The Rite of Spring
I first heard Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring as a young teenager. I was given an LP (remember them?) of his compositions, and it was this piece of music that stole my heart and soul. Seething with teenage confusion and torment, I would listen to it again and again, feeling that only the composer himself had understood my deepest emotions.
Stravinsky named the ballet Sacred Spring in his native Russian, but our calling it a ‘rite’ leads to many different associations. We create our own rites which we may share or keep to ourselves; we stick with them or abandon them at will. But Spring itself is one of the most remarkable rites of passage that we all enjoy. How can you not smile to see a bud or a shoot appear, or hear some birdsong heralding a return for summer?
As someone with a March birthday, this year I must once again celebrate it in lockdown. One of my birthday rites of Spring was, until 2019, a slap-up lunch at home for the close family, with plenty of excellent champagne and delicious food, followed by yet another of my daughter’s amazing cakes. In the past year we’ve all had to abandon or modify so many of the habits we took for granted. I don’t think I’ve replaced them with anything worth mentioning, so probably best to stick with Spring.
In 2020 we entered lockdown and Spring simultaneously. The weather was clear and bright and the days were getting longer and warmer, so taking our daily exercise was a pleasure and we were – we thought – all in it together. Spring 2021 heralds the beginning of the end of the grim winter lockdown we have endured, and so in that sense there is much to celebrate.
And what better than with music or a song? I defy anyone to sing along with Stravinsky, so here are some easier options:
Paris in the Spring; now there’s a thought, but of course completely impossible at present. So I am contenting myself with the wonderful Francoise Hardy singing ‘Soleil je t’aime’. Or how about Corinne Bailey Rae’s ‘Put your records on’.? This next song is not particularly evocative of Spring, but it does feature the wonderful Mary Wilson, who moved on to the Great Disco in the Sky last month, so why not listen to ‘Where did our love go’?
There is another Spring task ahead, which is getting more difficult to ignore as the days go by. This rite was begun this time last year, as the UK closed its front doors and we wondered how we would spend our time without socialising, travel, shopping and culture. It’s one I am determined to continue when Covid – hopefully – is just a fading memory. It is time to get out the seed trays and get planting. Tomatoes, peppers, radishes and spinach will be a good first step.
And finally, I was reminded of the following, which used to have my brother and me in stitches:
Spring is sprung the grass is riz
I wonder where the birdie is
The bird is on the wing?
I always thought the wing was on the bird.