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For My American Neighbors

July 4, 2010

  Happy 4th of July to all my friends down south!!  I went looking for something that I could send your way as a glad-to-know-you token of appreciation, and kept coming back to this performance of Charles Ives’s “Variations on America”, played here by American Guild of Organist winner Tom Trenney.

I’m not very familiar with Ives’s music – he’s another one of my “brussel sprouts” – but this piece is polytonally tame compared to some of his later stuff.  Here’s some more insight from Wiki:

Charles Ives wrote Variations on “America” for organ in 1891 at age seventeen, which he premiered at a recital celebrating the Fourth of July. It included a polytonal section in three simultaneous keys, though this was omitted from performances at his father’s request, because “it made the boys laugh out loud”.  Ives was fond of the rapid pedal line in the final variation, which he said was “almost as much fun as playing baseball”.

I couldn’t figure out why Ives would use the national anthem of the United Kingdom (“God Save the King/Queen”) for this piece, which seems more like something you would hear here in Canada, until (duh) I remembered that it’s the same melody that’s used for “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”.  Hmm, the tune sure gets around.

Check out Tom’s little grin at 7:07 – he’s loving this! 

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