Christmas Countdown 2020: Sleigh Ride

Sleigh Ride

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?)

 

Halloween! Toccata and Fugue in d minor by J.S Bach

toccata-d-minor

 

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…

If you want this in a book with other Bach transcriptions, amazon has this: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and the Other Bach Transcriptions for Solo Piano, arranged by Ferruccio Busoni.

Here, Virgil Fox performs it on his Allen Digital Touring Organ.

 

Diane Bish plays the Massey Memorial Organ at the Chautauqua Institution and talks about this instrument.

 

Music for Halloween: Funeral March of a Marionette by Charles Gounod

funeral

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):

Piano 4-hands:

With animation:

On organ:

Mannheim Steamroller:

And, finally, a light show!

Music for Halloween: Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns

danse-macabre

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.

This video originally aired on PBS in the 1980s:

 

For two pianos:

 

Piano Tutorial:

 

Orchestra:

October 20 ~ On This Day in Music

today

 

OCMS 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

Music for Halloween: The Addams Family

 

Students always find this piece fun with its finger snaps.  There are three versions in Piano Maestro and it’s in several piano books including Halloween Songbook (Easy Piano).  There was a a new Addams Family animated movie out in 2019, so your students are going to be snapping all over the place when this Halloween rolls around.

The original:

From the 2019 movie:

The cartoon opening:

All intros from 1964-1998

Piano:

Organ:

Sing along:

It’s all about the finger snap!

Sing or Play Happy Birthday Whenever You Want

happy birthday

 

You’re legal now!

None of the companies that have collected royalties on the “Happy Birthday” song for the past 80 years held a valid copyright claim to one of the most popular songs in history, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled on Tuesday.

In a stunning reversal of decades of copyright claims, the judge ruled that Warner/Chappell never had the right to charge for the use of the “Happy Birthday To You” song. Warner had been enforcing a copyright since 1988, when it bought Birch Tree Group, the successor to Clayton F. Summy Co., which claimed the original disputed copyright.

Judge George H. King ruled that a copyright filed by the Summy Co. in 1935 granted only the rights to specific piano arrangements of the music, not the actual song.

Read more at http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-happy-birthday-song-lawsuit-decision-20150922-story.html

The following version is in the O’Connor Music Studio library, if you wish to borrow it.  It is also available on amazon.com

A Manuscript of Mozart’s Piano Sonata K331 was Discovered in Budapest in 2014

mozart-sonata-k331

 

The manuscript of Mozart’s A major piano sonata K331 has recently been discovered in Budapest. Having spent the majority of its life in the Budapest’s National Széchényi Library for decades, the coveted manuscript was rediscovered by Haydn scholar Balazs Mikusi.

“When I first laid eyes upon the manuscript, the handwriting already looked suspiciously ‘Mozartish’,” said Mikusi, who is the head of the music collection at National Szechenyi Library. “Then I started reading the notes, and realised it is the famous A Major sonata … My heart rate shot up.”

The piece was composed in 1783 and contains Mozart’s most popular jam, “Turkish March,” which has become a piano lesson staple all over the world.

Although, unfortunately, Mikusi can’t say how or when these pages found their way to Hungary; they reveal subtle differences from the published editions of the sonata. The key variances are seen in the phrasing, dynamics and occasionally the notes themselves.

“It is very rare that a Mozart manuscript pops up. Moreover the A Major Sonata had no known manuscript, so it is a really big discovery,” he said.

The library has only released teasing images of the manuscript, nothing more.

 

From Manuscript of Mozart’s Piano Sonata K331 Discovered in Budapest’s National Széchényi Library : Classical : Classicalite.

The whole sonata:

 

Musicophilia – Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks

sacks-music

Writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks, who died on Sunday, August 30, 2015 at age 82, spent his life wondering on the myriad connections among biology, thought, emotion and perception.

For those of us who obsess over the how and why of music, Sacks’ work on sound and its effects on the brain – and vice versa – was particularly illuminating. His book on the subject, “Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain,” remains essential reading for those who want to understand the mechanics of music.

Through bountiful research and mesmerizing case studies, Sacks addressed topics including music and amnesia, music therapy, musical prodigies and those who suffer from debilitating aural hallucinations.

Read more at Oliver Sacks & music: On brainworms, hallucinations and sonic overload – LA Times

The O’Connor Music Studio has a copy of Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain if anyone would like to borrow it.

 

Vivaldi’s Spring ~ From Piano Maestro

vivaldi

 

Vivaldi, one of the greatest baroque composers, has a very interesting story. He ran an orphanage in the 18th century in Italy that became famous all over the western world for its musically talented children. A lot of his pieces were written for specific children in his school. Vivaldi learned the violin from his father, and was trained as a priest. He was nicknamed “the red priest” for his red hair and was apparently somewhat sure of himself, having claimed once he can compose a concerto faster than it can be copied.

Vivaldi wrote over 500 pieces, most of which are lost today. He is considered one of the greatest musical landmarks in history, having inspired many composers that followed him, including J.S.Bach and others.

Other fun facts about Vivaldi can be found here.

Vivaldi’s Spring is available on Piano Maestro, which is available to my students free of charge.