Today is the blessing of the animals. St. Francis of Assisi died on October 3, 1226. He is still revered as a religious figure, having been canonized by Pope Gregory IX on July 16th, 1228 and recognized for his patronage of animals and the environment. There is now an established custom for pet owners to carry their animals to Catholic and Anglican churches for a blessing. I would really enjoy participating in this ceremony with my cats, but leaving our house in a carrier is never associated with having a good time for them.
For love of animals and nature, we can look to composers who used their craft to recreate sounds and audio descriptions of how animals move and live in nature. What comes to my mind right away is Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns. You can learn the “Swan” movement from BRM 28320 for trombone and piano, and a piano version (bar by bar) at BRM 05420 or (bar over bar) version at BRM 00426. The “Elephant” can enter the room after you learn to play that movement on cello or contrabass, available at BRM 24662.
Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofé can help you ride “On the Trail” with a favorite donkey at BRM 24334. And horses, especially flying ones, are essential when you ride through the skies in “Die Walküre”, BRM 34971 and BRM 24735 (libretto) and BRM 26925, arranged for piano.
When I think of Franz Schubert, I can easily name dozens of lieder and some chamber works, but we’ll start with Die Forelle (The Trout) available for voice and piano at BRM 33325, BRM 01561, BRM 00633 and BRM 32943. It is also included in Fifty-nine Favorite Songs at BRM 34885. This collection includes two of my personal favorites, Auf dem Strom, (On the River) and Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Shepherd on the Rock). Auf dem Strom is for French horn, voice, and has the piano simulating a stream gurgling along. Der Hirt auf dem Felsen has the clarinet and vocal lines up and down the scale, just like going up and down hills and valleys.
Finally, we have Alley Cat, at BRM 22406. The Cat and the Mouse by Copland is available at BRM 07882. The Cat’s Fugue by Scarlatti, supposedly inspired by a cat walking across the keys on the composer’s keyboard, is at BRM 15593. Cats are also featured soloists in Gioachino Rossini’s hilarious Cat Duet, included in 20 Top Young People’s Classics: Tunes for Two, Piano Duet at BRM 35829. While this is a piano duet score, I recommend inserting the original meows as you perform it. This same title includes “Flight of the Bumblebee” “Jupiter” from Gustav Holst’s The Planets, and another favorite, the second movement from Beethoven’s sixth symphony, also known as the “Pastoral.” At the close of the movement, you hear different bird calls. First the flute starts, trilling slowly, then the oboe has a say, and finally the clarinet chimes in with a cuckoo song. From the audio collection we have Animals Expressed in Music, DBM 00249. Walter Damrosch talks about animal sounds in music. And for a entertaining walk in the forest, check out Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, for narrator and piano at BRM 32835 (in German.)
Thank you, St. Francis of Assisi for your devotion, work and reminding us of the multiple blessings we have in our lives.