Well, here we are at the kickoff to the holiday shopping season. I’m always looking for meaningful, out-of-the-ordinary gift ideas for the people I love. Do you feel the same way? If so, how about giving a gift that costs little money but is huge in value, since it allows you to share your family’s musical legacy, build intergenerational connections, and create opportunities to make music together?
I’m talking about sheet music.
Specifically, the old stuff already lying around your house or Grandma’s house.
My mother-in-law Sandy started this very special tradition in our relationship shortly after I married her son. Her mother, who I never got to meet, was a pianist, and she left behind boxes of old sheet music. This is the music you would buy one song at a time for the songs that were popular in those years. The first song Sandy gave me was “Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy,” on the occasion of our first Thanksgiving. Another year, for Christmas, my husband’s parents bought us tickets to a performance of “White Christmas,” and she gave me a copy of “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,” a song from that show. When our daughter Alice was born, she gave me a copy of “Alice Blue Gown.” (Great Grandma’s first name was Alice, too.)
I have treasured each of these gifts. The arrangements have been easy enough for me to play without tons of sweat and tears, and Sandy took care to choose songs that were special for a particular occasion. I’ve gotten to play these songs for the family as well, although no one has been brave enough to sing them with me. (Maybe this year!)
I think it’s a great idea to pass on sheet music copies of beloved songs. But what if no one plays piano? These songs do generally come with chord symbols so that someone could play along on a guitar, autoharp, or other accompaniment instrument. Heck, you could even use the words for a reference and play a drum or just clap your hands with the song.You’re still giving the tangible gift of a song, in a way that is more “real” than a digital recording or CD.
Another idea is to frame the sheet music, with just the cover showing, or open to the music itself. My dad is a minister, and at a previous church, members of the congregation gave him a framed copy of his favorite hymn, from one of the old hymnals. He’s had it hanging in his office ever since. This idea works even for people who don’t play an instrument and wouldn’t want to sing.
For the right person and the right occasion, your gift of sheet music is a celebration of your family’s musical legacy and the bonds that shared songs bring to a family event.
Have you inherited old sheet music or given it as a gift? How do you feel about the older generation’s sheet music collections?
P.S. For more on collecting your family’s musical legacy, check out this post from JoAnn Jordan at Music Sparks.