It was all hustle and bustle Up There in the Another Place café which was getting ready for the annual Festive Season get-together of composers and musicians. What would they argue about this time? Perhaps, though, all would be well and close harmony would be the order of the day. But judging by past performances, whilst there was often discord, it was usually resolved into a near-perfect cadence, only occasionally interrupted. The list of guests got longer and longer each year and the competition for a coveted performance at the Celestial Festival Hall more and more intense. A small group had been organised to choose the programme, and we are able, by the magic of the seventh dimension to listen in to their meeting to agree the programme:
Haydn was in the chair – he loved this time of year – and with him were Vaughan Williams and Mendelssohn. (Beethoven was huddled at the back of the café, already on his third glass of wine and feeling grumpier than usual, bah-humbugging away quietly to himself as he read that morning’s Celestial Times – he only really bought it for the crossword of course…)
“Right,” said Haydn, “thoughts anyone on this year’s programme?”
“Can we all agree,“ pleaded Vaughan Williams, sipping a particularly delicious brandy, “that this year, just for once, we’ll give George Frederick’s effort a miss? It’s a great piece, but there’s so much else.”
“Such as?” asked Mendelssohn in a suspiciously low-key voice.
“Well, goodness, where do I start?” replied RVW, and took another sip to fortify himself. “I could offer my own modest contribution [Fantasia on Christmas Carols] How about some Corelli, or Berlioz [L’enfance du Christ], or that Cornelius piece about the Three Kings, or Ben’s ‘Ceremony of Carols’, or…”
“Stop!” said Mendelssohn, grabbing a particularly succulent celestial mince pie, “You’ve forgotten J.S. – don’t forget, it if hadn’t been for me, he wouldn’t be where he is today. Oh, speak of the devil, here he is”
Bach came bustling up to the group carrying the most enormous heap of manuscript paper (he hadn’t yet gone computerised and Sibelius was a good friend of his, not a computer program). “Greetings friends, I’ve just finished my Celestial Concerto no.7 especially for the Festive Season. Six solo trumpets and lots of terribly difficult string parts. I’ll play harpsichord, of course. I’m sure we can just improvise, if the going gets rough.”
RVW and Mendelssohn exchanged glances – they knew from experience just how complex JSB’s new works were. Fortunately, they were saved from having to reply as Tchaikovsky came running up. “So sorry to be late, I’ve just been adding a new pas de deux to the ‘Nutcracker’. It’s for two snowflakes and I’ve called it ‘melting moments’”. The others groaned – in a nice way – at his attempted humour. “We could get Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to perform it for us – they could ride along on Sergei’s Troika for added atmosphere”.
“Excellent”, beamed Haydn, “we’re coming along splendidly – we won’t do anything from my “Seasons” if you don’t mind, but how about Finzi’s In Terra Pax? I confess I’m a great Finzi Fan [And wouldn’t it be wonderful, he thought to himself, if just for once there really was peace Down There, even if only for a short while] Then we really need something new to end.” He looked, speculatively, at the hunched figure of Beethoven over in the corner, pretending not to listen and smiled to himself.
“Ludwig, ” said Haydn in his most paternal voice, “we have a favour to ask – would you be willing to compose a little something for our Festive Season Concert? Something everyone could sing or play? It simply wouldn’t be the same without you.”
Beethoven pretended he hadn’t heard, but they could see him going pink with pleasure. He took a moment and a [big] swig of his wine…“Bah Humbug,” he said dolce – suddenly practising to be Scrooge didn’t seem so appealing – “Well, if you insist, I suppose I might just manage. Anyone fancy a drink?”
“Absolutely Ludwig – especially if you are paying,” beamed Haydn, knowing that now all would be well, and that Beethoven would, of course, come up double trumps.
With things all nicely settled, the group raised their glasses and turned to look down through the clouds: “Happy holidays to one and all,” they chorused.
And to you too, we at MusicB3 say, wherever you are. See you next year.
P.S. If you are wondering where Hans Keller had got to, he was busy writing a full-length monograph on the first movement of the Beethoven Violin Concerto – only another 100,371 words to go…