On Friday 13 November 1868, the Italian composer Gioachino Rossini died from pneumonia at his country house in Passy. Possibly an unremarkable event if, like me, you are fairly indifferent to Italian opera. But it is one which sparked great excitement to those who are superstitious about Friday 13th.
One suggested origin of this superstition was Friday 13 October 1307 when Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knight’s Templar. Although to be fair some of this suggestion was made in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code. Much as I like Dan Brown as an author I’m not personally convinced about the complete historical accuracy of his writing.
Another theory concerning the superstition surrounding this day may have arisen in the Middle Ages, originating from the story of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday.
If we look at Friday itself however, Friday is named after the wife of Odin. Some scholars say her name was Frigg; others say it was Freya. It’s equally possible that Frigg and Freya were two separate goddesses. Whatever her name, she was often associated with Venus, the Roman goddess of love, beauty and fertility. “Friday” comes from Old English “Frīgedæg.” None of that seems to be particular bad luck.
Yesterday (Friday 13 January 2017) Finnair Flight 666 took off from Copenhagen, Denmark (CPH) at 13.00 hours and flew directly to Helsinki, Finland (HEL). The media claims this was a series of coincidences – I prefer to think that someone at Finnair has a sense of humour and was setting out to prove a point. Apparently everything went to plan and the flight landed safely.
So all in all, other than the death of some Italian musician there isn’t really a lot to suggest we should be in any way concerned about Friday 13th.
Potentially for musicians, there is far more superstition surrounding the number 9. As many of you will know this is the claimed ‘curse of the ninth symphony’. In essence, it is the belief that a ninth symphony is destined to be a composer’s last; i.e. that the composer will be fated to die after writing it, or before completing a tenth. I hasten to add this notion persists in popular journalism, and is not supported in musicology or serious music criticism. The most often cited exampled is Beethoven. Schubert, Dvořák, Spohr, Bruckner, Mahler, and Vaughan Williams could, with some simplification also be put into this category.
However, the fact that there are nine months between the two occurrences of Friday 13th this year is causing me great concern. This is mostly because nine months, when you are on your 42nd attempt at getting through the year, doesn’t seem to take very long at all. One of the often overlooked things about running choirs is the amount of planning and preparation which goes into the many events which occur during the year. Already every weekend in October this year is taken up with a Choir concert of some sort and I’m currently working on arrangements for a possible concert in 2019.
The same is also true for my mobile recording business. Whilst there is always room for more business, I have to plan about 6 months in advance at the very least. And there certainly isn’t time to worry about whether the only available date is Friday 13th.
Jules Addison is a Director of 4 Part Music which provides mobile recording solutions for Schools & Choirs all over the UK. When not out recording he directs 4 choirs in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.