I had said that I wasn’t going to watch the inauguration. I was being a sore loser. And, I still am not thrilled, but I changed my mind and watched it anyway. It seemed like the ‘American’ thing to do.

I only want to comment on the music in this post. I may or may not comment on some other thoughts later.

First up was Aretha Franklin. She attempted My Country, Tis Of Thee. Now, Y’all, she was not good. Even if you like her style of singing…she was not good. She was way off pitch several times, and she didn’t come close to hitting some of the higher notes. Plus the fact that she added in all those riffs that are not part of this traditional American song. I like Aretha doing Aretha songs. Now she can do those just fine, BUT, this time…she blew it! And the hat…words fail!

Next was a beautiful quartet made up of YoYo Ma,cello, Itzhac Perman, violin, Anthony McGill, clarinet, and Gabriela Montero on piano. The song was “Air and Simple Gifts” and it was arranged for this occasion by John Williams. It was beautiful.

You may be familiar with the song “Simple Gifts’…it is an old Quaker Hymn. The words are especially beautiful. Simple Gifts” was written by Elder Joseph while he was at the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine in 1848. These are the lyrics to his one-verse song:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.
Several Shaker manuscripts indicate that this is a “Dancing Song” or a “Quick Dance.” That is apparent with such lines of the song as “turn, turn will be our delight” and “turning, turning we come round right”. These are dance instructions.

Two additional, later non-Shaker verses exist for the song, as follows:
‘Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
‘Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
Then we’ll all live together and we’ll all learn to say,
‘Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,
‘Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of “me”,
And when we hear what others really think and really feel,
Then we’ll all live together with a love that is real.

The United States Navy Band, the Sea Chanters, did a beautiful job on the Star Spangled Banner. It was sung in the normal traditional way, with nothing added…the way that song should always be sung.

The Marine Band also performed all the other musical selections.

I know there were many concerts and musical affairs going on all over the city. These were the only ones I can comment on. However, if you did not hear the quartet do “Air and Simple Gifts” it is available on You Tube. You owe it to yourself to hear this beautiful work.