Tag Archives: Music

Composer @ a Glance — Bach

During the Covid 19 Stay-at-Home crisis I’ve been creating a lot of content for my Music students. I’ve been developing games, like Composer Battleship. Not only do the kids get to play Battleship, but they get to learn about a set of musical greats. I do a bio for each composer… which I thought I’d share on this blog.  Why not start with a biggie… Bach? Ahhh Bach.

JS Bach

Born: 1685

Died: 1750

Nationality: German

Musical Era: Baroque

Composer, Organist, Harpsichordist., Violist, Violinist

Major Works:
Brandenburg Concerto,
Well-Tempered Clavier,
Mass in B Minor,
St. Matthew Passion

Bach once travelled over 200 miles on foot to see an organ concert. Then when the concert was over walked home again.

Learn More:

https://youtu.be/rrVDATvUitAJohann_Sebastian_Bach public Domain


Franz Joseph Haydn Composer of the Week

Hyden conducting string quartet

Haydn conducting a string quartet [Britannica.com]


Name: Franz Joseph Haydn

Born:March 31, 1732, Rohrau, Austria (About 46 km South East of Vienna)

Died: May 31, 1809, Vienna, Austria



Nationality: Austrian

Genre: Classical

Famous Works:


Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) was an Austrian composer,
one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the Classical period. Haydn wrote 107 symphonies in total, as well as 83 string quartets, 45 piano trios, 62 piano sonatas, 14 masses and 26 operas, amongst countless other scores.


Franz Joseph Hayden was the second son of a wheelwright father and cook mother. His musicianship was recognized when he was a young boy. At six he was sent away to a school run by his cousin where he sang in the choir, learned music theory and took lessons on several instruments. In 1740, when Hayden was just 8 he moved to Vienna at the invitation of the music director of St. Stephen’s Cathedral to serve as a choirister.

He stayed at the choir school for nine years, acquiring an enormous
practical knowledge of music by constant performances but, to his disappointment, receiving little instruction in music theory. He had to work hard to fulfill his
obligations as a chorister, and when his voice changed, he was expelled from both the cathedral choir and the choir school. [Britannica.com]

Thus at 17 he was left to fend for himself, working odd musical jobs and teaching himself musical theory. He began to build his reputation as an accompanist and composer. In 1758 he was put in charge of a 16 piece ensemble as music director and chamber composer for Count Ferdinand Maximilian von Morzin. There he wrote his first symphonic work.

Haydn Library of Congress


His next appointment was as assistant conductor to the court of Prince Esterhazy in 1761.  As assistant he “conducted the orchestra and coached the singers in almost daily rehearsals, composed most of the music required, and served as chief of the musical personnel. ” [ibid] He became the musical director in 1766. The Esterhazy family were  well known musical patrons and Haydn remained happily employed with them for over 30 years. Most of his enormous catalog of music (340 hours of it by some accounts) was written during that period.

Hayden and Mozart were both extremely popular in Vienna at the same time and they shared a good natured competition. Both men were inspired by the other’s work and they were friends. Mozart claimed that he learned how to write quartets from Hayden and dedicated a set of six quartets to the older composer. Haydn — already a master of the ‘surprise’ —  admired Mozart’s innovations and creativity and the younger composer’s influence made its way into Haydn’s compositions.

He took two extended trips to England, one in 1791 and one in 1794. Hayden’s musical genius was celebrated on both trips and he was much inspired by the change from Vienna to London. Over the course of his two trips he wrote 12 symphonies including The Surprise Symphony, the Military Symphony [Finale], the London Symphony and the Symphony No. 102 in B flat Major.  King George the Third personally entreated him to stay in London, but the composer returned Vienna and the Esterhazys.

It was on his way back from the first trip in 1792 that he met his most famous student, Beethoven. (Hayden also had a strong influence on the works of Schubert, Mendelssohn and Brahms. )


By Ludwig Guttenbrunn – Photo Nevilley at en.wikipedia. Public Domain

Back in Vienna he put the finishing touches on a new piece, an oratorio, The Creation. It was so popular that Haydn went to work on another, The Seasons [Spring] based on a poem by James Thomson. Originally written in English and then translated into German it could be performed in either language. He wrote six masses,  and more string quartets.

In 1797 he wrote a composition that is perhaps his most performed piece today,“Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser” (“God Save Emperor Francis”). It became the national anthem for Austria then was recycled into “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles” (“Germany, Germany Above All Else”) which is Germany’s national anthem.

As Napoleon took Vienna in 1809 Haydn refused to leave his house. ” Napoleon placed a guard of honour outside Haydn’s house, and the enfeebled composer was much touched by the visit of a French hussars’ officer who sang an aria from The Creation. On May 31 Haydn died peacefully, and he was buried two days later.” [Britannica.com]

By one estimate, Haydn produced some 340 hours of music, more than Bach or HandelMozart or Beethoven. Few of them lack some unexpected detail or clever solution to a formal problem. [AllMusic.com]

800px-Joseph_Haydn by Thomas Hardy 1791

Joseph Haydn by Thomas Hardy, painted in 1791

Musical Output:

  • 108 Symphonies
  • 20 opera
  • 14 masses
  • 6 oratorios
  • 68 String Quartets
  • 2 cello concerti [Cello Concerto in C-Adagio]
  • 32 divertimenti for small orchestra
  • 126 trios for baryton, viola and cello
  • 47 piano sonatas

Haydn began his career composing under a Baroque influence. From there he “adopted the light, gay, and elegant musical style that was popular at the time in Austria”[Britannica.com] Then the darker, more emotional style of north German composers began showing up in his music. When he came into his own maturity as a composer he was able to marry all three styles.


Here is Piano TV’s review of Haydn’s music  including The Piano Sonata  in E-flat major;  Piano trio in G Major in Gypsy trio; 11th Keyboard Concerto in D Major; String Quartet  No. 65 Op. 76 No. in E Major; London Symphony; The Creation Oratorio “In Splendor Bright”


And if you are really sparked to listen to much more Haydn… go to Classicfm.com’s article that ranks his symphonies “in order of greatness“.  The poor guy who got assigned the task to listen to each symphony and do the ranking does a great job of explaining why each one works (or doesn’t) in his opinion. And there is lots of lovely audio.



For a YouTube biography you can go HERE. She does a good job of giving all the facts in a light, quick way. So if you don’t want to read all of my bio, this is a good alternative.

Tuning Up: CLOUDS

For this, the second in the Tuning Up series here on ritaLOVEStoWRITE, I’m presenting CLOUDS by Zach Sobiech.



Sobiech was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, at the age of 14. After 10 surgeries and 20 rounds of chemo it became apparent that the end game was at hand. His mother, Laura, asked him to write farewell letters to the people who were important to him. He found that difficult, but he was able to write music. He penned CLOUDS.

The song was recorded and released on YouTube where it has been seen by 11.8 million viewers.

Here’s the original with Sobiech on vocals and acoustic guitar. The session was produced by Karl Demer and engineered by Merritt Benton. With John Lynn on piano, Zach Miller on drums, Sean O’Hea on bass and Matt Vannelli electric guitar

The song reached #1 on iTunes and charted on the Billboard Hot 100.

After his death a local radio station held a tribute concert with 5000 people — a mix of school choirs, church choirs, and fans — singing the song at the Mall of America.

Sobiech’s hope in releasing the song was to promote awareness of Osteosarcoma and help others with the disease. His family established The Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund at Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

The sheet music is available here for free. (click on the image at the bottom of the link for a pdf download). A request for a donation to the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund is recommended.

I’ve done this song with several of my voice students. I love the message of the song and that it lets us, as performers, look beyond ourselves to a greater need.

Here is my Monday Night Trio, (Ellie, Meg and Emily) singing the song… (It is a little quiet)

Seasonal Music Pick 3

Another pick from the fabulous Beverly. This one features the USAF Band at the Air and Space Museum in DC for a little Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring and Joy to the World. I wish I had been there!

Bono 5.10.13. Thought of the Day

“Music can change the world because it can change people.” — Bono

Bono [Image courtesy: Club Fashionista.com]

Bono [Image courtesy: Club Fashionista.com]

Paul David Hewson (aka Bono) was born on this day in Ballymun, Dublin, Ireland in 1960. He is 53 years old.

Paul was born to Bobby Hewson and Iris Rankin. He is the second of their children, his brother Norman is eight years his senior. His parents were unusual in their Dublin neighborhood as his father was Catholic and his mother was Church of Ireland (Protestant). He walked the fence between the two religions, attending services with his mother and brother and starting his education at The Inkwell (a Protestant school) before transferring to the Catholic St. Patrick’s Cathedral Choir School. His tenure in the Catholic school was not long as the “precocious, outspoken” [atu2.com] boy acted up once too often and was asked to leave after “throwing dog feces at his Spanish teacher.” [Ibid] He found his feet at a non-denominational, co-ed high school, Mount Temple Comprehensive.

At 14 Paul’s mother died of a brain hemorrhage. Life with his father was difficult.

Despite his father’s attempts to hold the family together, Bono claims that he and Bob Hewson “didn’t get on very well.” As a result, father and son never enjoyed a particularly close relationship. In fact, Bono would later claim that the inarticulate Bob Hewson’s unspoken message to his children was “to dream is to be disappointed.”[Ibid]

Paul rebelled against his father by dreaming big and trying everything.

At Mount Temple “he had a flair for history and art, and became a keen and expert chess player” [Ibid]. It is there that he met his wife to be Alison Stewart, his eventual U2 band mates, Larry Mullen, Dave Evans (aka The Edge), and Adam Clayton, and picked up the name Bono.

At first the group did covers, but then they started to write and perform their own music. Their first album was 1980’s Boy. The LP featured the post-punk Twilight and I Will Follow.

October  came out  in 1981 and touched on the band’s spiritual side, especially with Gloria, Tomorrow and With a Shout (Jerusalem).

1983’s WAR reached #1 in England and  #12 on the US charts. Bono said of the recording: “‘More than any other record, ‘War‘ is right for its time. It is a slap in the face against the snap, crackle and pop. Everyone else is getting more and more style-orientated, more and more slick.” [U2.com Discography]  Stand out tracks (on a very strong album) include 40, New Year’s Day, and Sunday Bloody Sunday.

U2’s fourth album, The Unforgettable Fire was produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. Pride (In the Name of Love), one of the groups biggest hits, came from The Unforgettable Fire.

[As much as I love the bass and drums on the earlier stuff — and I do — the guitar on this one just kills.]

If you STILL haven’t found what you’re looking for… maybe you need to pull out 1987’s The Joshua Tree. [Because, frankly, I’m about to give up being an objective blogger and just gush with fan girl admiration…With OR Without You.] Here’s Where The Streets Have No Name…

Rattle and Hum came out in 1988. It combines covers, new original music and concert recordings of some of their most famous songs. A documentary film directed by Phil Joanou  was released at the same time as the album.  Here’s All I want is You [My personal favorite U2 song.]

Achtung Baby was the band’s 7th release. It saw a shift to a more industrial rock and electronic dance music. Zooropa (1993) and Pop (1997) followed.

2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind marked a return to a lyric/melody driven style. It boasted successful singles Beautiful Day, Elevation, Walk On and Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of.

Bono said of How To Dismantle an Atom Bomb  “‘It’s just such a personal record. It may just be our best.'” [Um yeah!] This time Vertigo, All Because of You, Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own, City of Blinding Lights, and Yahweh stood out.

No Line on the Horizon came out in February of 2009 along with the companion film Linear. Get on Your Boots and Magnificent both charted in the US (Boots, with its awesome bass and guitar riffs, was #1 in Ireland) Here’s the band playing  Magnificent on Letterman:

Bono is still writing, recording and performing. If you are in the New York area and have a cool $3000 to donate to a good cause you can see him on Monday (May 13)  as part of the Robin Hood Foundation Gala at the Javits Center.  A more affordable option may be a trip your local movie theatre to see U2-3D, a concert film that comes out May 30th.


I could write another 500 words on Bono’s charitable works, but that would put me over the limit.

Thought of the Day 10.13.12 Paul Simon

‘Why am I so soft in the middle when the rest of my life is so hard?”
— Paul Simon

Paul Frederic Simon was born in Newark, New Jersey, USA on this day in 1941. He is 71 years old.

Paul’s other love is baseball. [Image courtesy Paul-Simon.info]

He grew up in Queens, New York  loving baseball and music. Simon met Art Garfunkel in middle school. They were the White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat in their 6th grade production of Alice and Wonderland and attended Forest Hills High School together. He and Garfunkel would use a tape recorder to practice singing together. In 1954 Paul got a guitar for his birthday. They  tried to duplicate the tight harmonies of the Everly Brothers, who they idolized. In 1956 Simon wrote their first song “The Girl for Me” which his father, Louis (who was musician and college professor) wrote out and corded for the duo.

While juniors in high school they started the group Tom and Jerry. (Art was Tom; Paul was Jerry) They released a single, Hey, Schoolgirl. The song reached #49 on the Billboard charts.

After high school Simon went to Queen’s College, New York and studied English. He met singer songwriter Carol King at Queen’s and he did solo work and played with a group called Tico & The Triumphs. Although Tico et al put out a few singles the efforts weren’t very successful.

Worried that Simon and Garfunkel sounded too Jewish the duo opted for the more generic Tom and Jerry. [Image courtesy Paul-Simon.info]

Simon continued to write after graduation. He embraced the changing social climate of the early Sixties and “the burgeoning Greenwich Village folk scene.” [ Paul-Simon.info]  His maturing style is reflected in the songs he wrote during this era, especially the Sound of Silence.

´Sound of Silence´ uses imagery of light and darkness to show how ignorance and apathy destroy people´s ability to communicate on even a simple level. The light symbolizes truth and enlightenment. Both music and lyrics are perfectly fitting.  [Paul-Simon.info]

Simon reunited with Art Garfunkel in 1963. They began to sing in folk clubs, worked on songs and recorded a few of the songs Simon had earlier penned.

Here is He Was My Brother a song that Paul dedicated to Andrew Goodman, one of three civil rights workers killed in Mississippi in 1964.

They released Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. as Simon and Garfunkel. A classic now, the album met with tepid response when it first came out. The songs are a mix of original Simon compositions; Bleecker Street, Sparrow, The Sound of Silence, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.; traditional tunes the duo arranged to best fit their voices; and covers. Sound of Silence hit #1 and gave Simon and Garfunkel their first gold record.

Simon moved to England and Garfunkel went back to school. Paul worked with the Australian band The Seekers and did some solo recording.

Back in the US Simon and Garfunkel released Sounds of Silence; Parsley, Sage, rosemary and Thyme, Bookends, and Bridge Over Troubled Water. They also contributed heavily to the soundtrack for the movie Mrs. Robinson.

America (Simon & Garfunkel song)

America (Simon & Garfunkel song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The duo won GRAMMYs in 1969 and 1971 (plus a GRAMMY: Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003) and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

They split in 1970, again. Simon  put out a self title album that was more World Beat inspired. The album featured Mother and Child Reunion and Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.

There Goes Rhymin’ Simon came out in 1973 and had the hits Kodachrome  and Loves Me Like a Rock.

In 1975 he put out Still Crazy After All These Years with the hits My Little Town and 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.  Simon picked up another Grammy for the album.

He switched record labels to Warner Brothers for One-Trick Pony. He starred in a movie of the same name. His next album was Hearts and Bones. That album was written around the famous 1981 Central Park reunion concert for Simon and Garfunkel and Art’s influence can be heard on several songs.

English: Front cover of the Paul Simon music a...

English: Front cover of the Paul Simon music album Graceland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Simon worked on the We Are the World single to raise money for USA for Africa his interest in world music was rekindled. His Graceland album  — which celebrated its 25th anniversary on June 5th — was a

“…melding of South African styles and Simon’s trademark sensibility made for one of the most intriguing albums–not to mention commercial hits–of the ’80s. At once lively, thoughtful, gorgeous, and tough, Graceland acknowledges splits both in South Africa’s social fabric and in Simon’s personal life … Humor is hardly absent from the mix, though; witness the addled “I Know What I Know” and the fable-like “You Can Call Me Al.”[ –Rickey Wright. Amazon.com]

Rhythm of the Saints was recorded in Rio de Janeiro and New York in 1989. This album featured a latin beat, and Simon was quick to point out that the World Sound label was nothing new for his songs. He’d been writing with an international flavor since Julio after all.

Simon lent his talents to the 1998 musical play The Capeman. Although most critics liked his songs, and the production was nominated for several Tony’s the critics panned the effort and it lost millions.

In 2000 he produce a more conventional pop album You’re the One.

He continues to tour — often with other folk and rock icons, and occasionally with Garfunkel. In 2010 he put out So Beautiful or So What.

[Image courtesy: Amazon.com]

Thought of the Day 6.18.12

“Love is all you need.”

–Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney was born today in Liverpool, England in 1942. He is 70 years old.

McCartney is a singer/songwriter/musician who, along with John Lennon, George Harrison, Stu Sutcliffe, and Pete Best formed the Beatles in 1960. The fledgling band did a tour in Hamburg, Germany and performed at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, but it wasn’t until Sutcliffe left and Ringo Starr replaced Best on drums that the Beatles popularity really began to take hold. In October of 1962 they released “Love Me Do”  (… and we did.)

Working as a song writing team (at least in name) Lennon and McCarney produced an unprecidented string of hits that became the soundtrack of a generation with “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “We Can Work It Out,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Paperback Writer,” “With a Little Help From My Friends,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “A Day in the Life,” “Hey Jude,” “Get Back,”  “Let It Be,”  “The Long and Winding Road” and, of course, “Lovely Rita.” McCarney’s “Yesterday” is the most recorded cover song in history.

When the Beatles broke up McCartney started a new band with his wife Linda McCartney and Denny Laine. Although not as wildly successful as the Beatles, WINGS had a strong run in the pop charts from 1970 – 1981. Some of the band’s hits include  “Uncle Albert,” “My Love,” “Live and Let Die,” “Band on the Run,” “Mull of Kintyre,” “Silly Love Songs,” “Listen to What the Man Said,” “Coming Up,” and “With a Little Luck.”

His solo work includes “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Here Today,” “Another Day,” and “No More Lonely Nights.”

Paul McCartney live in Barton, England on June...

Paul McCartney live in Barton, England on June 13, 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thought of the Day

Changing things up today … the THOUGHT is not from someone who is having a birthday … It is, instead, from something that has moved me on a personal level. If you know me through Facebook you know my handle is Rita lovestosingknitread. And today my thought is an nod to the SING side of my personality. Every week I get to sing (and play) with some fabulously talented and wonderfully generous musicians. This week I got to sing the Psalm at Mass. It really spoke to me, and I thought I’d share it here…  

O God, send out your Spirit;
renew the face of the earth…

Ev’ry time a person reaching out
is turned away by the racist
prejudicial attitudes of hate,
we are called to break the silence,
sanctioning the shame,
stepping across the lines of this
sometimes unholy game.

–Jesse Manibasan

Jesse Manibasan is a singer/songwriter of contemporary Christian Music. Besides “O God, Send Out Your Spirit,” Manibusan has written “Open My Eyes,” “Come Fish With Me,” and ” Revive Us, O God,”  and many others.

A variety of guitar picks

A variety of guitar picks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You Can find him on You Tube or  at http://jessemanibusan.com

Thought of the Day 6.15.12

“Every day when I sit down to play, I learn something new.”
Erroll Garner

Erroll Garner was born this day Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in 1923. He would have been 89 years old.

Self taught Jazz pianist  and composer who played on more than 200 albums. Garner came from a musical family and began to play piano at the age of three. He was ambidextrous and his signature sound involved playing the beat on the left hand (think rhythm guitar on the piano) while playing ahead of the beat with his right hand.  He was a session musician for hundreds of other jazz and classical artist, but he was most often found behind the piano with a jazz trio.

His hits include “Laura” “Misty” “Nightwind” “The Loving Touch” “Paris Mist” “Gaslight” “Dreamy” and “That’s My Kick”. His 1958 album “Concert by the Sea” is one of the best selling jazz albums  of all time.

[Portrait of Erroll Garner, New York, N.Y., be...

[Portrait of Erroll Garner, New York, N.Y., between 1946 and 1948] (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

Here’s the You Tube link to Erroll Garner playing Misty at BRT Studio in Brussels, Belgium:

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