Thanks for the Music

As you’re preparing for Thanksgiving visitors and looking ahead to the December holidays, don’t forget your Turkey Day playlist! In the spirit of the holiday, we invite you to explore these works that were inspired by gratitude.

Aaron Copland’s opera, The Tender Land, includes a piece called “The Promise of Living” that’s tailor-made for Thanksgiving. Copland intended the opera for television; although that didn’t come to pass, the piece was reworked and has become popular with smaller opera companies. It tells the story of a Midwestern farm family in the 1930s and the daughter’s romance with a drifter who is hired to work on the farm. They sing, “The promise of living with hope and thanksgiving is born of our loving our friends and our labor.”

After the poor premiere of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “First Symphony,” the composer became depressed and stopped writing music. He had lost faith in his talent and sought treatment from Dr. Nikolai Dahl, who was a music lover and musician in addition to a physician. Thanks to Dahl’s encouragement, Rachmaninoff wrote his famous work “Piano Concerto No. 2,” which is dedicated to Dahl in appreciation.

Another composition rooted in appreciation for a friend is Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Second Piano Trio.” Ivan Sollertinsky, a scholar, gifted linguist, music critic, and lecturer had become a mentor and source of inspiration for Shostakovich. Sadly, he suddenly died at the age of just 42. Shostakovich was said to be devastated at the loss; he had been working on “Second Piano Trio” at the time and dedicated it to his friend, saying, “I remember Ivan Ivanovich Sollertinsky with gratitude.”

Looking back now at the success of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” it’s astonishing that the president of ABC vetoed the song in 1967, and Armstrong had to fight to record it at all.  Even then, it wasn’t promoted in this country, instead gaining popularity overseas. It didn’t make the charts in the U.S. until the 1980s, when this treasure was rediscovered by listeners after being included in the movie Good Morning, Vietnam.

Finally, let’s not forget the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s “Thanksgiving Theme”! Composed for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving following the success of the soundtrack A Charlie Brown Christmas, this mellow, jazzy Thanksgiving tune is evocative, wholesome and instantly recognizable.