As soon as I heard the music, I was glad I tuned in.
I almost didn’t watch the inauguration on TV, as I often find television coverage of major media events kind of overdone and repetitive. But, President Obama is a remarkable speaker, and so, at the last minute, I decided I wanted to see him deliver his address, rather than read it later.
As I turned on the TV, I heard a familiar tune.
Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, pianist Gabriela Montero and Anthony McGill on clarinet were playing a new work composed by John Williams.
The portion of the piece they were playing echoed the strains of an Old Shaker hymn called “Simple Gifts,” which was written by Elder Joseph Brackett in 1848. You may have heard the tune from time to time, as it was adapted in Aaron Copland's score for Martha Graham's ballet, Appalachian Spring, first performed in 1944.
It’s a special song for me and my family.
I’ve played it at weddings and other celebrations for friends and family, as well as the funerals of my mother-in-law and another much-loved friend. The words go like this:
'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
It seemed appropriate to be reminded of how simple it all can be if we can just heed the lessons of freedom, humility and cooperation. If we can learn, once again, to live and believe together in a spirit of peace and harmony, we will, indeed, “come round right.”