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Happy Birthday Dad!

December 6, 2019

Yesterday was the 7th anniversary of my father’s death. It is always a curious 48 hours because this morning, December 6th would have been my dad’s 99th birthday. I marked these significant back-to-back days in a very meaningful and musical way. Last night I participated in a rehearsal with the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra, (in Connecticut.) The orchestra was rehearsing a classical composition by Dave titled “Joy in the Morning” which will be performed Saturday night, along with several of Dad’s greatest Jazz tunes accompanied by the Brubeck Brothers Quartet.

My dad wrote this piece  in 1991  following quadruple bypass surgery.  In this piece one can hear the woodwinds imitate the sound of the heart monitors beeping away; as well as the sweeping glissando chords from the entire orchestra that sound like the Grim Reaper trying to yank one’s soul out of one’s body. My dad fought through this daunting surgery as he has fought through many tough circumstances he faced in his life including breaking his back and being laid up in traction. His willpower was amazing, which he  probably got from his tougher-than-nails cowboy father, Grandpa Pete. Dad grew up in the saddle, he lived through the Great Depression, and he made it through WWII. He used his hard-earned G.I. Bill rights to learn about classical composition and orchestration from Darius Milhaud while attending Mills College.  My dad fought for the things he believed in and had a warrior’s courage when it came to Social Justice and confronting Christian hypocrisy. My  incredible mother, Iola, believed in my dad’s talent more than he did.  She helped him in every aspect of his career and always helped him with the texts of his major choral works.  Dad would use powerful words from the Bible to confront such hypocrisy.  This weekend the RSO is performing the instrumental suite extracted from “Joy in the Morning” which was originally a choral work based on the words from the Bible — “Weeping may tarry for a night, but Joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30)

Hearing my father’s challenging music on the anniversary of the night he died and knowing that tonight I will hear his powerful and personal piece again at rehearsal reminds me that his music will be very much alive on his birthday. It is poignant that his music is a beautiful bridge and powerful force that lives far beyond our sojourn on this earth.

Here is a you tube link to a recording of this work by Cincinnati Symphony. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ocATuz0IW0

The Ridgefield Symphony performance will feature “Joy in the Morning” with the RSO Saturday, December 7 at 8pm. Appropriately we are kicking off Dad’s Centennial year celebration in Ridgefield, a few miles from the place we Brubecks called home since 1962.