Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Music Lessons for the New Year!

January is a time for beginning new things. After blowing our diets and budgets over Christmas, we resolve to lose weight, eat healthier, pay off our debts, and manage our money more effectively. Resolutions that are born from short-term feelings of guilt often have short endurance. There is one resolution, however, that is requires a long-term commitment and is, therefore, often continued through-out the year. It is the resolution to learn a musical instrument.

While the back-to-school season is the most common time to begin music lessons because we’re in the “back-to-school” mode, January is the second-most popular time for new music students to findmusic teachers. Perhaps someone received a new instrument for Christmas. Maybe a New Year’s Resolution is the driving force. Or the down time following Christmas has given room for pursuing new activities. Whatever the reason, students are looking for instructors in January and the smart music teacher will be ready to be found.

Teachers and students can find each other through the Music Teacher Locator. Teachers register their contact information and other criteria such as location, instrument, style, etc. Students enter instrument and zip code to find a teacher in their area. Everyone wins!

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mary, Did You Know?

This beautiful contemporary Christian original song was written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene. An introspective reflection of the birth and life of Christ, "Mary, Did You Know?" has been recorded by many artists from several different genres, including Contemporary Christian, Country, Classical, Jazz, and Pop.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The First Noel

First published in 1823 in a collection, The First Noel has been passed down since possibly as early as the 16th century. The song is of Cornish (English) origin, not French as some believe. The French spelling of the word "noel" is due to the Norman (French) influence on the English language after the Norman invasion in 1066. The title is sometimes spelled with the Anglo-Saxon "nowell".

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer began as a poem, written by Robert May in 1939 as a department store promotion. Johnny Marks composed the melody to the song, which was made famous by Gene Autry in 1949. Since then, Rudolph has appeared in various forms of media, including cartoons, comics, a children’s book, a TV special, and an animated feature-length film.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Silent Night

Have you ever heard the story of a 19th Century Austrian priest who sang a new song on Christmas Eve, accompanied by guitar because the organ wasn’t working? That story has always been dear to my heart, but it can’t be verified and some claim that it may not be true.

The lyrics to Silent Night were written by Father Joseph Mohr in 1816 and the music was written by Franz Xavier Gruber. The original song (Stille Nacht) was first sung in the Nikolaus-Kirche (St. Nicholas Church) Oberndorf, Austria, on Christmas Eve, 1818. Written in German, it has been portrayed as more lively than the current meditative version. The melody is said to resemble yodeling tunes, which were popular in Austria at that time.

Silent Night was sung during the Christmas truce of World War I because it was one of the few Christmas carols that both sides knew. The music and lyrics are now public domain, which means that they are not protected by copyright laws, but many of the different arrangements of the song are still under copyright. Favorites include Simon and Garfunkel singing while the news is playing in the background and an arrangement by Mannheim Steamroller.


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Friday, December 18, 2009

O Christmas Tree

In researching this song, I found many different English versions of the lyrics. Perhaps the reason for that is the fact that “O Christmas Tree” is an English translation of the German song, “O Tannenbaum”. Earlier versions of "O Tannenbaum" date back at least as far as 1550.

Tannenbaum literally means “fir tree”. Traditionally, Christmas trees were fir trees, although now spruce is used at least as much. During the Third Reich, the Nazi’s used the song to promote Christmas as a non-religious holiday.

The tune to “O Christmas Tree” has been used for many of texts, including several college songs and the state songs for Iowa, Florida, and Maryland.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jingle Bells

Many of us grew up singing "Jingle Bells" every December. Where did the song come from? Do we know who wrote it or is it an anonymous "public domain" song? Here are a few little-known facts about this famous tune:

  • Written in the 1850’s by James Pierpont, who was the uncle of J. P. Morgan, the famous banker. J. P. Morgan's full name is James Pierpont Morgan.

  • Originally titled “One-Horse Open Sleigh

  • Earliest known recording: 1898 by the Edison Male Quartette

  • Never mentions the word Christmas or anything, other than winter activities, that is related to Christmas.

  • The melody to the chorus as originally published sounded more classical than the commonly accepted melody today. It is not known when the melody was changed or who made the changes.

Different stories circulate regarding the origin of Jingle Bells. Many sources claim this song was originally written for children to sing in a Thanksgiving church service. According to these sources, the song was so popular, the children also sang it for the Christmas service. However, the song never mentions anything sacred. Instead the lyrics focus on riding in a sleigh and courting girls, which seems inappropriate for children to sing for a church program in the 19th century. More likely is the claim that the song was written about young men racing “cutters” (one-horse open sleighs). James Pierpont was a minister’s son and had served as organist and music director of a church, but none of his other known songs were religious songs.

Also up for debate is when and where the song was actually written. Some claim as early as 1851 in Boston. Others claim the song was written in Savannah, Georgia, a place that probably did not have enough snow for sleigh riding. The song was first published in 1857 in Boston, but Pierpont, who had previously lived in Boston, was living in Savannah at the time. Perhaps the song was originally written in Boston in the early 1850's when Pierpont was living there and was later introduced (possibly only the chorus and first verse) at a church in Savannah.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

O Holy Night

• Was originally written as a French poem, “Cantique de Noel” by Placide Cappeau
• Music was composed by Adolphe-Charles Adam in 1847
• English translation was written by John Sullivan Dwight in 1855
• Became the first Christmas carol to be played live on a radio Christmas program in 1906.
• Is sung at the lighting of Rich’s Great Tree in Atlanta, Georgia. The tree is lit on Thanksgiving Day every year when the highest note of “O Holy Night” is sung.

"O Holy Night" began with a priest asking Placide Cappeau to write a poem. Originally titled “Minuit, Chretians” (Midnight Christians), the poem was written while Cappeau was en route to Paris on a business trip. In Paris, Cappeau took the poem to Adolphe-Charles Adam to set to music. Although “O Holy Night” is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful Christmas carols, it was initially rejected by many in France because of the reputations of its composers. Cappeau had radical social views, such as opposition to slavery, and Adam was a Jew who was known for composing light opera and ballet.

A popular version of the song involves Trey Parker, playing the part of Eric Cartman, sang the song on a Christmas episode of Southpark. A recording of this can often be heard on radio stations at Christmas time.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Good King Wenceslas

Did Good King Wenceslas really exist? The song itself is a reminder to Christians to be kind to the poor and is actually based on the life of a real person - Duke Wenceslas, Prince of Bohemia.

The lyrics to "Good King Wenceslas" were written by John Mason Neal in 1853 and the music is a carol from the 13th Century. Duke Wenceslas, prince of Bohemia lived during the late 800's and early 900's and is the patron saint of the Czech Republic.

Wenceslas lived in Bohemia (now Czech Republic) and was known for his noble character and charity toward the poor, as described in the carol. Other members of his family, however, were not so noble. Wenceslas was murdered by his own brother, Boleslav, in 929 A.D. and their mother is believed to have been a witch. His legacy of charity lives on through his sainthood and through our tradition of giving at Christmastime - as we are reminded by this simple, yet descriptive account of his life through song.

Counting Down to Christmas: Only 11 days left!

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Have you ever wondered who actually gave their true love “seven swans a-swimming” or “four calling birds”? “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a song that dates back at least several hundred years and the title refers to the period of time between Christmas and Epiphany.

Sources disagree on the actual meaning of the song. The most intriguing theory is the claim that each verse has a hidden meaning and was intended to teach catechism to Catholic children during a time when they were not allowed to openly practice Catholicism. According to this theory, the verses can be interpreted as follows:

Partridge in a pear tree – Jesus
Two turtle doves – Old and New Testaments
Three French hens – Faith, hope, and love
Four calling birds – Four gospels
Five golden rings – Torah
Six geese a-laying – Six days of Creation
Seven swans a swimming – Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
Eight maids a-milking – Eight beatitudes
Nine Ladies Dancing – Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
Ten Lords A-Leaping – Ten Commandments
Eleven Pipers Piping – Eleven faithful disciples
Twelve Drummers Drumming – Twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed

Next time, you hear this song, remember it's meaning and be thankful that we have the freedom to practice our religious beliefs openly.

Counting down to Christmas: Only twelve days left!

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Piano Adventures Partners With New Distributor!

As of December 7, Piano Adventures, along with all other publications by Nancy and Randall Faber, are now distributed by Hal Leonard. The books were formerly published and distributed by FJH Music Company, who had been working to resolve multiple licensing issues during the past year.

The Music N More Store will continue to offer Piano Adventures and many other music books by both Hal Leonard and FJH.

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