Saturday, February 28, 2009

Danny Boy

One of the most popular traditional Irish songs is "Danny Boy", written by Fred Weatherly to the tune of "Londonderry Air". "Danny Boy" has a fascinating history! Several musicians and other individuals from two different continents played a part in developing the song into the piece we know today.

The music was first published under the title of "Londonderry Air" by George Petrie in The Ancient Music of Ireland in 1855. The melody had been given to Petrie by Jane Ross of Newton Limavady in Londonderry County. Miss Ross claimed to have heard the tune from a fiddler, presumably blind Jimmy McCurry, and believed it to be "very old". It may have been well over two hundred years old by that time.

"Danny Boy" is one of the more than one hundred different songs that were written to "Londonderry Air". Its lyrics were originally written in 1910 with a different melody by English lawyer/songwriter/radio entertainer Fred Weatherly. Weatherly's sister-in-law, who lived in Colorado, sent him a copy of "Londonderry Air". Irish immigrants had taken this tune with them as they moved to the United States. Weatherly set the lyrics of "Danny Boy", which had been unsuccessful in its first version, to the tune of "Londonderry Air" and the song as we know it emerged.


For more information about the origin of St. Patrick's Day: "The Life of St. Patrick"

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Performance Anxiety

As contest season approaches, how do your students prepare for the nervousness they will feel when it is their turn to perform?

This spring, many music students will perform solos and/or ensembles for judges in private auditions in order to receive critiques and ratings. The music teacher organizations that sponsor these events have been around for decades and are sincere in their desire to promote musicianship. Yet, for some students, playing a solo before a judge induces a level of anxiety they are not prepared for. Learning to alleviate this stress can leave a student with coping skills that will continue to help them throughout their lives. Follow these steps:

1. Encourage your students to prepare their pieces well. The well-prepared student can be confident in his or her ability to play. Lack of preparation will almost certainly create a greater sense of fear.

2. Talk to your students about performance anxiety. Remind them that being nervous about a performance is a good thing because it means that they care enough to do their best. Most people perform better when they are a little nervous.

3. Teach your students a technique for calming nerves. Taking slow, deep breaths will help them to relax. Help them develop positive, affirming statements to focus on, rather than dwelling on self-defeating thoughts.

4. Whatever the outcome, use it as a tool for improvement. Each time a student performs, he or she becomes conditioned toward reducing their level of anxiety. Each critique can be a useful learning experience, regardless of the rating.

For more information about solo/ensemble festivals, contact one of the following organizations:
American College of Musicians
National Federation of Music Clubs
Royal Conservatory of Music
Music Teachers National Association
National Association for Music Education

MJ Sheet Music has selections for NFMC Jr. Festival and Royal Conservatory of Music Exams.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Improve Your Piano Skills

Have you ever asked yourself any of the following questions?

*How do I find time to practice?
*How can I get better at playing in different keys?
*How do I decide/recognize what the left hand chords are in a piece of music?
*How can I play and read sheet music faster?
*How do I decide on proper fingering?

The answer to these and many other piano playing questions can now be yours.
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Monday, February 2, 2009

Rex: An Autistic Musical Genius

Rex by Cathleen Lewis is the true story of a child who was born blind and autistic. It is also the story of a single mom's quest for finding help for her son. Musicians and those who work with children who have special needs will be touched by the account of how Rex learned to play the piano in spite of multiple disabilities and how playing the piano transformed his life. Order "Rex" from Amazon.