This weekend marks the unofficial start of summer with the arrival of Memorial Day. For me, the holiday always brings to mind warm mornings spent toting my trumpet from cemetery to cemetery to play taps and marching with the band in the VFW's small parade in my hometown. Besides veterans, high school musicians may be among the most likely people in the country to observe the holiday properly for a moment at least - not simply going shopping or lounging at the beach.
This week's prelude will sound to the congregation like "My Country Tis of Thee." But I will actually be playing Beethoven's piano variations on "God Save the King." We don't get to hear much of Beethoven's music in church. He was a transitional figure from the classical, enlightenment period of the late 18th century toward 19th century romanticism. Furthermore, he lived at a time when he could make a career as a piano virtuoso and composer, no longer as reliant on employment as a church musician as Bach and other earlier musicians had been. For all these reasons, he composed very little that is appropriate for church music, so I like to take the opportunity to play this particular piece on patriotic holidays from time to time.
I know that some members of our congregation have been directly affected by our ongoing military engagements around the world, and I know that our prayers are certainly with them, our military and government leaders, and veterans on this holiday.