Together we can sing a joyful song, maybe even some Beethoven . . .

November 1, 2012

I do love me some well done flash mob.

This one may have been better coordinated than some the video is actually an advertisement for a bank.

Try to watch it and not smile.  Just try not to smile.

It’s the “European National Anthem,” that section from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony commonly known as “Ode to Joy,” in an arrangement that accommodates any nearby wandering minstrel’s joining in — not to mention a choir of at least a hundred.

I found it at the blog for Krista Tippet’s radio program, “On Being,” in a writeup by Trent Gillis:

Let’s make no mistake here; this is a commercial for Banco Sabadell. And, yes, it’s a majestic, highly orchestrated flashmob organized by one of Spain’s largest banking groups. But, when I get an evening email from our founder and host confessing to shedding “happy tears” when watching it, I figure I better check it out.

Flashmob organizado por Banco Sabadell

Flashmob organizado por Banco Sabadell

And, if you read the comments on YouTube, you’ll see much more of the same sentiment being expressed.

On May 19th [2012] at six in the evening, what appeared to be a single, tuxedoed street performer playing a bass for people strolling around Plaça de Sant Roc in Sabadell, Spain (just north of Barcelona) turned into a mass ensemble performing a movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony — including more than 100 musicians and singers from the Orchestra Simfònica del Vallès, Amics de l’Òpera de Sabadell, Coral Belles Arts, and Cor Lieder Camera.

The production is lovely and highly produced, but it’s the fascination and pure joy of the passersby that makes the moment quite magical. Non?

This is a metaphor for community life.  Communities work best when many people contribute, when people can do what they do well, for the community, as part of the community.  Here is a plaza where people gather — it’s not unusual for musicians to set  up and play, probably for their own amusement as well as for money.  Busking is big stuff in England, and in New York City — and in Greece, though it’s outlawed in many places there.  People will violate laws to make money, and to participate in the community.

It might be pleasant enough if one tall guy, in a tuxedo or jeans — or naked for all that it matters — plays a tune on a bass.  It’s a grand tune, one that most people recognize immediately, and one that has memories stuck to it like feathers on a wood duck.  Beethoven is familiar, and pleasant, and singable.

Add a cello, it’s fun.  Add more strings, the performance becomes grand.  Add the horns, and percussion — loved the guy wheeling his typani out to the plaza  — it’s a delight.  Add a hundred voices in six parts, it’s glorious.

Professionals in the community?  Sure, why not.  In this case, I imagine, they were paid by Banco Sabadell.  Even fun things in communities require some professionals, from time to time.  The cops control traffic before and after the football games, the firemen stand by on the Fourth of July.

Communities build across time, as well as families.  Beethoven wrote that symphony in 1824; Schiller wrote the poem in the lyric in 1785, before George Washington conspired with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton to make the United States of America, edited by Schiller in 1803, the same year Napoleon sold off Louisiana to Thomas Jefferson’s presidency.  There are no solo acts, especially in music, where even the opera diva in solo recital has an agent to hire the hall and sell the tickets, an accompanist on piano, and the music of geniuses from other places, and even other times.

In times of crisis, we get reminders that our finest tool for meeting crises is to look out for each other.

This flash mob video reminded me of that.

Still quote of the moment, one more time: Martin Niemöller, “. . . I did not speak out . . .”

August 21, 2012

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller

German theologian and Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemöller on a postage stamp, painted by Gerd Aretz in 1992 – Wikipedia

Some time this year school curricula turn to the Holocaust, in English, in world history, and in U.S. history.

Martin Niemöller’s poem registers powerfully for most people — often people do not remember exactly who said it. I have seen it attributed to Deitrich Bonhoeffer (who worked with Niemöller in opposing some Nazi programs), Albert Einstein, Reinhold Niebuhr, Albert Schweitzer, Elie Wiesel, and an “anonymous inmate in a concentration camp.”

Niemöller and his actions generate controversy — did he ever act forcefully enough? Did his actions atone for his earlier inactions? Could anything ever atone for not having seen through Hitler and opposing Naziism from the start? For those discussion reasons, I think it’s important to keep the poem attributed to Niemöller. The facts of his life, his times, and his creation of this poem, go beyond anything anyone could make up. The real story sheds light.


Noted here in February 2011, and August 2011.




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