Two of my Flemish friends, N and S, are doctoral research fellows in musicology. Like many of their colleagues, they research projects which date before 1600 when Flanders reigned supreme in the western music world. N is doing an archival investigation of a music manuscript from 1542 Bruges, and S is studying the contrapuntal qualities of sixteenth-century Franco-Flemish ricercars. Their musical tastes run rather high-brow. They certainly know more about early music than most people in their 20s and pride themselves on their abilities to discern Ockeghem from Obrecht. Heck, don't we all? I thought I had them figured out, musically-speaking. And then this happened.
A week ago Monday, on our way up to choir rehearsal in Bruges, N, S, and I got stuck in traffic. For two hours were sitting "Boston-style" on the highway. Like any good former-junior-high-"used-to-ride-the-bus-with-rowdy-teenagers"-teacher, I taught them a few good car songs. We played twenty questions. I taught them the licence-plate game. It wasn't long before we pulled out that old stand-by, Name That Tune.
And do you know what happened? I hummed a little Beethoven Symphony. They weren't sure. I sang a few bars of Sting. Nothing. After they got the opening bars of Josquin's Missa Pange lingua (of course!), it was N's turn. After a brief pause she busted out with a loud, upbeat tune that I couldn't quite place. But S knew it right away.
And do you know what happened next? They both sat there and sang through the whole damn song. Even the B theme! I couldn't believe it. These Flemish musicologists who pride themselves on rarely watching TV. Move over, Gombert, Mr. T's layin' the smack down in Flanders!
(What I'm not saying is that I was able to sing the whole thing, too!)