptune –  the Mystic  [with women’s chorus]
I will admit I don’t really listen to the other movements. Even when I have the CD on in the background I recognize when Mars and Jupiter come on, but the rest I can’t differentiate or don’t notice much. It’s not that I don’t like them, I just don’t know them as well, they don’t carry the same emotion for me as my original two do. Even Neptune does carry anything that special or recognizable for me and I sang it! Or course I notice when it’s on (if I’m paying a little attention) because there are voices and the rest don’t have any, but it doesn’t grab my attention the way the others do. When I was in my 4th year I think at Laurier (all the years seriously blend together :S), so spring 2009, the WLU Orchestra joined forces with the Kitchener-Waterloo Youth Orchestra (same conductor, they do this once a year I think) to perform this suite. The show was put on at the Centre in the Square, K-W’s big concert hall and home to the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra (of which I happen to personally know/met/have been taught by/or saw coming through the drive-thru at McDonald’s about 8 of them :P). It was done in the afternoon. I think only the one performance, maybe a night one. You think I would remember. What I remember from that day was the snow. We happened to get a pretty bad blizzard. I remember driving there thinking it was crazy, but doable. In between the rehearsal and the performance we had a break so I took a couple of the girls back to the school and went home for lunch. Then I picked them back up and off we went. This would have been my 2nd or 3rd time performing at the Centre. Probably 2nd since I can only remember 2 right now. The first time I was 12 and it was a huge choir, hundreds of kids from school in the area between the ages of about 8-12 (I was 12). And the Chamber Choir from Waterloo-Oxford District Secondary School (my high school!) was the guest choir. Their director Mrs. S-J gave us high fives as we walked past her to get on stage and told us to join music at W.O. – she is one of the main reasons I pursued music. And now I’m off topic….

Blizzard, right. Okay. So we got to warm up and practice in the room where the orchestra used to rehearse (now they have their own space). I remember waiting to go ‘on’. We were supposed to be quiet. I was. I always am in those situations. I take back stage etiquette and concert hall etiquette very seriously. Come to hear an orchestra with me and clap between movements – I dare you. Seriously. Don’t do it. And if you have to cough, wait until a loud part, or the end, both will come eventually. And turn off your cellphone. And don’t eat in the hall. It’s not a movie theatre, the ushers aren’t there to clean up your garbage – especially since no food or drink is allowed in the hall anyway. I should do a post on this alone, it would be so long! Right. So, quiet. This is hard to do when you have a group of 20 or so university aged – heck, any age – girls. Jabber, jabber, jabber. And loud? Yes. There was a lot of shushing going on which just makes things worse. For effect we weren’t actually on stage when we sang. We were back stage behind these wall partitions. We could sort of see through cracks, but the had to have a TV hook up for our director so he could watch the orchestra director and make sure we were all in sync. He was a grad student I think. I don’t think he was an undergrad, but I seem to remember him getting prepared to audition out east for his masters in conducting or something. Oh yeah, it’s possible. Conducting is hard man! It’s not just waving your harms around, there’s a science. Hmmm, another post idea. I’m on a roll.

Holy moly I sure know how to get off topic! You can tell when I’m happy – I get easily distracted. My brain goes off in so many directions at once and I want to tell all my stories in one go and it never works. It’s Jupiter, I tell you. Now to the point o this post. Haha, 1143 words in and I’m just getting to the point now? Wow. Is anybody still reading? If you’re still here hang in there for just a bit longer – I have another anecdote. So I’ve got Jupiter on repeat. Honestly, so awesome. It’s all upbeat and happy, and jolly :P. I mentioned above the Chorale. This is a slower section in the piece that really is quite majestic. At one point in my life since hearing it I thought maybe I would want to walk down the aisle to it if I ever got married. Part of me still wants to (and I know someone who did), but it really doesn’t work for that. The rhythm isn’t right. To make it worth your while you would have to walk quite slow. Slower than normal bride walk. I guess, not slower really, but rhythmically. It would be quite obvious that you’re walking to the music and not just walking, and would be a bit awkward I think. It would be like step-pause-step-step-pause-step-step-pause-step and repeat.Because you’d have to walk with the bass line. Oh my. I digress. It’s majestic and wonderful, and magical, and moving, and makes me want to weep tears of joy when I hear it. I only wish it would last longer.

Now for my last anecdote on the subject. It was about 4 or 5 years ago when I experienced my one and only hearing of Jupiter live. It was with the KWSO at the Centre in the Square with a friend from university. A trombone player. An awesome trombone player. It was a ‘Pops’ concert – where they play the most popular, well-known orchestral music. Because of this theme they don’t really play works in their entirety, they’ll just play the most popular movement(s) from a given work. I remember sitting in my seat. I was ecstatically happy. Bursting with joy. So focused on what was transpiring in front of me that the building could have burning all around me and I wouldn’t have noticed as long as they kept playing. One thing I like when I go hear an orchestra play is to sit where I can see all of them play. This is not necessary for a good listening experience, but I like to watch as well. The bouncing bows of the string players, the smoothly synchronized dance of the percussionists, the triumphant ‘we are mighty’ toots of the brass players, and the many colourful thrills, whistles, and croons from the woodwinds; it’s as interesting to watch as it is to listen. The players really do dance in their seats. And the conductor! It’s like watching a story unfold when you really pay attention to him/her. Bah! Speaking of conductors…I went to see a concert that highlighted a work of percussion (I wish I remembered more!) and it was one of the most awesome things I’ve ever experienced. I was sitting in the mezzanine section sort of towards the front/edge of the stage so I had a clear view of the conductor’s – Edwin Outwater – profile. It was magical watching him and the featured/guest percussionist work. A work of art in itself. I don’t think he was the one conducting the concert with Jupiter…I think they usually have others conduct the Pops concerts. Anyway, so I was enjoying myself. I remember I was sitting on the edge of my seat, straining to get closer to the source of the music. My eyes were brimming with tears of joy – even now as I reminisce my eyes are a little moist. I never wanted it to end, ever. I knew it had to, but I was trying not to think about it. I was transported to heaven for 8 minutes and I wasn’t going to let anyone ruin it for me. And I had the biggest, widest, most ‘in awe’ smile on my face. I think at one point I just closed my eyes to soak all the sound in. I try not to do that when I’m at an orchestra concert – I don’t want people to think I’m sleeping ;).

Right now I don’t have any more words that can describe for you what I was feeling during those wondrous 8 minutes. I don’t think I’ll ever find the right words. Maybe there aren’t any. I just know that I would love if everyone would take a little more time and just listen to some of it and tell me it didn’t at least put a teeny smile on your face :D. I know not everyone is interested in orchestral music (I refrain from using the word classical because having been composed between 1914-16 this work is in fact classified ’20th Century’). Or you may be interested in the ‘classics’, but this isn’t your cup of tea. That’s fine. And you don’t have to listen to any of it. But I think if you gave it a chance you might surprise yourself. If anything, the conductor’s hair will make you smile. Kind of like an Asian Beethoven ;).


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  1. I love the way your write about music. Your writing oozes with happiness. I love this line: “So focused on what was transpiring in front of me that the building could have burning all around me and I wouldn’t have noticed as long as they kept playing.”

    That conductor has great hair!

    And the feeling during those “8 minutes” could it be “orgasmic”? “resplendence”?

    • I guess I could never really hide where my true interests lie, lol, my writing would give it away. It’s true, I can get carried away. Like once in Swiss Chalet when our waiter (who was pretty cute) was super nice to us and kept saying we didn’t have to rush off. My Grandma said it was because I kept smiling at him. I was smiling because I was so happy at having discovered a new musical. Smiles really are contagious!

      The hair reminds me of a cellist from the KWSO – I went to a concert they held in a church and ended up sitting within touching distance of him and his music stand. He had hair like that only curly! He kept pretending to poke us with his bow as he played. A year or so later I noticed he had cut his hair short and I was sad. It didn’t move when he played anymore, lol.

      Those are good words ;). But I think I would have to say Jupiter invoked (and still does) more of an ‘innocent’ happiness. Kind of, just the joy of existing. Or something. Which might correlate with those words…. :P.

  2. My exposure to music is quite limited, so I appreciate the detail and enthusiasm with which you described Jupiter. I’ll take a listen. I’m always interested in new things. Thanks!

    • Any time! I know not everyone is interested in the same music as I am. I have a lot of ‘odd’ interests when it comes to music, but that’s a given considering I studied music. I sort of hover on the edge of the ‘classical’ world – I like the favourites, the popular pieces; I also like some of the stuff we studied that isn’t so popular. I forget so much of it, but other than the really ‘odd’ 20th Century stuff I pretty much liked it all. Even the Renaissance stuff! Oooo, I should find some of those and put them up, lol.

  3. I heard “Jupiter” on the radio this morning and totally thought of you (you must’ve mentioned it in another post recently) – you’re right, it really is quite fantastic. and i definitely know that feeling of rapture and awe when sitting in an orchestra concert, there’s something transcendent about it sometimes.

    • Rapture, awe, transcendent. Those are all really amazing words! Am I crazy or do I remember right – weren’t you in that women’s chorus group that sang ‘Neptune’? I feel like my time at Laurier is a blur, everything blends together and I can’t remember who was where when. Lol. Oh boy. I think I mentioned it when I bought the CD which was last week some time. I hope things are going well for you over in Liverpool!


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