Album Release

Sunday, November 28, 2010

John Thomas' Autumn

Early Autumn became Mid Autumn and, judging from the quantity of leaves on the tree outside the bedroom, we are now in Late Autumn. 

Cabris has turned quite cold and frosty this weekend. It’s been windy and wet but the mood around town is cheery. Thanksgiving has just passed, and it’s nice to be reflecting on our loves. John Thomas’ Autumn seems a little of the same: frosty, windy, reflective, thankful. 

As guessed, this piece is part of his series on the seasons. :-D

Definitely not summer. Definitely not spring. If anything, it’s intruding a little on winter. Like four brothers trying to share a year. This is Autumn wanting to be like his big brother Winter. 

3 movements. 

Prefaced with a poem:
I love the moaning music which I hear 
In the bleak gusts of Autumn, for the soul 
Seems gathering tidings from another sphere, 
And, in sublime, mysterious sympathy, 
Man’s bounding spirit ebbs and swells more high 
Accordant to the billow’s loftier roll

The melodies could be hymns, in my opinion. They have a spirit of gratefulness about them. 

John Thomas was Welsh and lived from 1826–1913. He was a harpist and a composer. His piece “The Minstrel’s Adieu” is one that not too many classical harpists get away with not playing at some point. Crazy to think, but Thomas actually began playing the harp on a Welsh triple harp-  an instrument with three rows of strings that sat on your LEFT shoulder (a thought that makes me batty!). 

The timing and location of John Thomas’ life is significant because he was born around the dawning of the double-action harp that we know today to be the Classical harp. This kind of instrument was first patented in London by Sébastien Érard (French guy) in 1810. Érard eventually moved his business back to Paris, where the instrument began to really boom in popularity- compositions for solo harp, touring harp virtuosi, a new place for the harp in the orchestra... 

But. It began in London, which is where Thomas eventually ended up. He was introduced to the double action harp and studied at Royal Academy of Music. In 1810, Thomas was 16. 

And check this! (Sorry, I’m a geek) Thomas later became the harp professor at his alma mater, and eventually toured Europe and crossed paths with Hector Berlioz. Hector Berlioz was a French composer and officially the first guy to use the double-action harp in an orchestra. Could it be that Thomas was the catalyst for harp in the orchestra?

Of Thomas, Berlioz said: 

"Voilà comment on joue de la harpe… Il m'a charmé, fasciné, magnetisé."  “Il fait rêver et pleurer; un vrai barde inspiré.” 

“Voila, this is how to play the harp... he charmed me, fascinated me, magnetized me.”  “He makes one dream and weep- truly an inspired bard.”

This inspired bard was a key figure to the classical harp world, which is so French oriented but technically birthed in the UK. 

All this to say (whew) that of all the Autumn works for harp presented in this blog so far, Thomas’s is:

  1. 1.the earliest
  2. 2.the only one from the UK
  3. 3.the only one in 3 movements

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