Sunday, October 24, 2010

Music for my Grandma's Supper

Music for the King's Supper-Sheva Apelbaum

During the golden age of Louis XIV’s reign, the Sun King  indulged in elaborate suppers that were accompanied by hunting, fireworks, and majestic music.  One of his favorite composers,  Michel-Richard Delalande, actually wrote an entire collection of symphonies in honor of his majesty's dining preferences.  These pieces became known as “Symphonies pour les soupers du roi (Symphonies for the King's Suppers).

Louis XIV-Sheva ApelbaumMichel-Richard de Lalande-Sheva Apelbaum Madame de Sevigne-Sheva Apelbaum François Vatel-Sheva Apelbaum

In one of her letters dated to 1671, Madame de Sevigne describes a festive event prepared for the king by François Vatel, the tragic "Prince of Cooks."

"…the king arrived yesterday evening at Chantilly, he hunted a stag by moonlight; the lamps did wonders; the fire-works (cost 16,000 Franks) were a little eclipsed by the brightness of our serene friend, the moon; but the evening, the supper, and the entertainment, went off admirably well...

“…Supper was served, but there was no roast meat at one or two of the tables, on account of Vatel's having been obliged to provide several dinners more than were expected. This affected his spirits, and he was heard to say, several times: " I have lost my honor! I can not bear this disgrace… At four o'clock in the morning Vatel went round and found every body asleep; he met one of the under-purveyors, who just come in with only two loads of fish. " What!" said he, " is this all ?" "Yes, sir," said the man, not knowing that Vatel had dispatched other people to all the sea-ports around.

“Vatel waited for some time; the other purveyors did not arrive; his head grew distracted; he thought there was no more fish to be had… (he) went to his apartment, and setting the hilt of his sword against the door, after two ineffectual attempts, succeeded in the third, in forcing his sword through his heart.”

My Great Grandma Anny-Sheva Apelbaum My great grandma Annie will be 98 years old this year.  She has just recently moved to a rehab facility after falling and breaking her ankle. Since her move, my mom has issued a decree that we will visit her every week.  So on Sunday mornings, we get in the car and drive to visit her.  The facility is very convenient and looks more like a summer camp than an old age home.  It has a physical therapy room, recreation rooms, and even a giant saltwater aquarium (with an angelfish, a puffer fish, and many other exotic varieties). Almost every evening they even have a musical variety show called “Cabaret Night.”

Sometimes while visiting my great grandma we stay for cabaret night and watch the performers with her. One day I got an idea: why not play my violin for everyone?  I asked the entertainment coordinator, but she politely declined saying that I was too young.  Then I suggested that I could play for the residents while they eat.  The coordinator loved that idea, so I scheduled my first performance of the “Symphonies pour les soupers du grandmère.  The repertoire consists of mostly Bach and Vivaldi.

Playing in Gurwin-Sheva Apelbaum
Playing in Gurwin Front-Sheva Apelbaum

And no, if you are curious, contrary to the King’s supper, nothing dramatic happened. There was plenty of roast beef to go around, and the fish arrived on time (and they tell me it was delicious).


  1. Oops, oh my dear what a story!!! He was done with fish too!!!:-)

    What a lovely idea Sheva to play at the retirement home for those elderly people! I am sure they enjoyed that very much! Wonderful music, a pretty girl, enough food! And your great granny was proud of you, that's for sure! And respect for the decision to visit there once a week! A good Sunday indeed!
    Kol ha kavod lach! Nishika, Yael.

  2. Sheva, I was looking at your left arm and hand and how you hold the wrist perfectly! Wish I could have seen this performance--I would have even gone without the roast beef!

  3. Thank you Yael, and you’re right about being done with fish. I’m sure we’ll all be done with fish at some point or another.

    And thank you Dawn, that was such a nice compliment coming from you. When I first stood in front of everyone, my hand froze and I couldn’t play. My mom even had to count to 3, 7 times until I actually felt comfortable enough to start. But after a while, I wasn’t nervous and it was actually really fun!

  4. Sheva did a marvelous job. She played for over an hour. I was most impressed when she was able to gracefully recover from a few mistakes that she made. She wass able to improvise--in genre--seemlessly. What a trooper, especially in light of the initial stage fright that she had.

  5. I wish i was you in paridise!