February 17, 2006

Giving Myself the Gift of Mozart

Filed under: Art and About Music — admin @ 2:51 pm

If you just flew in on a spaceship, you may not know that 2006 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Since last year, there has been much ado in the global music world about planned celebrations, concerts and extravaganzas in honor of the event.

Since the publicity began, I have wondered about how the world could celebrate Mozart more on his 250th birthday than they do the rest of the time. Here’s a man who has annual festivals and professional ensembles named after him. A radio station like KDFC plays Mozart in the Morning to begin every workday. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to assert than on any given day of any given year, someone is playing Mozart. His life, his work and his genius are well remembered, regarded and perpetuated.

Not that I don’t like Mozart. Mozart in the Morning is the way I start my day. Performing Mozart’s C minor mass in college was one of the high points of my singing career. I love his tempos, his passion and his rhythm. His work should be celebrated every day of every year.

Mozart’s actual birthday, January 27, was an enlightening day for me. It started with one of those coincidences that make you wonder about the existence of a Greater Power. I am fairly certain that my five-year-old son did not wake up that Friday morning aware that it was Mozart’s birthday, but during breakfast, he started humming “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.” Spooky, huh?

Then, I was driving my son to school and it occurred to me that the wonder of the 250th global birthday party did not stem from the professional musicians who were packing their 2006 repertoire with Mozart, or repackaging tried-and-true favorites to fill seats. The significance of the event was in the number of amateur musicians who were using the occasion to delve into Mozart. Community choirs are tackling his work. Avocational instrumentalists are forming Mozart quintets to experience his music. For the 250th celebration, this composer who is regarded with fear and awe by amateur musicians for his technically challenging rhythms and proclivity for high-density compositions is being viewed as accessible. The end product may be imperfect, but the process of communicating with Mozart across the divide of time and talent is too tantalizing to miss.

Upon this revelation, I realized that although I have sung a number of Mozart’s choral works, I couldn’t remember every playing Mozart in my 10 years of piano lessons. A quick look at my music book collection confirmed that. I was not surprised. My skills and musical interests did not intersect with Mozart’s canon when I was taking lessons.

I had a few hours to myself at home alone with our piano that day and I couldn’t resist giving Mozart a try on his birthday. The Internet allowed me to almost instantaneously have my pick of sheet music and within minutes, I was at the piano. What happened next I mostly want to keep between me, Wolfy and my baby grand. I can tell you it wasn’t disastrous, it wasn’t spectacular, and no concert pianists’ careers were threatened in any way. But it was enjoyable and made me feel like part of a special birthday.

I’m more in my element singing Mozart and on March 19, I’m joining one of those intrepid groups of amateur musicians when the Chancel Choir at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Lafayette performs Mozart’s “Coronation Mass” as part of an evening of Mozart’s music in concert at 7 p.m. There are some masterful professional musicians on the program as well. Come join our heartfelt birthday party for the Master himself.

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