Redditor NeokratosRed had an idea: depict the hands of great composers and pianists, according to the characteristics of their music. He shared it on the social media site, and also punted for suggestions of more. It has since received over 300,000 images views, and lots of further suggestions from fellow Redditors and piano geeks.
Whisks for Chopin’s elegant pianistic souffles, feather dusters for the gentle impressionism of Debussy, instruments of trade for the composer of the thunderous Hammerklavier sonata.
Piano, and the internet – top marks to the both of you.
The Piano Puzzlers book is available in the O’Connor Music Studio library if you’d like to give any a try. Piano Puzzlers as heard on American Public Media’s “Performance Today.” Includes 32 tunes with songs by Gershwin, Berlin, Arlen, Porter, Rodgers, Fats Waller, Lennon & McCartney, and others disguised in the styles of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Janacek, Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Bartok, and Copland.
Includes an introduction by Fred Child, host of “Performance Today” as well as background info by Bruce Adolphe. “Bruce Adolphe has taken a common musician’s party game and elevated it to high art and truly funny musical slapsticks. The Piano Puzzlers are a unique combination of extraordinary insight into the styles of many composers subtle, expert workmanship and great, great fun!”
If you’re a music geek (like me), I have a program for you. Now, let me be clear, to fully qualify as a music geek…you must have a fond appreciation for classical music (no, Poison, Quiet Riot, and Zepplin do not count as classical music). So, if you’re a “music geek” without an appreciation for classical music…well, I hate to burst your bubble…but, you’re not truly a music geek. Instead, you’re a music appreciator, but not a geek. So, if you just listen to indie music and scowl at anything on a label larger than Matador…don’t bother following the link I’ll provide…the fun will be lost on you…And, you probably won’t have a chance.
Every Wednesday night, on my way home from WNL, I turn on my local NPR station to listen to Piano Puzzlers on Performance Today. It’s absolutely incredible. A pianist/composer (Bruce Adolphe) takes a familiar folk or pop tune and sets it inside a classical masterpiece (or in the style of a particular composer). Sometimes it’s easy…sometimes it’s ridiculously difficult. There are days when I say, “got it” on the first pass. Then there are days when I say, “what the heck?” And, more often than not, I’m able to get either the popular/folk tune or the composer.
This is sad to admit, but there are nights when I’ll slow down on the drive home or sit in the car in the driveway to finish an episode. In fact, I get a little worked up if someone stops me after WNL…as I might miss the beginning of Piano Puzzlers (it usually hits around 8:20pm on our local station).
Take a listen to some of the archives and see if you can figure it out! It’s really cool…but probably only appreciated by music geeks (the kind of people that listen to NPR for their musical programs and not just the snipets of cool indie rock between segments on All Things Considered…which is a great show too).
1782 ~ John Field, Composer, whose nocturnes for piano were among models used by Chopin.
More information about Field
• 1791 ~ Wolfgang Amadeus Franz Xavier Mozart, Mozart’s son. He didn’t give his first concert until he was 13 and never achieved his father’s fame
• 1874 ~ Serge Koussevitzky, Russian-born American conductor, double-bass player and music publisher, He was conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and founder of the Tanglewood Music Festival.
• 1882 ~ Richard Wagner’s opera “Parsifal” was first performed, at Bayreuth, western Germany.
• 1914 ~ Erskine Hawkins, ’20th Century Gabriel’ Trumpeter bandleader, composer of Tuxedo Junction (with Julian Dash and Bill Johnson)
• 1919 ~ Eva (Evita) Peron
• 1924 ~ Louie Bellson (Balassoni), Drummer with the Duke Ellington Band, drum solo on Skin Deep, composer, music director for wife Pearl Bailey, played with Dorsey Brothers and Count Basie bands
• 1929 ~ Alexis Weissenberg, Bulgarian-born French pianist
• 1939 ~ Sixteen-year-old singer Kay Starr got a big break. She recorded Baby Me with Glenn Miller and his orchestra on Victor Records. Starr was filling in for Marion Hutton who, at the last minute, was unable to attend the recording session.
• 1941 ~ Bobby Hebb, Grammy Award-winning songwriter, singer, Grand Ole Opry at age 12
• 1943 ~ Mick Jagger, British rock singer and songwriter. 41 hits [1964 to 1989], 5 gold records, 8 number one hit, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. In 2003 he was knighted for his services to popular music and in early 2009 he joined the electric supergroup SuperHeavy.
• 1945 ~ Rick White, Singer
• 1949 ~ Roger Taylor (Meadows-Taylor), Drummer with Queen
• 1992 ~ Mary Wells passed away
• 2001 ~ Cleveland Johnson, a crusader for equality through his Tampa Bay-area newspaper, the Weekly Challenger, died of lung cancer. He was 73. Johnson wrote over the years about the need for social change, warning of the devastating effects of drugs on the black community and preaching the virtues of black economic power. Johnson, whose first love was music, studied at the Juilliard School and the Boston Conservatory. He operated a jewelry and dress store in Miami before moving to St. Petersburg in the mid-1960s and taking a job at the new Weekly Challenger, where he discovered that he had a talent for selling advertising. When founder M.C. Fountain died, Johnson kept the paper. Starting in the 1980s, he urged blacks to spend their money in black-owned businesses.
• 2002 ~ Buddy Baker, musical director for nearly 200 Disney movies and TV shows including “The Mickey Mouse Club,” died. He was 84. The composer penned incidental music and special songs sung by for “The Mickey Mouse Club” child stars and was responsible for music in the 1981 cartoon feature “The Fox and the Hound.” He was nominated for an Academy Award for the score to the 1972 children’s drama “Napoleon and Samantha.” He also scored incidental music for the Disney theme park attractions “Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln,” “It’s a Small World,” and “The Haunted Mansion.” Disney Studios hired him in 1954. He worked on arrangements for the TV show “Davy Crockett” and three “Winnie the Pooh” cartoons and composed original music for the 1975 film “The Apple Dumpling Gang” and 1976’s “The Shaggy D.A.”
• 2002 ~ Kenny Gardner, a tenor who sang with Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, died. He was 89. Gardner, the featured crooner, was remembered for such songs as Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think and Frankie and Johnny. The band, one of the most popular orchestras in American dance music, sold more than 100 million recordings and became known for its New Year’s Eve broadcasts of Auld Lang Syne. Gardner started singing for radio shows in Los Angeles. He joined the band after Elaine Lombardo heard him on the air in 1940. Gardner left the group to serve in the military, where he was wounded and received a Purple Heart. He returned to perform with the band until his retirement in 1978.
Happy Birthday is a song that I like to have each of my students learn at various levels appropriate to their level. When a friend or family member has a birthday, it’s great to be able to sit down and play.
It’s only been fairly recently that piano students could have this music in their books.
“Happy Birthday to You”, more commonly known as simply “Happy Birthday”, is a song that is traditionally sung to celebrate the anniversary of a person’s birth. According to the 1998 Guinness World Records, “Happy Birthday to You” is the most recognized song in the English language, followed by “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”.
The melody, or part you sing, of “Happy Birthday to You” comes from the song “Good Morning to All”, which has traditionally been attributed to American sisters Patty and Mildred J. Hill in 1893, although the claim that the sisters composed the tune is disputed.
Patty Hill was a kindergarten principal and her sister Mildred was a pianist and composer. The sisters used “Good Morning to All” as a song that young children would find easy to sing. The combination of melody and lyrics in “Happy Birthday to You” first appeared in print in 1912, and probably existed even earlier.
“Happy Birthday” in the style of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt, Dvorak, and Stravinsky. Find the melody!
Lots of legal stuff below which you can skip…
None of the early appearances of the “Happy Birthday to You” lyrics included credits or copyright notices. The Summy Company registered a copyright in 1935, crediting authors Preston Ware Orem and Mrs. R. R. Forman. In 1988, Warner/Chappell Music purchased the company owning the copyright for US$25 million, with the value of “Happy Birthday” estimated at US$5 million. Based on the 1935 copyright registration, Warner claimed that the United States copyright will not expire until 2030, and that unauthorized public performances of the song are illegal unless royalties are paid to Warner. In one specific instance in February 2010, these royalties were said to amount to US$700. By one estimate, the song is the highest-earning single song in history, with estimated earnings since its creation of US$50 million.In the European Union, the copyright for the song expired on January 1, 2017.
The American copyright status of “Happy Birthday to You” began to draw more attention with the passage of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in 1998. When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Act in Eldred v. Ashcroft in 2003, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer specifically mentioned “Happy Birthday to You” in his dissenting opinion. American law professor Robert Brauneis, who extensively researched the song, concluded in 2010 that “It is almost certainly no longer under copyright.”
In 2013, based in large part on Brauneis’s research, Good Morning to You Productions, a company producing a documentary about “Good Morning to All”, sued Warner/Chappell for falsely claiming copyright to the song. In September 2015, a federal judge declared that the Warner/Chappell copyright claim was invalid, ruling that the copyright registration applied only to a specific piano arrangement of the song, and not to its lyrics and melody.
In 2016, Warner/Chappell settled for US $14 million, and the court declared that “Happy Birthday to You” was in the public domain.
Legal stuff is finished and people can now sing and play “Happy Birthday to You” whenever and wherever they want.
One of my all-time versions of Happy Birthday, in duet form – and I have the music if you want to tackle it.
. 1942 ~ Bobby Rydell, American rock-and-roll singer and drummer
. 1970 ~ The musical, Company, opened on Broadway. It ran for 705 performances at the Alvin Theatre in New York City. Company starred Elaine Stritch.
. 1975 ~ On top of the Billboard popular music chart was B.J. Thomas, with the longest title ever for a number one song. (Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song was number one for one week, though it took that long just to say the title.
. 1978 ~ An updated version of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper appeared on television. In the lead role (his first TV special), was former Beatle, Ringo Starr. He sang new versions of Act Naturally, Yellow Submarine and With a Little Help from My Friends.
. 1984 ~ Count Basie (William Basie), U.S. jazz pianist and big band leader who led his orchestra from 1937, died.
. 1991 ~ Carmine Coppola, American composer and conductor (The Godfather Part II), and father of Francis Ford Coppola, died at the age of 80
. 1991 ~ Leo Arnaud, French-American composer (Bugler’s Dream), died at the age of 86
. 1997 ~ Gene [Eugene] Ames, singer (Ames Brothers), died of cancer at the age of 73
. 2018 ~ Charles Neville, American vocalist and saxophonist (Neville Brothers), died of pancreatic cancer died at the age of 79
. 1699 ~ Johann Adolph Hasse, German composer, singer and teacher of music. Immensely popular in his time, Hasse was best known for his prolific operatic output, though he also composed a considerable quantity of sacred music.
. 1784 ~ François-Joseph Fetis, Belgian musicologist, composer, teacher, and influential music critic.
. 1851 ~ The Playel piano factory in Paris was destroyed by fire. Playel was the favorite of Chopin in the 19th century, and it was identified with French composers known as the impressionist musicians of the early 20th century — like Ravel and Debussy.
Pleyel was founded in 1807 by Ignaz Pleyel, a composer and music publisher who studied with Franz Joseph Haydn.
. 1867 ~ Arturo Toscanini, Italian conductor and musical director. Famed for his temper in rehearsals, he was director of La Scala and the Metropolitan opera houses. He also conducted the NBC symphony orchestra. With a career spanned 68 years, he was a cellist at age 19
Read quotes by and about Toscanini
More information on Toscanini
. 1881 ~ Béla Bartók, Hungarian composer and pianist, born. His knowledge of western musical techniques allied to the inspiration he derived from Hungarian peasant songs enabled him to become a unique musical force.
More information about Bartók
. 1903 ~ Grammy winner Frankie Carle (Carlone), Pianist and bandleader
. 1913 ~ The Palace Theatre opened its doors in New York City. Ed Wynn was first on the vaudeville bill. Some 20 years later, Wynn would be named as radio’s top entertainer. He later became popular on television, as well.
. 1918 ~ Claude Debussy, French composer, died. His music, described as “musical Impressionism”, explored original avenues of expression.
. 1931 ~ Hal Kemp and his orchestra recorded Whistles, with Skinnay Ennis, for Brunswick Records. Both Kemp and Ennis sang in the Dorsey Brothers Concert Orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Eugene Ormandy (later, conductor of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra). The pair were part of the orchestra vocal quartet that also featured Nye Mayhew and Saxey Dowell in 1928.
. 1934 ~ Johnny Burnette, ‘The Master’, singer, brother of singer Dorsey Burnette
. 1938 ~ Hoyt Axton, Singer, musician and songwriter. Axton’s mother, Mae Boren Axton, wrote Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel
. 1940 ~ Anita Bryant, Singer
. 1942 ~ Aretha Franklin, American soul singer, known as the “Queen of Soul” and “Lady Soul”, she won 15 Grammy Awards and was the first woman inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987)
. 1947 ~ Elton John (Reginald Kenneth Dwight), Entertainer
More information about John
. 1948 ~ Kelly Garrett, Actress, singer
. 1949 ~ Neil Jones, Musician with Amen Corner
. 1951 ~ Maizie Williams, Singer with Boney M
. 1961 ~ “Gypsy” closed at the Broadway Theater in New York City after 702 performances
. 1966 ~ Jeff Healey, Guitarist, singer, songwriter with the Jeff Healey Band, CBC radio show: My Kind of Jazz
. 1971 ~ Tom Jones went gold with his single, She’s a Lady.
. 1972 ~ The group, America, rode to the top of the pop music charts with their LP, America, and the single (included on the LP), A Horse with No Name. A Horse With No Name would be the group’s only gold record.
. 1991 ~ Eileen Joyce, pianist, died at the age of 78
. 1904 ~ Glenn Miller, American trombonist and bandleader
More information about Miller
. 1907 ~ Albert Clifton Ammons was born in Chicago, Illinois. He developed an interest in boogie-woogie and his 1936 recording of “Boogie Woogie Stomp” has been described as “the first 12-bar piano-based boogie-woogie.”
. 1922 ~ Michael Flanders, Songwriter, comedian with the duo: Flanders and [Donald] Swann, made humorous mockery of English and American failings, died in 1975
. 1927 ~ Harry Belafonte, American calypso and folk singer, UNICEF goodwill ambassador, father of Shari Belafonte
. 1928 ~ Paul Whiteman and his orchestra recorded Ol´ Man River for Victor Records. The featured vocalist on the track was 29-year-old Paul Robeson. The song became an American classic.
. 1930 ~ Benny Powell, Jazz musician, trombone with the Ernie Fields band, Lionel Hampton, a Count Basie veteran
. 1941 ~ FM Radio began in the U.S. when station W47NV in Nashville, TN started operations on this day. W47NV was the first commercial FM radio station to receive a license, some 20 years after its AM radio counterpart, KDKA in Pittsburgh. FM stands for ‘frequency modulation´ as opposed to ‘amplitude modulation´.
. 1941 ~ Downbeat magazine scooped the entertainment world with news that Glenn Miller’s renewed contract with Chesterfield Cigarettes was worth $4,850 a week (for three 15-minute programs).
. 1944 ~ Roger Daltrey, Singer with The Who
. 1968 ~ Country music stars Johnny Cash and June Carter got married on this day. Johnny walked down the aisle knowing that his 1956 hit, Folsom Prison Blues, was about to be redone for a June release. Cash has a daughter, Rosanne, (previous marriage) who became a country star in her own right in the 1980s.
. 1968 ~ Elton John’s first record, I’ve BeenLoving You, was released by Philips Records in England. Philips, not realizing the potential of the soon-to-be superstar, released him in 1969, just prior to his teaming with lyricist Bernie Taupin. Elton then signed a contract with Uni Records and began to turn out what would become a string of more than 50 hits over the next 25 years.
. 1973 ~ The Robert Joffrey Dance Company opened with a unique presentation in New York City. The show featured music of the Beach Boys in “Deuce Coupe Ballet”. A clever show, even if it didn’t do much to bring the masses to ballet.
. 1985 ~ A Beatles song was used for the first time in a U.S. TV commercial. The rights for Lincoln-Mercury to use the song, HELP!, cost $100,000, helping boost the fortunes of the Ford Motor Company.
. 1985 ~ Eugene List, American concert pianist and teacher (Eastman School of Music), died at the age of 66. List performed internationally during the mid-to-late 1900s. He championed the works of the American pianist and composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869). Gottschalk played this piece, with all its fanfares and flourishes reminiscent of an imaginary band concert, at all his concerts.
. 2003 ~ Nadine Conner, a soprano who performed for nearly two decades at the Metropolitan Opera after singing on national radio, died. She was 96. Conner debuted at the Met in 1941 as Pamina in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” conducted by Bruno Walter. She performed there 249 times over 18 seasons. She won acclaim not only for her Mozart roles, including Zerlina in “Don Giovanni” and Susanna in “The Marriage of Figaro,” but also for her portrayals of Violetta in Verdi’s “La Traviata,” Mimi in Puccini’s “La Boheme,” Gilda in Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” and Rosina in Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.” Conner began her career singing on national radio from Los Angeles, and appeared with such stars as Bing Crosby and Gordon MacRae and toured with film star Nelson Eddy. She joined a fledgling opera troupe in Los Angeles, making her debut as Marguerite in Gounod’s “Faust.” Her Met farewell, in 1960, also was in “Faust.”
. 1766 ~ Samuel Wesley, English organist and composer in the late Georgian period. Wesley was a contemporary of Mozart (1756–1791) and was called by some “the English Mozart.”
. 1771 ~ Johann Baptist Cramer, English musician of German origin. He was the son of Wilhelm Cramer, a famous London violinist and musical conductor, one of a numerous family who were identified with the progress of music during the 18th and 19th centuries.
. 1832 ~ Frederic Chopin’s first Paris concert. The musicologist Arthur Hedley has observed that “As a pianist Chopin was unique in acquiring a reputation of the highest order on the basis of a minimum of public appearances—few more than thirty in the course of his lifetime.”
. 1842 ~ Arrigo Boito, Italian composer, librettist and poet
. 1858 ~ Arnold Dolmetsch, British music antiquarian and musician
. 1932 ~ Michel Legrand, Academy Award-Winning composer for Best Original Score: Yentl in 1983, Brian’s Song, Ice Station Zebra
. 1934 ~ Renata Scotto, Italian soprano. She made her operatic debut at age 18 and is best known for performances as Violetta in La Traviata, Cio-Cio- San in Madama Butterfly, Mimi (and the occasional Musetta) in La Bohème, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth and Francesca in Francesca da Rimini. She is also an opera director.
. 1940 ~ Frances Langford recorded one of the classic songs of all time — and one that would become a Walt Disney trademark. When You Wish Upon a Star was recorded on Decca Records during a session in Los Angeles. Many artists have recorded the song, including pop diva Linda Ronstadt (with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra in the early 1980s). One can hear the song not only on record, but as the theme in the opening credits of any Disney movie, video and TV program and those “I’m going to Disneyland/World!” commercials, too.
. 1942 ~ Paul Jones, Harmonica, singer with Manfred Mann
. 1943 ~ Stephen Douglas Burton, American composer and teacher