Happy May Day and NaBloPoMo!

Okay, so spring is technically over a month old, but the Upper-Mid-West, or Western-Northeast, or whatever you call the region where I currently reside, was slow to get the memo. We crawled gingerly out of our winter funk, only to get a coupla final cold blasts in our faces. But we persevere, and the daytime highs are trending upwards, notwithstanding a few minor ripples. Lots of pretty spring colors are busting out on the trees and bushes too — the scenery looks a little different each day.

I’ve been needing something to jump-start me out of winter hibernation mode — an extra cup of morning coffee is helpful, but not quite enough — so I’ve signed myself up with NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month. My mission is simple:

Post every day for a month. That’s all you have to do.

Heck, I can do that! As regular readers know, I’ve done it before! And this time I’m not even technically required to write a piece of music each day, though I bet some composing will sneak in along the way.

To kick things off, I decided to look into music associated with May Day, since today is, um, May Day! πŸ˜› The day has multiple associations, ranging from serious to silly. Well, okay, the silly aspect will be supplied by me — I’ve got a reputation to uphold, y’know! πŸ˜‰

We might as well start at the very beginning — the urge to welcome spring with open arms is certainly nothing new! Here’s the perfect tune for dancing ’round the Maypole:

“Sumer Is Icumen In”

Clicke Yon Master Readmore to Continue the Merrie Frolickinge!

BTW, “Sumer Is Icumen In” is an oft-cited example of early polyphony — at some point, people figured out that it sounds really cool to have more than one line of music being sung simultaneously. This is a pretty simple form of what we call a “round” — think “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

Actually, I’m sure that, like spring celebrations, polyphony started even earlier than the mid-13th century — but it’s all a question of documentation!

A couple more examples from Merrie Olde England…

Via Bangalore: Now Is The Month Of Maying

Via Broadway & Hollywood: “The Lusty Month of May” from Camelot

(WARNING: I cannot be held responsible for the cheesiness contained herein — it’s Broadway, and Hollywood, and it was the ’60’s — you do the math! πŸ˜› )

Finally, here’s a CD to pop in your car stereo on the way to your local Renaissance Faire:

O Lusty May: Renaissance Songs of Spring πŸ˜›

On the more serious side, for many people, today is an ethnic and/or religious holiday known as Beltane. Here’s a modern tribute to this ancient festival:

Loreena McKennitt: “Huron ‘Beltane’ Fire Dance”

In quarters where “Labor” is not considered a bad word, May Day is also known as International Workers’ Day. Here’s a version of The Internationale, with updated English words by Billy Bragg. It’s controversial and provocative, so view at your own risk:

Here’s what struck me about it: I really can’t find much to disagree with in the words themselves — how sad that the movements associated with the song have spawned tyrannies of their own. Oh, that pesky human nature!

Still, before we bash organized labor, let us pause to remember, with fond nostalgia, the 40-hour work week and the living wage. πŸ˜›

Of course, I’d lose my Classical Musician card if I didn’t cover the following bases:

Music to Start a Riot With:
Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring

And Music for Calming Down Afterwards:
Aaron Copland: Appalachian Spring

And Then, This Goes Without Saying:
Antonio Vivaldi: Spring, from The Four Seasons

Okay, that’s enough… it’s a beautiful day — go outside, before summer really kicks in and it’s too darn hot!


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  • Thanks — you make the world a better place! πŸ™‚


    Happy May Day and NaBloPoMo! — 2 Comments

    1. One year ago I got to hear Loreena McKennitt perform a concert at the Chicago Opera House, which inspired my sole posting (so far) on my blog!

      At one point someone in the audience yelled out, “Happy Beltane!” Loreena, without missing a beat, replied, “Happy Beltane indeed. Do you know where your Maypole is?” She also performed the Huron Beltane Fire Dance at the show.

      Looking forward to more postings!