Week 40 (Week of December 21):
A very big hello to all SRC participants and friends. I hope that this finds you all doing well as this year comes to a close. This week let’s take a look at a song that is often heard of sung around this time of the year- the three-part round/canon “Dona Nobis Pacem.
The Latin lyrics of “Dona Nobis Pacem” translate to ‘Give us/grant us peace’ and is taken from the ‘Angus Dei’ of the Latin mass. The melody for this simple yet beautiful song has been passed down orally through the years and is now included in many a hymnal and songbook. Outside of its use in the church, this short prayer for peace has often been popular for the world’s quest for peace, such as the reunification of Germany.
Though the origin for this song is considered unknown, it is occasionally attributed to Mozart even though in most English-Language hymnals it is usually simply marked as “Traditional” in place of a composer/author. Thought to have its origins in folk music because of the song’s simplicity, often the best guess for this song’s origin would be to say perhaps somewhere in the ballpark of 16th or 17th Century Germany.
In this song that is a round for 3 parts, the lyrics ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’ (Grant us peace) are sung twice in every line. The second and third lines, with their longer held notes, serve to supply the harmony for the first line. Since the melody itself is relatively easy to sing, often this song can be found in many an elementary and secondary school’s Chorus program, especially as it is a wonderful teaching tool to demonstrate how to sing in a round.
For more information on rounds/Canons, feel free to scroll down on this webpage to Week 33’s content when we discussed the Canons that were included in Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
First, let’s take a look at “Dona Nobis Pacem” in its simplest version with this video that shows you the music score scrolling along as the song progresses. Follow along and see if you can follow each of the ‘voices’ as the round goes on. Listen again and see if you can focus on just listening to the Second (II) voice…or just the Third voice in the round.
- “Dona Nobis Pacem”- Simple, follow-along video w. score: https://youtu.be/k8OZzk0W87g
For a beautiful full ‘performance video’ of the song “Dona Nobis Pacem”, I’d love to share with you the video below from the Choir ‘International Voices Houston’ that was just recorded/compiled this past Fall remotely by each singer- as 2020 has forced many a Choir to creatively collaborate in such a way!
This arrangement of “Dona Nobis Pacem” includes the text sung not only in Latin but the French, Hindi, and Mandarin languages translations of “Grant Us Peace”
- “Dona Nobis Pacem”- International Voices Houston – https://youtu.be/QXdEnojfmMo
I hope that you have enjoyed learning about the beautiful song “Dona Nobis Pacem” and that all reading have a joyous and restful holiday season as well as a peace-filled and hope-filled New Year.
BONUS VIDEO: As always, here is your weekly virtual piano gig from the one and only Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro.
This week’s video is from his Facebook live virtual gig from Saturday, December 5th: https://youtu.be/19z5i42qZAI
Week 39 (Week of December 14th):
A very warm “Season’s Greetings” to all SRC participants and friends. Hope this finds everyone doing well and preparing for our very possible significant snowfall this week! Today let’s shine the spotlight on a beloved and well known holiday album that never fails to bring joy, nostalgia, and holiday cheer to listeners- “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The holiday/Christmas classic album, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is the eighth studio album from American Jazz Pianist Vince Guaraldi. This album was released in December of 1965 and, of course, it is the soundtrack for the beloved Peanuts TV special of the same name.
Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976) was an American jazz pianist who was noted for his innovative jazz arrangements and compositions. He is perhaps best known for his work in composing the music scores for the first 16 Peanuts TV Specials and for his two ‘signature songs’ that he wrote for “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, “Linus and Lucy” and “Christmastime is Here.” It should also be noted that he is also well known for his 1962 radio hit and 1963 Grammy Award-winning ‘Best Original Jazz Composition’ song “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.”
The album “A Charlie Brown Christmas” includes Guaraldi’s jazz arrangements of traditional Christmas carols & hymns, such as “O Tannenbaum”, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “What Child is This?” Guaraldi’s original compositions on the album include such songs as “Linus and Lucy”, “Skating” and the classic theme of the TV special “Christmastime is Here”, composed with the Peanuts TV producer, Lee Mendelson.
The songs “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Christmastime is Here” used a special children’s choir for the recordings used in the TV special. The children’s choir, made up of children from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in San Rafael, was recorded in three sessions spread out over a two-week period. The story goes that these children were each paid $5 for their participation in the choir and that their recording sessions in the Fall of 1965 often went late into the night resulting in angry parents and new children brought into the later sessions after some parents forbid their children to return.
The celebrated hit song “Linus and Lucy” was composed within mere weeks of TV producer Lee Mendelson approaching Vince Guaraldi for the first time and offering him his first Peanut’s gig in 1963 of composing the music for a Peanut’s documentary, “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.” Vince was so excited to present the song to Mendelson that he phoned him and, despite Mendelson insisting that he could drive down to Guaraldi’s music studio to hear the song in person, Guaraldi insisted on performing the song over the phone right then and there saying, “I’ve got to play this for someone right now or I’ll explode!”
After hearing the song, producer Mendelson immediately agreed that the song would be perfect for the Peanuts gang!
This beloved holiday jazz album has been voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, in 2016 was officially certified as a ‘quadruple-platinum album’ after reaching a grand total of 4 million album sales, and in 2014 was the 10th best-selling Christmas/holiday album in the United States.
Let’s take a listen together! As you ‘walk down memory lane’ and bask in the heartwarming nostalgia that this album often brings, I would encourage you to take the time to appreciate the brilliant jazz piano arrangements and the creative interpretations of holiday classics in this hit record.
Here is a link to the youtube playlist of the entire album: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLL-NbN8uTOijRFGTydHt7fi_cTLwQoyEG
Also, just for fun, here are a couple of contemporary covers of the classic “Christmastime is Here” song that I especially love!
“Christmastime is Here” covers: 1. Daniela Andrade (and her dog!): https://youtu.be/_iAaEH_dR_Y
- Mel Torme: https://youtu.be/RMcLy2KPakQ
Bonus Video: As always, here is your weekly virtual piano concert, from the amazing ‘100 years young’ pianist Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro.
Today’s video is from his Saturday, November 28th Facebook live ‘gig’: https://youtu.be/gUi1MtUF44o
Week 38 (Week of December 7th):
A very big hello to all SRC participants and friends! Hope this finds everyone doing well and staying warm as the weather continues to get colder!
This week let’s test our music observation and listening skills with a fun holiday viewing treat! I’d love to introduce you to one of my favorite short films to watch around this time of year- the 1982 Academy Award Nominee for Best Animated Short film, ‘The Snowman’. A British holiday classic, aired every December on British public television, ‘The Snowman’ is a 1982 short animated film based on the 1978 picture book by Raymond Briggs. What makes this film unique in a sea of ‘holiday/Wintertime/Christmas time’ films (and utterly charming!) is that the story is told only through the animation and the music. Yes, in the entire short film there is absolutely no dialog or even words throughout, with the exception of the central song, “Walking in the Air” that appears about midway through the film. The film score in ‘The Snowman’ is a ‘through-composed’ orchestral soundtrack since it is one continuous, uninterrupted stream of music from beginning to end. We could also say that the film score in this short film is considered to be a ‘Symphonic Poem’ in genre since it also falls into the definition of a ‘Symphonic Poem of being “a piece of orchestral music, usually in a single continuous movement, which is meant to illustrate or evoke the content of a poem or a short story…”.
So, for a lovely cold weather treat, settle in with a nice cup of hot cocoa and your favorite cozy blanket and watch this ‘under a half hour’ delightful short film! But as you do, test your music observation skills!
As you watch, ask yourself how specifically the music in this film contributes to the overall storytelling?
Can you tell what emotion or mood certain scenes are meant to evoke just by what you are hearing in the music?
Listen for the dynamics in the film score (loud/soft), the tempo of the music (speed), the instrumentation used.
Some questions for you to keep in mind as you watch:
*What are some scenes where you hear happy/excited music and what is going on in the storyline when you hear this?
*Where in the story do you hear ‘sneaky’/tiptoe music?
*Where do you hear the music suddenly sound particularly sad/contemplative?
*Watch and listen carefully to what the music is ‘telling’ you in the “playing in the snow scene”, the ‘exploring the house’ scenes.
*How many different instruments do you both see AND hear in the snowman party scene?
The absence of dialog only makes the film score all the more crucial to the storytelling process and, hopefully, causes us to therefore notice the music in a stronger, more heightened way rather than it simply becoming ‘background.’
Enjoy watching this beautifully executed short film as you hone your music observation skills this week!
What do you think of the film? (I’d be very curious to learn who has never heard of/seen this film before!)
Here is the youtube link for the film: https://youtu.be/5A3THighARU
Perhaps after this you will add this short film to any yearly traditions you may have at this time of year!
BONUS VIDEO: As always, here is your weekly concert from the one and only Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro. Today’s video is from his Saturday Virtual Facebook Live ‘gig’ from November 21st. Enjoy! https://youtu.be/01JZKfDzfkE
Week 37 (Week of November 30th):
A very warm hello to you all! I hope this finds you doing well. This week, as both Piano Classes are wrapping up our slow and methodical ‘Listening’ study on Bach’s Goldberg Variations, let’s take a final concluding look at the piece itself through a very interesting podcast episode. It’s my hope for any and all who want to listen along, that this podcast episode, although a tad on the long side, (break it up into small listening ‘chunks’ if you wish) quite detailed and academic at times, will help to give a final ‘overview’ on this very beloved Classical work.
Before we get to this extremely well researched podcast episode, let’s review the basics behind the work. This piece by Johann Sebastian Bach was published in 1741 originally under the name of ‘Aria with Diverse Variations’. What has now become known as ‘The Goldberg Variations’ is a work of 32 movements consisting of an opening and closing ‘Aria’ (main theme) with 30 Variations in the middle. These 30 variations are structurally broken into groups of 3s and showcase Bach’s genius ‘mathematical precision’ in how they are composed and built upon. Let’s remind ourselves that this work is a supreme example of the compositional technique of ‘theme and variation’, but unlike so many theme and variation works that vary and build off of the melody line of an opening Aria/theme, the Goldberg Variations constructs variety and new melodic ideas alongside a consistent and unchanging bass line. It is this ‘ground bass’/repeated bass line that is the one consistent and unifying thread that does not change throughout all thirty of the variations. In fact, this is the genius and brilliance of the work- that Bach would find so much variety and compositional ideas from one singular 32 measure repeated bass line!
Sidenote: For more, please also scroll back on this webpage and see our ‘Week 31’ introductory look at this work and those corresponding videos. 🙂
Now, onto our podcast episode. Again, while a tad on the long side at just under an hour, one idea would be to listen to this podcast episode web link at your leisure, starting and stopping as needed. This podcast ‘episode’ is entitled “Bach, The Goldberg Variations” from August 13, 2020 and is from the Podcast Channel ‘Sticky Notes: The Classical Music Podcast. Your host is Joshua Weilerstein, a conductor and the artistic director of Lausanne Chamber Orchestra in Lausanne, Switzerland. In this extremely well researched and methodical podcast, you are given an overview of the work, interview clips from four prominent pianists/harpsichordists and overall highlights from the work. This episode will give you listening segments and details from quite a few of the variations of this work, while specifying what it is that makes this work and certain variations within this work, an absolute masterpiece. It’s especially interesting towards the end of the episode to hear his interview of prominent pianists/harpsichordists about their thoughts on the work. Please check out this excellent podcast episode- perhaps even listening to the corresponding variations as our host discusses them. Let’s conclude our own look at this work with a quote from a former student of Bach’s who is quoted as saying that the Goldberg Variations “is the process of sound in mathematics.”
Here is the podcast episode web link : https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/sticky-notes-the-classical-music-podcast/id1215386938?i=1000487998050. Just a reminder that you can play and pause as you wish by using the blue play/pause button located below our episode title on the page. Or, if you have an iPhone or iPad, you can always choose to allow the episode to play in your Podcasts app by clicking on “open” when prompted. Enjoy!
BONUS VIDEO: As always, here is your weekly virtual concert from the remarkable Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro from his Saturday Facebook Live Streamed gig from November 14th: https://youtu.be/dnjWvvtisIM
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SAVE THE DATE: Festival of Trees – “An Old Fashioned Christmas” – December 2023