Wednesday, February 8, 2006
Johann Christoph Pachelbel. He just happened to be an acclaimed Baroque composer, organist and teacher who brought the Southern German organ tradition to its peak. His contributions to the development of the chorale prelude and fugue have earned him a place among the most important composers of the middle Baroque. But you might have already known all that.
Then maybe you are familiar with one of Johann's works that was very different from all of his other works throughout his life. It was a work that was initially dismissed as a lark; an exercise to keep his creative juices flowing. And it was the only canon (a composition in which a melody is imitated by one or more voices at fixed intervals of pitch and time) that he wrote and, according to folklore, he wrote it somewhat quickly. The canon was originally known as Kanon und Gigue in D-Dur für drei Violinen und Basso Continuo, but many of us know it as Pachelbel's Canon in D major.
This beautiful piece has found its way into literally hundreds of venues, from the concert hall to the soundtracks of television commercials and movies. As you familar with, this dignified setting begins quietly, and as voices echo the melodic line, it builds to a fitting finale. The concept is very similar to developing rounds of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" that we sang as children.
Growing up as a child ready to set the world on fire, I remember my father humbly reminding me, "Son, don't forget that you can't do it on your own. It's just not possible. All you are asked to do is to use your gifts and abilities to their very limit, and then God takes it from there. That's how great things are accomplished." I would have to agree with my father and yet, I can't help but believe that this mysterious process was set in to motion to not only help us to remain humble, but more importantly, to remind us of the glorious ongoing relationship we share with the Grand Designer.
You and I, my friend, have gifts and abilities just waiting to be shared with the world. And on their own, they are wonderful. But when graced with the touch of the Grand Composer, our simple canon (efforts, comments, deeds) becomes a wonderful symphony to share with and be passed on by the world. So don't underestimate your efforts. They may seem, to you, to be a simple exercise in keeping your creative juices flowing. But regardless, let them flow - others may be simply waiting to join in a round of your symphonic gifts!
Post Note: Probably Mr. Pachelbel's other greatest contribution to humanity? He and his music were a direct influence on the life and work of one young composer known as Johann Sebastian Bach. There is a quote that states (paraphrased), "It is not so much what one does but what others do because of that one and the power of their influence; this is the true measure of a person." It is one of the great mysteries of Life: the cascading rounds of influence we have on one another - almost as if it were a living, breathing canon in itself. We imitate the Voice in the grand melodic line of Life... eventually building to a fitting finale.