Around Mantua

By Virginia Goodell Published:

In spite of the weather, it's almost Christmas. For most people, Christmas is a wonderful holiday (holy-day) and I believe most of you would agree that it's the best of all the special days we celebrate.

Besides being the birthday of Jesus and a special time of the giving and receiving of gifts, it is special to me because of its music. I love the hymns that we sing during Advent telling us of the coming of the Christ-Child and the carols and hymns telling of His birth and how He will change the world.

What a thrill it is to hear the " Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah." Did you know the tradition of standing when this chorus is sung began in England? It is said that the King of England stood the first time he heard this chorus, saying it was the most beautiful piece of music ever composed. The oratorio has for so long been given in connection with the holiday festivities, that it has come to be a tradition of the season.

Although George Frederick Handel was born a German, he later became an English citizen and is chiefly remembered for his English oratorios. His father, a German doctor of Halle, was much opposed to his son's musical ambitions.

But the boy was obsessed with a desire to learn to play the clavichord, an ancestor of the piano, and at the age of 8 years had taught himself. When an opportunity was presented for him to play the organ in the castle of a neighboring duke, he did it so skillfully that the duke persuaded the lad's father to give his son a musical education. The boy at once became a pupil of the organist of the Halle cathedral.

At the age of 11, he was master of the organ, harpsichord, violin, and other instruments, and was proficient in musical composition. After a short, successful time in Italy, Handel went to London, where his triumph was repeated.

England offered so much in the way of opportunity and appreciation, that when 41 years of age, Handel became a naturalized Englishman. It was here he won his greatest fame.

The English people loved him, he won royal favor, and was blessed to grow old in very pleasant surroundings. The bitterest trial of his life came in later years, when he became totally blind. Yet he still composed and directed his oratorios.

I remember the first time I heard this famous chorus. Dr. and Mrs. D.W. Pearce of Kent built a summer home just north of our home on the Black farm on S.R. 44 (just a little north of and across the road from the present Portage County Airport). Dr. Pearce was a professor of psychology at Kent State College (it had not become a university yet).

The Pearces were lovely people to know and we were glad to have them as neighbors for their long summers.

When I was a freshman at Kent State (a few years ago), Mrs. Pearce invited husband-to-be Frank and me to dinner at their Kent home and then to hear the "Messiah" performed by the Cleveland Orchestra, no less, at the University Auditorium! I was completely carried away by the beauty of the violins! It's hard to believe that the Cleveland Orchestra ever gave a concert at Kent State!

One of the significant musical groups which influenced my musical education was the Kent State A Cappella Choir, directed by Dr. Lupkovitz, my first two years, and then Bruce Handley, my last two. Try-outs were necessary to become a member of this group. No piano was used for the daily rehearsal -- It was a five-hour class, getting three credits. It was wonderful -- I learned so much.

Because I was there during the war years, the choir was not allowed to give concerts much beyond Cleveland, Canton, and Youngstown. Before and after the war years, the choir was invited to perform in Columbus, New York, Chicago, and D.C. Such luck!

Every year, the Goodyear Band gives a performance on the afternoon of the first Sunday in December, at the Kent United Methodist Church. Harold and Lee Hall always make sure I know about this concert and I'm glad they do.

Husband Frank and I first got to know Hal when he came to the area as the Portage County Superintendent and Frank was on the County Board. The reason that he plays in the Goodyear Band is that he's a master on the tuba -- in fact, when he was at Ohio State as a student, he dotted the "i" in Script Ohio. Now that makes him a pretty important person! He's still playing tuba because I saw him and heard him yesterday.

I also learned yesterday that Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" is still the hottest in non-sacred sales. Thank goodness, there are a few old things which last.

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Why don't you simplify your holiday plans as much as possible, so that you might be able to enjoy your family and friends and have the time to enjoy the wonderful music of Christmas.

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Happy preparation! …

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For Mantua news, contact Virginia Goodell at 330-274-2376 or

vgoodell@aol.com.

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