Monday, April 14, 2014

A Word about My Dad…and Palestrina

CINCINNATI—Yesterday, as I was driving to a meeting, the local classical station introduced "Palestrina." For nearly forty years, I've thought "Palestrina" was a thing, not a person. When my brothers and I were kids, Dad used to threaten us with Palestrina. If we were badly behaved, particularly on Sunday mornings, he'd turn on the record player, and crank up Palestrina. In fact, even if we were well-behaved, he'd find an excuse to play Palestrina at full-volume. To us, Palestrina was a punishment of maudlin church music.

Turns out, as I found out last night, "Palestrina" is Giovannia Pierlugi da Palestrina, a composer, one of the most famous composers of sacred music. Still, though, I'm not exactly sure why my Dad is so taken with his music. It's just a little bit…funereal.

Anyway, in my excitement at having discovered, after all these decades, a little bit about Palestrina, I emailed my Dad. Now, a word about my Dad and email: he does not use it. He calls email "Gmail" because that's the platform he uses, and he virtually never responds. So, it was with some surprise that I received a response from him just a few hours after I'd mailed. Which said:

Trish, No, not 1690. Palestrina did his composing around 1500. And
why would anyone want to play classical that old. The further you get
from our time, the stranger the music sounds in general. If you wish
to experiment try Guillaume de Machaut from around 1200, really weird.

So, aside from setting me straight about the timing of Palestrina composing (which he would've remembered; he doesn't know about Wikipedia), Dad revealed to me that he never really thought much of Palestrina. I admit to being a tad dismayed by this, having spent the better part of my childhood being subjected to dusty old church tunes from the Renaissance period.

But what really struck me, and why I'm writing at all about this on a blog series about people who follow their wildest dreams, is that my Dad and his dreams never cease to impress me. In the early 1970s, he left everything behind (including Christmas dinner; he left on Christmas day!) to head to Central America. There, he built houses and hitchhiked. He only came back because he'd fallen in love before he'd actually left, and so he took a teaching job to support the family he and my Mom would create.

Back in Ohio, he taught. He taught at a school that would end up doing him very wrong (there's considerably more detail in the book). And so when he was fired, it seemed like his dreams were finished. And for a little while, they were. But, he and my Mom had four kids to take care of and they had to get on with life. Dad became a house painter, and spent a lot of time listening to, we both know where I'm headed, Palestrina.

So, here's to a man I spend everyday looking up to. To an adventurer who took risks. To a teacher who demanded the best of his students. To a painter who prides himself on precision. To a father who taught four little kids, held hostage by the whimpering tones of Palestrina, that dreams are possible, even if they don't always go your way right away.

"LIVE from Mongolia" is the true story of what happened when one woman followed her wildest dream out of a corporate job and into the news anchor chair in Mongolia. The book is available on Amazon (hardcover and Kindle), on Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores. Published October, 2013 by Beaufort Books, NYC. 

No comments: