You Think Playing the Piano is Hard?

Try to find an American Fotoplayer!

fotoplayer

The American Fotoplayer is a type of photoplayer developed by the American Fotoplayer Company between the years of 1912 and 1925. The Fotoplayer is a type of player piano specifically developed to provide music and sound effects for silent movies.

The appeal of the Fotoplayer to theatre owners was the fact that it took no musical skill to operate. The Fotoplayer would play the piano and pipe organ mechanically using an electric motor, an air pump, and piano rolls while the user of the Fotoplayer would follow the onscreen action while pulling cords, pushing buttons, and pressing pedals to produce relatable sounds to what was occurring onscreen. These actions could create sounds such as a steamboat whistle, a bird chirp, wind, thunder, a telephone bell, as well as many others. On Fotoplayers specifically, most effects were created using leather cords with wooden handles on the ends which the effects were directly connected to. For example, the steamboat whistle sound effect was created using a household bellows with a whistle at the end. Pulling the cord compressed the bellows, delivering a gust of air into the whistle. Creating a drum roll on the other hand was a bit more complicated. A clockwork device was needed to time the strikes of the drum which required constant winding.

Adapted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_American_Fotoplayer

 

Book: 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.

 

At What Age Should A Child Begin Music Lessons?

child-piano

These days, there is much pressure for parents to begin their children in activities from an early age.  We know that children tend to pick up new skills easily and we want for them to have an opportunity to become experts at these new skills.  We also see curiosity, desire and eagerness to learn in our children and want to capitalize on that.

Music lessons are no exception.  We often get calls asking the question, “When is the best time to enroll my child in piano lessons?”  The answer to that is a tricky one, and varies for each child.  The right age for one may not be the right age for another.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself if you are considering enrolling your child in music lessons:

1.   Does my child have an attention span to sit still for chunks of time and listen to instruction?

Many teachers today are very creative in using off-bench activities during lessons and have a plethora of activities to make lessons fun and engaging.  However, the fact remains that your child will need to sit at the piano for some periods of time during the lesson.  It is important that your child have the attention span to do this.

Read more at  How do we know if children are ready to begin music lessons? « Piano Pedagogy @ The New School for Music Study.

On January 4 in Music History

 

National Spaghetti Day on January 4 recognizes that long, thin cylindrical pasta of Italian and Sicilian origin.

Who can forget

 

OCMS 1710 ~ Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Italian Composer
More information about Pergolesi

. 1720 ~ Johann Friedrich Agricola, German organist and composer

. 1809 ~ Louis Braille, Inventor of the Braille system which enables the blind to read words and music. When he was only 3, Louise Braille, was permanently blinded in an accident with a leatherworking awl in his father’s saddlemaking shop in Coupvray, France. Several years later, he was admitted to a school for the blind, the Institution Nationale des Jeunes Aveugles. Later, as a teacher at the school, he worked at adapting Charles Barbier’s system of writing with points. Ironically, his method centered around using an awl-like stylus to punch marks in paper that could be felt and interpreted by the blind, allowing them to “read” with their fingertips. Braille’s work went unnoticed until after his death, in poverty, in 1852.

. 1874 ~ Josef Suk, Czech violinist and composer
More information about Suk

. 1924 ~ Alfred Grünfeld, Austrian pianist and composer, died

. 1928 ~ NBC radio debuted one of radio’s first variety shows. “The Dodge Victory Hour” starred Will Rogers, Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra and singer Al Jolson. The cost to produce this one show was $67,600.

. 1932 ~ NBC Red presented “The Carnation Contented Hour”. The show continued on network radio for 19 years as a showcase for top singers and musicians.

. 1933 ~ Ray Starling, Arranger for Stan Kenton

. 1935 ~ Bert Ambrose and his orchestra recorded the song that became the group’s theme song. It was titled Hors-d’oeuvres and was cut in London for Decca Records.

. 1935 ~ Bob Hope was first heard on network radio as part of “The Intimate Revue” with Jane Froman, James Melton and the Al Goodman Orchestra.

. 1936 ~ The first pop music chart based on national sales was published by “Billboard” magazine this day. Joe Venuti, jazz violinist, was at the top of the chart with a little ditty called Stop! Look! Listen!.

. 1937 ~ Grace Bumbry, American mezzo-soprano
More information about Bumbry

. 1942 ~ John McLaughlin, Rock guitarist

. 1944 ~ Arthur Conley, Singer

. 1950 ~ RCA Victor announced that it would manufacture long-playing (LP) records. This news came two years after Columbia Records debuted the ‘album’.

. 1954 ~ Elvis Presley strolled into the Memphis Recording Service and put $4 on the counter. He recorded Casual Love and I’ll Never Stand in Your Way, two songs that so impressed record executive Sam Phillips that he had Elvis record his first professional sides for Sun Records the following August.

. 1956 ~ Barney Sumner (Bernie Albrecht) (Dicken), Guitarist, singer

. 1960 ~ Michael Stipe, Grammy Award-winning singer

. 1964 ~Bobby Vinton topped the pop charts with the last #1 single of the pre-Beatles era – “There! I’ve Said Again”

. 1965 ~ The Fender Guitar Company was sold to CBS for $13 million.

. 1979 ~ With a new interest in Beatles music on this day, the Star Club reopened in Hamburg, Germany. None of The Beatles returned to their beginnings to attend the gala opening.

. 2000 ~ Fantasia 2000 Hit Imax Record

. 2001 ~ Les Brown, whose Band of Renown scored a No. 1 hit with Sentimental Journey during America’s big band era of the 1930s and ’40s, died of lung cancer at the age of 88. A conductor-clarinetist whose smooth arrangements of swing melodies transcended changes in musical tastes, Brown was cited in 1996 by the Guinness Book of Records recognized him as the leader of the longest lasting musical organization in pop music history. He started his professional career in 1936, and his Band of Renown was still performing about 60 dates a year as recently as five months ago, often conducted by son Les Brown Jr. Brown formed his Band of Renown in 1936. In the 1940s heyday of swing, Brown never achieved the greatness of Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller or Benny Goodman. But the band scored two hit records – Sentimental Journey, with Doris Day as vocalist, and the instrumental I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm. Sentimental Journey, co-written with Ben Homer and Bud Green, became a theme for soldiers returning home from World War II. “The happiest times in my life were the days when I was traveling with Les and his band,” Day said. “I loved Les very much, I am going to miss his phone calls.” Brown’s career included a close association with Bob Hope. In 1950, he joined Hope for the first of 18 Christmas tours to entertain American troops at military bases around the world. Day also participated. “The world has lost a great musician,” Hope said. “I have lost my music man, my sideman, my straight man and a special friend.” As the first president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Brown helped make the Grammy Awards a televised event. He convinced Hope, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby to participate in the first telecast.

. 2004 ~ Jake Hess, a four-time Grammy winner who sang with some of the premier quartets in gospel music and influenced the career of Elvis Presley, died. He was 76. Hess, whose career spanned more than 60 years, is best known to contemporary audiences as a regular member of Bill Gaither’s Homecoming Friends, on various Christian and country music cable channels, including TBN and TNN. Hess joined The John Daniel Quartet in 1943 and reached stardom with The Statesmen Quartet. He was founder of The Imperials and sang with The Masters V. Each of these groups is enshrined in the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame, as is Hess. He is also a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. As a teen, Elvis Presley was a regular at Statesmen concerts. Later, Hess was a backup singer on several of Presley’s Grammy-winning albums. When Presley died in 1977, Hess sang at his funeral, as he had at the funeral of country legend Hank Williams in 1953. Peter Guralnick, author of a two-volume biography of Presley, said the rock star always wanted to emulate the voices of Hess and crooner Roy Hamilton.

Christmas Countdown Conclusion: Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne

“Auld Lang Syne” is a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song. It is well known in many countries, especially in the English-speaking world; its traditional use being to celebrate the start of the New Year at the stroke of midnight. By extension, it is also sung at funerals, graduations and as a farewell or ending to other occasions. The international Boy Scout youth movement, in many countries, uses it as a close to jamborees and other functions.

The song’s Scots title may be translated into English literally as “old long since”, or more idiomatically, “long long ago”, “days gone by” or “old times”. Consequently “For auld lang syne”, as it appears in the first line of the chorus, might be loosely translated as “for (the sake of) old times”.

Auld Lang Syne is one of Scotland’s gifts to the world, recalling the love and kindness of days gone by, but in the communion of taking our neighbours’ hands, it also gives us a sense of belonging and fellowship to take into the future.

It is one of the many folk songs from the great Lowland Scots tradition collected and fashioned by the pen of one of the world’s greatest songwriters. Burns devoted the last years of his life to the song tradition, and often a mere fragment from some old ballad was transformed by his alchemy into a memorable love song or Scots poem. With Auld Lang Syne, though, the brilliance was already there; this is the Bard’s first mention of it in a letter to Mrs Dunlop in 1788:

“… Light be the turf on the breast of the heaven inspired Poet who composed this glorious fragment.”

One of the most interesting facts is that the Auld Lang Syne tune which is sung from Times Square to Tokyo, and has conquered the world, is not the one Robert Burns put the original words to. The older tune though is still sung by traditional singers. It has a more douce, gentle, nostalgic feel to it than the popular tune a mood evoked by the subtle use of the traditional air sung by Mairi Campbell in the first Sex and the City movie. However, whichever tune it is sung to, and wherever in the world it is sung, Auld Lang Syne retains the great emotional resonance of the original traditional song of the Scottish people of those days in the distant past. Lets leave the last word to Burns himself:

“… is not the Scots phrase, ‘Auld Lang Syne’, exceedingly expressive – there is an old song and tune which has often thrilled thro’ my soul”.

Fancy singing along yourself? Here are the verses of the words to Auld Lang Syne:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.

Chorus:

For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne,

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Chorus

We twa hae run about the braes
And pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot
Sin auld lang syne.

Chorus

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
Frae mornin’ sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne.

Chorus

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right guid willy waught,
For auld lang syne.

Chorus

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And long, long ago.

Chorus

And for long, long ago, my dear
For long, long ago,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago

And surely youll buy your pint-jug!
And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago.

Chorus

We two have run about the hills
And pulled the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered manys the weary foot
Since long, long ago.

Chorus

We two have paddled in the stream,
From morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
Since long, long ago.

Chorus

And there’s a hand, my trusty friend!
And give us a hand of yours!
And we’ll take a deep draught of good-will
For long, long ago.

Chorus

Here is an old kinescope from over 50 years ago!! For 100 years, the slow drop of a lighted glass ball on New Year’s Eve from atop One Times Square in New York City has become an American tradition. A huge crowd gathers every year to welcome in the New Year.

Beginning in 1956, Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians entertained the US on New Year’s Eve with a combination of music and the live “ball drop” at Midnight. Guy continued this tradition until his death in 1977. His band still played on at CBS Television on New Years for an additional 2 years. (Dick Clark’s Rockin New Years Eve began in 1972 on ABC and still broadcasts annually.) This broadcast began right after the 15-minute news and ran for an hour. Guy plays the music and newsman Robert Trout announces the beginning of the New Year.

If you look closely, you’ll see acerbic television personality Henry Morgan in the crowd. TV was very primitive 50 years ago. Harsh lighting, a cheap office clock and a World War II searchlight scans the crowd below.

I hope you’ll enjoy ringing in the New Year – 1958! Recorded: December 31, 1957

 

Auld Lang Syne played on bagpipes (as it should be)

 

This is from the 2015 Edinburgh Tattoo which we attended:

And, in history:

Christmas Countdown: The Alfred Burt Carols

Alfred Burt Carols

 

I could have turned the Alfred Burt Carols into the next 15 parts of this series but I decided that was a bit too easy on me!

I love this story – it’s a wonderful family tradition from the Burt family.

Starting in 1922, Alfred Burt’s father created a Christmas card for family members and parishioners. On these cards were original Christmas carols, with both the words and music by the Reverend Bates Burt. For the family Christmas card in 1942, Bates asked his son to write the music for that year’s carol, “Christmas Cometh Caroling.”

From then on, Alfred would write the music for the family’s Christmas cards, and the “Alfred Burt carols” were born.

Over the next several years, and as the Burts’ circle of friends grew, the Christmas card list grew from 50 to 450 people. But still, the Alfred Burt Carols remained unknown outside the Burts’ growing mailing list.

That changed with the 1952 carol, “Come, Dear Children”. Burt finished writing the music during a rehearsal with the Blue Reys, the vocal group with Alvino Rey’s orchestra. He asked them to sing it so he could make sure the harmonies worked; they liked it so much that they asked Burt if they could sing it at the annual King Sisters Christmas party. It proved to be a hit among the partygoers, and served to introduce Burt’s carols to Hollywood, California.

More about the Burt family and the Christmas Carol tradition: http://www.alfredburtcarols.com/

Alfred Burt’s Carols:

  1. “Christmas Cometh Caroling” (1942)
  2. “Jesu Parvule” (1943)
  3. “What Are the Signs” (1944)
  4. “Ah, Bleak and Chill the Wintry Wind” (1945)
  5. “All on A Christmas Morning” (1946)
  6. “Nigh Bethlehem” (1947)
  7. “Christ in the Stranger’s Guise” (1948)
  8. “Sleep Baby Mine” (1949)
  9. “This Is Christmas” (also known as “Bright, Bright, the Holly Berries”) (1950)
  10. “Some Children See Him” (1951)
  11. “Come, Dear Children” (1952)
  12. “O, Hearken Ye” (1953)
  13. “Caroling Caroling” (1954)
  14. “We’ll Dress the House” (1954)
  15. “The Star Carol” (1954)

Burt finished the last of his carols, “The Star Carol”, on February 5, 1954. He died less than 24 hours later, at the age of 33.

One of the best known of these today is Caroling Caroling (lyrics by the church organist at his father’s church, Wihla Hutson)

Caroling Caroling

The Salt Lake Vocal Artists perform 2 carols; “Caroling, Caroling” and “We’ll Dress the House” by Alfred Burt live in concert on December 17, 2011 in Holy Family Catholic Church, South Ogden, Utah under the direction of Dr. Brady Allred.

What’s your Christmas tradition?

Christmas Countdown: Still, Still, Still

Still, Still, Still

Still, Still, Still is an Austrian Christmas carol and lullaby. In German its first line is “Still, still, still, weil’s Kindlein schlafen will!” (Hush, hush, hush, for the little child wants to sleep!)

The melody is a folk tune (authorship unknown) from the State of Salzburg. The tune appeared for the first time in 1865 in a folksong collection of Maria Vinzenz Süß (1802-1868), founder of the Salzburg Museum; it has changed slightly over the years but remains attributed to G. Götsch.

The words, which run to six verses in German, describe the peace of the infant Jesus and his mother as they sleep. There are various English translations.  This is one version:

Still, still, still,
One can hear the falling snow.
For all is hushed,
The world is sleeping,
Holy Star its vigil keeping.
Still, still, still,
One can hear the falling snow.

Sleep, sleep, sleep,
‘Tis the eve of our Saviour’s birth.
The night is peaceful all around you,
Close your eyes,
Let sleep surround you.
Sleep, sleep, sleep,
‘Tis the eve of our Saviour’s birth.

Dream, dream, dream,
Of the joyous day to come.
While guardian angels without number,
Watch you as you sweetly slumber.
Dream, dream, dream,
Of the joyous day to come.