Wednesday, December 19, 2007

White as Blossoms on the Bough

Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Woke up last night with part of a song in my head. I ran it through my memory awhile until I had a complete verse. After a short time I had The Student Prince and Sigmund Romberg and finally the title, Serenade. Serenade from the Student Prince, it said across the top of the page. The words are on the Web, and I have used the similar end of the third verse in my reconstruction, but it is amazing how rhyme, music and meter enable you to remember something you learned so long ago.

Overhead the moon is beam-ing
White as blossoms on the bough.
Noth-ing is heard but the song of a bird
Filling all the air with dreaming
Would my heart but still its beating
Only you can tell it how. Be-love-ed.
From your window give me gree-ting
I swear my eternal vow

Then I thought about my singing lessons. And it was just as my brother Robert had said, you seize the end of a piece of memory string and pull and more and more string pulls out; you wind up with a pile of string. That memory thread is part of the title of this blog. The name of my music teacher was Mrs. Newkirk, after a while I seemed to remember that her first name must have been Louise. Somewhere we used to have a newspaper clipping about her and her European music education, pupil of a pupil of a pupil of Liszt?

Mrs. Newkirk was a tiny buxom woman, who wore a great strand of knotted pearls, and the under part of whose upper arms hung down and wobbled frantically as she played. These flaccid arms were fascinating and horrible to me then; now I have similar ones.
She charged $1 per lesson. Many of us took piano lessons from her, but I took singing lessons. I remember going in to Schenectady from the Farm for the lessons, but I also have a very vivid memory of my mother taking lessons along with us when she was hugely pregnant with Marjory in 1949, the year before we moved to The Farm, and playing in a children’s recital in a dark blue dress with tiny white polka dots. The soft drape of the material, I think it was rayon, followed the pregnancy lump with too great an accuracy for my Junior High mind.

Many of the songs I learned were in a book called Art Songs, with a cover of pale yellow paper. I liked them, the predictable chords, the emphasized and romantic words; it never bothered me that they weren’t “popular” at the time. Then I remembered other songs I sang. There was nothing modern about my repertoire, which she must have settled on just after the Great War. I learned: Who is Sylvia, Florian’s Song (if there’s a shepherd in your valley, . .) and many others which I remembered last night and have lost again, although I think I still have the book in a box of music. I thought about getting up in the middle of the night to blog, but everything was so vivid, with more and more detail, that I just kept on thinking. When I married, Mrs. Newkirk sent three silver serving pieces with a very pretty sort of Art Nouveau swirl and a flower on the handles, There was a large silver spoon, a fork and a gravy ladle. I still have them in my silver chest. Perhaps I still have too many things, but tomorrow morning I am going to sing an art song in the shower.


  1. June, how beautifully written and the photo is gorgeous. Joann

  2. Many thanks; it is so much fun to have you reading my blog!