Whether you like classical music or not, and whether you know it or not, you have probably been enjoying it throughout your life in one form or another. I’ll tell you why, after I invite you to take an immersive musical journey as a great way of escaping the lockdown.
Like most people, I love music, and this extended lockdown has given me a chance to immerse myself in my music library inside my personal computer. It is a varied collection which reflects my eclectic taste. Music is a universal language, and although I have a strong preference for particular genres, I have always kept an open mind to the music of other times, places and cultures.
If I were to listen every day for many hours to the pieces in my collection, I don’t think I will have gone through it by the end of the lockdown on April 30. And this would not even include the countless live performances of yesterday’s and today’s great artists, bands and orchestras stored for posterity on YouTube, which are available anytime for everyone at the press of a button. For me, these enduring musical treasures as a whole will beat Netflix offerings anytime (although I also watch Netflix selectively). In no particular order, one can jump from Chopin to Celine Dion, from Bach to The Beatles, from Celtic Woman to the Bee Gees, from Henry Mancini to The Ventures, from the concerts of Queen to the spectacular productions of Andre Rieu—the list is endless and the spectrum of offerings infinite.
You can also have a very varied itinerary by visiting the numerous musical forms under the main categories of classical and popular music, and every country and culture has its unique forms, although we are most familiar with Western music. But I would be amiss if I did not mention our own native Philippine music, characterized by its three main traditional forms—the kundiman, the harana and the rondalla. These have evolved as a fusion of our native tribal music styles and traditional Spanish and Mexican music. More recently, what we know today as OPM (Original Pilipino Music) refers to contemporary songs, particularly ballads, which have flourished starting in the 1970s up to the present, the result of a conscious effort to develop our own brand of local compositions.
My own musical journey to escape this protracted lockdown has taken me to my favorite subgenres, aside from the pop tunes and band instrumentals which have become all-time standard favorites of modern generations.
I particularly love Broadway musicals, from the early Sigmund Romberg days to today’s Andrew Lloyd Webber, but especially those of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Include the British Gilbert and Sullivan operettas which we grew up on in our college days.
Choral music of every kind—sacred, secular, traditional, modern, foreign, Filipino, accompanied, a cappella—is a favorite in its many forms and harmonic variations.
I am no expert in Western classical music, but I particularly enjoy the more familiar works of the great European composers of classical music’s golden age.
And in sharp contrast, having grown up in the ’50s and ’60s, the golden years of rock ’n’ roll, this dancing subgenre will automatically send the “young once” enthusiastically tapping in rhythm. Here I have to mention the era’s icons: Elvis Presley, Pat Boone, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, the Beach Boys; on the mellow side, the Four Aces, the Everly Brothers, the Ray Conniff Singers, the Sandpipers and many more; and to cap it all on both sides of the spectrum, the incomparably versatile Beatles.
Back to my starting point, even if you are not particularly fond of classical music and won’t include it in your list of favorites, it really doesn’t matter because chances are you have actually been enjoying some of it without knowing it. Here’s why.
When I was very young, one of the top tunes I kept hearing on the radio was the song, “No Other Love,” sung by Jo Stafford, that era’s top female vocalist. I think it was my mom who told me that the song was actually an adaptation of Chopin’s famous classical piece, “Etude.” I surmised that if the work of a long-dead composer could make it to the top of a modern music chart, it must really be good. Intrigued, I started to compile a list of classical pieces which have been adapted into contemporary pop songs, since many people were probably not even aware of this.
Elvis, Celine Dion
So, even if you are not a fan of the classics, take a look at the partial list of the modern songs below (and the better known artists who sang them), and see how many of them you have already heard and enjoyed.
“Till the End of Time” (Perry Como), from “Polonaise in A Flat Major” (Chopin)
“Lullaby” (Celine Dion/Chloe), from “Cradle Song” (Brahms)
“Full Moon and Empty Arms” (Frank Sinatra), from “Concerto #2” (Rachmaninoff)
“Midnight Blue” (Louise Tucker), from “Piano Sonata #8” (Beethoven)
“The World Outside” (Four Aces), from “Warsaw Concerto” (Addinsell)
“My Serenade” (The Platters), from “Serenade” (Schubert)
“My Reverie” (Joni James), from “Reverie” (Debussy)
“A Lover’s Concerto” (Lennon Sisters/The Toys), from “Minuet in G Major” (Bach/Petzold)
“Stranger in Paradise” (Tony Bennett/Jerry Vale), from “Prince Igor” (Borodin)
“Don’t You Know” (Della Reese), from “Musetta’s Waltz” (Puccini)
“Tonight We Love” (Caterina Valente), from “Concerto No. 1” (Tchaikovsky)
“All by Myself” (Eric Carmen), from “Symphony #2” (Rachmaninoff)
“Can’t Help Falling in Love” (Elvis Presley), from “Plaisir d’Amour” (Martini)
“A Whiter Shade of Pale” (Procol Harum), from “Air on the G String” (Bach)
Our familiarity with and enjoyment of at least some of the songs above is proof of the timeless appeal of the classical pieces from which they have been derived. Time to enjoy the musical getaway of your choice!
Imitation is the highest form of flattery.—Oscar Wilde