Isaac Watts wrote the words to “Joy to the World” in 1719, based on Psalm 98 in the Bible. The hymn originally glorified Christ’s triumphant return at the end of the age, rather than a song celebrating His first coming. Only the second half of Watts’ lyrics are still used today.
The music was adapted and arranged to Watts’ lyrics by Lowell Mason in 1839 from an older melody which was then believed to have originated from Handel. The name “Antioch” is generally used for the hymn tune.
As of the late 20th century, “Joy to the World” was the most-published Christmas hymn in North America.
There are versions of Joy to the World available at the O’Connor Music Studio for any level of playing, starting with Pre-Reading, all the way up through Advanced and duets.
I’ve always liked Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride as a secular Christmas song 🙂 It’s not technically a Christmas song since the words never mention Christmas but it’s often played now so it seems like a way to ease into the season.
Anderson had the original idea for the piece during a heatwave in July 1946; he finished the work in February 1948. Lyrics, about a person who would like to ride in a sleigh on a winter’s day with another person, were written by Mitchell Parish in 1950.
The orchestral version was first recorded in 1949 by Arthur Fiedler and The Boston Pops Orchestra. The song was a hit record and has become the equivalent of a signature song for the orchestra.
A fun arrangement has been made for piano duet. I have copies here to lend and it’s available on amazon (of course! What isn’t?)
I’m thankful for my piano studio, my students, and my piano 🙂 This year, I’m especially thankful for the Internet!
When I was growing up, my dad was a minister, meaning we lived in whatever parsonage the church chose to let us live in. The one we had in Pawcatuck, CT had an upright piano that someone had put out in the sunroom. Not the best place for a piano, but I digress.
Since we had the piano already, someone – probably my mom – decided that I would take lessons. We had the organist from the Baptist church just across the river in Westerly, RI
Apparently, Clara Pashley was fondly remembered at the church (now Central Baptist Church) since she was mentioned in an article from 2010.
Miss Pashley walked to our house each week and taught me (and my mom who was always listening in) piano for the grand sum of 25 cents.
I started with Ada Richter’s classic Teaching Little Fingers to Play, which has now been morphed into the John Thompson library.
From there, it was the Michael Aaron series, and some sheet music.
There was no music store in our town, so I have no idea where any of this music came from – but I still have it all.
My parents did very well for their quarter a week investment, especially since my mom paid good attention and was able to beef up lessons she’d had as a child. Later on, she played well enough that she was church organist for a local Roman Catholic Church.
But I digress…
In those days, kids couldn’t do a whole lot of activities, so in 6th grade, I decided I wanted to be a Girl Scout. Bye, bye Clara.
Girl Scouts didn’t last long but I did play piano in a talent show. I remember, I carefully cut Burgmüller’s Ballade out of my Michael Aaron book and made a nice construction paper cover. (I still have this, too)
I doubt that I played this well but here’s what it was supposed to sound like:
A few years intervened and moved to Springfield, MA. The parsonage piano there was in terrible shape and in the dark, never-used basement. But I decided to make it mine and cleared up the area around it and started “practicing”.
My Junior or Senior year of High School I decided I wanted to major in music in college. I decided to learn, on my own, a piano arrangement of Aragonaise by Jules Massenet. I have no idea why or where that sheet music came from but I started working furiously on this piece.
Hopefully, at some point, it should have sounded like this:
I started pedaling (no pun intended!) my music to the Universities of Connecticut and Massachusetts and ended up at UMass Amherst since we were state residents.
Early morning gym classes (usually swimming), then wet hair traipsing across campus to music theory in winter 5 days a week. AARRGGH!
But I stuck it out.
My wonderful piano teacher, Howard Lebow, was killed in a car accident during my sophomore year and I was devastated. There will be more about him in a post on January 26, 2021 here on https://oconnormusicstudio.com
I took yet another break from piano lessons – but I kept playing.
After DH graduated, we moved to Milwaukee, WI for his graduate school. Besides working 2 jobs, I found time to commandeer the practice rooms at the University of Wisconsin. I also found a teacher at the Schaum School of Music. She was amazed that I had no piano at home to practice on.
When we later moved to Alexandria, VA my DH gave me a choice of new car or piano. So, I found a used piano. The owner had acquired it in a divorce and wanted it gone. Yesterday. She even paid to move it out of her apartment.
The new-to-me piano took up half our living room. When my parents came to visit, their feet we under my piano as I slept.
I found yet another new piano teacher and she is still my best friend to this day.
That piano moved to several locations before I bought a brand new Yamaha grand piano. The movers accidently brought in the wrong one and I made them return it. The people who lived in an apartment were probably unhappy when they had to return my piano and take their own new baby grand back.
I started teaching as a traveling piano teacher in Silver Spring, Maryland. I continued that in Wilmington, DE.
When we got to Fairfax, VA I decided no more traveling. Students would come to me. And so they have since 1973.
What is supposed to be our living room is filled with music books, electric keyboards, the grand piano, 2 organs, 2 violins, 2 clarinets, recorders, a dulcimer and other musical “stuff”.
Piano playing has gotten me through the worst times of my life. Teaching has been a lifeline for me, as well.
I am so thankful for the students who have stayed with me over the years and the new ones I have found…on the internet.
Johann Sebastian Bach’s towering monument of organ music, with its deep sense of foreboding, will forever be associated with Halloween.
This is arranged for very easy piano in PIano Maestro. Get a free copy of the sheet music at IMSLP or borrow a copy from the O’Connor Music Studio. I have this arranged for organ, piano, duet, 2-piano, simplified…
Night on Bald Mountain refers to a series of compositions by Modest Mussorgsky (1839–1881). Inspired by Russian literary works and legend, Mussorgsky composed a “musical picture”, St. John’s Eve on Bald Mountain on the theme of a witches’ sabbath occurring on St. John’s Eve, which he completed on that very night, June 23, in 1867.
Get a free copy of the sheet music at IMSLP or buy it on amazon.com. There is also an easy version on amazon, with all the note names written in.
Interestingly, the original piece composed by Mussorgsky is not the version you typically hear. That was only published in 1968 and is performed very rarely. The piece we have come to know (and hear in places like Walt Disney’s Fantasia is an arrangement by Rimsky-Korsakov.
From Disney’s Fantasia
Piano version transcribed for solo piano by Konstantin Chernov (1865-1937).
The Ludwig Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Thomas Ludwig
The Funeral March of a Marionette (Marche funèbre d’une marionnette) is a short piece by Charles Gounod. It was written in 1872 for solo piano and orchestrated in 1879. It is perhaps best known as the theme music for the television program Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which originally aired from 1955 to 1965.
In 1871-72, while residing in London, Gounod started to write a suite for piano called “Suite Burlesque”. After completing one movement, the Funeral March of a Marionette, he abandoned the suite and had the single movement published by Goddard & Co. In 1879 he orchestrated the piece. The instrumentation is: piccolo, flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in A, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in D, 2 trumpets in A, 3 trombones, ophicleide, timpani, bass drum, triangle, strings. The work is in the key of D minor, with a central section in D major. Various arrangements by other hands exist.
There is a program underlying the Funeral March of a Marionette: The Marionette has died in a duel. The funeral procession commences (D minor). A central section (D Major) depicts the mourners taking refreshments, before returning to the funeral march (D minor).
The score contains the following inscriptions in appropriate places:
La Marionnette est cassée!!! (The Marionette is broken!!!)
Murmure de regrets de la troupe (Murmurs of regret from the troupe)
Le Cortège (The Procession)
Ici plusieurs des principaux personnages de la troupe s’arrêtent pour sa rafrâichir (Here many of the principal personages stop for refreshments)
Retour a la maison (Return to the house). (Wikipedia)
Download this music in several versions from IMSLP. Click on Arrangements and Transcriptions. There are also some arrangements for piano at the O’Connor Music Studio, including an advanced level. This is arranged for three levels starting with very easy piano in PIano Maestro.
On Alfred Hitchcock:
From Faber Piano Adventures Performance Book Level 3B No.7 (Also available in the OCMS Library):
“In the Hall of the Mountain King” is a piece of orchestral music composed for the sixth scene of act 2 in Henrik Ibsen’s 1867 play Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg. It was originally part of Opus 23 but was later extracted as the final piece of Peer Gynt, Suite No. 1, Op. 46. Its easily recognizable theme has helped it attain iconic status in popular culture, where it has been arranged by many artists, including for the piano.
The translation of the title of this piece from Norwegian isn’t quite literally “mountain king”. The “king” in this instance is actually a troll that Peer Gynt invents in a fantasy. The introduction of this movement is, “There is a great crowd of troll courtiers, gnomes and goblins. Dovregubben sits on his throne, with crown and sceptre, surrounded by his children and relatives. Peer Gynt stands before him. There is a tremendous uproar in the hall.”
Borrow a copy of the sheet music from the O’Connor Music Studio. I have this arranged for piano, duet, 2-piano, simplified…
8 part vocal orchestra (plus a tiny pair of cymbals)
Danse macabre, Op. 40, is a tone poem for orchestra, written in 1874 by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. It started out in 1872 as an art song for voice and piano with a French text by the poet Henri Cazalis, which is based on an old French superstition. In 1874, the composer expanded and reworked the piece into a tone poem, replacing the vocal line with a solo violin.
With a title that includes the word “macabre”, you can tell it’s a great piece for Halloween. This is by far the most famous work associated with the holiday, and with good reason. It is a tone poem inspired by a French legend that says “Death” appears at midnight on Halloween to call forth the dead from their graves to dance for him. He plays the fiddle while skeletons dance until dawn.
Get a free copy of the sheet music at IMSLP (Look for Arrangements and Transcriptions) or borrow a copy from the O’Connor Music Studio. I have this arranged for organ, piano, duet, simplified…
Amazon has a great Dover edition for solo piano. This splendid compilation features a variety of the composer’s best piano works, all reproduced from authoritative sources. Taking its title from the popular orchestral work “Danse Macabre” (presented here in the brilliant arrangement by Liszt), this collection also includes “Allegro appassionato,” “Album” (consisting of six pieces), “Rhapsodie d’Auvergne,” “Theme and Variations,” plus six etudes, three waltzes, and six etudes for left hand alone.
1874 ~ Charles Ives, American composer
More information on Ives
• 1890 ~ Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton, jazz pianist/composer
• 1913 ~ Grandpa (Louis Marshall) Jones, Country Music Hall of Famer, Grand Ole Opry, singer
• 1914 ~ Fayard Nicholas, American tap dancer, one-half of The Nicholas Brothers and actor (The Five Heartbeats)
• 1923 ~ Robert Craft, American conductor and writer
• 1935 ~ Jerry Orbach, American singer and actor for the musical theater
• 1937 ~ Wanda Jackson, Singer, songwriter
• 1939 ~ Jay Siegel, Singer with The Tokens
• 1939 ~ All the Things You Are was recorded by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra on the Victor label. Jack Leonard was the featured vocalist.
• 1945 ~ Ric Lee, Drummer with Ten Years After
• 1950 ~ Tom Petty, Singer with The Traveling Wilburys
• 1951 ~ Al Greenwood, Keyboards with Foreigner
• 1955 ~ “Day-O. Day-ay-ay-ay-o!” One of the most popular of the Harry Belafonte hits was recorded for RCA Victor. Day-O didn’t make it to the pop charts for over a year, until January of 1957, after its name had been changed to The Banana Boat Song (Day-O).
• 1958 ~ Mark King, Bass, singer with Level 42
• 1958 ~ Ivo Pogorelić, Croatian pianist (1978 Casagrande winner)
• 1962 ~ With Halloween just around the corner, we remember that Bobby “Boris” Picket and the Crypt Kickers reached the top of the charts this day (for two weeks) with The Monster Mash. And someone, somewhere, has resurrected it every Halloween since.
This piece is now in Piano Maestro in the Halloween section and there is sheet music, if you are interested.
• 1962 ~ The musical, Mr. President, written by Irving Berlin, opened on Broadway. Mr. President ran for 265 performances.
• 1965 ~ The Beatles received a gold record for the single, Yesterday. This song marked the first time a cello was used in a pop hit.
• 2000 ~ Li Yundi, an 18-year-old virtuoso from China, has won Poland’s Frederic Chopin piano competition, becoming one of the youngest players to capture the prestigious international prize. Read the whole story
Nearly everyone can figure out the first 2 notes to this spooky piece – just play the B and C notes really low on your keyboard! It doesn’t seem logical that just two notes could cause such a sense of foreboding, but John Williams managed it. His soundtrack to Spielberg’s Jaws has been keeping people out of the sea since 1975. This piece is available in Halloween Favorites (Big-note Piano) and many others.
From the movie:
John Williams conducts his theme from Jaws with the Boston Pops Orchestra at Tanglewood.