Nashville YPC October 2019

I absolutely love our Nashville Symphony and the repertoire they expose our children to at the Young People's Concerts! This year, our first concert will highlight women composers!

Often in classical music, the genius composition techniques of women were overlooked because of how society viewed women. The fact that these amazing women composers have stood the test of time speaks volumes to their talent and vision!

The symphony has a lesson packet to accompany the music. I also love to share my thoughts on how to introduce the music to your children before you attend the concert.

First of all, if you plan to just go and enjoy the music that is perfectly acceptable! The music teacher in me would plead with you though to listen before attending and become familiar with the music to make your visit even richer!  I love this article printed from one of the Parent Review publications by the Charlotte Mason schools.  In it she does encourage to wait until students are older to attend concerts, but those concerts would be longer and geared to adults. The amazing thing about YPC is that the concerts are only 30-45 minutes long and planned specifically for an audience of children!

On these rare visits to musical performances of early years, you must take some trouble to ascertain the programme beforehand, and familiarize your child with at least a part of it, making him acquainted with the chief subjects of the symphony or concerto, so that he may understand the “working out” to a certain extent. (It is always quite easy to get arrangements of symphonies, &c., from a musical library.) Otherwise you may be disappointed to find that a sense of bewilderment and confusion is the only result, and no real educational value is gained; many older people with untrained ears, who listen to a programme of unfamiliar music, would experience just the same baffled sensation, and say they needed a second or third hearing for real enjoyment.

To familiarize yourself with the music, here are some links to the pieces and my thoughts regarding the introduction you can give to your kids!

Clara Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 7 - Allegro maestoso

Clara Schumann is a fascinating person to learn about!  She was the daughter of a famous piano teacher.  In fact, her father was the teacher of Robert Schumann, a famous composer of piano and vocal music! Robert and Clara fell in love and Clara became influential in Robert's success as a composer! She would play his piano compositions at her sought after performances! During this time she also composed and this concerto is the perfect example of her talent! You can read a biography about Clara here:

She began composing this specific concerto when she was only 13!!!  What's interesting about the movement we're listening to in this concerto is that it doesn't finish on the tonic (home tone) but leads right into the second movement.  So, if you feel like you're left "hanging...." listen to the second movement of the concerto!
(A concerto is a solo instrument with orchestra. In a "piano concerto," the piano is the star and the symphony is both the accompaniment and a feature throughout the piece.)

Fanny Mendelssohn: Overture in C Major

Fanny Mendelssohn is the sister of famous composer Felix Mendelssohn. Both her father and brother encouraged her musical talent, but discouraged her from publishing her compositions under her own name. She actually had her brother publish a few of her own works under his name instead of hers! When Felix asked Queen Victoria what her favorite songs were, she sang one of Fanny's compositions! Fanny never lived to hear any of her compositions performed publicly. She died suddenly from a stroke but in her lifetime composed around 500 works!

With this performance, watch and identify the instruments and instrument families and notice the changes in dynamics (loud and soft) throughout the piece.

In the first section, the winds and strings have a back and forth "conversation" which slowly builds with a rhythmic motive around 1:20 (and two and three - four...) kids could have fun with creating a phrase with the same rhythm. Something like "I want to go outside..." I find that giving them a starting point for their imagination (like going outside to run) is a great way to structure the active listening.

At 1:51 it starts with the main theme with a long drone note by the flute and other winds. 
The strings go through a fast passage and the tempo builds to this exciting climax at 2:40!
The kids can pretend that they finally are let outside and can run all through the hills!  Listen and imagine when you're going up a hill and when you're going down a hill!  Let them listen for a little while and create pictures in their imaginations and pause it at 3:45. Let them narrate what they think happens. 

Listen from 3:45-4:03 and then pause to have them listen for the low brass repeated pattern under the melody. 4:26 starts a new section that builds to a climax! Let the kids narrate again from their imagination! 4:48 the tonality changes!  It moves from major to minor like a storm has come and they have to find shelter!  It does move back to major quickly and at 5:12 notice the cello theme under the tremelo of the strings and short melodic colors from the high strings. 

The "conversation" then is between the low wind and violin section until 6:13 and repeats again until 6:25. At 6:52 pause and let kids discuss their imagination stories!  At this point, I would give kids a piece of paper and let them spend the last 3-4 minutes drawing the scene and listen uninterrupted until the end!


Amy Beach, Gaelic Symphony in E Minor: II. Alla siciliana - allegro vivace - andante

This is my new favorite song! This is a perfect piece to feature the instruments of the woodwind family!  The English horn is often overlooked and I love that in this movement you hear wonderful moments with the oboe and English horn, oboe and flute, and two clarinets!  It's also a great piece to understand form!  This movement has three distinct sections.
The first section sounds very choral.  The oboe carries the melody and eventually the flute joins in.  The symphony sounds like the background vocals of a choir while the soloists (oboe and flute) take the stage!
The second section opens up quickly with a change in tempo!  Tempo is also a great vocabulary word to introduce to your kids!  In this piece "allegro" and "vivace" are Italian words for "fast!"  If you watch a video of this performance you can see the string players use "pizzicato" which is plucking the strings instead of using the bow across the strings! It creates a very "bouncy" sound and adds to the excitement of the fast tempo!
The third section slows down again this time the English horn has the melody and then the oboe joins in. I don't think the video above shows the English horn during her solo, but you can see that she is sitting next to the man who plays the oboe.  Show the difference between oboe and English horn with pictures online! I also love the clarinet duet toward the end before the duet of the English horn and oboe come back to end the piece! Then we have the Grand finale!  This is such an interesting piece to listen to and I hope you and your kids enjoy it as much as I have!  Amy Beach is an American composer! You can read her biography here:

Lili Boulanger: D'Un Matin de Printemps

Florence Price Symphony No. 1 in E Minor: III. Juba Dance

This piece is sure to get your feet tapping!  I love that as time went on, multiple cultures can be heard in the representation of classical music.  Price is an American composer who is the first black American woman to have a symphony performed by a major symphony orchestra!  Price composed the piece between 1931 and 1932. The instrument that can be heard all throughout the recording is a conga drum.  I love that these rhythms are a main feature of this symphony because it represents the African American heritage of Price.  She also was inspired by Dvorak's New World Symphony when she composed the music.  I love that we can discuss how classical music has evolved through changes in politics, religion, and race. Music is a universal language and has the ability to bring together all kinds of people! Florence Price's biography is worth studying and learning! View the website here!


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