Piece of the Week: Gymnopedie No. 3

Gymnopedie No. 3

Erik Satie was a French composer whose iconoclastic musical experimentation paved the way for many of the avant-garde styles of the early twentieth century. Born in the late nineteenth century and educated at the Paris Conservatoire, Satie rebelled against the strict piano style of his conservatory teachers and against the standard “salon” style of composition popular in polite society.

Piece of the Week: Greensleeves

Greensleeves

The piece that we know today as “Greensleeves” originated as a sixteenth century English broadside ballad. A broadside ballad was an early form of popular music in which an author penned lyrics that fit the tune of a well known folk song; a publisher would then print the lyrics up on a single sheet of newspaper (a “broadside”) and sell in the street.

Piece of the Week: Strayhorn and More

Strayhorn & More

American composer Billy Strayhorn is best known as Duke Ellington’s longtime arranger and collaborator, but this does not quite capture the strong influence that Strayhorn has had on Ellington’s work and on the world of jazz in general. According to Oxford Music Online, Strayhorn collaborated on over 200 of the pieces in Ellington’s oeuvre, and the closeness of their collaboration cannot be overstated.

Piece of the Week: La Comparsa, by Ernesto Lecuona

La Comparsa

Ernesto Lecuona y Casado is arguably one of Cuba’s greatest composers. He was both versatile and prolific, composing over 400 songs, 170 piano pieces, 37 orchestral pieces, 11 film scores and numerous other works including zarzuelas, ballets and operas. Born in Guanabocoa, a village near Havana, Lecuona’s sister, Ernestina, introduced him to the piano at age 5.

Piece of the Week: The Huntress, by Karl King

The Huntress

Back in the days when traveling circuses were a major form of popular entertainment, no composer was better known than Karl King. King ran off with the circus in 1910 (at the age of 19), and in the course of his career he worked for some of the most famous touring shows of the era, including Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and the Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Piece of the Week: A Boomwhacker Christmas

A Boomwhacker Christmas

If you’re the parent or teacher of a musical child, you are almost certainly familiar with “Boomwhackers,” those color-coded plastic tubes that kids love to smack. Since their introduction in 1995, Boomwhackers have been a go-to musical instrument for elementary music educators, and their bright colors and fun playing technique have brightened up many a classroom.

Piece of the Week: Five English Folk Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams

Five English Folksongs

Ralph Vaughan Williams is part of a great tradition of British composers who transcribed melodies from the vast oral tradition of folk music and then incorporated these tunes into their own orchestral and choral pieces. This late-19th and early-20th century movement, which also included the composers Hubert Parry and Gustav Holst, came to be called the English Musical Renaissance, and produced pieces that remain beloved staples of the choral, band and orchestral repertoires to this day (not to mention a particularly romantic view of Britishness that includes tweed jackets, rambles around the English countryside, and 5 o’clock tea service).

Piece of the Week: Firebird Suite by Stravinsky

Firebird Suite

Igor Stravinsky was a virtually unknown composer in St. Petersburg Russia when he was discovered by the famous Parisian ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev at a concert in 1909, and from that moment began one of the most productive and iconic artistic partnerships of the early twentieth century.

Piece of the Week: Water Music by G.F. Handel

Water Music

Originally written for a floating celebration on the Thames river, George Frideric Handel’s Water Music has remained a popular and familiar suite of tunes ever since. The piece was commissioned by England’s King George I, and had its watery premiere on July 17, 1717. As the famous story goes, King George was so pleased with Handel’s composition that he requested that the piece–which was actually three suites of pieces–be played several times in a row, both on the trip up river (with the rising tide) to Chelsea and then on the return trip back downriver to London.