On January 18, 1958 Leonard Bernstein began presenting his television series What does music mean? The series ran for 53 programs. Some of the episodes can be found below:
Part 1 What is Classical Music?
Plot: Bernstein conducts Handel’s Water Music and cites it as an indisputable example of classical music. “Exact” is the word that best defines classical music, Bernstein says and he demonstrates with musical illustrations from Bach’s Fourth Brandenburg Concerto, Mozart’s Concerto No. 21 in C Major and The Marriage of Figaro, and Haydn’s Symphony No. 102.
The decline of classical music at the end of the eighteenth century is tied to Beethoven’s innovations and the Romantic movement, and Bernstein conducts Beethoven’s Egmont Overture.
Part 2 What is Melody?
Plot: Bernstein discusses the different forms melody can take, including tune, theme, motive, melodic line and musical phrase. He illustrates by conducting the orchestra in excerpts from Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Hindemith, and Brahms.
Part 3 What is a Mode?
Plot: Bernstein discusses scales, intervals, and tones, and analyzes several pieces, including Debussy’s Fêtes, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and music from the Kinks and the Beatles, to illustrate different modes.
An excerpt from Bernstein’s ballet Fancy Free is also performed.
. 1930 ~ Robert ‘Squirrel’ Lester, Singer with The Chi-Lites
. 1938 ~ Singer Allan Jones recorded The Donkey Serenade for Victor Records. The song became the one most often associated with the singer. Allan sang and acted in several Marx Brothers films: “A Night at the Opera”, “A Day at theRaces”, but the film that catapulted him to stardom was the operetta, “Firefly”, with Jeanette MacDonald. Singer Jack Jones is the son of Allan and wife, actress Irene Hervey.
. 1941 ~ The four Modernaires joined to sing with the Glenn Miller Band on a permanent basis beginning this day. They had a ‘solo’ hit in 1946 with To Each His Own.
. 1957 ~ Elvis Presley recorded All Shook Up and That’s When Your Heartaches Begin for Victor Records in Hollywood. The former tune became Elvis’ ninth consecutive gold record.
. 1961 ~ Wayne Marshall, English pianist, organist and conductor
. 1962 ~ Singer Chubby Checker set a record, literally, with the hit, The Twist. The song reached the #1 position for an unprecedented second time – in two years. The Twist was also number one on September 26, 1960.
. 1968 ~ Johnny Cash performed live for the second time at Folsom Prison in the prison cafeteria which was recorded as the album “Johnny Cash at At Folsom Prison”.
. 2001 ~ Kenneth Haas, the former general manager of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra, died after a long illness at the age of 57. Haas was general manager of the Boston orchestra from 1987 to 1996 and was instrumental in appointing Keith Lockhart conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. Haas was general manager of the Cleveland Orchestra from 1976 to 1987 after performing the same job for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1975. In Cleveland he established the orchestra’s chamber music and recital series.
. 2001 ~ Michael Cuccione, youngest of the five-member spoof boy band 2gether, died at age 16 from complications from Hodgkin’s disease. The teen played Jason “Q.T.” McKnight on the MTV show “2gether,” which poked fun at the boy band craze. His character had a fictional illness, “biliary thrombosis,” but Cuccione really had suffered from Hodgkin’s disease as a child and underwent five months of chemotherapy. The singer-actor set up a cancer research foundation co-wrote a book with his grandmother and appeared on “Baywatch” as a cancer victim.
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.
Get your piano students listening to great classical music!
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 Christmas edition includes 20 pieces of piano and orchestral literature for the Christmas season, from the Baroque to the Modern period. Includes background and historical information on the pieces and the composers, and a beautiful coloring page for each piece.
The Christmas Shades of Sound book includes 20 different pieces, including:
In Dulci Jubilo from the Christmas Tree Suite by Liszt
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).
• 1972 ~ Paul McCartney appeared on stage for the first time since 1966 as his group, Wings, opened at Chateauvillon in the south of France.
• 1977 ~ Undercover Angel, by songwriter (turned pop singer) Alan O’Day, reached the top spot on the Billboard chart. It was not the first visit to the top of the pop music world for O’Day, though the million-seller would be his last as a singer. He wrote Angie Baby, a number one hit for Helen Reddy and the #3 hit, Rock And Roll Heaven, for The Righteous Brothers.
• 1978 ~ Aladar Zoltan, Composer, died at the age of 49
• 1978 ~ “Hello, Dolly!” closed at Lunt-Fontanne Theater New York City after 152 performances
• 1981 ~ Oscar van Hemel, Composer, died at the age of 88
• 1984 ~ Randall Thompson, American composer, died at the age of 85
• 1986 ~ A new Broadway showplace opened. It was the first new theater on Broadway in 13 years. The Marquis Theatre, located at the corner of 46th Street and Broadway, seated 1,600 theatergoers.
• 1994 ~ Cornelius Boyson, Bassist, died at the age of 57
• 1994 ~ William “Sabby” Lewis, Jazz Pianist and Arranger, died at the age of 79
• 1994 ~ “Les Miserables” opened at Imperial Theatre, Tokyo
This is the month for graduations of all sorts, college, high school, even preschool. Perhaps you know someone who is graduating this year. Maybe it’s you!
This piece by Sir Edward Elgar is called Pomp and Circumstance and usually heard at graduations. It was featured in Disney’s Fantasia 2000.
Edward Elgar’s father was a musician who tuned pianos, owned a music shop and was employed as a church organist. The young Edward learned to play the organ and violin at a young age and composed his first short piece at the age of 10. His first job was as assistant organist to his father. His main love was composition, although his music was not successful until his Enigma Variations were published in 1899. This work made him famous.
Until Elgar, there had not been a major creative composer in England since Handel’s death in 1759. He became known as England’s greatest composer and was widely recognized in his day. Unfortunately, Elgar’s fame waned at the end of his life – he composed little music during his last fifteen years and withdrew from almost all musical contact. It was not until the 1960’s that his music again became popular.
• 1750 ~ Johann Valentin Rathgeber, German Composer, died at the age of 68
• 1806 ~ Isaac Strauss, Composer
• 1807 ~ Robert Fuhrer, Composer
• 1830 ~ Olivier Metra, Composer
• 1831 ~ Jan G Palm Curaçao, Bandmaster/choirmaster/composer
• 1857 ~ Sir Edward Elgar, British composer Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, usually heard at graduations, was featured in Disney’s Fantasia 2000.
Read quotes by and about Elgar
More information about Elgar
• 1858 ~ Harry Rowe Shelley, Composer
• 1863 ~ Paul Felix Weingartner, German conductor
• 1873 ~ François Hainl, Composer, died at the age of 65
• 1876 ~ Hakon Borresen, Composer
• 1891 ~ Ernst Kunz, Composer
• 1897 ~ Alexander Tansman, Composer
• 1900 ~ David Wynne, Composer
• 1909 ~ Robin Orr, Composer
• 1913 ~ Bert Farber, Orchestra leader for Arthur Godfrey and Vic Damone
• 1915 ~ Robert Moffat Palmer, American composer
• 1927 ~ Carl Butler, Country entertainer, songwriter
• 1927 ~ Freidrich Hegar, Composer, died at the age of 85
• 1929 ~ Alcides Lanza, Composer
• 1929 ~ Frederic Devreese, Composer
• 1932 ~ Sammy Turner (Samuel Black), Singer
• 1934 ~ Johnny Carter, American singer
• 1937 ~ Louis Vierne, Composer, died at the age of 66
• 1939 ~ Charles Miller, Saxophonist and clarinetist
• 1941 ~ William Guest, Singer with Gladys Knight & The Pips
• 1941 ~ Charlie Watts, Drummer with Rolling Stones
• 1944 ~ Marvin Hamlisch, American pianist, composer and arranger of popular music
More information about Hamlisch
• 1947 ~ Hermann Darewsky, Composer, died at the age of 64
• 1949 ~ Dynam-Victor Fumet, Composer, died at the age of 82
• 1949 ~ Ernest Ford, Composer, died at the age of 91
• 1960 ~ For the first time in 41 years, the entire Broadway theatre district in New York City was forced to close. The Actors Equity Union and theatre owners came to a showdown with a total blackout of theatres.
• 1964 ~ The original cast album of “Hello Dolly!” went gold — having sold a million copies. It was quite a feat for a Broadway musical.
• 1964 ~ “Follies Bergere” opened on Broadway for 191 performances
• 1972 ~ Franz Philipp, Composer, died at the age of 81
• 1977 ~ Henri D Gagnebin, Swiss organist and composer, died at the age of 91
• 1982 ~ “Blues in the Night” opened at Rialto Theater NYC for 53 performances
• 1983 ~ Stan Rogers, musician, died in aircraft fire
• 1985 ~ The Huck Finn-based musical “Big River” earned seven Tony Awards in New York City at the 39th annual awards presentation.
• 1986 ~ Daniel Sternefeld, Belgian conductor and composer died at the age of 80
• 1987 ~ Andres Segovia, Spanish classical guitarist, died at the age of 94. He established the guitar as a serious classical instrument through his numerous concerts and by his transcriptions of many pieces of Bach and Handel.
More information on Segovia
• 1987 ~ Sammy Kaye, Orchestra leader (Sammy Kaye Show), died at the age of 77
• 1994 ~ Prima Sellecchia Tesh, daughter of John Tesh and Connie Sellecca
• 1997 ~ Doc Cheatham, Jazz musician, died of stroke at the age of 91
• 2001 ~ Imogene Coca, the elfin actress and satiric comedienne who co-starred with Sid Caesar on television’s classic “Your Show of Shows” in the 1950s, died at the age of 92. Coca’s saucer eyes, fluttering lashes, big smile and boundless energy lit up the screen in television’s “Golden Age” and brought her an Emmy as best actress in 1951. Although she did some broad burlesque, her forte was subtle exaggeration. A talented singer and dancer, her spoofs of opera divas and prima ballerinas tiptoed a fine line between dignity and absurdity until she pushed them over the edge at the end. With Caesar she performed skits that satirized the everyday – marital spats, takeoffs on films and TV programs, strangers meeting and speaking in cliches. “The Hickenloopers” husband-and-wife skit became a staple.
• 2015 ~ Paul Karolyi, Hungarian composer, died at the age of 80
. 1933 ~ Morton Subotnick, American composer of experimental music
. 1935 ~ Loretta Lynn, American country music singer, songwriter and guitarist, first woman to earn the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year award; named ACM Artist of the Decade in 1979
. 1941 ~ Hildegarde recorded the standard Darling Je Vous Aime Beaucoup on Decca Records. Hildegarde was the elegant singer with the long white gloves who was accompanied by the Harry Sosnik Orchestra. It took another 14 years, but Nat ‘King’ Cole turned the song into an even bigger hit, landing at number 7 on the pop music charts.
. 1951 ~ Julian Lloyd Webber, British cellist
. 1958 ~ Pianist Van Cliburn was presented on national TV for the first time on NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jack Paar.
. 1958 ~ Laurie London reached the top spot on the music charts with He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, knocking Perry Como’sCatch a Falling Star down a peg or two.
. 1960 ~ The musical Bye Bye Birdie opened at the Martin Beck Theatre in New York City. Chita Rivera and Dick Van Dyke starred in the Broadway show which ran for 607 performances.
. 1967 ~ Herman’s Hermits, featuring lead singer Peter Noone, went gold with the single, There’s a Kind of Hush. It was a two-sided hit, with the flip-side, No Milk Today, also receiving considerable play. Hush, however, was a top five song, while the ‘B’ side just made it into the top 40 at number 35.
. 1995 ~ Burl Ives, Oscar-winning actor and singer whose gentle voice helped popularize American folk music, died. He played powerful dramatic roles in movies including “The Big Country,” for which he won an Academy Award for best-supporting actor, and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
. 1999 ~ Anthony Newley, British actor and singer-songwriter (Doctor Dolittle; Goldfinger theme; Willy Wonka score), died at the age of 67
. 2007 ~ Don Ho, American musician (b. 1930)
. 2013 ~ Sir Colin Davis, English conductor (NY Met 1967-71), died at the age of 85
. 2015 ~ Percy Sledge, American soul singer (When A Man Loves A Woman), died at the age of 73
. 1816 ~ Sir William Sterndale Bennett, British pianist, conductor and composer
. 1906 ~ Bud (Lawrence) Freeman, Jazz musician, tenor sax
. 1917 ~ Howard Keel, American singer and actor, born as Harold Clifford Leek. He appeared in singing and acting roles in films from 1948-68 and also appeared on TV in “Dallas.”
. 1928 ~ Teddy Charles, Vibraphonist, songwriter
. 1940 ~ Lester Chambers, Singer, musician, played harmonica
. 1941 ~ Margaret Price, British soprano
. 1944 ~ Jack Casady, Musician, KBC Band, Hot Tuna, Jefferson Airplane
. 1946 ~ Al Green, Singer, songwriter
. 1951 ~ Peabo Bryson, Singer
. 1958 ~ Van Cliburn of Kilgore, TX earned first prize in the Soviet Union’s Tchaikovsky International Piano Contest in Moscow.
. 1961 ~ Carnival opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre in New York City. Anna Maria Alberghetti starred in the musical which ran for 719 performances.
. 1963 ~ Jack Cassidy and Barbara Cook starred in She Loves Me, which opened at the O’Neill Theatre in New York City. The Broadway musical ran for 189 performances.
. 1980 ~ Broadway’s longest-running musical closed after eight years. Grease ran for 3,388 performances and earned $8 million. Though the longest running musical on the Great White Way at the time, Grease was also the third longest-running Broadway show. Other shows in the top five included: The Defiant Ones and Life with Father, Oh! Calcutta, A Chorus Line and Fiddler on the Roof.
. 1985 ~ The Grand Ole Opry, a radio staple from Nashville for 60 years, came to TV. The Nashville Network presented the country music jamboree to some 22-million homes across the U.S.