Instead of getting bombed at some lame New Year’s Eve party, stay home and read these awesome articles! Something for everyone here.
- Need some fiction recommendations?
- So many books. So little time.
- Extreme percussion. (This is long, but if you’re short on time, just sample a few. You deserve a treat.)
- This quilter made a bunch of quilts in 2021.
- The dazzling Northern Lights.
- Photos from under the birdfeeder.
- Science jokes.
- Remarkable trees.
- Check out quilt designer Cindy Grisdela’s Instagram page.
- Struggling with writing your novel? Take a break and write something super short. There are benefits to submitting flash fiction.
- Writing end-of-chapter hooks that make the reader turn the page.
- Bulgarian folk dances.
Wishing you and your loved ones a blessed celebration of Our Lord’s birth. For your listening pleasure, here is a wonderful performance of Handel’s Messiah. It’s long, so you may enjoy having it playing in the background as you go about about your special day.
From 2018. Sadly, this church building burned last year, but the church continues . . .
One of the activities I’ve missed since the beginning of the pandemic is playing in the handbell choir in church. They started up again in September, but because of another obligation, I’ve opted out for now, though Greg and I have had the pleasure of hearing them a couple of times when we’ve attended worship in person. Here is the Desert Cross Lutheran Church Ringing Praise playing “Angels We Have Heard on High” in 2017.
I discovered a wonderful virtual handbell concert recorded last year. The program includes:
- Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
- O Come, O Come Immanuel (not a separate piece, but woven into a couple of arrangements)
- Ding Dong Merrily on High
- Angels We Have Heard on High
- Coventry Carol
- Sing We Now Of Christmas
- Rocking Carol
- The Holly and the Ivy
- Carol of the Bells
- Silent Night (sorry if I missed any)
And finally, I think you’ll agree that it takes careful choreography for four musicians to play the Hallelujah Chorus on handbells.
Lots o’ neat stuff.
- Want to make some holiday ornaments to decorate your home or to give as gifts? Here are some free patterns.
- For the writers: a great article on how to start writing your story. (I have no problem starting. I like the starting part. My problem is finishing. Somebody please write that article.)
- I didn’t get around to writing an RIP for the late Stephen Sondheim. But not to worry, because my friend Donna did. Bookmark this and listen to all the wonderful music when you can—it’s awesome.
- Steampunk spider sculptures.
- Intricate cut paper art.
- Celebrating while grieving.
- Faux calligraphy alphabet.
- Do you like miniatures?
- Celebrity memoirs. I’ve read two of these, and see a couple more I’d like to read.
- An artist looks at Rodin’s sculptures.
- Awesome crochet projects.
- Illustrator Joy Laforme talks about her career path and her handmade Christmas ornaments.
Georg Friederich Händel (1685-1759) was born in Halle, in what is now Sachsen (Saxony), Germany. Though he showed interest in music as a child, his father wanted him to study law. His mother, however, encouraged his musical inclinations. While still young, Georg had an opportunity to play the organ at the court of the duke of Weissenfels. There he met composer and organist Frideric Wilhelm Zachow, who invited him to study music with him. By age 11, he was composing church cantatas and chamber music.
When it was time to go to university, Georg started out in the law program to please his father, but he soon dropped out to devote himself to his music full time. He accepted a position as a violinist and harpsichordist at Hamburg’s Oper am Gänsemarkt. He supplemented his income by teaching private music lessons.
He began writing operas, and as he experienced success in that form, decided to travel to Italy. Composing and performing there for three years, he socialized with many prominent musicians, some of whom talked about the London music scene. Fascinated, he traveled to London in 1710, and received a commission to compose an opera for the King’s Theatre. Two weeks later, he delivered Rinaldo, which earned him widespread recognition.
In 1717, King George I of England requested a concert on the Thames. Handel complied with the Water Music, a collection of three orchestral suites, which was performed three times that year and remains a concert favorite to this day.
In 1719, he became Master of the Orchestra at the Royal Academy of Music, which specialized in Italian operas.
He eventually decided he would never leave England, and became a citizen in 1726, at which point he anglicized his name.
In 1727, Handel broke away from the Royal Academy and founded the New Royal Academy of Music, where he wrote two new operas per season for the next decade. All told, he wrote almost 50 operas. But when Italian operas fell out of fashion with audiences, Handel looked for something new.
His next focus was oratorios. Since they didn’t require costumes and sets, they were much more economical to produce, and they became the new craze in London. Handel even revised Italian operas into the new format, translating them into English. He wrote 30 oratorios in all.
In 1747, King George II (son of King George I) requested music for a celebration in honor of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, which ended the War of Austrian Succession. Handel delivered Music for the Royal Fireworks, a suite in D Major for wind instruments.
The piece of music which Handel is most famous for is his oratorio The Messiah. The story of this inspiring composition can be found here.
You may want to play this all day long today.
Not the movie (which I’ve never seen, but heard was awful), but the phenomenon.
But first, who was Franz Liszt, and what was so special about him?
Allysia van Betuw tells the story of the Hungarian composer and pianist who lived from 1811-1886 so well:
And here’s the rest of the story:
Here is Lang Lang playing Liszt’s La Companella. Lang Lang is a showman himself, just as Liszt was. In this performance, his hands are sometimes a blur:
Another of my favorite pianists, Valentina Lisitsa, plays the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.
Liszt’s work often forces pianists to stretch their fingers wide. His chords are often awkward to play, difficult to position the fingers. They require the musician to take extraordinary care to avoid tension in the hands and fingers, which can cause nerve injuries.
The Rondo Fantastique “El Contrabandista” has the reputation of being unplayable, but Lisitsa does an impressive job:
Kathia Buniatishvili plays Liebestraum (Dream of Love). It is dreamlike, isn’t it?
Buniatishvili playing Mephisto Waltz:
Franz Liszt was a rock star before there was rock. Very handsome, he had a remarkable stage presence, whipping his long hair around as he played. His skilled musicianship and highly emotional renditions stirred his audiences with intense admiration. Lisztomania is a term coined by the German poet Heinrich Heine in 1844 for the frenzy that broke out whenever Liszt performed. During the 1840s, when he was at the height of his popularity, his audiences would go as far as tearing off pieces of his clothing, and fought to pick up his cigar butts (which women would promptly hide in their cleavage) and his used coffee grounds. His image was reproduced on cameos and brooches. (Liszt merch!)
Just for fun, I’m going to tell you all about me—with songs!
I was born in November, 1952, when this song was the most popular on radio:
I grew up in New Jersey. That’s right—I’m a Jersey girl.
I went to a Catholic school from kindergarten through eighth grade. This song was frequently sung in my classroom and my church. I had some of these images on holy cards in my missal:
From third grade through eighth grade and then again in tenth grade I took piano lessons from Sister Mercy. All her students practiced the Czerny exercises:
In high school, my favorite activity was chorus—so much so that I dreamed of being a high school choral conductor. My eyes still tear up whenever I hear kids’ voices.
And so I went to music school, first at Duquesne University, then Monmouth College (now Monmouth University) and finished my B.A. at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) and my M.A. at Trenton State (now The College of New Jersey). In the course of doing a junior practicum at the high school, middle school, and elementary levels, I found out that elementary music class is the happiest place on earth. (Who knew? We didn’t have a regular music class at the parochial school I attended.) So I left my high school dreams behind and worked in elementary school instead. I found a video online of highlights of my kindergarten end-of-year program back in 2011. The theme of the show was the ocean. I’m playing the piano.
Greg and I married in 1974. This was the music for our first dance at our wedding:
From 1979 to 1989 we were busy giving birth to five kids. This song was a common sound in our house during those years:
Now we’re empty nesters. Greg spends his days refinishing gunstocks. I blog and work on my writing.
Now it’s your turn, bloggers especially: Compile a list of songs that tells your story, with videos if possible. Post it on your blog, or on social media, and give us a link in the comments.