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Now I know what you’re thinking. It’s not that Hot Cross Buns. It’s not the Hot Cross Buns that you thought we had gotten past by now, those four measures of ignominy that haunt the deepest recesses of your early instrumental music education memories. It’s not that inane ditty that you practiced, repeating those three notes over and over, tormenting your parents and your siblings until finally, after what seemed like a very long time but probably was not very long at all, it was burned into your memory, burned into the memory of your fingers, those three notes:
B, A, G
B, A, G
B, A, G.
No, it’s not that Hot Cross Buns. It’s a different one.
Chances are good that if you’re a choral director, you already have a choice selection of canons in your bag of tricks, ready to be brought out at a moment’s notice to fill out the last few minutes of a rehearsal, or to keep the students from getting too restless and rowdy on a long bus ride – or simply because “we haven’t sung this one in a while”.
Although he is little recognized today, the English composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852 – 1924) was one of the most prominent musicians in the English-speaking world at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and he had considerable influence on the work of many composers and musicians whose work is better known.
I’ve taken some time away from posting to Off The Podium. It’s my habit to do this each summer in any case, and these times have brought great challenges to all of us. I have been busy working with my colleagues in Richmond to adapt to our new situation, and respond.
And now the time has come to share what we’ve been working on.
This article posted today, March 17, 2020, on my ChoralNet blog. I think it’s worth reposting here.
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These are uncertain times. The current COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everyone’s lives, and we are facing a period of time in which much of what we did regularly – our daily and weekly routines – has been impacted.
For choral singers and choral directors, this means the cancelation of classes, rehearsals, performances, services, and the other activities of our lives that involve gathering together to make music. These social activities now on hiatus are in many cases the reason we got into this work – making music with others is a kind of lifeline, a way to connect with not only others and the world, but with the deepest, internal parts of ourselves. (more…)
A miniature, a concise meditation on the precarious and impermanent nature of human existence.
There is not a lot to say about this song. Man’s Life a Vapor is fittingly brief, as are my comments. (more…)
One of the most wide-reaching and robust programs we produce, the Richmond Symphony Musical Ambassadors Program (MAP) curates, develops, rehearses, and performs over 125 concerts each season in metropolitan Richmond area schools. Although many in our community may be unaware even of the existence of this program, it nonetheless fulfills a vital aspect of our music education mission, introducing more than 45,000 children to classical music and the instruments of the orchestra every year.
This song, whose origins are shrouded in obscurity, was hands down the most popular song that I ever taught to children.
When I arrived at Blue Rock School to begin my tenure there in February 1991, Ho! Young Rider was already the student favorite, and in my memory, I learned this song from the students themselves within the first couple of weeks I worked there – in a bit of table-turning I asked the students to teach me songs they already knew so I could sing with them. Ho! Young Rider was first on that list. I soon added a guitar accompaniment and through repetitions in my music classes that spring arrived at the format in which I would teach this song to children for the next fifteen years.
This gem, beloved by my choirs, was one of my favorite canons to teach to and sing with children, and a staple of my children’s choir repertoire for many years. I first came across it the early 1990s in a book I can’t find right now, a little red book of traditional songs in English used for students of English as a foreign language at schools in twentieth century continental Europe. I taught As I Went Over Tawny Marsh to my students at Blue Rock School and at most of the other elementary schools I taught at afterwards.
My students always called this song Tawny.