“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…”: Decorating with Music

 

Christmas could be my favorite time of year just because of the decorating!

And the food.

And the beautiful music and presents and family time and wassail and dressing up.

Okay, basically everything.

But the decorating!!!  Incorporating music into my Christmas decor is SO. MUCH. FUN.  Here’s an itty bitty taste of the musical theme around my home this December.  <3


A Classical Christmas | Lacie Bowman Music.

A Classical Christmas | Lacie Bowman Music

A Classical Christmas | Lacie Bowman Music

A Classical Christmas | Lacie Bowman Music
This ornament was given to me by violin teacher when I was 12, and after all these years it’s still one of my favorites – a great reminder to give my students gifts that will last. <3

 

A Classical Christmas | Lacie Bowman Music
Our Little Drummer Boy. ;)

A Classical Christmas | Lacie Bowman Music

A Classical Christmas | Lacie Bowman Music

A Classical Christmas | Lacie Bowman Music

 

And to think I have a whole bag of instrument ornaments that never made it on the tree!  Ah, well.  There’s always next year.

3 days left!  <3  Stay warm, friends!

– 

Repertoire Challenge: October, November, December Update

 

Classical Christmas Music | Lacie Bowman Music

Yoohoo, I’m back! Where have I been, you ask… Gooooood question. It’s been such a flurry around here that even I don’t know where I went. Nevertheless, while I was wherever I was I missed 2 months of repertoire challenge updates. Mainly because I didn’t have any updates. At least not repertoire challenge ones.  Here’s what happened.

All of OCTOBER I was down with morning sickness… because I’m expecting again! And it’s a GIRL!!! My two little munchkins are going to be 12 months apart, so…… I think that means we’re officially going to be a circus family.  :D  More on that next year.

BTW, morning sickness totally forgot that it was just supposed to be in the morning.

At the beginning of NOVEMBER my grandfather passed away, and we made an emergency trip out-of-state for his funeral. After that, my grandmother came to live with us for two weeks. THAT was so wonderful. Then, November was over and DECEMBER was here.

And I stared at my repertoire list. And I saw that I had 10 pieces to finish and only 4 weeks to finish them in. And I’ll be out of state again Christmas week. So really, 3 weeks.

 

HERE’S WHERE IT STANDS:

I have 8 learned, 8 re-learned, and 8 to go. And 14 days. Including today. And my Christmas vacation days.

So. Shall we bring on the hot chocolate and see what happens? I guess I have no choice! :D

(Actually, make that a bucket of lemon water, cause i’m still kinda nauseated these days. ;)

Here’s a brief update on what I’ve done since the last update in September:

 

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learned ||  Bach Fugue, No. 2 in c minor

Because how could I NOT learn this one?

learned || Greig Arietta, Op. 12, No. 1

So elegant. So dreamy. I’ve played two pieces by Greig: The Wedding Day at Troldhaugen and this one.  And I might just like this one best of all.  :)

learned || Dvorak Humoresque, Op. 102, No.7

I learned this one on the violin when I was twelve, and it was squeaky, redundant, and, quite frankly, annoying.  On the piano it’s totally different – blooming with rich chords and so beautifully expressive!  The only thing the same is the melody.  :D

learned || Granados May Song, Op. 1, No. 3

The May Song is a lovely little wedding piece for the piano.  I first heard it when I was 11, and my sweet Mother has wanted me to learn it ever since.  I’ve taught it to students, but I’ve just now sat down and smoothed out all of the wrinkles.  And I love it.

re-learned || Beethoven Sonata Op. 13 “Pathetique”, Mvt. 2 

I learned and performed the complete Pathetique Sonata back in 2007, and this movement is still one of my all-time favorites.  Three layers of beautiful voices with breathtaking chords and gloriously subtle phrasing…  Beethoven was a genius.

 

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I’ll give one last update on the final state of the nations at the end of this month, so…  stay tuned! (Read my original repertoire challenge.)

Toodles!  ;)

“To play without passion…” A Tribute to Beethoven on His Birthday

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10291706_895990997094165_7509630389633328390_nIt’s Beethoven’s birthday today. At least, we think it is. It’s not recorded.

While we do know that Beethoven was baptized on December 17th, 1770, we don’t know his exact date of birth.  The likelihood is that he was born one or two days before he was baptized, and most music scholars agree that the 16th of December is the most likely date.

Beethoven was a unique man.  He was arrogant, and he was innovative.  He was a man with big hair and a big temper.  A man who spoke exactly what he thought no matter who was listening and had notes pouring out of his head constantly.  A man who was so meticulous that he counted out 60 coffee beans every. time. he. had. a. cup.  A man who ushered in the romantic era of classical music with his emotional musical expression and form.  A man who lost his hearing but KEPT. WRITING. ANYWAY.

There’s a lot we can learn NOT to do from Beethoven.  But if we looked for character strengths from his life that we should imitate, we would find these two huge ones:

 P A S S I O N    //   P E R S E V E R A N C E


When Beethoven started writing his famous 5th Symphony, he was going deaf.  But he wrote it anyway.  When Beethoven completed his 9th Symphony, he was completely deaf.  But he conducted it anyway.  He showed us what it looks like to press on when it is impossible.  Passion.  Perseverance.

It’s been nearly 250 years since the birth of this great musician, and what a 250 years it has been.  If he hadn’t been born to write music, our lives would be missing a few treasures.  No Beethoven’s Fifth.  No Pathetique.  No Moonlight Sonata.  No Ode to Joy.

 

Beethoven

 

He arrogantly stated once, “There are and always will be thousands of princes, but there is only one Beethoven!”  Really, though, I think we cannot help but agree with him.

There will only ever be one Beethoven.

Repertoire Challenge: September Update

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Month Two of my Repertoire Challenge is done!  Whew.  It was a GREAT month, though definitely harder than last.

I organized the music for an amazing history event last weekend called Remembering WWII.   My sister & I also performed some wartime songs – I sang, and she played piano – and I was busy all month writing those arrangements.  We had people attend from all over Tennessee & several other states, as well as twelve WWII veterans! It was an incredible weekend, and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
Also, Baby stopped liking to sit on my lap during practice…  which means my piano time is now limited to, like, 15 minutes a day.
Those two factors made this month’s Repertoire Challenge… well… challenging.  ;)  It would have been easy if I could have just substituted writing the arrangements for learning the new repertoire, but that would have defeated the whole point of the Repertoire Challenge – to learn the repertoire on top of everything else.  No subs.
So… that’s why I could often be found at the piano wondering if I should spend my 15 minutes arranging “It Hurts to Say Goodbye” or practicing Bach’s Italian Concerto.  :D
In the end, I got it all done, but just by a hair.
Here are the pieces I worked on this month.

 

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learned ||  Debussy Arabesque, No. 1

It’s a classic, and I LOVE it.  I never cared much for Debussy before this year, but I am really beginning to admire the harmonic color in his simpler pieces.  The dissonance is not as bold as in his advanced pieces (etudes, preludes, etc.), and the melodies are really quite enchanting.  He is a master of nuance.  I’m a new fan.  :)

relearned || Pieczonka Tarantella

I learned this when I was 12, and it’s been one of my favorites ever since.  It’s quick, feisty, and in minor (WIN!).  I’ve had a few students learn and perform this one, so between myself and them, I’ve heard it for hundreds of hours on end.  Still, I never get tired of it. And, boy, is it fun to play.

relearned || Joplin Maple Leaf Rag

I had planned to learn Glinka’s L’Alouette, but baby decided he didn’t want that one. I often play for him to fall asleep, and he used to drift off to soothing melodies like Clair de Lune and Chopin Noctunes. Not any more. His current lullaby of choice? The Maple Leaf Rag. He falls asleep to it almost every time. Crazy? Yep. But there’s that.  :)

relearned || Bach Italian Concerto, Mvt. 1

I learned this movement of the Italian Concerto back in 2006 before I loved Bach.  It’s been my faithful friend at many piano competitions, local to national, over the years (along with the 3rd movement, which I learned in 2007), and now that I’m a Bach insane-iac, it does my heart good just to play it.  <3

 

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So here’s the new rep for this month:

TO LEARN:
Dvorak, Humoresque, Op. 101, No. 7
Glinka, L’Alouette

TO RE-LEARN:
Bach, Prelude & Fugue No. 2 in c minor
Mendelssohn, Scherzo Op.16, No. 2

 

Click here to read my original challenge and see my current progress.

This month is going to be waay more crazy than last month.  Can’t tell you why just yet…  But I will SOON, so stay tuned!

Toodles!

;)

Join Us for Wartime Music at Remembering WWII

 

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I’m so excited about the Remembering WWII event this weekend!

We’re going to relive history.  We’ll get to meet WWII veterans, hear their stories, watch live battle reenactments with reenactors dressed to the 9s, check out the vintage civilian & military vehicle show, and learn from historians about the war and surrounding times.

AND HEAR LIVE WARTIME MUSIC!

I’ve been organizing the music for this event, and let me tell you – it’s gonna be grand! Here are some of the titles you’ll hear:

 

Be Like a Kettle and Sing
The White Cliffs of Dover
Coming In On a Wing And a Prayer
We’re In the NAVY

Ac-cen-tchu-ate the Positive
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
How Deep is the Ocean
If You Really Love Me
It Hurts to Say Goodbye
I’ll be With You in Apple Blossom Time
Chattanooga Choo Choo
Let’s Remember Pearl Harbor

 

We’re going to have solos, duets, trios, quartets, quintets, AND a children’s choir, PLUS a Big Band concert at lunch time!

I’ll be singing three melodies made popular by my favorite wartime singer, Vera Lynn: If You Really Love Me, White Cliffs of Dover, & It Hurts to Say Goodbye.

I’ve been busy this month arranging the piano parts for the three pieces, and I can’t wait to sing them tomorrow for the vets tomorrow.

 

Some of our Reenactors.
Some of our Reenactors.

 

The event admission is FREE!  So, if you’re in central Tennessee and would like to drop in, here are the particulars:

 

Saturday, September 27th

9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Downtown Linden, TN

FREE Admission

 

Here is the complete schedule for the day, and here are directions and an event map.  Hope you can come by!

 

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Stay tuned for photos and videos on the blog next week!

Go follow my music profile on Instagram to see live updates!

Johann Sebastian Bach, Part III: His Music & His Legacy

 

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This is Part III of my series on Bach’s life.
Read Part I Here: Bach’s Childhood
Read Part II Here: Bach’s Musical Career

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Bach’s Music

Mozart said of Bach’s music, “Now there is something from which a man can learn something.” Mozart was right. Studying Bach’s music can be a challenging exercise. Bach did not simplify his musical concepts, and his music stimulates the intellects as well as the ears of his listeners. German composer Robert Schumann said it best: “Playing and studying Bach convinces us that we are all numbskulls.”

 

Mini-bio series on Bach, Part 3, His Music & Legacy.  www.sfzmusicblog.com #bach #music #history #biographies

 

Bach was an innovator, and he devoted himself to the improvement of every area of his craft. Prior to Bach, keyboard musicians played their instrument with straight fingers and no thumbs. Bach developed the technique of curved fingers and included his thumb when playing the keyboard. He was highly involved in developing the theory of harmony, and he was also active in the constantly-developing construction of instruments – old and new.

To say that he was a prolific composer would be a really dramatic understatement. The incredible depth and variety of his compositions are just another proof of his musical genius. Over the course of his life Bach wrote over 1000 pieces of music, now loved by tens upon tens of thousands around the globe.

 

Bach’s Legacy

In the years following his death, Bach was missed as a teacher and an organist. His incredible accomplishments as a composer, however, were largely neglected.

It wasn’t until 1829, nearly one hundred years later, that the young German composer Felix Mendelssohn resurrected Bach’s Passion According to St. Matthew. This performance, conducted by the twenty-year-old Mendelssohn himself, revived an interest in Bach’s work. Over the next century and a half, a deep love for Bach’s music developed and spread across the world.

In the 1840, the German Bach Society was founded, and in 1850 the massive undertaking of publishing all of Bach’s works commenced. When this fifty-year project was completed in 1900, the Bach-Werke-Verzeichinis (abbreviated BWV and meaning Bach Works Catalogue) included all of Bach’s compositions in a staggering 46 volumes.

Mini-bio series on Bach, Part 3, His Music & Legacy.  www.sfzmusicblog.com #bach #music #history #biographiesJ.S. Bach passed an incredible musical legacy to his children. Several of his sons became famous musicians and composers – Wilhelm Friedmann, Carl Philipp Emanuel, Johann Christian.

C.P.E. Bach devoted much of his life to spreading awareness of his father’s work. 1753 saw the publication of his own work, An Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments – a musical treatise that studied the techniques and theories of his father.

Johann Sebastian Bach was a composer, a mentor, a leader, a teacher, a husband, a father, a performer, an innovator, a life-long learner, a Christian. He knew that his creativity was derivative of the One True Original, and he inscribed “Soli Deo Gloria” (trans. To the Glory of God Alone) regularly into his manuscripts. He was a master of his field but a servant to his King.

“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”  J.S. Bach

Mini-bio series on Bach, Part 3, His Music & Legacy.  www.sfzmusicblog.com #bach #music #history #biographies

Mini-bio series on Bach, Part 3, His Music & Legacy.  www.sfzmusicblog.com #bach #music #history #biographies

 

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES FOR FURTHER STUDY:

Glory and Honor: The Musical & Artistic Legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach (G. Wilbur)
Bach & Baroque Music (Stefano Catucci)
Sebastian Bach: The Boy from Thuringia (Opal Wheeler)
The Story of Bach in Words & Music (Narrated CD)

LIKE The Music Blog on Facebook for more music history & mini-bios! 

Johann Sebastian Bach, Part II: His Musical Career

 

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This is Part II of my series on Bach’s life.
Read Part I Here: Bach’s Childhood
Read Part III Here: Bach’s Music & Legacy

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  –

Bach’s Musical Career

Weimar, Arnstadt, Mühlhausen (1703 – 1708)

Mini Bio series on Bach. Part 2, Bach's Musical Career.  www.sfzmusicblog.com #bach #music #history #biographiesAfter 3 years at St. Michael’s School, Bach – now 17 – received an invitation for a position as court musician at the Duke’s palace in Weimar.  He immediately left St. Michael’s and set out with his violin to join the royal orchestra. Though his time at Weimar was short, Bach flourished.

After only 6 months, he took a trip to Arnstadt to visit his uncle.  While there, Bach was offered the position of church organist.  He accepted the position and made the arrangements necessary to move to Arnstadt and begin a new life once again.

In addition to leading the congregation in song for Sunday services, Bach played organ for four services a week at Arnstadt.  His contract held him “…personally responsible for the use and condition of the organ.”  It also instructed him “…to live uprightly, to fear God, to love peace, and to appear promptly at all rehearsals and services.”  With this new position, Bach enjoyed a substantial amount of private time to study and create.

There was, however, an amount of friction between Bach and his superiors at Arnstadt.  Bach, absorbed in his creativity, sometimes took the liberty of improvising during church services.  This lack of protocol on Bach’s part frustrated the church leaders, and he was reprimanded.

In 1705, word reached Bach that the greatest organist of his time, Dietrich Buxtehude, was to perform in Lübeck.  He desperately wanted to hear the great Buxtehude, and he asked permission from his superiors to allow him leave to attend the concert.  They granted permission, and Bach embarked on another 200-mile walk.  He was enthralled by Buxtehude’s performances and was greatly influenced by his style.  He used the musical knowledge he gained in Lübeck well, and his music was never the same. 

Bach’s trip, however, expanded from four short weeks to four long months, and when he returned to Arnstadt, his superiors were greatly displeased with him. This new friction, coupled with previous conflicts over spiritual issues, compelled Bach to seek a new position. He auditioned for the prestigious position of organist at St. Blasius’s Church in Mühlhausen and was gladly accepted.

In October 1707, a few short months after arriving in Mühlhausen, Sebastian married Maria Barbara Bach – a cousin he had become acquainted with during his time in Arnstadt.  Barbara was also a music lover from a musical family, and she and Sebastian enjoyed a happy marriage.

Sebastian and Barbara lived in Mühlhausen for a few short months before Bach embarked upon yet another season of life – this time, Weimar.

Mini Bio series on Bach. Part 2, Bach's Musical Career.  www.sfzmusicblog.com #bach #music #history #biographies.jpg

 

Weimar (1708 – 1717)

In 1708, Bach accepted the position of court organist for Duke Wilhelm in Weimar.  Bach was only 23, but he would keep this position at Weimar for nine years.

Mini Bio series on Bach. Part 2, Bach's Musical Career.  www.sfzmusicblog.com #bach #music #history #biographies.jpgDuring this period, Bach invested much of his time at the organ, and it was here that he wrote most of his organ compositions.  Bach’s proficiency on the instrument was incredible, and it was said that with his two feet, he could play “things on the pedals that other skilled players could not play with their hands”.

In December of 1708, Bach’s first child and daughter, Catharina Dorothea Bach, was born.  His first son, Wilhelm Friedmann was born in 1710, and Carl Philipp Emanuel was born in 1714.  Bach continued to nurture his family and his music, and as the years passed, his fame grew.

In 1717, Bach traveled to Dresden to participate in a harpsichord contest with the boastful, famous French virtuoso, Louis Marchand.  Marchand, hearing Bach perform the evening before the contest was scheduled to take place, was so impressed with Bach’s skill that he fled town the following morning.  When the time arrived for the contest to begin, Marchand was nowhere to be found, and Bach found himself performing in a solo concert instead of a contest.

When Bach arrived back in Weimar, he requested leave of his position to accept an offer given to him by Prince Leopold in Anhalt-Cöthen.  Duke Wilhelm, holding a grudge against Bach from a previous disagreement, executed revenge by refusing to let him leave Weimar.  Bach continued to ask for release, and the Duke, unreasonable and angry, threw Bach in prison.  After four weeks in this state, Bach received sudden release from both the prison and his position at Weimar, and he set out with his family for a new beginning at Anhalt-Cöthen.

 

Anhalt-Cöthen (1717-1723)

In Anhalt-Cöthen, Bach enjoyed a personal relationship with Prince Leopold as his respected friend and traveling companion.

Prince Leopold. Mini Bio series on Bach. Part 2, Bach's Musical Career.  www.sfzmusicblog.com #bach #music #history #biographies.jpgPrince Leopold was a Calvinist and held a more sober view of music in worship than Bach’s previous superiors [6].  Bach, not needing to produce the elaborate music for the services that had previously been required of him, now focused his creative energy on instrumental works.  He was incredibly productive!

During this period, Bach produced many of his famed non-church works – his six Brandenburg Concertos, part I of The Well-Tempered Clavier, the Goldenberg Variations, the French Suites, the Two-Part Inventions, his Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, and his cello Suites.

In 1720, Bach accompanied Prince Leopold on a musical trip to Bohemia.  When he returned to Cöthen, he was given the tragic news that his beloved wife, Barbara, had become ill and died.  Bach, now a widow with four children, was stricken with grief, but he had to continue in his work.

One and a half years later, in late 1721, Bach married Anna Magdelena.  She was a loving wife to Bach, assisting him in his work and nurturing their children.  Anna was a professional soprano, and together she and Bach copied many of his detailed manuscripts.

Around the same time as Bach’s marriage, Prince Leopold married a young princess who had no appreciation for the arts. She made circumstances difficult for Bach.  Conditions worsened, and when Bach received an invitation for the post as Cantor at St. Thomas’ School in Leipzig, he accepted without hesitation.  With Leopold’s blessing, he packed up his little family once more and moved on to Leipzig.

 

Leipzig (1723 – 1750)

Anna Magdalena. Mini Bio series on Bach. Part 2, Bach's Musical Career.  www.sfzmusicblog.com #bach #music #history #biographies.jpgLeipzig.  The place Bach would call home for 27 years.  A period of extreme productivity.  A time of growth, but not one lacking in hardship.

When Bach accepted the position in Leipzig, his annual salary was less than what he had been lead to believe, equaling slightly over one-fourth of his previous salary at Cöthen.  With his growing family, this proved to be a struggle at times.  To alleviate the dramatic adjustment, he was given free housing, payments for heat and light, and a few additional allowances.

Bach was busy. As music director at Leipzig, Bach was in charge of the music of four city churches.  He taught at the St. Thomas’s school and gave private instruction and tutoring in his home, as well.  Selecting texts, composing, and conducting rehearsals were also a regular part of each week.

At Leipzig, Bach composed at an astonishing rate, composing almost 150 cantatas in the space of 30 months.  He also produced his two Passions according to St. Matthew and St. John, his Magnificat, part II of The Well-Tempered Clavier, and his Mass in b minor.  He began his significant work The Art of Fugue while at Leipzig, but he was unable to complete it before his death.

During their time in Leipzig, Sebastian & Magdelena had thirteen children – six of whom survived into adulthood.  Bach loved his family, and spent much time with them each day in prayer and song.  He taught them to play instruments, and they often enjoyed playing ensemble music together.

 

Bach Family. Mini Bio series on Bach. Part 2, Bach's Musical Career.  www.sfzmusicblog.com #bach #music #history #biographies.jpg

 

In early 1750, Bach’s eyesight weakened considerably – a condition incurred, at least in part, by the strain he had put on his eyes as a child.  He suffered from a serious illness, but he recovered.  In May, he underwent optical surgery – an effort to improve his failing eyesight.  Sadly, the operation was not successful, and his constitution was weakened from the stress of the surgery.  Although he was now completely blind, he still composed by dictating the music to those who could write the manuscripts for him.

A few months later, in mid-July, Bach suffered a stroke.  Bach, who must have realized that his remaining days were few, dictated the music for a chorale to his son-in-law – the title was “Before Your Throne I Now Appear”.

Days later, on July 28, 1750, Johann Sebastian Bach met his King.

 

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES FOR FURTHER STUDY:

Glory and Honor: The Musical & Artistic Legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach (G. Wilbur)
Bach & Baroque Music (Stefano Catucci)
Sebastian Bach: The Boy from Thuringia (Opal Wheeler)
The Story of Bach in Words & Music (Narrated CD)
 
LIKE The Music Blog on Facebook for more music history & mini-bios! 

Johann Sebastian Bach, Part I: His Childhood

 

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This is Part I of my series on Bach’s life.
Read Part II Here: Bach’s Musical Career
Read Part III Here: Bach’s Music & Legacy

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 –

Johann Sebastian Bach – one of the greatest and most-loved composers the world has known, considered by many to be the greatest composer of all times. But who was this man? What did he do, and what made him great?

Let’s take a look at the life, work, and legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach.

 

Bach’s Childhood (1685-1703)

 

Eisenach, Germany

 

It is 1685.  We are in the small German village of Eisenach, and one family has just welcomed a new baby boy into the world. His name is Johann Sebastian Bach.

Little Johann was the eighth and last child of Ambriosus and Elisabeth Bach. The Bach family was known for their musical heritage – over seventy musicians had been born into the family during the previous two hundred years.  Music was a significant part of Johann’s life from the start. His father taught him to play harpsichord and violin from his early years, and his willingness to work caused his skill at the keyboard to develop rapidly. So did his love for music.

Sebastian’s family was not wealthy, and his early years were not luxurious. But he was well-loved, and his home was happy.

When Sebastian was only nine, his mother died.  A few months later, his father also died, leaving him an orphan.  As the heart-broken young Sebastian grieved, his older brother, Johann Christoph, took him to live with his family in Ohrdruf.

Christoph was a student of Johann Pachelbel – composer of the beloved Canon in D.  A proficient musician himself, Christoph held the position of church organist at St. Michael’s Church in Ohrdruf.  He gave his brother formal instruction on the clavier, and Sebastian flourished.

It wasn’t long before Christoph recognized the unusual musical abilities of his little brother – abilities which exceeded his own.  Christoph, likely moved with jealousy, limited Sebastian’s practice to one hour a day and denied him access to the music manuscripts in his library*.  Sebastian begged to use the scores, but Christoph refused.

 Bach copied out music so he could practice more difficult piecesIt is of this scenario that we hear the story of the lengths Sebastian went to have the manuscripts.  When Christoph persisted in his denial, Sebastian began sneaking into the library each night and taking the manuscripts to his room.  There, by the moonlight, he copied the scores note by note onto manuscript sheets he stored in his room.  At the end of six long months, Sebastian’s task was complete.  He delighted in studying the manuscripts and undoubtedly spent countless hours at the keyboard with his newly-acquired compositions

In time the secret was too big to keep, and Christoph discovered Sebastian’s actions. He confiscated the manuscripts again, but by this time, Sebastian had learned much.  People will argue over whether or not Sebastian was justified in what he did, but there is no doubt that this exercise sharpened his musical sensibilities, developed his understanding of theory and composition, and contributed much to his musical maturity.

After five years, Christoph could no longer support Sebastian.  In 1700, Sebastian left with his friend, Erdmann, to walk over 200 miles to St. Michael’s School in Lüneburg in the hopes that St. Michael’s would accept them into the school choir.  They were not disappointed. Both were, in fact, placed in the “Matins Scholars” – a select singing group of about fifteen members honored with more challenging music and additional performances.

choir


At St. Michael’s School, Sebastian was, at last, able to pursue music with all of his energy, and pursue music he did.  He had free access to the school’s music library, and he immersed himself in the manuscripts.  In addition to his vocal studies, he devoted much time to practicing clavichord, playing violin in the orchestra for Sunday services, and composing.

It was here at Lüneburg that Bach first began to study organ – a skill that would become his area of expertise in his musical career to come.

 

Check back on Wednesday for Part II: “Bach’s Musical Career” and Friday for Part III: “Bach’s Music & Legacy”.

 

FOOTNOTE:
*We don’t know exactly why Christoph denied Sebastian use of the manuscripts.  He could have been afraid that Sebastian would ruin them (manuscripts were precious at that time) or concerned that the music was too difficult, but the likelihood is that Christoph’s jealousy got the better of him.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES FOR FURTHER STUDY:

Glory and Honor: The Musical & Artistic Legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach (G. Wilbur)
Bach & Baroque Music (Stefano Catucci)
Sebastian Bach: The Boy from Thuringia (Opal Wheeler)
The Story of Bach in Words & Music (Narrated CD)

 

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What to Bring if You’re Playing at a Wedding: A Checklist for Musicians

 

What to Bring if You're Playing at a Wedding. A checklist for musicians on The Music Blog. www.sfzmusicblog.com #wedding #music #musician #tips

 

You’re playing at a wedding – you’ve learned the wedding music, and now you’re thinking about what you need to bring.

That’s a good plan, since you certainly don’t want to show up and realize you overlooked an important item. Or two. Or three.

Here are a few things that have become my regular “wedding bring-alongs” over the years.  You will be able to expand the list with more items specific to your needs, but these basics will help get your list started. 

 

INSTRUMENT ACCESSORIES

It wouldn’t do well to show up with your violin only to realize that you left your shoulder rest and rosin at home.  Make sure you have all the accessories your instrument needs safely packed the night before so you don’t forget any items in the last-minute rush out the door.

Note to String Players:  Always remember to pack at least one extra set of strings!

SHEET MUSIC

Make copies of all of the pieces you will need for the wedding and insert them into a 3-ring binder in the order you will play them.  Wedding ceremonies are fast-paced, and you don’t want to lose time shuffling around for the right book for the next song.

MUSIC STAND

Even if the location says they have plenty of stands, bring one anyway. Theirs might end up being squeaky, rusty, unadjustable, or… lost.  Always take extra precautions when you can so you’ll be prepared if others make mistakes.

PRINTED ORDER OF CEREMONY

Ask the wedding coordinator for the order of ceremony ahead of time so you can know the exact order of events before you show up.  Print it out and put it in the binder with your wedding music so it will be easy to find once you get there.

TUNER

If you’re playing an instrument that requires regular tuning (violin, cello, flute, trumpet) and won’t be playing with piano accompaniment, bring a tuner.  It’s best not to rely on their piano being in tune, ’cause you never know…

PENCILS

Lots and lots of pencils. With erasers. If the wedding coordinator gives you any last-minute instructions or schedule changes, you’ll want something more reliable than your memory to count on.  Grab your pencil and write it down in that faithful 3-ring binder!

PAPER CLIPS OR TAPE

This one’s actually really important.  Why? Because I once watched a poor pianist at an outdoor wedding try desperately to bumble her way through Canon in D while her sheet music twirled all over the lawn with someone chasing after it like a maniac. So. Bring something you can use to fasten your music to your stand, even if it’s an indoor wedding – AC drafts play tricks sometimes, too!

MOISTURE-ABSORBING CLOTH

Moist hands, spills, cleaning your instrument, etc… There are a number of reasons this might come in handy.

WEDDING COORDINATOR’S PHONE NUMBER

Keep her number at all times in case of last-minute questions or emergencies.

PRINTED ADDRESS & DIRECTIONS

Yes, printed. It’s great to have it on your phone (isn’t GPS handy?!), but phones are electronic. Things happen to them. They die, crash, and go berserk. ALWAYS have a back-up copy of the address and directions on paper. Cause guess what? If your phone dies and the directions, address, AND the wedding coordinator’s number are all inside… Well, yeah.  Not good.

CELL PHONE

All that being said… make sure you have your phone!  The wedding coordinator needs access to you at all times on the wedding day should anything come up.

COMFORTABLE CLOTHES & SHOES

Take a little walk around the house. Move your arms around like you’re playing your instrument. Make sure your shoes are comfortable and that your clothes allow your arms and body the full range of motion you will need.

WATER

If you get thirsty during the ceremony, it’s a plum bad idea to go hunting for a drink of water.  Pack a bottle or two of water, just in case. (A contained snack – like a granola bar – wouldn’t be a bad idea either, depending on the time of day.)

 

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Aaaand of course you’ll probably want to bring your instrument.  If this one isn’t obvious, you might want to reconsider be playing for that wedding…

#pianosexcepted

;)

Above all…

…take the time to make your own list and to pack everything well ahead of time so nothing is forgotten.

Have fun at the wedding!  I hope it goes well.

Can you think of any other items to add?  Add your ideas to the list in the comments below!

 

Repertoire Challenge: August Update

 

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Well, Month One of my Repertoire Challenge is successfully completed!  My goal was to learn four pieces this month, and I actually got to work on five.  Yay!

It was challenging – the majority of my practice has to be hands separate with my 18-week-old on my lap.  He watches my hands move back and forth, sings along (loudly!), and even reaches out and touches the keys.  It’s SO cute.  He loves it, and I love having him right there with me developing an interest in music so young.

As much as I love it, though, it does make hands together practice scarce and very valuable.  I get an average of about 20 minutes HT a day. Very different from my previous 3-4 hours a day.

But that’s why I called it a repertoire challenge, right?  :D

So. Here is what I’ve been working on these last 4 weeks.

 

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learned || Scarlatti Sonata K. 141.  
This is by far the hardest piece for this month. I’ve intended to learn this sonata for years, and finally…  it happened! Scarlatti composed over 500 single-movement sonatas for the piano, and they are fantastic.  I love the playful interaction between hands, and the dramatic repeated notes in this one.  

But, boy, is it fast!  I’ll be speeding this one up for a while.  I’ll wait to officially cross it off my list until it’s a bit faster.  Check out Martha Angerich’s performance of it!

 

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learned || Fur Elise.
This one.  It’s not hard piece, but since it is, in many people’s minds, the whole point of being a pianist, I thought I should make sure I could play it all the away through without bumbling.  ;)

relearned || Beethoven Sonata Op. 27, No. 2, Mvt. 1.  
The Moonlight Sonata.  A mysterious, dreamy, classic work of art that every pianist should learn at some point in their life.  So I did… again!

relearned || Chopin Nocturne in c# minor, Posth. 
Chopin composed a billion and one Nocturnes, and this is one of my favorites.  What a lovely piece!  Chopin was an incredible master of melody, and his creative genius really shines in this piece.  It’s great to have it under my fingers again.

relearned || Mozart Fantasy in d minor, K. 397.
One measure you have lazy arpeggios, the next you have furious chromatic runs. It’s very whimsical, and fantasy describes it well.  I learned this one back in 2006 for a Festival honoring Mozart.  It was fun to play back then, and it still is.

 

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Me after performing Mozart’s Fantasy in d minor for the Mozart Festival. Please forgive the bad photo quality… it was 2006, after all. ;)

 

Click here to read the original challenge and see what my current progress is.

I’ll be posting some video clips on my Instagram profile in the next few days – go follow me to see the videos!

Next month I’ll be working on four new pieces, maintaining the pieces I learned this month, and continuing to speed up the Scarlatti.  It should be another busy crazy-daisy jam-packed few weeks!

Here’s what’s on the blackboard for next month:

TO LEARN:
Glinka, L’Alouette
Debussy, Arabesque No. 1

TO RELEARN:
Bach, Italian Concerto, Mvt. 1
Pieczonka, Tarantella in a minor

 

Sooooo, on to a new month!  I’m looking forward to getting started on the new rep!