Many of you are too young to remember, but Victor Borge still bypasses the ages. If you’ve never heard of this comedian or talented, self-proclaimed pianist, then you’ve been missing out…until now. Borge was a Danish pianist who turned the music of others into his own works of artistic comedy. His performances were so grandiose that he made headlines so many times that he lost track. His energy just invigorated the audience with his silly quotes and comedic actions. There are many lessons that we can learn from him as pianists and music lovers. All of those I wish to share with you now!
The Clown Prince of Denmark
It is rarely known that people get a resonating moniker in the modern world. I can tell you that one does not by chance acquire the names “The Clown Prince of Denmark, The Unmelancholy Dane, and The Great Dane.” These tiles were given to him not because he asked for them but because he earned them…and rightfully so. He once said “If I have caused just one person to wipe away a tear of laughter, that’s my reward.” He made it his mission to absolutely make a fool of himself, just for the sake of hearing laughter.
How many of us can claim that we can read a musical composition upside down while reciting it in perfect cadences? I certainly cannot, but if you can please feel free to leave a video of yourself below, I’d love to see it! Another question remains is how can someone who was classically trained become one of the best improvisers in piano history?
That question will always remain. No one can see through the eyes of Victor Borge…well, he’s quite dead…but before that he was acclaimed and unmatched. He had quite the silver tongue and a knack for “phonetic punctuation.” Hailing from a Danish Jewish family, he had a lot to say about his “fun” times in Europe during Nazi occupation. Borge was performing in Sweden when he learned of Nazi aggression and managed to escape on board a vessel known as the USS American Legion. Having known not a single soul and becoming anxious about his lack of wealth, he doubted his future. That was all for naught because he became a star on American TV shortly after he escaped.
The Unmelancholy Dane
He had a pensive and sad nature to him despite his positive aura and constant smiling on TV and in person. This clearly earned him the title of “The Unmelancholy Dane.” At first, he took offense, but seemingly shook it off and embraced that title. He expressed that melancholy nature on camera, despite his smiley visage.
The Great Dane
After all the fuss and frustration about those unruly titles, he obtained quite a different moniker. He is none the more worthy of such a fine title. Although it was his final attribute, he accepted it with little to no admonishment. Obviously, Victor had a humble soul. The Great Dane himself performed until his last day of life before he passed away in his sleep. The most beautiful thing about that part is how he just returned from a concert in his homeland of Denmark the day before.
His accolades certainly add up. He received 5 of the ” chivalric honors” by the monarchs of the Nordic nations. Among the most revered is the Order of the Dannebrog – the Danish symbol of his “princely origin.”
All in all, he really didn’t like these titles and nonsense, he just wanted to make people laugh 🙂
The “Phonetic Punctuation” Exercise
This is one of his classic “performances.” He would point out that music has…punctuation in a sense, even though it is never clearly marked like in English or Danish. The Fact of the matter is that all music tells a story and what the individual takes from it is of his own imagination, but DON’T LEAVE OUT PUNCTUATION! You’ve probably heard enough of my yammering so have a look – you could learn a lot.
Victor Borge expressed his humor in many was. On the piano, through sobbing – wait, what?? He was but a happy jolly soul who just loved people. He held great disdain for the modern theater because there were so many children there. He’d often say, ” We do have some children in here; that means I can’t do the second half in the nude. I’ll wear the tie (pause), the long one (pause), the very long one, yes.” This obviously inhibited his performances…
Opera clearly wasn’t his favorite either. According to him, “When an opera star sings her head off, she usually improves her appearance.” Such language is inflationary…
He clearly loved people, “Santa Claus has the right idea – visit people only once a year.“
He also lived a long, fulfilled life with his wife, or so he thought. “He was happily married – but his wife wasn’t.“
These quotes may seem rather pessimistic, but it’s just him. One can easily tell that he always possessed that classic European sense of humor, yet he managed to win the hearts of many Americans.
What Lessons Can We Learn?
You didn’t just flip though this story to not get something in return. So, here it goes.
Victor Borge taught me something valuable as a kid. My father would always make me watch his programs that were recorded half a century ago. I couldn’t ever understand the meaning of his performances. Dad, what’s all this old stuff”? – I said. He said, this is one of the most entertaining people on TV who gives inspiration and purpose to the downtrodden.
This came at the best, but most difficult time for me. I struggled to grasp piano skills and I was so uptight that I lost enjoyment from playing. After watching Borge for the first time, I started to understand what he truly meant.
“If you don’t enjoy your playing and take things too seriously, turn it into comedy for relief and substance.”
In ordinary language, that means to play your heart and soul out. Become the person you always wanted to be, not just with the mastery of the piano but with your true purpose. This comes at different times for different people but I assure you that we will all find it eventually.
Thank you for reading. I hope you all enjoyed my silly biography of Victor Borge and hope it wasn’t to boring for you. Enjoy the read and the videos. Take some meaning from his little “lessons,” and keep going.
Leave some comments and you’ll always get my help!
Deeply Trebled – your mentor