A Christmas Carol's musical motif

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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A Christmas Carol's musical motif

Post by alberich00 » Wed Dec 19, 2018 11:04 am

A passage about the power of music (see below), especially at Christmas time which awakens so many sad-nostalgic-beautiful memories of things past, from Dickens's "A Christmas Carol," which I read every year at this time. Dotti and I watched the 1951 British version with Alastair Sim last night (the only version worth watching in my view), after driving into various neighborhoods to see the Christmas lights. This film has been central to my Christmas experience ever since I was very little when we could usually count on one tv channel or another featuring it on Christmas Eve. I'll never forget how bereft I became during a stretch of years during which, for some sick reason, tv wasn't featuring it, to make way instead for a bunch of slick crap. Finally, of course, I was able to escape the clutches of mind-numbing, soulless commercialism by buying this most glorious of movies on dvd. This film (and Dickens's original novella) are central to my life, virtual leit-motifs of potency and meaning:

"After tea. they had some music. For they were a musical family, and knew what they were about, when they sung a Glee or Catch, I can assure you: especially Topper, who could growl away in the bass like a good one, and never swell the large veins in his forehead, or get red in the face over it. Scrooge's niece played well upon the harp; and played among other tunes a simple little air (a mere nothing: you might learn to whistle it in two minutes), which had been familiar to the child who fetched Scrooge from the boarding-school, as he had been reminded by the Ghost of Christmas Past. When this strain of music sounded, all the things that Ghost had shown him, came upon his mind; he softened more and more; and thought that if he could have listened to it often, years ago, he might have cultivated the kindnesses of life for his own happiness with his own hands, without resorting to the sexton's spade that buried Jacob Marley."

By the way, the creators of the 1951 film version were extremely sensitive to details like this, for in this version we hear in the orchestra that most beautiful of old British ballads "Barbara Allen" during the scene at the boarding school (the episode of the Spirit of Christmas Past) when the desperately lonely young Scrooge has been left by himself at school for the Christmas holiday, when his younger sister arrives to tell him, joyously, that she's taking him home and that his dad has decided he's not to return to the school again because he's had a change of heart and wants to include Scrooge in the family again. This same tune is heard again in one of the final scenes of the final episode (after Scrooge has woken from his nightmare redeemed to live a new life) while visiting Scrooge's nephew Fred's household. He's about to walk in the door of Fred's parlour, having decided against all odds (and his past character) to take up Fred's yearly repeated offer to have his Uncle Scrooge over for Christmas dinner, when we hear a couple singing "Barbara Allen." This is a very telling, touching detail which all other versions of "A Christmas Carol" I know of omit.
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