My mother always wondered how I could like rock ‘n’ roll. After all, I appeared to appreciate "real" music.
My mom had trained for opera and it wasn’t unusual to have her 33s or 78s attention kids, I’m talking about records, kind of like CDs but bigger and more fragile of "Aida" or "La Boheme" filling the house with tragedy (I cried so hard during a Sunday TV presentation of "Madame Butterfly" that she had to shake me to calm my hysteria).
And I did like opera in fact, I loved it. And I loved Chopin. And I swooned over Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. And I also loved the Beatles, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and Barbra Streisand. ("I heard Fanny Brice," my mother sniffed. "She was better.")
(Actually, Streisand’s music nearly got me into an accident. I was singing along with Barbra in the car both the car and I in full throttle and the higher I sang, the further I depressed the gas pedal. I caught myself at 80 miles an hour.)
The way I see it, if music moves you, it doesn’t matter who’s playing it, or singing it, or crying it.
Music at the Shabbat table provided a weekly opportunity to polish four-part minor key harmonies (my kids were quick studies), and the music playing in our house was as likely to be Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons as George Gershwin. Piano lessons introduced the kids to Debussy and Bartok, and I introduced them to Carole King and the Beach Boys.
When the kids were young, I used to serenade them with my guitar, alternating between "Blowing in the Wind" and "Erev Shel Shoshanim" (which, incidentally, was their lullaby). If their tastes today are musically diverse, they come by them honestly.
In the days when I provided musical interludes for sisterhood meetings, I relied on my husband when choosing songs. "For God’s sake, don’t sing ‘Yiddishe Mama,’" he would say. "I hate that."
So I sang it, and the audience loved it. He was never wrong. He also hated "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?," which, of course, went over exceedingly well.
My son Zev who writes his own music and plays a mean Rachmaninoff piano concerto marched down the aisle to Beatles’ songs. Keren, whose temperament ran to Debussy, now thinks she’s Sephardic and fills her house with ululation. Yaron, sadly, is into rap and assures me that (l) it’s music and (‘) it’s good.
My love of music has seen me through dark days. It’s one of the few things in life that can truly transport you, whether you’re soaking up orchestral music in a formal setting or just soaking in a bathtub, accompanied by Broadway music you provide yourself (bathrooms have great acoustics).
In performing at "Don’t Tell Momma" with an amateur cabaret group, I made an interesting discovery: One of my kids wouldn’t look me in the eye. He says it’s because he thought it would make me nervous, but I think he was horrified to see his mother vamping on a piano. My husband just groaned, and my other son perhaps having lower parental expectations just took it in stride.
My daughter just got a piano and I’ve transferred all her old piano music to her house, so she can begin teaching my granddaughter. When they finish "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star," I thought I’d introduce some James Taylor.