Classic Mornings

Moms and “The March” of May


She was so tiny back then. The photo, taken when she was 2 weeks old, shows her asleep and in sturdy arms. It appeared on the cover of the booklet that accompanied her mother’'s new recording.

The CD recently turned 5. And little Sylvia is 6, going on 7. The recording, titled Violin Lullabies (Cedille 90000 139), featured violinist Rachel Barton Pine with pianist Matthew Hagle. Barton Pine said back then that Sylvia inspired her to record the album.  It was released around Mother’s Day in 2013.

Rachel Barton Pine recalled having learned her first music from her mother singing lullabies. She said in a note on the recording that the sweet tone of her mother’s voice with its perfect intonation lulled her to sleep.  As she got older, she said it kept her awake so as not to miss a note. And she, in turn, sang lullabies to Silvia.

The recording included some of those. But in preparation for the recording, she discovered some 150 lullabies for the violin. Most were written for the instrument. Some were arrangements of vocal or piano pieces.

And what became of the cover girl of the CD? Well, like her mother, Sylvia Michelle Pine began to play the violin when she was 3 – actually 2½. She performs with her mother in outreach programs for young children. And from what I can gather from articles online, we’ll probably be hearing more about her. Hopefully she still treasures the lullabies that her mother sings to her, not to mention those her mother plays and recorded with her in mind.

Does anyone treasure a penny anymore? Here’s one for your thoughts that someone saved in their memory bank and which earned a little mention years ago:

In anticipation of celebrating the 81st birthday of Spanish harpist Marisa Robles on May 4th, I came upon a 1994 interview. Robles told Sue Fox of The Independent about the first time she met flutist James Galway. He had come to her home to rehearse for an upcoming concert. At one point, her son, who was 2½ at the time, fell and bumped his head. Galway put a penny on his head to stop the pain. At the time of the interview, she said her son was 34 and still had the penny.

The story reminded me of a performance by Galway years ago, in which he played not one but two penny whistles at once during an encore. Maybe there’s something special about the combination of James Galway, pennies and penny whistles.

I recently reminded listeners that things might have been different if the flip side of the coin had made the “other” march the audience favorite at the premiere of the first 2 of the Pomp and Circumstance Marches by Sir Edward Elgar. Given the brisk tempo of the 2nd march, graduation ceremonies might have been significantly shorter, if graduates take their cue from the music.

As it turned out, rushing through graduation ceremonies never came about.  March no.1 became the audience favorite right from the beginning, which was in 1901.

There are 5 Pomp and Circumstance Marches.  The first 2 were written years before the others. March no. 1 is still the only piece in the history of the Proms concerts in London that has been encored twice.  That happened at its Proms premiere, which came just days after the actual premiere by the Liverpool Orchestral Society. It’s reported that the crowd stood and yelled after the performance. 

With publicity like that, it was the one that was chosen to be played at Yale University in 1905 when Elgar was invited to attend and to receive an honorary degree. That was the first time it was performed at a graduation ceremony. And let’s just say that march did what it did from the outset – it went to the top of the class.

It’s usually only a portion of the march that most know from graduation ceremonies, But even at that, it has become so well-known and a sort of musical milestone in people’s lives. It’s almost like the end-of- school years equivalent of a lullaby. And maybe it’s appropriate that it’s a march, to remind graduates that they’ve made a transition from being in good hands to being on their own two feet.