BCM's Beginner Solo/Duet/Trio series is back for the holidays!
For a reminder of how these work, click here, otherwise head below the fold for links
to PDFs for the following instruments:
flute, oboe, clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, bari sax, trumpet, french
horn, low brass, violin, and recorder.
So for this week's private lessons I decided it would be fun to just play a bunch of Halloween duets. But as most of my students are still quite beginner, the few books out there with Halloween themed duets offer music that is simply too hard for my elementary-middle school students. I run into this problem often and have decided to try to rectify it.
I've come up with a theory for composing duets and I'm testing them out with a few Halloween songs.
Allow me to explain...
In the example above you'll see a blues written for three parts. All three parts can be played together for a trio, or parts 1 & 2 can be played as a duet, as can parts 1 & 3. The strategy is this: Part 1 is the melody and should be playable by a student in her second year of study (maybe a little challenging in rhythm, but range should be playable). Part 2 is designed for a flat-out beginner of only a few months, the idea being that the teacher can play the melody and the beginner the simple pads behind it. Part 3 is the most advanced part either for a student in her third year or more (some of the highest notes will be a challenge) or for the teacher to play if the student is playing part 1. By offering 3 levels of technique, all I have to do is take the same music to all my students and hopefully be able to accommodate them all.
I went an extra step and transposed and edited the tunes into all beginner instruments so that I could offer these to band directors. All versions are in the same concert key and while parts 2 & 3 vary on certain instruments who have specific range issues, any combination of instruments can play any of their parts together (ie. alto sax on part 1, flute on part 2, baritone on part 3). Or for an easy class, the entire band could play their parts together.
I'm sharing two of these tunes (the ones not needing licensing) free through Bottomless Cup Music. Feel free to download, print, make copies, and share. I'd also love feedback. If you try one out and run into certain problems, or feel that certain notes are in a bad range, please let me know!
For the "Halloween Blues" (above) I brought in guest composer B. Euthyprydeus Jones who I worked with to adapt his children's tune to each instrument. I also did a very simple arrangement of my personal favorite Halloween song, "Skin and Bones" (below), which I actually remember from my elementary school music class!
Links to PDFs are available below the fold for the following instruments: flute, oboe, clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, bari sax, trumpet, french horn, low brass, and recorder ("Skin & Bones" only, not in concert key). Unfortunately I can't get the Scorch links to work yet, so just PDFs for now. Enjoy!
It really is crazy how many festivals we celebrate in America that are not actually American. There's Chinese New Year, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, San Gennaro, and Oktoberfest to name a few. It makes sense, of course, seeing as our country is made up of immigrants who brought their culture with them whether they passed through Ellis Island or jumped the border! It also makes sense that as the distance from each original immigrant to today's generation continues to grow (not of course, taking into consideration today's immigrants), the culture and traditions brought over start to be slowly forgotten or at best confused.
This is most likely what happened with today's Cinco de Mayo. Often thought to be all-Spanish or Hispanic holiday, others consider it to be the Mexican Independence Day. While the Mexican part is true, the Mexican Independence Day is actually celebrated on September 16. And while the 5th of May is important to Mexican history, the huge festivites that surround the day are primarily American. And as it turns out, we as American's may have almost as much to celebrate as the Mexicans! Viva! Cinco de Mayo explains further:
The 5th of May is not Mexican Independence Day, but it should be! And Cinco de Mayo is not an American holiday, but it should be. Mexico declared its independence from mother Spain on midnight, the 15th of September, 1810. And it took 11 years before the first Spanish soldiers were told and forced to leave Mexico.
So, why Cinco de Mayo? And why should Americans savor this day as well? Because 4,000 Mexican soldiers smashed the French and traitor Mexican army of 8,000 at Puebla, Mexico, 100 miles east of Mexico City on the morning of May 5, 1862.
The French had landed in Mexico (along with Spanish and English troops) five months earlier on the pretext of collecting Mexican debts from the newly elected government of democratic President (and Indian) Benito Juarez. The English and Spanish quickly made deals and left. The French, however, had different ideas.
Under Emperor Napoleon III, who detested the United States, the French came to stay. They brought a Hapsburg prince with them to rule the new Mexican empire. His name was Maximilian; his wife, Carolota. Napoleon's French Army had not been defeated in 50 years, and it invaded Mexico with the finest modern equipment and with a newly reconstituted Foreign Legion. The French were not afraid of anyone, especially since the United States was embroiled in its own Civil War.
The French Army left the port of Vera Cruz to attack Mexico City to the west, as the French assumed that the Mexicans would give up should their capital fall to the enemy -- as European countries traditionally did.
Under the command of Texas-born General Zaragosa, (and the cavalry under the command of Colonel Porfirio Diaz, later to be Mexico's president and dictator), the Mexicans awaited. Brightly dressed French Dragoons led the enemy columns. The Mexican Army was less stylish.
General Zaragosa ordered Colonel Diaz to take his cavalry, the best in the world, out to the French flanks. In response, the French did a most stupid thing; they sent their cavalry off to chase Diaz and his men, who proceeded to butcher them. The remaining French infantrymen charged the Mexican defenders through sloppy mud from a thunderstorm and through hundreds of head of stampeding cattle stirred up by Indians armed only with machetes.
When the battle was over, many French were killed or wounded and their cavalry was being chased by Diaz' superb horsemen miles away. The Mexicans had won a great victory that kept Napoleon III from supplying the confederate rebels for another year, allowing the United States to build the greatest army the world had ever seen. This grand army smashed the Confederates at Gettysburg just 14 months after the battle of Puebla, essentially ending the Civil War.
Union forces were then rushed to the Texas/Mexican border under General Phil Sheridan, who made sure that the Mexicans got all the weapons and ammunition they needed to expel the French. American soldiers were discharged with their uniforms and rifles if they promised to join the Mexican Army to fight the French. The American Legion of Honor marched in the Victory Parade in Mexico, City.
It might be a historical stretch to credit the survival of the United States to those brave 4,000 Mexicans who faced an army twice as large in 1862. But who knows?
In gratitude, thousands of Mexicans crossed the border after Pearl Harbor to join the U.S. Armed Forces. As recently as the Persian Gulf War, Mexicans flooded American consulates with phone calls, trying to join up and fight another war for America.
Would things be the same for us here in America if the Mexicans had not fended off the French? Guess we'll never know!
While the history of this holiday is definitely important, I honestly see nothing wrong with the hype that surrounds the day. While we Americans have done our best to make it tacky and commercial, at least some places still use it as a day to celebreate Mexican culture with dancing, drumming and menudo. Check out a list of celebrations across the US and Mexico. While I would love to attend one of these festivals, I will settle for some chips, guacamole, and margaritas after work tonight!
The most popular theory about the origin of April Fool’s Day involves the French calendar reform of the sixteenth century.
The theory goes like this: In 1564 France reformed its calendar, moving the start of the year from the end of March to January 1. Those who failed to keep up with the change, who stubbornly clung to the old calendar system and continued to celebrate the New Year during the week that fell between March 25th and April 1st, had jokes played on them. Pranksters would surreptitiously stick paper fish to their backs. The victims of this prank were thus called Poisson d’Avril, or April Fish—which, to this day, remains the French term for April Fools—and so the tradition was born.
The calendar-change hypothesis seems, on the surface, like a logical explanation for the origin of April Fools. However, the hypothesis becomes less plausible if we examine the history of calendar reform in more detail.
The article goes on to counter the above theory and is actually pretty interesting if you, like me, love history. I see all the holes in calendar theories, but it is pretty coincidental that April 1 was the previous start of the year. This explanation makes perfect sense to me! Then again, I am admittedly gullible...
For a great list of April Fool's Pranks (as well as further origin speculation), see Wikipedia here.
Today launches Aussie Week here at Bottomless Cup. As a few of you loyal readers know, I had the privilege of spending 3 weeks in Australia back in August. While I had planned to "live-blog" my experiences while there, Internet was hard to come by and my laptop gave out almost immediately upon landing in the southern hemisphere. When I returned home, I was quickly distracted with other things and never got the chance to opine about my experiences. Five months late, I chalk up this week's delayed memoirs to the laid-back Aussie way of getting to it when I get to it! ;)
The tradition of having Australia Day as a national holiday on 26 January is a recent one. Not until 1935 did all the Australian states and territories use that name to mark that date. Not until 1994 did they begin to celebrate Australia Day consistently as a public holiday on that date1.
The tradition of noticing 26 January began early in the nineteenth century with Sydney almanacs referring to First Landing Day or Foundation Day. That was the day in 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet of eleven convict ships from Great Britain and the first governor of New South Wales, arrived at Sydney Cove. The raising of the Union Jack there symbolised British occupation of the eastern half of the continent claimed by Captain James Cook on 22 August in 1770.2
Some immigrants who prospered in Sydney, especially those who had been convicts or the sons of convicts, began marking the colony's beginnings with an anniversary dinner - 'an emancipist festival' to celebrate their love of the land they lived in. Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the emancipists' friend, made the thirtieth anniversary of the day in 1818 a public holiday, thirty guns counting out the years of British civilization, a tradition Macquarie's successors continued.3
Go here for a most thorough history of this celebration.
What are you planning on doing to celebrate? For those of you in NYC, I suggest checking out Murph's Guide for a listing of Aussie-inspired events. Those of you outside of NYC, you'll have to do your own google searches!
Either way, I suggest you make your way to your local Target, where it is rumored that Tim-Tams, Australia's most divine chocolate biscuits are on sale for a limited time. After purchasing a fair share of these delicious cookies (limited time sales people!!!) treat yourself to a Tim-Tam Slam. What's that, you ask? I'll let Aussie native Natalie Imbruglia explain: