Happy Birthday, George Gershwin!
Thursday, September 26, 2019 by Mary O'Connor | birthday
George Gershwin lived between September 26, 1898 and July 11, 1937. He is considered to be a twentieth century composer.
If you hate homework but like roller skating, you have something in common with American composer George Gershwin. Born in Brooklyn, New York to Russian immigrant parents, George loved to play street hockey, 'cat', and punch ball. He didn’t even have an interest in music until his family got him a piano when he was twelve. Nine years later he had his first hit, "Swanee", with lyrics written by Irving Caesar. No one else in the Gershwin family was musical, but George was fascinated by music. When he heard a schoolmate play the violin, George struck up a friendship with the boy who introduced him to the world of concert music.
Gershwin's American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue (featured in Disney's newly released Fantasia 2000) proved that jazz was powerful enough to combine will with symphonic music. Gershwin was only 26 years old at the time when he composed Rhapsody in Blue. No matter how you hear it, "Rhapsody in Blue" will remain the signature of one of the most influential of composers, songwriters and pianists in American music history.
His play Porgy and Bess has been produced as both a film and an opera.
New for Fall: LIstening and Coloring Pages
Tuesday, September 24, 2019 by Mary O'Connor | listening
I have purchased a set of Shades of Sound Listening & Coloring Book: Halloween for the studio.
Each week, I will print out some of the pages for your student and put them in his/her notebook. After listening to the music on YouTube, the student may color the pages.
After they are colored, please return them to the notebook so that there will be a complete book when finished.
If you are an adult and want to listen and color, too, just let me know and I'll print you a set.
From the website:
The Shades of Sound Listening and Coloring Books are a great way to encourage students to listen to great piano and orchestral repertoire. Students of all ages will love coloring the fun pictures while listening to and learning from the music of the great composers.
This Shades of Sound Halloween edition includes 13 spooky pieces of piano and orchestral literature, ranging from the Baroque to the Modern period. By spending just 5-10 minutes per day listening for just a few days per week, students can listen to and complete the whole book in a few weeks.
Aspiring pianists need to know the literature, hear the greats perform, and be inspired and excited by the great music that is available! Just as writers need to read, read, read, pianists need to listen! Through this fun curriculum, students will learn about the musical periods and the great composers and their works. Listening repertoire selected includes selections from the standard solo piano literature, as well as solo piano and orchestra literature and orchestral works.
My hope is that students can add just 5-10 minutes of listening per day to their normal practicing. Listening to great music will change their understanding of music and will vastly increase their music history knowledge. It will excite and inspire them, encourage further study and listening, give them new pieces to add to their own repertoire wish list, infuse more great music into their lives, homes and families, and will boost their musicianship and expression to the next level.
The Halloween Shades of Sound book includes 13 different pieces, including:
- Totentanz by Liszt
- Le Cimetiere, from Clairs de Lune by Abel Decaux
- Graceful Ghost Rag by William Bolcom
- Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky/Rimsky-Korsakov
- Tarantelle, from Music for Children Op. 65 No. 4 by Prokofiev
- Tarantella by Albert Pieczonka
- In the Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg
- Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 by Bach
- Funeral March, from Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor by Chopin
- Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens
- The Banshee by Henry Cowell
- Scarbo, from Gaspard de la nuit by Ravel
- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas
Students may use The Playful Piano – Halloween Listening YouTube playlist to listen along with their book using quality recordings. The playlist is ordered to go right along with the book, and also includes 5 extra pieces (some pages include optional “Further Listening” examples students may listen to).
Happy Birthday, Ray Charles!
Monday, September 23, 2019 by Mary O'Connor | birthday
Ray Charles (Robinson) was a singer, pianist, composer who was born in Albany, Ga in 1930. He lost his sight (from glaucoma) when he was six and attended a school for the blind where he learned to read and write music in braille and play piano and organ.
Orphaned at age 15, he left school and began playing music to earn a living, moving to Seattle, Wash., in 1947. Dropping his last name, he performed at clubs in the smooth lounge-swing style of Nat "King" Cole.
After some hits on Swing Time Records, he switched to Atlantic Records in 1952 and began to develop a rougher blues and gospel style. For New Orleans bluesman, Guitar Slim, he arranged and played piano on "The Things I Used To Do" (1953); the record sold a million copies. He went on to record his own "I've Got a Woman" in 1955 with an arrangement of horns, gospel-style piano, and impassioned vocals that led to the gospel-pop and soul music of the 1960s and to his hit "What'd I Say" (1959).
Possessing a multifaceted talent, he recorded with jazz vibist Milt Jackson, made a country and western album that sold 3 million copies (1962), and continued to release a variety of pop hits, Broadway standards, and blues, gospel, and jazz albums. A major influence on popular black music during his early years, he gradually reached out to influence both white musicians and audiences. And although he had been convicted of using drugs in the 1950s, he lived to see the day when he was so acceptable to mainstream Americans that he became virtually the chief image for promoting Pepsi-Cola and he was asked to perform at many national patriotic and political events.