A word or two is (are) in order perhaps to explain the title of this weblog. It’s too long I expect, but it fits the subject. It derives from the name of a radio programme I host here on Saltspring Island, BC, i.e. “Themes and Variations”. That derives from an idea/pipe dream I had ages ago when I offered to CBC a programme of that title, and it itself was inspired by two others. I wanted a combination of a general eclectic programme, such as “Gilmore’s Albums”, and a themed one like Edith Fowke’s “Folk Song Time”. That came to nothing, but here we are decades later, presented with a local radio – I volunteered, and that was that. The programme takes a theme or topic and sees what various composers, classical through pop, have done with it – e.g. on War/Soldiers, we can have Beethoven’s Battle Symphony and some songs of the squaddies like “Bless ‘em all” [the clean version of course, which came second]. The other aspect is to play a particular composer’s treatment of a tune, by himself (such as Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme”) or by someone else (e.g. Brahms’s “Variations on a Theme of Haydn” – or whoever wrote the St Anthony Chorale in the first place).
For the record, the URL for that station is cfsi-fm.com; the programme airs every Sunday at 2 pm local (Pacific) time. I admit I am sometimes asked about playing a lot of Scottish music on it, but actually that doesn’t get a lot of air time, except round about Burns Day or St Andrew’s Day, when it becomes obligatory. I do try and suit the music to the time of year – Vivaldi’s Seasons in their season, Yuletide, and this weekend it’ll have something to do with Canadian Thanksgiving. Among other things, I have to play the wonderful Dutch Hymn of Thanksgiving, to Eduard Kremser’s great tune, which I first heard played in moving style by Arthur Fiedler’s Boston Promenade Orchestra many moons ago. Then there’s “We plough the fields and scatter”, originally German (Alle gute Gabe) from Matthias Claudius (1740 – 1815) and another from my childhood, “All things bright and beautiful”. Those two we used to sing in the primary school I attended in England, before the war [which one? Don’t be daft] and they have an aura of fond nostalgia (if I’m not mixing metaphors). More on this another time.