Brahms composed the Academic Festival Overture during the summer of 1880 as a musical "thank you" to the University of Breslau, which had awarded him an honorary doctorate the previous year. Initially, Brahms had contented himself with sending a simple handwritten note of acknowledgment to the University, since he loathed the public fanfare of celebrity. However, the conductor who had nominated him for the degree convinced him that protocol required him to make a grander gesture of gratitude. The University expected nothing less than a musical offering from the composer. Brahms, who was known to be a curmudgeonly joker, filled his quota by creating a "very boisterous potpourri of student drinking songs," entitled the Academic Festival Overture. The work sparkles with some of the finest virtues of Brahms's musical technique.
What an amusing day that would have been at this public debut of Brahm's new masterpiece! As the radio announcer said, the medley of songs he used were well-known student drinking songs about "carousing, partying, and wenching," and I can imagine the expressions on the professors and university administrators when they realized what Brahms had done! Nevertheless, I really enjoyed listening to the piece, hearing the various themes of the drinking songs as they danced in and out.
I think that's the way with the journey to simplicity. Simplicity is our stated theme, but it dances its way in and out of our lives. Just when we think we have progressed on the road to simple living, our lives get hectic again, and we can barely hear its simple tune in all the commotion. But then after a while we recommit to our attempt of a simple lifestyle, and once again, its music soars. Our lives are constantly reflecting this precarious rhythmic dance.
These next few months are promising to be hectic for us. We have several birthdays coming up - son-in-law, Charlotte (turning 2), and Ed. I am sewing a Halloween costume for Caroline. Most of all, I am studying for the Certified Medical Transcriptionist exam, scheduled for November 16. Add to that the looming holiday season, and I have to make a conscious effort to create enough quiet time so that I can still hear simplicity's gentle melody:
Tis the gift to be simple,
'tis the gift to be free,
'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
'Til by turning, turning we come round right
'Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
'Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
Then we'll all live together and we'll all learn to say,
'Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,
'Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of "me",
And when we hear what others really think and really feel,
Then we'll all live together with a love that is real.