Part III continues the exploration of the Baltusrol Avenue environment, focusing upon the majesty of Winter, the icy splendor of the forest, the dance and swirl of snowflakes, and moments which I would call a seasonal symphony of grace. I remember the grand ice sculptures we once encountered, where the normally flowing waterfalls had frozen over in dozens of spectacular forms and shapes, like pieces of modern art strewn about on dazzling display. There also was a small pond which froze over and seemed hidden away in the rustic confines of the woods. Thousands of trees marked this area, signposts of a natural majesty which at times could take your breath away.
The piece begins with a choral introduction at 00:10, celebrating our initiation of adventures within the forest realm. At 00:20 there is a song of prayer, an affirmation of life and a spirit of thankfulness. At 00:49 variations introduce us into the halls of this natural environment. At 1:56 there is an intimation of the grey, wintry majesty of the forest with the celestial sky above. At 02:16 there are hallmarks of children's games. A minor key section occurs at 02:54, where wistful remembrances paint a somber portrait. At 03:34 a dance enters the scene, reflective of the disparity between urban life and the natural environment. The conclusion of this dance occurs between 05:38 and 05:45, where there is a shift from the minor key back to the major. At 05:49 the triumphant theme returns, a hymn of praise in which I quote briefly from memory a small refrain from the great hymn "All Creatures of Our God and King." The return of joy occurs at 06:50, with dreams and a sense of happiness. At 07:24, a development of the noble theme transpires, with the grandeur of physical and spiritual sight and the fullness of expression taking form at 07:42. The last chordal section develops at 08:15, with the fundamental bass notes carrying the end of the day.
Performed on my vintage 1950's Iorio accordion, an instrument with unique tonal capabilities, at times resembling the sonorities of a large pipe organ. As I play these improvisations, I can hear the sound of Cavaille-Coll in my mind, heart and spirit.
My cousins Sharon and Kerry invited me to spend a week in Springfield, New Jersey at their spacious home along Baltusrol Avenue, a wonderful invitation back in the 1950's or 1960's. This was the beautiful home of my Aunt Lill and Uncle Dell, a place our family visited often for birthdays, anniversaries, outdoor picnics or Holidays like Christmas and New Year's Day. Sharon and Kerry asked if I had ever seen the forest and rocks and waterfalls at the end of the street where the trees became too numerous to count. I answered that I had never seen that area, whereupon they quickly gave me the grand tour and introduced me to the beauty of the forest. I think that this first impression must have occurred somewhere around 1955 when I was 8 years old. Many times we went there to disappear into the verdant vastness, imagining that the rocks were our forest fortress or lyrical, tree-lined palace. A gentle stream meandered through the woods, at times becoming a petite pond after churning through an incredible array of rocky formations. You could hold your hand in the water to feel the power and strength of the stream's consistent current. In the winter months, the snow and ice would cover the ground and almost bury the sound and active flow of the stream. Yet you could hear the water beneath the ice and sometimes spot areas where the water again surfaced from the icy crust above. It was a kind of paradise for us, a place where the seasons could be measured in textures, colors, sounds and earthy fragrance.
My cousins invited me to attend Springfield's "Strawberry Festival" in the warmer months, held at the spacious grounds of Jonathan Dayton High School. When we had occasion to visit the forest again, the impressions struck the senses with renewed impact. My father helped to remodel my aunt and uncle's house by converting the old kitchen into a dining room and extending the kitchen into a newly constructed room at the back of the house. I helped to lay the tile in the dining room, and felt completely at home in this attractive and well-appointed residence. In the winter months we enjoyed the fireplace, in the summer months we loved the backyard and the gathering of relatives.
If my cousins had not invited me to see the forest, I never would have known it was there. To them I owe a debt of gratitude. The word "vicarious" comes into play: "Felt or undergone as if one were taking part in the experience or feelings of another." My cousins drew me to a place which they found to be enormously beautiful. I quickly agreed with them and acknowledged their willingness to share such a delightful natural treasure. The joy of others can profoundly impact the drift of our lives and re-arrange the pattern of our experience. What once was obscure or unknown to me became a place of refuge and a signpost of my youth.
It would of course be a great blessing to hear this improvisation on a large pipe organ, but the accordion is all I have. So I have tried to make the best use of it, recorded on a Canon SD 1000 digital camera. Currently I am using a better camera, a Sony DSC RX100. The last time I saw the forest was probably in 1965, but I remember this place so distinctly and with great detail. I remember my dad telling me in the late 1950's or early 1960's that the highway system possibly would be expanded and the forest removed along with the waterfalls and rocks. Some of us thought that surely something would be preserved, but that was not possible apparently. Today you would not know that anything like a forest was ever there. But through the gift of music, I can still visit that woodsy landscape and take delight in the pleasures of a now forgotten forest.