Here’s a ‘Happy Birthday’ Fit for Bach

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 - 12:00 AM

For Bach's special day, you've got to step up your 'Happy Birthday' game. For Bach's special day, you've got to step up your "Happy Birthday" game. (Pexels)

The tune for “Happy Birthday to You” is most often credited to school teacher Patty Hill and her sister, a musicologist named Mildred. Though a Gilded Age tune from 1893, the insanely popular song seems continuously caught in a surprising web of attribution, copyright law, and royalties. There’s a reason you rarely hear it sung in film and television works. It’s got a lot of complexities for such a simple (though deceptively hard-to-sing) tune.

Composer and arranger Giovanni Dettori reimagined the hit birthday song in a way that equals its complex existence. His treatment of the hit tune is a 91-bar fugue-fest that proves that no melody is too simple to become something much more complex. We’d like to bet that Bach, Captain Counterpoint himself, would be partial to this arrangement if he were around to get busy on his 332nd birthday.  


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Comments [4]

Louise Deis from Highland Park, NJ

It's marvelous! A joy to listen to! I sent it to my sister-in-law who shares Bach's birth date.

Mar. 23 2017 01:17 PM
Les from Miami, Florida

A fine tribute from a musician obviously very well learned. As an aside, Stravinsky wrote his version of the birthday song, immediately recognizable as being echt Stravinsky, and dedicated it to Pierre Monteux on one of his birthdays. I like the Dettori and the Stravinsky arrangements better than the original because I've always thought the tune was very sad and never thought the festive lyric matched it...a minority of one, I suppose.

Mar. 22 2017 02:17 PM
Mindy from Bronx


Mar. 21 2017 08:53 PM
David L. Rutherford from Ridgewood, NJ

Actually, I think it is Bach's 332nd birthday.

I enjoyed listening to this. A really clever piece!

Mar. 21 2017 08:15 AM

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