Thoughts on Memorial Day (5/31/2021) (By Joan Huang)

I love Charles Ives’ Variations on America (arranged by William Schuman for orchestra). As an immigrant, I know this country has brought me a lot of happiness and freedom. Today I’m paying respect to the heroes who have sacrificed their lives. I feel that I must do something for every occasion. Today is a beautiful day, I took Gigi walking in the neighborhood. Our neighbor Tony has done a great job to decorate his house. It is so inspiring!

To commemorate the soldiers who died during the war, the last Monday of May is the “Memorial Day” and is a national holiday in the United States. This day is a day for the American people to show their patriotism. To pay homage to those martyrs who have sacrificed their lives for the country’s military service, people will visit cemeteries and monuments to lay flowers and plant an American flag.

This year’s “Memorial Day” will be a time to reunite with our friends. The difference between this year’s gregarious celebration and last year’s isolation is like heaven and earth. Last year, for us, the Memorial BBQ was just for ourselves. I remember that we felt like being wrapped by the poisonous thorn-headed “Covid-19 New Crown Flower” barbed wire. Looking up at the sky, We were silently “praying” to the stars and the moon and hoped that the worst would be over soon; and the traditional American band parade, entertainment, singing and dancing, and family reunions would resume soon. Those of us who love socializing could only be doing everything alone in the quiet garden.

This was our last year’s Memorial Day

at the moment the barbecue was turned on, I was eager to see the hope of resurgence in the flames. Finally, there is no “Waiting for Godot” in vain, almost all of our friends and family members got fully vaccinated. Restaurants, museums, and cinemas have opened one after another. People can’t wait any longer to travel. I heard from the radio, for this long weekend, Los Angeles alone, there will be 2,600,000 people traveling. The traffic is going to be a nightmare.

The beginning scene of the film of La La Land renders the joy of the celebration of a “new day” …… 

The American writer Minot Judson Savage (1841-1918) said:

“The brave die never, though they sleep in dust: Their courage nerves a thousand living men..”

Here is what the American poet Daniel Turner wrote:

Memorial Day

For Americans, tomorrow is Memorial Day

Religious or not, we should all stop and pray

For all the people, who gave their lives

At home and abroad, for their sacrifice

Fighting and dying, for the time that we waste

Ask God to love them and show them His grace

Pray for their families, for the love they lost

Paying the price, with the ultimate cost

Think of the fallen, lost in their prime

Be thankful for them and keep them in mind

Today, in addition to paying tribute and condolences to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country, we also express our deep condolences to the medical staff who lost their lives to save Covid-19 patients.

On the “Memorial Day” day, the major American symphony orchestras usually played the famous Festival of Decoration by the American composer Ives. Up to now, the orchestras have not resumed to perform, I would like to share it with everyone from a long distance.

Decoration Day was completed in 1912. Ives arranged the piece for full orchestra, and it lasts about nine to ten minutes.

Ives was inspired to write Decoration Day after listening to his father’s marching band play on Decoration Day. The marching band would march from the Soldiers’ Monument at the center of Danbury to Wooster Cemetery, and there Ives would play “Taps“. The band would leave often playing Reeves’s “Second Regiment Connecticut National Guard March”.[10]

“‘Decoration Day’ begins with an extended meditative section, mostly for strings,” symbolizing morning and “the awakening of memory”. Ives has a player or two separated from the orchestra play as if he is alone, called “shadow lines”.[10] The music slowly unfolds, yielding an eerie mix of major and minor keys. Ives begins to incorporate his memories of Decoration Day into his piece by transforming “Marching Through Georgia” into the mournful “Tenting on the Old Camp Ground“. At this point, we are back in the cemetery where his father’s marching band stops, and just as Ives played “Taps” as a boy, he writes “Taps” into Decoration Day. “Taps” is coupled with “Nearer, My God, to Thee” played by the strings. Ives uses “Taps” to pave a way from the despairing section to the elated section. “On the last note of ‘Taps’ the music begins to surge into a drumbeat that crescendos until with a sudden cut we are in the middle of the march back to town, and the pealing melody of ‘Second Regiment'”.[10] Ives follows this jubilation with the music from the beginning of the piece.

The score of Decoration Day was published for the first time in 1989.

(The above is quoted from Wikipedia)

“Memorial Day” is the beginning of the annual barbecue season and the prelude to the summer outdoor party. Following the crowing of the neighbor’s rooster, I immediately got up and took Gigi down the hill, walking through the winding and colorful streets of our neighbors, watching the American flags flapping in the wind, and the festive atmosphere immediately caught my eye.

Here is the Song I made entitled “Altadena the Beautiful” based on “America the Beautiful”

Oh we are alone to commemorate this year’s Memorial Day,
Through rays of sunshine, flags sway,
We makes a rose bouquet.
Altadena*, Altadena,
The social distancing we obey,
We decorate house, settle the table,
The barbecue is underway.

(Note: Altadena is the town where we live, 30 minutes drive from downtown Los Angeles.)

The song was sung by my friend Ling Dong (5/24/2020)

After walking the dog and returning home, I will begin to decorate the house both indoors and outdoors. This is a patriotic day, and all the decorations are all set by the primary colors of the American flag: red, blue, and white. I will pick up red and white roses and blue agapanthus from the garden and place them in a large transparent vase. Wind chimes, tablecloths, napkins, plates, wine glasses, utensils are all these 3 primary colors.

After finishing the holiday decorations, I will get the barbecue grill ready in the backyard: make sure there is enough gas, small chips of firewood, and various tools. Friends will arrive at 5pm. I will make various cocktails for the guests: Martini, Manhattan, Margarita, Pina Colada, etc., of course beers from all over the world bought from “Cost Plus World Market” are also refreshing. During the “happy hour”, we will carry on various subjects of conversations while enjoying the warm sunset, the fragrance of birds and flowers, and the soothing zephyr in the early summer.

Here’s 5 years ago Memorial BBQ with friends in our garden:

Typical American traditional barbecue menu is generally: hamburger, barbecue chicken, barbecue short ribs, salad, boiled corn, homemade ice cream and colorful desserts etc. For many years, I have been particularly fond of Sheila Liukins’ cook book Celebrate! The recipe includes: 1) Grilled Clams and Oysters Atop Orzo Salad; 2) The Perfect Grilled Porterhouse; 3) Boiled corns; 4) Grilled Seasonal Fresh Vegetables from the Garden; and 5) Blueberry pie.

The 14-month epidemic period was the best time for me to practice new recipes. Cooking is a calming agent for soul soothing, a stimulant for innovative creation, and a nutrient that breeds positive energy. Sharing recipes and experiences with relatives and friends also made me happy, At this moment, all our pots, pans and appliances are all in place, and under my “direction”, they perform marvelous wonderful “concerts”.

1) Grilled Clams and Oysters Atop Orzo Salad:

In this recipe, I just put the clams and oysters on the grill, crackling, sound like the firecrackers, and the shells will open naturally with a rhythm. When the “firecrackers” stop making sound, then it tells you: it’s cooked! Then add olive oil, red wine vinegar, French mustard and other spices, mix with pre-cooked Italian orzo, diced red sweet pepper, diced green zucchini, etc. It is the colorful, absolutely eye-catching starter.

2) The Perfect Grilled Porterhouse:

The method is so simple: Sprinkle the steak with salt and cracked black pepper, and cook them on the grill for 5 minutes on each side. It tastes so good and feels heavenly!

3) Boiled corn:

Corn in the United States is world-famous, and it is almost a daily staple food during the summer for our household because we grow them in my vegetable garden. Just cook them for 5 minutes in the boiling water. They’re so sweet, tender, and refreshing!

4) Homegrown Organic Vegetable Medley

At present, the vegetables in my vegetable garden include broad beans, celery, string beans, kale, Swiss chard and tomatoes and . Stir-frying them with olive oil and garlic is a good way to go.

5) Blueberry Pie:

This is a symbolic in terms of the color of the American flag. I have made many many times. All my friends who have eaten this blueberry pie in the past have asked me for the recipe. It is so intimate for kneading dough, boiling down blueberries for a thick syrup, and decorating with cut “noodles” crosswise is a kind of psychologically medicating act.

After the blueberry pie coming out of the oven, I will cut into triangles with a scoop of milky colored vanilla ice cream, s bright red strawberry jam, it is simply a delicious red, blue and white dessert .

By now, all of our friends and family members have successfully completed the 2 shots of vaccination. We can gather with them in the garden to celebrate the festival and share food.

Here is a piece of multimedia work I composed last year to express my inner feeling during on the epidemic in quarantine at home: Soliloquy in the Epidemic Spring (2020)

On the occasion of the “Memorial Day”, our guests will look at the starry sky, eat “red, blue, and white” dessert while drinking Espressos, under the “red, blue, and white” candlelight. We will send our condolences to the people who sacrifice their lives!

Here, I’m also offering my grief to all the people who died of Covid-19 and hope the worst will be over soon!

American Heroes, thank you for your service! God bless America!

Published by Joan Huang

I'm a freelance composer living in bucolic Altadena, the suburb of Los Angeles. Besides music making, I love cooking, drinking wines with friends, gardening, hiking and traveling.

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