TBT: A Little Derb’ll Do Ya: Haydn’s “Derbyshire Marches”

The blog of late has been focusing more and more on culture, specifically music.  That makes sense because I am, after all, a music teacher, and am increasingly moving away from teaching social studies.  That’s never been truer than this year, where I am teaching, among other things, a detailed Music Appreciation course covering the major works and stylistic periods of Western music.

This focus is also a result of a desire to move away from the constant flux of politics.  More and more, I’m coming to believe that the best way to improve our lot is to focus on creating culture and building our communities.  Decentralized, localized bulwarks against progressivism offer one peaceful form in which like-minded conservatives and traditionalists can continue to live freely—at least to some extent—and happily.

So in casting about for a TBT post this week, I stumbled upon this one from 16 December 2019, “A Little Derb’ll Do Ya: Haydn’s ‘Derbyshire Marches.’”  My Music Appreciation students and I have been discussing Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, and have listened to a number of their works this week in class.

Joseph Haydn lived a remarkable, long, and successful life.  He grew up poor, and his early musical experiences involved hearing and singing the folk tunes of his native Austria.  He spent his childhood singing in a church, but was turned out when his voice changed.  He then made ends meet teaching music lessons and taking side gigs, slowly teaching himself how to compose.

His fortunes changed at 29 when he joined the Hungarian Esterházy family as their Kappelmeister, writing and composing a mind-boggling amount of pieces (at one point, the family staged two operas a week in their personal theatre in Hungary, all of which required Haydn’s pen and conductor’s baton).  But the position—difficult as it was—made Haydn wealthy and secure.

Even in spite of his workload and an unhappy marriage, Haydn maintained a positive attitude, and adopted an optimistic, humorous outlook on life.  It shows in his compositions, which are light-hearted, whimsical, joyous—and fun.

With that, here is 2019’s “A Little Derb’ll Do Ya: Haydn’s ‘Derbyshire Marches’“:

My Saturday morning ritual involves “sleeping in” until about 8:30 AM, brewing some coffee, and listening to Radio Derb, John Derbyshire’s weekly podcast for VDare.com.  Derb goes back for years—he used to write for National Review, before they kicked him out for writing “The Talk: Nonblack Version” for Taki’s Magazine.

I first found out about him and his controversial essay from NR, back when I was a devout print subscriber, amid the heady days when campus protests were novel enough to be terrifying.  NR ran a little blurb about Williams College cancelling a scheduled talk from Derb, and I’ve been listening to his podcast—an entertaining mix of news, science, political and cultural commentary, and updates on the president of Turkmenistan—ever since.

VDare certainly espouses some views on genetics and race that I don’t personally endorse, but they’re spot-on regarding immigration.  Whether poor assimilation is due to primitive cultures or sub-85 IQs is immaterial; either way, there’s a bound to be friction and a general lowering of civilizational standards if you transport millions of Third World peasants into a First World nation all at once (see also: California).

But that’s not the point of this post.  I’ve been giving politics a rest—the impeachment process is a tedious farce, albeit a threat to our constitutional order (but, let’s face it, we now know that’s been a farce for years, too—the cosmopolitan elites alternatively lean on or ignore constitutionalism, whichever is convenient at the moment)—and instead have been enjoying the wonders of music.

Radio Derb, it should be said, features wonderful music.

Derb opens every show with Haydn’s Two Marches for the Derbyshire Cavalry Regiment in E flat and C, specifically the “Derbyshire March No. 2.”  I’ve downloaded the piano sheet music (to which Derb graciously links), as it’s just simple enough that even I, with my Neanderthalic playing style, can pull it off (I think it would make for a jaunty offertory piece at church, even though it doesn’t possess any obviously sacred connotations).  The fact that the second is in C major helps immensely.

Franz Joseph Hadyn was, like Handel before him, one of those great Germanic composers (Hadyn was Austrian) who took Britain by storm, writing some incredible music for the country—and making buckets of cash while doing so.  He was a contemporary and friend of Mozart, and tutored Beethoven (the great bridge between the Classical and Romantic periods).  The Two Marches for the Derbyshire Cavalry Regiment are fairly simple compositions, but they still maintain that regal, precise, joyous sound of true classical music; that is, the music of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries:  the music of the Enlightenment, before the French Revolution turned it sour.

Even listening to the simple sweetness of the “Derbyshire March No. 2” evokes this sense of an orderly cosmos, and of man grasping to comprehend the wonder of God’s Creation.  That’s not the point of the piece at all—it was a commission by the Sheriff of Derbyshire for the cavalry regiment of the English county—but the precision, the lightness, the gaiety all bespeak the classical style—like the best of Mozart, without the underlying darkness.  It’s all light and joy.

Indeed, amid my Saturday morning ritual, while Derb lets the opening bars of the No. 2 rollick, I’ll often do that foppish laugh that French aristocrats in costume period piece movies do:  the haughty, tittering guffaw of aloofness.  An embarrassing confession, to be sure, but when you spend as much time alone and in your own head as I do, you find ways to entertain yourself.

But I digress.  In researching this little post, I dug up quite a bit about Derb’s defenestration from the respectable commentariat.  What’s interesting is not that the mainstream Right kicked him out, but that, even with all of their virtue-signalling and groveling to the Left in the process, the Left still said, “it’s not enough.”  Overrated stream-of-consciousness racialist Ta-Nehisi Coates, the white liberals’ black man, wrote as much for The Atlantic.  So did Amy Davidson Sorkin.  Both argue that Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, should have fired Derb years ago.

Of course, we’ve all seen this movie before.  Progressives are insatiable.

Nothing like the orderly cosmos of Haydn, Mozart, et. al.  Derb might be in error when it comes to human biology, but he’s far more humane in his tastes, manners, and commentary than screeching Leftists and hand-wringing Conservative, Inc. types.

Who cares?  It’s Christmas.  Let’s listen to some good music.

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2 thoughts on “TBT: A Little Derb’ll Do Ya: Haydn’s “Derbyshire Marches”

  1. There was no such thing as ‘music appreciation’ when I went to school. I’m a devout reader of The Conservative Woman UK and one of their staff writers, Margaret Ashworth, has a weekly column The Midweek Hymn. Aside from being a wonderful writer and a career as an editor for a major newspaper in the UK, her background was music. I’m always impressed with the comments her column generates – the English are very knowledgeable about classical music and discuss it in the kind of detail you would understand but I certainly don’t, lol. It’s a wonderful thing you’re sharing with those kids. Good for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Audre! I have slowly began to get into _The Conservative Woman UK_ based on your multiple recommendations. I was telling my Pre-AP Music Appreciation students this morning how much _I_ have learned teaching them. I’d already begun educating myself on Baroque, Classical, and Romantic music before the course, but teaching it has really taught me so much I didn’t know or appreciate. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to share that with students.


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