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  • 2014 September 7: Jesus Loves the Little Children

    September 07, 2014 10:30

    George Frederick Root (1820-1895) was born at Sheffield, Massachusetts, and named after the better known George Frederick Handel. Root had real talent for music, and by age 13 he could play 13 different instruments (one a year?). Root left his farming community for Boston at 18, flute in hand, intending to join an orchestra. He worked for a while in Boston as a church organist, and from 1845 taught music at the New York Institute for the Blind, where he met Fanny Crosby, with whom he would compose some sixty popular songs. In 1850 he made a study tour of Europe, staying in Vienna, Paris, and London. He returned to teach music in Boston, Massachusetts, and later Bangor, Maine, where he was director of the Penobscot Musical Association and presided over their convention at Norumbega Hall in 1856. Root would spend most of his career (when not writing, or helping to manage his publishing company) traveling and teaching at Musical Institutes that moved from town to town. (more )

  • 2014 August 31: Labor Day

    August 31, 2014 10:30

    Composed in 1917, Satie's "Bureaucratic Sonatina" is a parody not just of civil servants (dreaming of vacations, promotions, etc.) but also of Clementi's Sonatina in C. Clementi was a contemporary of Mozart, and his sonatinas are standard staple for intermediate piano students (including your intrepid organist as a youngster) who have been laboring at them for a couple centuries now. Satie wrote a number of pieces which include narrations, and he said that the narrations are not supposed to be read out loud during performances. So, then, what? — everyone in the congregation gets a score? And we’re doing the narration in English instead of French! Sacré Bleu! (more )

  • 2014 August 23: Rinse and Repeat

    August 23, 2014 10:30

    The 'chaconne' (sha-KONE) is a musical form consisting of a repeating bass pattern, or alternatively a repeating chord sequence, with variations carrying on all the while. Some scholars have argued that a 'chaconne' is a repeating chord sequence while a 'passacaglia' has a repeating bass line, but it's too easy to find contrary examples (composers being a contrary bunch, after all). The form was rather popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, and dropped out of use for a while (although Beethoven's 32 "Diabelli variations" are arguably an example). Meanwhile I'm thinking the form is reincarnating in modern times in genres as varied as Taizé (sacred music built on a repeating choral phrase) and rap. Some may argue that humanity's history is an ever rising line from the swamps to the stars (I'm frequently not so sure), but I think the history of music is definitely more circular — ideas come into vogue, fall out of fashion, and then return from the underworld in new garb for another go. As the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes, "There is no new thing under heaven." (more )

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