Cheerfulness is one of hope’s many companions.
Some people give the impression that nothing can defeat them. Cheerfulness is the emotion that underlies hope and optimism.
- Benjamin Taylor, ed., Saul Bellow: Letters (Viking, 2010). "The letters show a man constantly wresting high spirits from low, and forbidding himself 'the newest wrinkle in anguish.'"
- Christopher Simon Sykes, David Hockney: The Biography, 1937-1975: A Rake’s Progress (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2012): “Hockney has the sort of innate cheerfulness that is regarded as a professional liability in the art world.”
- Rosamond Bernier, Some of My Lives: A Scrapbook Memoir (Straus & Giroux, 2012). “This is a relentlessly cheerful book, complete with love and marriage at the end.”
- Valentin Serov, Portrait of Anna Benois (1908)
- John Heinrich Ramberg, Papageno (c. 1770)
- Gerrit van Honthorst, Merry (1623)
Music: songs and other short pieces
"When You're Smiling", performed
- Franz Schubert (composer), "Die Fröhlichkeit" (Being Cheerful), D. 262 (1815) (lyrics)
- Schubert, “Frohsinn” (Being Cheerful), D. 520 (1817) (lyrics)
Film and Stage
- Mary Poppins, about a nanny who gives the children of a dour man a different perspective, the one they wanted in their unspoiled wisdom
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas, a cautionary children’s tale against cheerlessness
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Johannes Brahms, Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11 (1857) (approx. 43-48’): “In the 1850s, when Brahms was still a young composer and concert pianist struggling for recognition, he spent the last four months of each year in the small city of Detmold in west Germany. There he served as court pianist for the ruling prince, conductor of the local choral society and piano teacher for the princess. His salary supported him for the rest of the year, and left time enough for composing and strolling in the nearby forest.” “. . . the Serenade feels a bit like a precursor of Brahms’s full-scale symphonies. Here we have an opening allegro, an adagio, a minuet and a finale, much as we’d expect in a symphony, but Brahms drops in two extra scherzos, giving us six movements in all, a sort of descendent of Mozart’s Serenades.” “Posthumous analysts have enumerated the influences of Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven -- even Schumann -- in this sweetly bucolic work.” Best recorded performances are conducted by Toscanini in 1935, Bongartz in 1962, Kertész in 1962 ***, Abbado in 1981, Bertini in 1982, Armenian in 1995, Handley in 1998, Mackerras in 1998, Chailly in 2014, and Martín in 2017.
Johannes Brahms, Serenade No. 2 in A Major, Op. 16 (1859) (approx. 29-36’), is “in the mode of a serenade: tuneful, largely cheerful, in six movements. In it he proved himself entirely competent with the orchestra, but not yet with a particularly distinctive voice.” “. . . the biggest factor differentiating Brahms’s serenades from his symphonies could be termed ‘mood.’ When it came to symphonies, Brahms felt that he owed his predecessors and the public something of high purpose and artistic merit. . . In Brahms’s serenades . . . relaxation and warmth prevail.” “The lilt, the warmth, the gracious melodies, and the enlivening cross rhythms that give distinction to a work that essentially fits the definition of a serenade as music strictly for easy listening.” Best recorded performances are conducted by Toscanini in 1935, Kertész in 1962 ***, Bernstein in 1968, Boult in 1978, Tilson Thomas in 1991, Chailly in 2014, Gardiner in 2018, and Iván Fischer in 2021.
The Stanley Brothers, Ralph and Carter, mastered the art of bluegrass music. “(They) represent the quintessential ‘mountain sound’ of bluegrass music. The unmistakable sound of Ralph’s gritty tenor vocals, the driving banjo, and the soaring duets, quartets, and trademark high-baritone trios make this band a favorite of many . . .” Even when they sang of heartache, their banjo pickin’ and always-driving rhythms took sadness out of the picture. Their playlists are extensive.
Other cheerful bluegrass albums:
- Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, “Crooked Tree” (2022) (62')
- Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard, “Pioneering Women of Bluegrass” (1996) (68')
- Mighty Poplar, “Mighty Poplar” (2023) (42’)
“Little Feat is very possibly the last-man-standing example of what used to be the norm in American music, a fusion of a broad span of styles and genres into something utterly distinctive. They combined earthy, organic material with first-rate musicianship in a combination that transcends boundaries. Feat took California rock, funk, folk, jazz, country, rockabilly, and New Orleans swamp boogie and more, stirred it into a rich gumbo, and has been leading people in joyful dance ever since.” Founded in 1969, the group has produced a substantial output of appealing popular music, including these albums:
- “Little Feat” (1970) (33’)
- “Sailin’ Shoes” (1971) (38’)
- “Dixie Chicken” (1972) (37’)
- “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” (1973) (34’)
- “The Last Record Album” (live) (1975) (34’)
- “Time Loves a Hero” (1976) (36’)
- “Live in Holland 1976” (1976) (63’)
- “Waiting for Columbus” (live) (1977) (138’)
- “Down on the Farm” (1978) (36’)
- “Let It Roll” (1988) (50’)
- “Representing the Mambo” (1988) (51’)
- “Shake Me Up” (1991)
- “Ain’t Had Enough Fun” (1995) (68’)
- “Under the Radar” (1998) (71’)
- “Chinese Work Songs” (2000) (61’)
- “Kickin’ It at the Barn” (2003)
- “Join the Band” (2008) (63’)
- “Rooster Rag” (2012) (58’)
Swing music in American Jazz, mainly in the 1930s and 1940s:
- Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 27, H 27 (1799) (approx. 20’)
- Piano Concerto No. 2 in A-flat Major, H 31 (ca. 1811) (approx. 36’)
- Piano Concerto No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 32, H 29 (1811) (approx. 32-38’)
- Piano Concerto No. 4 in E-flat Major, H 28 (1814) (approx. 33-35’)
- Piano Concerto No. 5 in C Major, “L’Indendie par l’orage”, H 39 (1815) (approx. 27-29’)
- Piano Concerto No. 6 in C Major, H 49 (1819) (approx. 31-35’)
- Piano Concerto No. 7 in C Major, H 58 (1822) (approx. 29’)
- Double Bass Concerto No. 1 in D Major (1778) (approx 19’)
- Double Bass Concerto No. 2 in E-flat Major, M.B. 4 (1778) (approx 22-25’)
- Double Bass Concerto No. 3 in B-flat Major, M.B. 5 (approx 23’)
- Double Bass Concerto No. 4 in F Major, M.B. 6 (approx 23-25’)
- Double Bass Concerto No. 8 in D Major, M.B. 10 (approx 23’)
- Double Bass Concerto No. 15 in D Major, M.B. 17 (approx 25-28’)
- Double Bass Concerto No. 18 in C Minor, M.B. 20 (approx 26’)
- In his Rondo in D Major for Piano and Orchestra, K. 382 (1782) (approx. 10’), Mozart takes us through a series of variations on a simple theme, evoking a vision of a happy child at play or perhaps an adult at blissful peace with her world.
- Carl Maria von Weber, Introduction, Theme and Variations, Op. posth. (1815) (9-13’)
- Willem de Fesch, Concerti Grossi and Violin Concerti; 8 Violin Concerti, Op. 10 (1741) (approx. 65’)
- Charles Gounod, Petite Symphonie for wind instruments (1885) (approx. 19-20’)
- Bob Brozman, “A Truckload of Blues” (1991) (53’)
- Jesse Fuller, “San Francisco Bay Blues” (1962) (37’)
- Johannes Pramsohler & Ensemble Diderot, “Concertos pour Violon: The Beginnings of the Violin Concerto in France” album
- Spiers & Boden, “Fallow Ground” (2021) (58’)
- Nina Stibbe, Reasons to be Cheerful: A Novel (Little, Brown & Company, 2019): “ . . . maybe I’m just a sucker for a novel that opens with a British dental surgeon named JP Wintergreen injecting himself with lignocaine and attempting to pull his own teeth. Lizzie Vogel is a wise and cheerful guide to the absurdities and injustices in the dental surgery where she works.”
Remember me when I am gone away, / Gone far away into the silent land; / When you can no more hold me by the hand, / Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day / You tell me of our future that you plann'd: / Only remember me; you understand / It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while / And afterwards remember, do not grieve: / For if the darkness and corruption leave / A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile / Than that you should remember and be sad.
[Christina Georgina Rossetti, “Remember”]
- Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “Solitude”
- Pablo Neruda, “Ode to Sadness”
- William Wordsworth, “What Heavenly Smiles! O Lady Mine”
- James Joyce, “Alone”
From the dark side:
- John Keats, “Ode on Melancholy”