Musical chestnuts or musical gems

I once wrote a blog entry about those tunes that we cannot get out of our heads, better known as “earworms.”

But what about those pieces that we regard as the most beloved of a specific musical genre, which my college organ professor called “gems of the literature?”

And then there are those compositions that we love to play, program, or listen to, perhaps to the point of overkill that they become “musical chestnuts.”

To support my claim, Merriam-Webster gives one definition of “chestnut” as “something, such as a musical piece or saying, that is repeated to the point of staleness.”

Music is a part of everyone’s world, or at least I believe it should be. Those of us who can enjoy performing our musical favorites. Others stream their favorites from Alexa, which I happen to be doing at home right now.

In the musical world, one’s gem might be a chestnut to another. A fine, intricate balance at best.

A couple of Sundays ago, violinist Libby Armour and I had the opportunity to work together again, which we have done on-and-off since we met in 2002. Just about every time, I wind up saying, “Oh, do we play Thais this time or not?”

The “Meditation from Thais” by Jules Massenet is one of those violin gems or chestnuts, depending upon whom you ask. A definite crowd-pleaser to some. Overdone to others.

People will sometime say, “Oh, please play that piece,” thinking about the “Meditation from Thais” in the same manner that people often consider “the Widor Toccata” for the organ.

This Sunday morning, soprano Kathleen Quinlen will sing one such movement from Handel’s Messiah for our 10:30 livestream. I am very proud that, even amid livestreaming, personal distancing, and all the rest, we can bring such a musical gem to our worship.

Without prejudice, I maintain that “I know that my Redeemer liveth” is a treasured gem and not a chestnut because of both its elegant music and strong, affirming text.

I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.

For now is Christ risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that sleep.

rom Job 19:25-26, 1 Corinthians 15:20

When planning music for this Sunday’s worship, I began listening to various sopranos’ interpretations of this aria, and there is a plethora from which to choose: a variety of styles, scholarship, ornamentation, editions.

Enjoy these sopranos singing this beloved favorite from Handel’s Messiah and then be sure to watch our livestream this Sunday morning at 10:30.

Listen to soprano Judith Nelson by clicking here.

Listen to soprano Sylvia McNair by clicking here.

Listen to soprano Dame Kiri te Kanawa by clicking here.

Photo Credit:

Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Apr 22, 2020