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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

These songs were made for you and me

I was invited to sing some patriotic songs for a private reception celebrating a fellow's new citizenship.  As this isn't a request I get often I polled some friends on what they thought would be suitable songs for the occasion.  I started the discussion with America the Beautiful, the National Anthem, and included "Lift every voice and sing." The latter was on a Wikipedia list of 60-some American patriotic songs and I thought it might provoke some interesting discussion. 

Two very good suggestions came in:  Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land and Finlandia.  Thank you Jules and Larye!  (Nobody agreed or disagreed with LEV&S)

TLIYL is great.  The first and last line of each verse says it all:  This land is your land, this land is my land/This land was made for you and me.  Interesting history:  Did you know there are seven verses for TLIYL?  After the first verse of redwood forests that everyone knows, verses 2-4 are more beautiful images of our country (or any country for that matter) while the last three are political commentary on personal freedom, property, and hungry folks and in the case of the latter two, usually censored.  Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger, and Seeger's grandson, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, lead ALL of the verses at Obama's Inauguration Celebration Concert on the Mall.  Cool.  I have biographies of Guthrie & Seeger that I've been meaning to read and this nudged me to get on it. 

FINLANDIA the tune (btw I'm not yelling at you - it's common practice for hymn tune names to be in CAPS) and more specifically the poem "This is my song" (many poets have been inspired to wax eloquent to the lyric meter of this hymntune) have been hanging out in my consciousness for awhile.  As a music major and later music library staffer I knew of Sibelius' tone poem but didn't really give it much attention.  Last year I sang "This is my song" at a community sing, but since it was an aural tradition event I was preoccupied with the unfamiliar melody and words to really take it in as a whole.  This gave me the opportunity to dig into the beautiful tune and amazing words acknowledging our universal needs and wishes.  I haven't memorized it, but think I will. 

So, here's the setlist I used for the reception (aka "these songs were made for you and me").  With gratitude to Walt for joining me in the song leading. 
  • This land is your land (processional into the backyard garden)
  • America the Beautiful - sung by all
  • This is my song (FINLANDIA) - just me
  • The Star Spangled Banner - sung by all
Thanks for the opportunity Lisa.  I would do it again.

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