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Copland, Vaughan Williams, and Handel Headline Thanksgiving

Music for Thanksgiving

Public Domain Image
Public Domain Image

If I were to recall the soundtrack for Thanksgiving from my childhood, it would have to be The Dallas Cowboys and The Detroit Lions. These two teams always play on Thanksgiving and that’s what I remember as the sound of that grateful holiday.

However, there are other options and that’s what I’d like to look at now. Songs of thanksgiving are almost always based on giving thanks to God yet there are some instrumental pieces as well. We will include both.

Video:

Psalm 98

The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 and we have an example of music that could have been sung for that initial celebration. In 1621, English composer Thomas Ravenscroft set the entire book of Psalms to music. It is unlikely that Ravenscroft’s music made it across the Atlantic in time for the first Thanksgiving. Still, it does give us an idea of what religious English music sounded like at the time.

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Video:

But thanks be to God

120 years later Georg Frederic Handel premiered his greatest hit, Messiah. In the third and final section is the chorus “But Thanks be to God.” The tone of the music is polite and grateful as opposed to the exclamatory “Hallelujah Chorus.” “But Thanks be to God” is a great, albeit short, piece of music to include on a Thanksgiving playlist.

Video:

Four Seasons - Autumn

Let us now turn to some instrumental music. The clear top choice is “Autumn” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The first movement depicts peasants dancing, and the second movement reflects upon the bounty of the season. The final section describes a hunt for the beast that will be the main course. This encapsulates Thanksgiving. A dance, a reflection, and a meal.

My love of Ralph Vaughan Williams extends to Thanksgiving. His Five Variants of Dives and Lazurus feels like the quintessential Thanksgiving music to me. It could be because there are 900 hymns based on this tune and hymns go with Thanksgiving in my mind. All hymns aside, the richness of the music makes me feel as though I’ve just enjoyed a good meal with people whose company I enjoy. Of course, should I happen to be with people I don’t enjoy so much, I can always put my plate on a TV tray and watch the Cowboys game.

The final piece of Thanksgiving music is Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland. It is the American equivalent of the Vaughan Williams in that it incorporates a folk tune. The tune Copland employs is “Simple Gifts.” Appalachian Spring premiered on October 30, 1944, and it has remained a pillar of American Music ever since.

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If I were to recall the soundtrack for Thanksgiving from my childhood, it would have to be The Dallas Cowboys and The Detroit Lions. These two teams always play on Thanksgiving and that’s what I remember as the sound of that grateful holiday.

However, there are other options and that’s what I’d like to look at now. Songs of thanksgiving are almost always based on giving thanks to God yet there are some instrumental pieces as well. We will include both.

Video:

Psalm 98

The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 and we have an example of music that could have been sung for that initial celebration. In 1621, English composer Thomas Ravenscroft set the entire book of Psalms to music. It is unlikely that Ravenscroft’s music made it across the Atlantic in time for the first Thanksgiving. Still, it does give us an idea of what religious English music sounded like at the time.

Sponsored
Sponsored
Video:

But thanks be to God

120 years later Georg Frederic Handel premiered his greatest hit, Messiah. In the third and final section is the chorus “But Thanks be to God.” The tone of the music is polite and grateful as opposed to the exclamatory “Hallelujah Chorus.” “But Thanks be to God” is a great, albeit short, piece of music to include on a Thanksgiving playlist.

Video:

Four Seasons - Autumn

Let us now turn to some instrumental music. The clear top choice is “Autumn” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The first movement depicts peasants dancing, and the second movement reflects upon the bounty of the season. The final section describes a hunt for the beast that will be the main course. This encapsulates Thanksgiving. A dance, a reflection, and a meal.

My love of Ralph Vaughan Williams extends to Thanksgiving. His Five Variants of Dives and Lazurus feels like the quintessential Thanksgiving music to me. It could be because there are 900 hymns based on this tune and hymns go with Thanksgiving in my mind. All hymns aside, the richness of the music makes me feel as though I’ve just enjoyed a good meal with people whose company I enjoy. Of course, should I happen to be with people I don’t enjoy so much, I can always put my plate on a TV tray and watch the Cowboys game.

The final piece of Thanksgiving music is Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland. It is the American equivalent of the Vaughan Williams in that it incorporates a folk tune. The tune Copland employs is “Simple Gifts.” Appalachian Spring premiered on October 30, 1944, and it has remained a pillar of American Music ever since.

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