Dear Mr. Orff,
Happy birthday! 126 years since that lucky day that you were born. Of course, you haven’t been on the planet with us for the last 39 of those years, but in the realm of Art and Spirit, you are perpetually present in your legacy. Not only delighting the ears and eyes of all those who have sung and danced and acted in—and continue to do so—Carmina Burana, but uplifting the hearts and souls of probably a million plus children whose childhoods were made just a bit happier by going to music classes inspired by your vision. And the teachers as well! You made their work harder than just turning the page to the next piece or exercise that they had done year after year with kids struggling with tone and technique— Orff teachers have to continually create and re-create, think of 50 different ways to teach the same lesson, listen and attend to the kids’ responses and fold their ideas into the spontaneously emerging class that has been meticulously planned. But in effort there is joy and when done well, there simply is no burn out in the inspired Orff classroom, as the life-giving spirit of constant creation feeds the whole venture like an underground stream bringing fresh cool water to the lake.
Whole communities have been created based on people gathering who inherited your legacy, shared your vision and worked and played together to try to keep it moving forward. How many marriages have happened that got their start in Orff workshops! And lifelong friendships! Such an ongoing echo from your initial call, such an expansive response that keeps responding. I’m about to publish a book of articles from some 25 countries testifying how this work has refreshed their school cultures and brought such joy and enthusiasm to the children and adults of all ages. And another 20 countries could testify as well. That must feel good.
So on behalf of all these children and all these teachers and all these audiences, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have gifted me with a life that never would have existed without you and your work— and it has been a blessed one. Here’s a photo from 10 years ago of kids my colleagues and I brought to the Orff Symposium to perform. I believe you would have been both deeply pleased and astounded by their musicianship, their expansive repertoire and their joy in performing. I know your wife Liselotte was!
Happy birthday and may the echoes keep sounding!