Here’s a sneak peek at the Minnesota Orchestra’s New Year’s concert

No tuxedos, formal gowns or bouquets of flowers — this video is an unfettered look at musicians hard at work.

Ahead of its New Year’s Day concert featuring Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra released this video of Osmo Vänskä leading a Dec. 31 rehearsal. Watch the intense movements of conductor and musicians as they practice the first movement of Beethoven’s Ninth.

It’s a sneak preview of the Minnesota Orchestra’s concert that takes place Friday, Jan. 1, 2016, at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. Classical MPR will broadcast this live concert; Brian Newhouse hosts.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Dec. 29 to Jan. 5

Tuesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Wednesday, 7:15 a.m. & 5:15 p.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Wednesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Wednesday, 12 midnight Euro Classics: Estonian National Symphony Orchestra; Nikolai Alexeev, cond.; Tchaikovsky: Suite No. 4 in G, “Mozartiana” — recorded at the Estonia Concert Hall, Tallinn.
Thursday 9 a.m., A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (live broadcast).
Thursday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Friday, 7:15 a.m. Moveable Feast with John Birge and Minnesota Monthly‘s Rachel Hutton.
Friday, 10 a.m. Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Day Concert.
Friday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Friday, 2 p.m. Minnesota Orchestra: A Joyous New Year – Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (live broadcast).
Saturday, 9 a.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Saturday, 10 a.m. Saturday Cinema.
Saturday, 12 noon Met Opera: Die Fledermaus.
Saturday, 5 p.m. A Prairie Home Companion: encore presentation of 2011 broadcast from Honolulu, Hawaii.
Saturday, 8 p.m. Euro Classics: Orchestre National de France/Stéphane Denève, cond.; Roussel: Symphony No. 3 in G-minor, Op. 42 — recorded at the Auditorium Radio France, Paris.
Sunday, 6 a.m. Pipedreams: An Organist’s Yearbook.
Sunday, noon From the Top: Greenville, S.C.
Sunday, 1 p.m. SymphonyCast: Minnesota Orchestra in Cuba.
Monday, 7:15 a.m. Sing to Inspire with Tesfa Wondemagegnehu and Julie Amacher.
Monday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Tuesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.

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On the Air This Week

Highlights from Dec. 15 to 22

Tuesday, 8:30 a.m. World Premiere: Abbie Betinis’s Christmas Carol for 2015.
Tuesday, 11 a.m. St. Olaf Christmas Festival (encore broadcast).
Tuesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today: Christmas cheer with Tesfa Wondemagegnehu.
Wednesday, All Christmas music begins and continues to midnight Friday, Dec. 25.
Wednesday, 7:15 a.m. & 5:15 p.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Wednesday, 12 noon A Chanticleer Christmas (encore broadcast).
Wednesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Wednesday, 7 p.m. National Lutheran Choir Christmas special.
Thursday 9 a.m., A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (live broadcast).
Thursday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Thursday, 5 p.m. A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (encore broadcast).
Thursday, 7 p.m. Caroling with The Singers (encore broadcast).
Friday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Friday, 7 p.m. Caroling with The Singers (encore broadcast).
Saturday, 9 a.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Saturday, 10 a.m. Saturday Cinema.
Saturday, 12 noon Met Opera: The Barber of Seville.
Saturday, 5 p.m. A Prairie Home Companion: live from the Fitzgerald Theater. Guests: VocalEssence.
Saturday, 8 p.m. Euro Classics: Danish National Symphony Orchestra/Rafael Payare, cond.; Enrico Dindo, cello; Respighi: Adagio con variazioni — recorded at the Danish Radio Concert House, Copenhagen.
Sunday, 6 a.m. Pipedreams: An American Christmas Festival.
Sunday, noon From the Top: Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.
Sunday, 1 p.m. SymphonyCast: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
Monday, 7:15 a.m. Sing to Inspire with Tesfa Wondemagegnehu and Julie Amacher.
Monday, 12 noon Learning to Listen with Andrea Blain and Alison Young.
Monday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Tuesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.

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Meaningful Teaching Between Concerts and Break

Countdown to (Maia Hamann)
Countdown to winter break (Maia Hamann)

Every teacher knows how difficult teaching in December can be. Energy levels are at their highest and attention spans are at their shortest. Many music teachers have the additional challenge of trying to come up with something meaningful to teach in just a few class periods between the holiday concerts and winter break. I am in that awkward period right now and trying to use my most active activities to keep students engaged and excited.

Dance
Harness the antsiness of students with dance activities. As long as it doesn’t involve too much icky hand-holding, elementary students often have a lot of fun learning choreographed dances to accompany songs they’ve learned, or improvising dances to new music. Movement activities can be very effective tools for teaching music concepts like song form (changes in direction or step type for different sections), dynamics (larger movements for louder dynamics), accents (special movement on accented notes), and of course, tempo and rhythm. As an added bonus, there are plenty of holiday musical traditions involving dances that can make this kind of activity especially relevant at this time of year. For example, my third graders just learned a dance meant to be done around a Christmas tree to go with the traditional Swedish song Nu är det jul igen. In order for the dance to be successful, all students must have an understanding of the sections of the song.

Body Percussion Composition
Challenge students to create a body percussion composition to accompany a piece of music. Some of the dances of The Nutcracker work especially well. Because time and attention spans are short, I typically have my elementary students use some kind of graphic notation rather than standard notation, no matter what their grade level. Encouraging students to create their own notation system can also illuminate some of their thought processes and their understanding of concepts. Students could use any kind of classroom instrument, but body percussion works especially well with extra-wiggly students.

Improvisation
When you can’t get students to focus enough to learn new music, take the opportunity to have them make up their own music. To keep it simple and painless, give students constraints that are appropriate for their level. When I introduce improvisation in my primary-level classes, we spend some time echoing four beat patterns using only quarter notes and pairs of eighth notes, as a class and as individuals. When students are able clap, say, or play the patterns confidently and are getting the feel for four beats, start having individuals improvise the same type of four beat patterns. I find it works well to alternate group singing with individual rhythmic improvisation. This helps students get a feel for the meter, and makes their improvisation window short and painless.

Caroling
Teach students about the traditions associated with caroling, then take students around the school to sing in other classrooms. I love to do this with my kindergartners. It’s an exciting and memorable experience for the students, and classes are usually very tolerant of interruptions caused by adorable five and six year olds. However, it’s always good to get permission from classroom teachers to visit during this busy time of year.

Imaginary Musical Field Trips
I love teaching imaginary musical field trip lessons, and they can be especially fun at this time of year. I use them to teach students about music in holiday traditions around the world. These lessons tend to be interdisciplinary and include a variety of activities, including some of those listed above. The variety, fast pace, and imagination involved in these field trips keep students engaged and excited.

Good luck, and enjoy these last few energy-filled days before winter break!


Maia Hamann currently teaches music at Holdingford Elementary, grades K-5. You can read all of her blog posts here. View our entire portfolio of educational resources on our Music for Learning page.

The Force is with these three young pianists

From the Top, the radio program that celebrates the stories, talents, and character of classically-trained young musicians, is embracing the enthusiasm ahead of the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

True to From the Top’s format, the show found three talented youngsters — Maxine Park, Katherine Lui and Michael Karshis — dressed them up as Yoda, Princess Leia and Darth Vader, respectively, and set them to play John Williams’s music from the Star Wars films.

The video of this piano six hands performance is directed and edited by Dillon Buss.


From the Top airs Sundays at noon on Classical MPR.

And if you’d like to hear more Star Wars music, the YourClassical Movies Stream will feature John Williams’s scores all day on Friday, Dec. 18.

Beethoven’s birthday in today’s Google Doodle

The first of four missteps in the Beethoven Google Doodle (Animation by Nate Swinehart)
The first misstep in the Beethoven Google Doodle (Animation by Nate Swinehart)

No one knows the exact date on which Ludwig van Beethoven was born. We know that he was baptized on December 17, 1770, and since at that time baptisms were performed as soon as possible after a birth, odds are that he was born the day prior to that.

Today, Google is celebrating the 245th anniversary of his birth by featuring him in today’s Google Doodle — an artistic representation of the company’s logo which appears on their website. A Google Doodle often celebrates holidays, events, or other important dates.

Their Beethoven Doodle is actually a musical puzzle of sorts. In it, we see the composer stumbling into a number of unfortunate situations which lead to his scores being torn to pieces and jumbled up. It is then up to you to help old Ludwig put together some of his most famous melodies in the correct order — melodies from Symphony No. 5, Für Elise, the Moonlight Sonata, and Symphony No. 9. Try it out!

Tips on keeping boys singing in choirs

Members of the Vienna Boys Choir in a concert from Minneapolis (Judy Griesedieck | Classical MPR)
Members of the Vienna Boys Choir in a concert from Minneapolis (Judy Griesedieck | Classical MPR)

For many school choral programs, keeping boys singing in choir as they get older can at times be problematic.

In a recent essay for the National Association for Music Education, Doreen Fryling — a public school music teacher for 20 years — notes that there are two important ways in which a teacher can change that trend:

1. Helping them learn to sing well.

And just as importantly,

2. Helping them believe that they can sing well.

Fryling points out that there are many ways to accomplish both of these goals.  For goal number one, those include:
• Selecting repertoire that allows them to use their voice in a range that’s comfortable for them.
• In terms of vocal parts, remain flexible. Let a boy sing tenor on one piece, and bass on another. Remember, as the author notes, “every day can be a new voice for a changing boy.”
• Find repertoire that the boys in your program actually enjoy singing. Even if they don’t like a piece immediately, chances are they will grow to like it if it’s a work they can sing well.

In connection with the second goal, some ways to achieve that include:
• Help them remember that their voice change is temporary, and they won’t sound like this forever.
• Record them so they can hear themselves now and then, and realize how their voices are transitioning.
• As their voices change, reassure them that this is all normal. Create a ‘band of brothers’ in your choir.

Read Fryling’s entire essay over at the NAfME website.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Dec. 15 to 22

Tuesday, 12 noon A Hollywood Holiday
Wednesday, 7:15 a.m. & 5:15 p.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Wednesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Wednesday, 7 p.m. Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Wednesday, 12 midnight Asia Classics: Great Mountains Music Festival Artists; Dohnanyi: Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 1
— recorded at the Alpensia Concert Hall, Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Thursday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Thursday, 3 p.m. Regional Spotlight: holiday performances by Lumina, Augsburg College, Gregorian Singers.
Thursday, 6 p.m. Christmas with Luther College.
Thursday, 7 p.m. Rose Ensemble holiday special.
Friday, 7:15 a.m. Moveable Feast with John Birge and Minnesota Monthly‘s Rachel Hutton.
Friday, 11 a.m. Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Spotlight: Haydn: Symphony No. 83 in G Minor, La Poule.
Friday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Friday, 3 p.m. Friday Favorites with Steve Staruch.
Friday, 4 p.m. Caroling with The Singers – LIVE holiday sing-along special.
Saturday, 9 a.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Saturday, 10 a.m. Saturday Cinema.
Saturday, 12 noon Met Opera: La Donna del Lago.
Saturday, 5 p.m. A Prairie Home Companion: live from the Fitzgerald Theater. Guests: Maria Jette and Lynn Peterson.
Saturday, 8 p.m. Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: Handel’s Messiah (live broadcast).
Sunday, 6 a.m. Pipedreams: Holiday Portraits.
Sunday, noon From the Top: Orono, Maine (not Minnesota).
Sunday, 1 p.m. SymphonyCast: Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra.
Monday, 7:15 a.m. Sing to Inspire with Tesfa Wondemagegnehu and Julie Amacher.
Monday, 11 a.m. Learning to Listen with Andrea Blain and Alison Young.
Monday, 12 noon Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Monday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Monday, 7 p.m. A Chanticleer Christmas.
Tuesday, 11 a.m. St. Olaf Christmas Festival (encore broadcast).
Tuesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.

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Composer Corner: Sibelius

Jean Sibelius in 1938 (Georg von Wendt | Wikimedia Commons)
Jean Sibelius in 1938 (Georg von Wendt | Wikimedia Commons)

December’s composer of the month is Jean Sibelius (zhahn suh-BAY-lee-oos).

 

Born: December 8, 1865

Died: September 20, 1957

 

Five facts:

• Sibelius composed seven symphonies between 1899 and 1926. He worked on an eighth for some time, though according to his family, he burned the score in 1945.
• In his native Finland, Sibelius’s face has appeared on stamps and currency. The national Flag Day (also known as the Day of Finnish Music) occurs every year on the composer’s birthday.
• One of Sibelius’s most famous works is the tone poem, Finlandia. He later reworked a portion of the piece into a hymn, which is now regarded as the county’s unofficial national anthem.
• Sibelius once had this famous response to criticism: “Pay no attention to what critics say. No statue has ever been put up to a critic.”
• By 1898, Sibelius was receiving funding from the Finnish government which made it possible for him to continue composing without having to worry about money.

 

Three important works:

• Finlandia (1900)
• Symphony No. 2 (1902)
• Violin Concerto in D minor (1904)

 

Audio Backpack playlist: Jean Sibelius

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Dec. 8 to Dec. 15

Tuesday, 5 p.m. Music with Minnesotans: Mike Ries and Jing Yu.
Tuesday, 6 p.m. Sibelius Highlight: Violin Concerto.
Tuesday, 8 p.m. Minnesota Orchestra: Sibelius Miniatures.
Wednesday, 7:15 a.m. & 5:15 p.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Wednesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today: pianist Mitsuko Uchida plays Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor.
Wednesday, 6 p.m. Sibelius Highlight: Swan of Tuonela.
Wednesday, 7 p.,m. National Lutheran Choir Holiday Special.
Wednesday, 12 midnight Euro Classics: Danish National Symphony Orchestra/Matthias Pintscher, cond; Veronique Gens, soprano; – Canteloube: Six Songs from the Auvergne — recorded at the Concert Hall, Danish Radio Concert House, Copenhagen.
Thursday, 11 a.m. Cantus Live Holiday Special (live broadcast).
Thursday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Thursday, 3 p.m. Regional Spotlight: Minnesota Youth Symphonies – Nutcracker (selections).
Thursday, 5 p.m. Sibelius Highlight: Humoresques for Violin.
Thursday, 6 p.m. Christmas at Concordia Highlights.
Friday, 7:15 a.m. Moveable Feast with John Birge and Minnesota Monthly‘s Rachel Hutton.
Friday, 11 a.m. Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Spotlight.
Friday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Friday, 3 p.m. Friday Favorites with Steve Staruch.
Friday, 6 p.m. Sibelius Highlight: Karelia Suite.
Friday, 8 p.m. Minnesota Orchestra: Handel’s Messiah – Hallelujah! Chorus: Minnesota Orchestra/James Feddeck, conductor; Esther Heideman, soprano; Carolyn Sproule, mezzo; Matthew Plenk, tenor; Stephen Hegedus, bass-baritone; Minnesota Chorale; live from Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.
Saturday, 9 a.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Saturday, 10 a.m. Saturday Cinema.
Saturday, 12 noon Met Opera: Rigoletto.
Saturday, 5 p.m. A Prairie Home Companion: live from The Town Hall in New York City. Guests: Keb’ Mo’, Heather Masse, the DiGallonardo Sisters.
Saturday, 7 p.m. Candles Burning Brightly.
Saturday, 8 p.m. Euro Classics:New Russian Quartet; Alexey Volodin, piano; Brahms: Piano Quintet in F minor — recorded at the Conservatory, Moscow.
Sunday, 6 a.m. Pipedreams: An International Christmas Celebration.
Sunday, noon From the Top: “Mostly Music”.
Sunday, 1 p.m. SymphonyCast: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
Monday, 7:15 a.m. Sing to Inspire with Tesfa Wondemagegnehu and Julie Amacher.
Monday, 12 noon Learning to Listen with Alison Young and Andrea Blain.
Monday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Monday, 7 p.m. Light and Gold: The Music of Eric Whitacre.
Tuesday, 12 noon Hollywood Holiday.
Tuesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.

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