The Eerie Canal Symphony

Words cannot adequately describe the sounds of a voyage on the Erie Canal. However, sit back and listen as you enjoy the Eerie Symphony.

The concert hall is hushed. It is early morning, cool, few people or boats are about and a low fog sits on the canal. The first violinist taps his bow. Or was that the sound of the boat hook tapping the deck?

The timpani open the day with low rumblings, as the engine coughs to life. A squeal from the viola is snuffed as the oil pressure alarm briefly sounds, then the snare drum begins its ever present murmur. Think of this drummer. She keeps up this rhythm all day. Think of Bolero, ever present as the orchestra plays its Eerie Symphony. Her forte rises and falls with the day’s passage but she never falters. She is well known in boating music, she is Madame Yanmar.

Tchaikovsky could not have timed it better. Three loud trumpet blasts announce the opening of the Eerie Symphony, as the boat gives warning that she is backing out. The snare drum increases tempo.

As if this is an awakening, other notes can be heard: a staccato from the clarinets with gentle drumbeats beneath, as a flock of Canada geese take flight. The audience is mesmerised by oboes in clarion call with the bassoon as a distant train gives its distinctive two-tone warning. Again. And again. And again.

As the fog lifts, sounds become clearer. The flutes and piccolos interrupt the steady snare drum with birdsong, the cello releases long mournful calls of a bird of prey.

The first movement nears completion as the susurration of the drums lowers to a murmur. The lock is opening, heralding the second movement.

The bass drum booms. The flutes shriek with startled birds as the lock doors slam shut. The snare drummer takes a well earned break as the boat gently floats up the lock accompanied by scratchy tones from a base violin as the fenders drag up the wall. The movement finishes with discordant notes from all the strings, competing to turn off pumps and open gates. The timpani and snare drum resume.

The contralto in her first role for the day, sings her thanks to the lock master.

The second movement, as they often are, is a bit dreary. The drone of the strings, the sleepy horns lure the audience into a somnambulant state. Then – Ba Dum Ba Dum Ba Dum, the kettle drums and cymbals announce a turn in the canal, a bridge with roaring traffic, with trucks hitting air brakes on the interstate.

Our Eerie Symphony ends with discordant notes. It must be a modern symphony! The bass competes with the viola which compete with the muted oboe. Adjusting the radio squelch gets a clear call to the marina who welcome us in.

The contralto sings the closing stanza. Thanks for your help! Great to be here.

The final squeal is that of the viola as Madame Yanmar is silenced, sounding her oil pressure alarm for the last time today.

8 thoughts on “The Eerie Canal Symphony

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