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January 4, 2013

Inaugural music: It's nice, but it's not a concert

(Continued)

And the attempt to use art as a symbol can often backfire. Works of art are hard to cubbyhole into pat, marketing-style categories; even the "Adagio for Strings," which was originally inspired by Virgil's "Georgics," is somewhat subversive when played as a work of mourning. And a work of art that is intended merely to stand for something arguably lacks the force or content of a work created from an expressive vision. Visual artists from Rodchenko to Warhol, Lichtenstein to Koons have played around with the art-as-symbol trope, but it's been rarer in composition; Shostakovich is the only composer who comes immediately to mind, and playing his music at an inauguration would be the supreme act of expressive ambiguity.

But it's open to question just how much force these symbols have in any case. One long-standing quasi-tradition, observed at many though not all inaugurations in the past 50-odd years, is the presence of an African American female vocalist to perform either the national anthem or another appropriately patriotic opus: Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman, Denyce Graves, Ethel Ennis and, finally, at Obama's first inauguration, Aretha Franklin. Inaugurations are apparently one of the few areas of public life in which women of color enjoy an overwhelming majority. It's not clear exactly what this symbolizes, either, though one thing is certain: Aretha, like Yo-Yo Ma, may have felt her musicmaking was affected by the cold weather, but she and her hat turned in a wonderful performance.

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New England News
Obituaries
  • Alan J. Walker, 68

    Kingston, N.H. — Mr. Alan James Walker, 68, passed away peacefully at his home on July 8, 2014, after a long, brave battle with cancer.

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    8 hours
  • James Reese

    Raymond, NH — James Edwin Reese, 74, passed away on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, surrounded by his family and friends at his home in Raymond, N.H. He was the son of John and Ruth Reese, born on Oct. 29, 1939 in Edensburg, Pa. James graduated from Central Cambria High School in Pennsylvania before proudly serving in the U.S. Army as a food inspector. His military service was followed by 31 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a meat inspector. Mr. Reese was an avid outdoorsman and spent much of his time fishing, camping and hiking in the White Mountains. He became involved in the Boy Scouts and enjoyed passing on his vast knowledge of the wilderness to others. Throughout his retirement years he enjoyed woodworking, raising rabbits and working in his garden.

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    8 hours 1 Photo
  • Velma J. Reid

    South Hampton, NH — Velma J. Reid, 80, died peacefully on July 17, 2014 at Exeter Hospital, surrounded by family. She was born in Haverhill, Mass. on June 8, 1934, the daughter of the late George C.W. and Alta I. (Kimball) Haynes. A graduate of Haverhill High School, Velma worked at Western Electric until she had children. For years, she was a devoted “stay-at-home” mom who raised her three children in a loving, nurturing environment. She later worked various manufacturing jobs until her retirement. After retiring, she volunteered her time at various organizations and was very involved at the East Kingston Community United Methodist Church as a member of the women’s guild, assisting with the holiday fair, and helping out wherever she could. She had a passion for animals, and would donate money, food, and blankets to the NH SPCA. She loved to sew and made a personalized quilt for every member of her family. She was also a member of the “Ugly Quilts” group, which made blankets and sleeping bags for the homeless using recycled fabric. She is survived by her husband, Clyde Reid of South Hampton, N.H.; daughter, Pam Eaton of Danville, N.H.; son and daughter-in-law, Douglas and Kim Reid of Raymond, N.H.; daughter, Shirley Reid of South Hampton, N.H.; two sisters, Gwen Stuart of Haverhill, and Norma Taplin of Dracut; four grandchildren, Cheryl and Marc Welch, and Kristen and Joshua Reid, and several nieces and nephews.

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  • Carleen A. Knowlton, 80

    Danville, NH — Carleen A. (Rhoadhouse) Knowlton, 80, of Danville and formerly of Hampstead, died on July 7, 2014, at her home.

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    7 days 1 Photo
  • Miriam O. (Graham) Graham, 84

    Kingston, NH — Miriam O. (Graham) Graham, 84, a resident of Kingston since 2001, and former longtime resident of Grafton, Mass., died peacefully, surrounded by her family, on July 11, 2014, following a long illness.

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    7 days 1 Photo

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