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Hooray for Thursday!

Q. Which positions does a violist use?

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I have all the answers!

I really do! All the answers to the Drop the Needle contest, anyway. Which are the only ones that count.

  1. Mozart, Symphony No. 41, “Jupiter,” 1st movement
  2. Dvorak, Othello Overture
  3. Satie, Parade, “Petite fille Americaine”
  4. Barber, Adagio for Strings
  5. Stravinsky, Pulcinella, VIII: Allegro Assai

We’ll probably be holding another similar contest sometime after Christmas, so keep your ears open!

Forget what I said before.

NOW it’s officially the start of the holiday season.


I mean, it’s not Christmas till the Norwegians start building their train display in Union Station. That’s just facts.

Incidentally! In the Norway pavilion at Epcot, there’s a ride called the “Maelstrom.” It’s a flume boat ride with a couple small drops, and just as you’re being turned around by the evil troll to go over the second hill (of course there are evil trolls; don’t you know anything?) you can hear the first movement of Grieg’s Peer Gynt. You know, the really serene opening bit. Ironically enough. Nobody does details like Disney!

On to Plan B

Missed the deadline for the Drop the Needle contest? Psh. Silly you. But you can still buy tickets for tomorrow’s college night concert here.

Don’t despair! I should have info on another upcoming contest soon! Hopefully by tomorrow. I believe!

Santa, baby

Continuing in the spirit of THE HOLIDAY SEASON STARTS NOW!!!!, let’s take note of the BSO’s current and generous offer of 10% off their Holiday Spectacular, effective until November 18th at 11:59 pm EST (coincidentally the same cutoff time and date for the Drop the Needle contest). There are showings December 18-23 at 2 and 7:30 pm each day (no showing on Dec. 21); children’s pricing applies to matinees. All performances are at the Meyerhoff.

Okay, enough of the technical stuff. Time for content! Let’s see. Pops conductor Jack Everly is conducting, there will be a chorus and dancers, and somebody named Ann Hampton Callaway is hosting (thanks, Wikipedia! Apparently she’s an accomplished singer, composers, lyricist, AND actress; should be good). They’ll even have some sort of photo-friendly display up in the lobby for portraits before the concert or during intermission.

But never mind all that. Come for the singing, come for the orchestra, come for Callaway, but above all, come for the TAP DANCING SANTAS.

How do the parents explain why there are so many Santas all at once?

Education and outreach

Good morning!

Arts organizations LOVE education and outreach, so today we are holding a cello workshop. This program is to meet the needs of all you composers out there who are having trouble with your string orchestration. Should you use a cello or a Cello? This handy guide will help you choose.

This is a cello. It has a warm, deep tone and makes an excellent dying swan.

This is a Cello. It makes a loud, piercing noise that sounds kind of like errOOOOOwwwww.

I hope that clears up any confusion.


Don’t forget to enter the Drop the Needle and Name That Tune contest by November 18th at 11:59 EST! I hear Jean-Yves Thibaudet blew everyone away last weekend and this weekend should be no different. After the concert there’s free food, $1 beer and other drink specials, door prizes, and BSO musicians rubbing elbows with the hoi polloi. Oh, and I’ll be there!

If you’ve looked at the contest but feel too lost to try, don’t give up! Here’s a hint that’s more explicit than ever before: every single clip can be heard somewhere on the BSO website as they are all part of the 2009-2010 season. If all else fails, click your way through the concerts and match them that way.

Enter now!

The Tale of the Yodeling Pianist

Another good cowpuncher has gone to meet his fate, guys!

Late in the second semester of my History of Western Music class we hit on a couple of late Romantic/early 20th century American composers, and of course we had listening tests (recurring theme, no?). From this time period came one of the great hits of the entire course, at least for me and my friend Bekah, who still listen to it on occasion and giggle like idiots. It’s a song by Charles Ives called “Charlie Rutlage,” and it was so incredibly popular at its premier (I remember this from the class as being at a World’s Fair in 192…4? But the internet may or may not disagree) that it had to be repeated twice.

Sure, it’s funny that a pianist and vocalist, generally a stately bass or baritone, are performing in their fancy concert dress a song about the death of a cowboy whose “relations in Texas his face never more will see.” There are quite a few lines that crack me up for precisely this reason. I especially like the bit where the vocalist describes the horse crushing Charlie, as depending on the musician the accompaniment can get so wildly uncoordinated that I sometimes feel the pianist could have just banged his head against the keys and gotten the same results.

But the real highlight of the piece? The yodeling pianist.

No seriously, watch! This is one of the only recordings I could find and it’s really hard to hear the yodel, but if you turn it up and watch the pianist’s mouth move IT’S THERE. It starts with the lyrics “he went forward one morning.” Trust me.

Awesome, right? Yip-ee-tie-yay, Yodeling Pianist! I wish I could post my recording; it’s so beautifully clear and obvious.

But here’s what really, really kills me about the song: SO MANY PIANISTS CHEAT. “Moi?” they say. “A musician? An artiste? I DO NOT YODEL!” And then they just play the yodel notes in chords on top of the accompaniment. Jerks! Spit on Ives’ grave, why don’t you?!

(And if you don’t believe me that the pianist is actually supposed to yodel, listen to the recording on this YouTube video; the pianist in this one also cops out, but the sheet music scrolls by as it plays and the yodel is clearly written into the piano part.)

Hey, it’s Friday the Thirteenth!

Now go listen to Danse Macabre.

What is this? Christmastown?

I was in Target this morning to get a flu shot (my arrrrrm hurrrrrrts) and they had a gigantic display of Christmas trees, Hannukah sweaters for dogs (I swear), and other holiday decorations. As I mentioned, Starbucks cups are all printed with snowflakes and other holiday icons. We have a pile of holiday catalogues at my house, and of course the TV commercials are already holiday-centric.

Therefore I declare that this “the holiday season doesn’t start until the day after Thanksgiving” rule is sheer nonsense, and as such I feel entirely justified in posting my holiday mix now. It’s mostly classical music centered but I did sneak one or two not-technically-classical songs in there just because they make me smile.

I picked out my personal favorite bits of The Nutcracker that feel especially holiday-ish to me, but it was REALLY hard to decide. You can certainly include the whole thing; I know I do!

I also avoided most Christmas carols because you can select your favorites yourself; the one exception is my own favorite, and it comes with several caveats, as you will see. Enjoy!

  1. “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah
  2. The Nutcracker: Scene 1, Overture, by Tchaikovsky
  3. The Nutcracker: Scene 3, Children’s Galop and Arrival of the Guests, by Tchaikovsky
  4. The Nutcracker: Scene 8, Journey through the Pine Forest, by Tchaikovsky
  5. The Nutcracker: Scene 9, Waltz of the Snowflakes, by Tchaikovsky
  6. The Nutcracker: Scene 12, Divertissements, by Tchaikovsky (this covers all the candies/countries, depending on which version you’re watching; I myself prefer the Baryshnikov)
  7. The Nutcracker: Scene 14, Variation 2: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, by Tchaikovsky
  8. “What’s This?” from The Nightmare Before Christmas
  9. Carnival of the Animals, “Aquarium” (VII), by Saint-Saens
  10. “For Unto Us a Child is Born” from Handel’s Messiah
  11. Lieutenant Kije Suite, 4th Movement (“Troika”), by Prokofiev
  12. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” ONLY AS SUNG BY JUDY GARLAND, and none of this “hang a shining star upon the highest bow” crap; THOSE ARE NOT THE LYRICS. Thank you.