Thursday, November 26, 2015

On Thanksgiving Day.

Today is American Thanksgiving; it's a regular business day here in Canada, but I'll be celebrating the holiday in a quietly festive manner tonight with other American expats. The content of this Thanksgiving post is admittedly recycled from items I've shared in previous years, but it strikes me that the best things are worth repeating. Given the climate of unpredictable violence and increasing uncertainty which many face today, holidays like Thanksgiving can provide a needed if temporary respite.

One of the essential features of Thanksgiving for me is Aaron Copland's 1944 ballet score Appalachian Spring, which I listen to every year on this day whether I'm home or abroad. As I've noted before, this is a distinctively American piece of music even though it may be difficult to explain exactly what makes it so beyond Copland's inclusion of a series of variations based on the nineteenth-century Shaker tune Simple Gifts. Given this work's status as an icon of musical Americana, it may seem odd that I have chosen to share an interpretation by an Australian ensemble, the Sydney Camerata, but great music belongs to the world.

To provide one more bit of Americana to mark the holiday, I invite you to again join me in reading Robert Frost's poem "The Gift Outright":
The land was ours before we were the land’s
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she will become.
To all readers celebrating this holiday, I wish a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving. AMDG.


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