Happy Spring, In the Muse readers! I hope that everyone is healthy and getting some fresh air while still following the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. If you’re gazing out of your windows at all the colors beginning to blossom and longing to express yourself musically about it, the Music Division’s digital collections can bring the music out in the nature you’re admiring.
An undeniable musical trend during social distancing right now is the wealth of online music making. Friends and colleagues may be broadcasting online (not to mention teaching private lessons online), and internationally acclaimed ensembles are making performances available free online while concert halls are closed. Musicians of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra even recorded our commissioned work Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland completely at a distance from one another with a click track! Have a listen here.
In the spirit of music keeping us together while we’re apart, I propose a Spring-Themed Online Music Challenge! Use the sheet music I recommend in this blog post about spring and flowers from the Music Division’s digital collections, make videos, and tag us on social media. Everything I list here is free to download and in the public domain. This could be a great opportunity to have an online video jam with friends! Like the Toronto Symphony Orchestra musicians, you can each pre-record your parts with a click track and mix them together for a final product, or even be daring and play together live just for yourselves over a video chat. If you’re feeling especially inspired, make your own arrangement of these works for whatever voice type or instruments you and your friends have. Let us know that you used our collections! On Facebook, we are Performing Arts at the Library of Congress. On Twitter, you can tweet @librarycongress. Use the hashtag #LCMusicChallenge!
While my brief list uses spring and flowers for inspiration, feel free to use any of the sheet music we’ve put online. Are you ready? Here are some places to start!
“Only a Pansy Blossom” by Frank Howard (1882) from our Historic Sheet Music Collection was published for either one voice with piano or SATB voices with piano. You can perform one of these original versions, transcribe the voice parts for four different melodic instruments, or keep some of the voices and use instruments to fill in the other voice parts to keep the lyrics in tact. The possibilities are pretty endless with this tune!
From our Early American Sheet Music Collection, take a look at the 1807 song “Sweet are the Flowers: A Favorite Duett” by James Hewitt. It’s for two voices and piano in a happy key of G major. It’s especially perfect if you have someone else at home with you or a friend who will sing along with you over video chat! One of my favorite parts of early spring is watching the daffodils open as some of the earliest bulbs to color our early spring landscape. Celebrate this musically with “Daffodil Weather” (1890) by B.H. Rowell from our Historic Sheet Music Collection. It’s a sweet little love song for one voice, again in G major.
This same digital collection also contains two love songs about the bulbs that follow daffodils come April and May – tulips! Those songs are “Tulip Time” from the Ziegfield Follies of 1919 and “When You Wore a Tulip and I Wore a Big Red Rose” by Percy Wenrich. Are you getting the warm fuzzies yet? I also like the lyrics of “Spring! Gentle Spring!” by J. Riviere because they’re so timely, focusing on exactly where we are now, March going into April. It’s pretty hard to pick a favorite verse, but the list of all the flowers in bloom in the third verse is lovely. And, daffodils get mentioned here, too!
Solo piano music is also a great opportunity for you to perform on your own, get your ten digits out of the cobwebs, or make arrangements for whatever instruments you and your friends play. In honor of the cherry blossoms currently in peak bloom, take a look at El Cota’s 1909 “Cherry Leaf Rag.” You may also want to download John Theophil’s 1885 arrangement of Dance of Flowers by Albert Biel, Sweetest Flower: Morceau for piano by Charles L. Lewis (1883), and Flowers of Spring: Two nocturnes in forms of waltzes.
I hope that my Spring-Themed Online Music Challenge inspires you to both celebrate spring and stay musically occupied in the safety of your homes. Tag us when you’ve made your music!