Dear Mr. Mendelssohn, (may we call you Felix?)
We feel the need to inform you of some very disturbing occurrences in our local grocery store: a place where people from many lands gather to enjoy the liberty of carefree shopping for hard cheese, Panettone, and obscure pasta shapes. But lately there have been some… unfortunate developments concerning your music.
We have always been big fans of your Christmas carol “Hark The Herald Angels Sing.” You must be pretty proud of it, since the tune bears your name in capital letters, and those old words by Charles Wesley – my goodness, it’s a noble and inspiring marriage of text and music that simply takes the breath away! The fact that you repeat periodic phrases with only slight harmonic variation notwithstanding –it is a pretty simple idea – but it works so magnificently. And repeating that dominant note so many times, and then raising it to the submediant near the end, though it’s pretty difficult to sing those high notes over and over at the end of midnight mass, it is still really, really good!
We don’t know quite how to tell you. Your carol is going through all kinds of overt misuse in the grocery store. I’m pretty sure you are turning in your grave, and there’s absolutely no legal recourse for you. You could never imagine this kind of modern music since you died in 1847 at the tender age of 36, just as tragically young as Mozart, leaving your widow, Cécile and all those little kids – Carl, Marie, Paul, Lili and Felix – all on their own. You died on the 4th of November, which is just around the time they start playing your Christmas carol in the grocery store.
We feel badly, because we appreciate that your extended family went through a lot, converting to Christianity and all. Your granddad Moses must have thought it best, but it couldn’t have been easy. We hesitate to tell you that your beloved music is thrust over crackling, supermarket loud speakers in our excellent, culturally diverse Toronto grocery store, not only in a very annoying interpretation, but also to many non-Christian shoppers who have no choice but to listen! We are so sorry this has happened.
Anyway, we just wanted to tell you, even in the grocery store where lots of people are buying parmesan from Italy (and can we just say your Italian Symphony is one of our favourites!) and also veal, and probably not appreciating your carol because it’s being sung with a lot of inappropriate ornamentation and frankly not well in tune and under such painfully stressed vocal technique that it’s hardly recognizable as your music, we just want to tell you how much we love your song, and we hope wherever you are, there are more relaxed listeners, and better singers giving it a go this Christmas. Maybe even angels.
Yours truly, two concerned citizens,
Stephanus & Maximus
Stephanus and Maximus are regular contributors to this blog. They are time-travelers who divide their time between their medieval university and ancient Rome. They have chosen to spend their sabbatical in the best place in all history, Toronto, Canada, 2017.