Monday, October 26, 2009

Music Monday - Halloween Music No. 6

The following music is probably more appropriate for Hallowmas rather than its eve, but it is so gorgeous I can't resist sharing it:

A recording of this March from the Funeral Music for Queen Mary as recorded by Harry Christophers and the Sixteen, plus the Symphony of Harmony and Invention can be found here. The entire recording is filled with the music of Purcell and is titled Love's Goddess Sure Was Blind from the title of a birthday ode to the same queen.

Called "England's most gifted and important composer of the Baroque period" by my undergraduate history of music professor (in the hallowed days of yore), British composer, singer, and organist Henry Purcell was born and lived and died in 17th century London. His best known work is the opera Dido and Aeneas (1689), from which this aria, sung by Emma Kirkby, comes. Just listen to the opening line descend into the Underworld:

Normally I use excerpts from Amazon, but this particular YouTube video has the vocal line scrolling in front of me while I'm listening--I'm in music-geek heaven. ☺ Not to mention that the CD of Kirkby singing Dido and Aeneas is no longer being released, though it is available via iTunes in the form of four very long tracks. But here is a recent recording of German-born coloratura soprano Simone Kermes, who treats Purcell's lament with a sensibility similar to Kirkby's, though their voices are quite different, on a CD also featuring Dimitris Tiliakos, Deborah York, Music Aeterna, and the New Siberian Singers under the direction of Teodor Currentzis.

More information about Purcell can be found here and here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Music Monday - Halloween Music No. 5

The son of a merchant and a piano teacher, Edvard Grieg was born in Norway on June 15, 1843. While his earliest extant composition was written when he was about fifteen years old, he wasn't published as a composer until 1863. He lived in Denmark for much of his adult life, yet remained loyal to Norwegian music, using traditional folk music from that country as a basis for his compositional style, though his music seldom contains actual folk tunes. The first Scandinavian composer to win world renown, Grieg composed twelve works for orchestra, including two suites of selections from incidental music he had written for Peer Gynt, a play by Ibsen (1875). He also wrote some chamber music (some violin sonatas, a cello sonata, and a string quartet), more than one hundred art songs, and about seventy short works for piano.

One of those short works for piano is perfect for Halloween. The mischievous-sounding "March of the Trolls," from Lyric Pieces, Book 5, Op. 54, is played here by Leif Ove Andsnes. The CD also contains Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor.

Another spooky selection from this composer is "In the Hall of the Mountain King," from Peer Gynt. In Ibsen's play, Peer Gynt falls in love with the daughter of the King of Trolls, and travels to the king's royal hall in the mountain. An unhappy band of trolls greets Peer, and a frenzied dance ensues, calling for the death of the hero. The story has a temporarily happy ending, though, as Peer agrees to become an honorary troll in order to win his love. This selection from Peer Gynt Suite No.1 (which also contains the well-known "Morning") is played by The Berlin Philharmonic on a CD that also contains Peer Gynt Suite No. 2 and the Holberg Suite, Op. 4 (subtitled, "Suite in the Olden Style," and it's a favorite of mine), as well as some selections from Sibelius, Grieg's fellow Scandinavian.

Edvard Grieg is the featured composer on this month's Classics for Kids.

My other Halloween Music posts (Nos. 1-4 from 2008) can be found here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like. . .

. . . snow on the pumpkin!

The kids are ecstatic. I'm just happy we don't have to go anywhere, little tiny bit that is coming down right now. Any excuse to stay home.

Due to the spate of cold weather we've had, the mittens and hats and scarves came out of the attic a few days ago, but where are the snow boots? There are some soggy feet in the house this morning.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Workbox Wednesday, Columbus Day edition

They're not all related to Columbus Day, but here are some highlights from last week's workboxes:

Kumon Let's Cut Paper pages

Melissa & Doug World Map Floor Puzzle

Three ships coloring page

Asterix the Gladiator (soon to be followed by others in the series)

The Discovery of the Americas tells more than just the story of Columbus (authors: Betsy and Giulio Maestro)

Draw Write Now, Volume 2

Latin worksheet and flash cards

What serves for logic these days: Mind Benders from Critical Thinking Press

Workboxes are still making our days run pretty darn smoothly, though the almost-five-year-old has lost a bit of interest, unless there's play-dough or Playmobil in his boxes. But he did come running when he heard Jim Weiss reading Story of the World this afternoon (Rome finally fell today, YEAH!), and his conversations are still full of words like "illustration" and "adjective," so I think we're okay.

Friday, October 09, 2009

GBWBT wrap-up

So I only managed one (count it, one) post for the Great Books Week Blog Tour until today. Here's a compressed version of the three I missed--

The cover I remember.

Tuesday: When I was a child, my favorite book was A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle because it was my first introduction to the science fiction/fantasy genre, and I still remember the feeling of being transported along with Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace to Camazotz. The story also told me that it's okay to be smart, and that I might even end up with a basketball player for a boyfriend.

Wednesday: I’d write my autobiography, but I don’t need to, because my story has already been told in Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne. Getting stuck, being chased by bees, meeting a Heffalump--yep, been there, done that.

Thursday: I hated … when I had to read it in high school, but when I read it on my own later, I loved it because…

Now, see, this is where it gets sticky. I didn't have to read a single great book in high school. Why, you ask? Because the particular school I went to used Bob Jones University textbooks with watered down versions of parts of stories. I know, I know--believe me, I know. I took some elective literature classes as an undergraduate to make up for this fact, plus I did some reading on my own as a teenager.

There were some books I had to read either for those elective literature classes or general education classes that I decidedly did not care for--As I Lay Dying (Faulkner) comes to mind, as does a collection of Flannery O'Connor short stories. But I haven't yet gone back and read them again to see if I might have changed my mind. Maybe someday. Or not.

And today's entry--

Friday: When I want to give someone a special gift, I give them a book I think they'll enjoy or use because there's no one book I think everyone will love. Except for Goodnight, Moon and Sylvia Long's Hush Little Baby (standard new baby gifts), I don't think I've ever given the same book twice.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Romulus and the Capture of the Sabine Women

I've not had time to put together any more Great Books posts, but will hopefully do a wrap-up edition in a couple of days.

In the meantime, tomorrow's Latin lesson from The Big Book of Lively Latin (volume one), includes the story of the Romans' taking of the Sabine women (a decidedly non-graphic version of the tale, which is appropriate for my eight-year-old), and I just can't resist showing my kids this clip from a favorite musical, found on Turner Classic Movies. Couldn't find a YouTube clip of the actual movie footage, but this re-enactment was really quite well done.

Did you know Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was a television show for a short while in 1982? It starred MacGyver's Richard Dean Anderson as Adam and a young River Phoenix as Guthrie. I have vague memories of watching it as a child.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Great Books Week Blog Tour (GBWBT) begins

Catch it here and join in on the fun! Hosted by the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors. Great Books Week began Sunday, October 4th. Thanks to Dewey's Treehouse for spreading the word.

Each day a different topic is addressed by participating bloggers. Here's hoping some of my favorite authors are participating!

My Monday entry:

If I were stranded alone on a deserted island with only seven books to read over the next few years, I would like to have…

1. The Collector's Library Omnibus Edition of Jane Austen's Complete Illustrated Novels, including Emma, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park. Lest you say I am cheating, let me tell you that this 880 page tome would save my sanity on a lonely island. Though I've read and re-read each tale, some of them countless times, I just don't think I would be able to go for years without multiple trips to Jane's world.

2. The Complete Pelican Shakespeare. I've not read everything the Bard has written, and enforced alone time would be the perfect time to make a stab at reading it all. What can I say? I was the child who, when forced to choose between books at the bookstore, picked the one with the most pages. This particular anthology has 1808.

3. Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare. To help tease out the meaning of the above opus. 1536 pages. Thanks for the recommendation, Becky.

4. Three Hundred and Sixty-Five Starry Nights: an Introduction to Astronomy for Every Night of the Year, by Chet Raymo. Besides the fact that I've fallen in love with Raymo's lyrical writing style, there would never be a better time to learn about the night sky. Only 225 pages, though. Hmm. . .

5. The Universe and Beyond, by Terence Dickinson. An introductory astronomy book by an author I've read and enjoyed before that reportedly does its job well. Plus it has lots of pretty pictures. 180 pages.

6. Asimov's New Guide to Science. The story of science and scientists from Galileo to Einstein. 896 pages.

7. The SAS Survival Handbook, by John "Lofty" Wiseman. Subtitled "How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea." 576 pages. No sense bringing the first six if I can't live long enough to read them.

If survival was somehow insured and I didn't need the safety of choice #7, I'd pick an omnibus edition of Charles Dickens, like this one, as I have yet to read many of the author's works.

Oh dear, now I realize (after looking at the time and noting that I have "miles to go before I sleep") that I don't have any poetry here. I don't know which one I'd take out, but something would have to go so that The Norton Anthology of Poetry could slide in there. 1424 pages. ☺

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Field Trip: Dinosaur Footprints, Holyoke, MA

Well, it was a bit of a haul for a short visit, but, since none of us had ever seen fossil footprints up close and personal, the trip to Dinosaur Footprints was worth it. Four different species of two-legged carnivorous dinosaurs left traces in the sloping slab of sandstone in the Connecticut River Valley of western Massachusetts.

A very smart friend of mine told me to bring water to pour in the footprints so they could be seen more easily, and it made an amazing difference! These footprints were on a hill, so they dribbled a bit, but you get the general effect.

The Connecticut River

If we'd waited a couple of weeks the foliage would have been spectacular! I was surprised how green everything still was in early October. There is supposedly a "River Walk" we could have taken (we looked for it earlier, but are not sure where it was as it wasn't marked), but one of the kids took an unplanned swim right after this last photo was taken, and was too uncomfortable for us to do anything but head home. We'll go back if we're back in the area in the near future.