Classic Mornings

Pick 4


I won the lottery!  Well, not really. But I continue to treasure a series of events that took place recently.  And the chances of it all happening the way that it did seem as rare as winning one of those multi-million dollar jackpots.

The prize I came away with is a great story to share.  Given that, I don’t expect that I’ll suddenly get a lot of calls from people I haven’t heard from in decades.

During a recent program, I noticed that I had planned to play 4 pieces in a row by composers whose family names begin with the letter “H.”  I didn’t intend that while preparing the program. But I was mildly amused by the surprise of it all. And I decided to have a little fun with it. 

I billed the upcoming hour as a “4-H” hour of sorts. I mentioned the fact that it was a coincidence, and that while the 4 composers obviously had nothing to do with 4-H directly – since all 4 lived before 1902, when 4-H was established -  in their time they probably all contributed in some way to the core 4-H values of head, heart, hands and health. And with that, we enjoyed music by George Frideric Handel (1685-, Johann Wilhelm Hertel (1727-1789), Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) and Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1857).  That was all – or so I thought.

Later that hour, Todd Gleason, a long-time Illinois Public Media colleague in agricultural programming, just happened to be giving a tour to a large group of young people. In all the years I have known Todd, it was the first time I had ever seen him leading a group on a tour of Campbell Hall.

While I had a free moment during a music selection, I walked over to say hello to the visitors. I asked who they were. As it turns out, they were from 4-H!  Let me add that it’s the first time that I ever encountered a group from 4-H touring WILL. Needless to say, I was blown away!

It was a pleasant surprise that I couldn’t have anticipated. And I shared my delight with the group, as well as with listeners shortly afterwards.

What’s the chance of something like that occurring? I’ll leave that for others to calculate. I just continue to enjoy it all with the giddiness of those who sometimes appear on television, having won the big jackpots. OK, so I’m probably a little less ecstatic than they are.

Afterwards, I thought about it a bit. In classical music, there are the famous 3 Bs – Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. There are no similar groupings of 3 composers for any other letter. And given the fact that the number 4 is so closely attached to the letter H, thanks to 4-H, I thought about who the 4 Hs of classical music might be.

Two of them are already among those whose music I played that morning: Handel and Haydn. They’re both legendary composers whose music is known even to beginning listeners, not to mention those well-versed in classical music. I’m guessing that nobody would have a problem with those two being on the short list.  In fact, the Handel and Haydn Society, an orchestra and chorus based in Boston, was founded back in 1815 . And for as long as they’ve been around, the Society hasn’t considered adding another “H” to the name.

Now beyond Handel and Haydn, there could be a good bit of discussion about which others to include. Johann Nepomuk Hummel was considered a rival to one of the “3 Bs,”  namely Beethoven. He was a one-time pupil of Mozart when he was young and went on to become a teacher himself. I’m guessing that another nominee would be the English composer and teacher Gustav Holst (1874-1934), who wrote The Planets and St. Paul’s Suite.  And although Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935) isn’t exactly a classical music household name, I would like to suggest him as a candidate.

I guess if someone really got into it, they would attempt to match each of the 4 composers they select to either head, heart, hands or health. I’m not going that far. I’m not even going to decide upon the definitive 4 composers. I just thought that in the upcoming season of county and state fairs, classical music listeners might bring the matter to mind while they’re walking around the fairgrounds and being reminded of 4-H.  But I have to admit, I consider the odds of that happening to be as slim as they were for the “lottery” I won.