Music for the Community

Welcome to our Music for the Community page! Since we can't take our music out to local nursing homes and libraries at the moment, we're inviting you in to enjoy it here instead. Each day you'll find a new student performance on this page, along with some info about the composer or instrument - and sometimes words too so you can sing along. 

If you're interested in a particular category, you can sort performances by student age, instrument, singalong music, composer and so on - click on the orange tags under the text. We hope you and your family will enjoy watching our students share their music! 

To have each week's videos and accompanying info sent to your inbox*, please subscribe via the orange button.

*Videos are delivered twice weekly; you can unsubscribe at any time, and we will never share or sell your info.

Subscribe to this Page

Violinist age 14 plays Mozart's Violin Concerto #4 in D, first movement

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (born 1756) wrote at least five violin concertos between 1773 and 1776, when he was not much older than this student. He probably wrote them for himself to play in his position as concertmaster (first chair) of the Archbishop of Salzburg’s orchestra.

This one was written in 1775, when he was 19. He did perform it at the time – but after he left the orchestra, he updated it and made it harder for the new concertmaster (Antonio Brunetti) who took over his job! It’s nicknamed the “Military” concerto, and if you listen to the violinist’s opening few measures you’ll hear why – they sound rather like a brass fanfare.

We love it when our older students play beautiful works like this with ease, inspiring beginner and intermediate students with a vision of what can happen if they keep on practicing. But as we make sure to point out to them: students like this were also once beginners learning to pluck open strings, just like the young man in yesterday’s video!

For more music by Mozart, see here and here.

Thursday, June 25 2020 00:00

Day 59 - Cross Lake Blues

Violinist age 7 plays "Cross Lake Blues" by Joanne Martin

Parents are often surprised when we invite their very new beginner to play in an upcoming recital! But if the memory of your own childhood recitals makes your palms sweat - think again: our recitals are very supportive and festive events, where even students who’ve had only a few weeks of lessons can share pieces using just one or two notes, and find themselves enthusaistically celebrated for doing so. 

This jazzy piece from Joanne Martin’s “Magic Carpet” album is a favorite of our violin beginners, as all you need to play it is two open strings, A and E. In spite of that it’s a fun recital piece, and a great way to dip your toe into playing for an audience. Experiences like this get our students feeling comfortable right from the start with the idea of sharing their music with others - as you can see throughout this Music for the Community series. 

Wednesday, June 24 2020 00:00

Day 58 - Arpeggione Sonata by Schubert

Violist age 18 plays Arpeggione Sonata by Schubert

Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828) wrote this sonata in November 1824, for an instrument that had been invented only the previous year! It’s the only major composition for the arpeggione - basically a bowed guitar – that is still played today, albeit by other instruments. 

The sonata was probably commissioned by Schubert's friend Vincenz Schuster, who was already a virtuoso of the arpeggione, even so soon after its invention. But unfortunately it wasn’t published till 1871, long after Schubert’s death – by which time the excitement about this new instrument had long since disappeared, along with the arpeggione itself.

Schubert’s beautiful composition lives on, though, and today it's usually performed by viola or cello. There are versions for other instruments, too — including double bass, flute, euphonium and clarinet for the arpeggione part, or with guitar or harp for the piano part. And now in the 21st century, interest in the aprpeggione has revived, with several composers writing for it - so perhaps we'll be able to hear it again as Schubert intended in the not too distant future.

For more music by Schubert, see here.

Tuesday, June 23 2020 00:00

Day 57 - Chant Arabe by Chwatal

Pianist age 8 plays "Chant Arabe" by F. X. Chwatal

Franz Xaver Chwatal (1808 – 1879) was a Bohemian pianist, composer and music teacher. He was the son of an organ builder, who gave him piano lessons as a child. He wrote many pieces of lighter popular music such as this one.

Like so many other pieces we’ve featured, this one is in A – B1/B2 – A form, giving it a pleasing symmetry. In the A section, you can hear the pianist’s left hand playing one chord that’s repeated over and over, like the unchanging, rhythmic plod of the camels across the desert.

There are several singalong options here – try them all, and let us know in the comments which one you like best!

(A) In far-off desert lands, where the oasis stands, camels in caravans trail across burning sands.

(B1) Riders in flowing turbans sit / high atop the swaying animals;
(B2) Bells tinkling, jingling, sweetly ring / out across the desert air and gently tell us...

(A) In far-off desert lands, where the oasis stands, camels in caravans trail across burning sands.

 ~ or ~

(A) I am thirsty and hot; I am thirsty and hot; I am thirsty and hot; I am thirsty and hot!

(B1) I sure would like some lemonade; / Mother may I? Honey, yes you may.                                                                                                                  (B2) I sure would like some lemonade; / will you get some for me now? Just wait a minute....

(A) I sure like lemonade; I sure like lemonade; I sure like lemonade, when I’m thirsty and hot.

~ or ~

(A) Oh, it’s hot, very hot! Oh, it’s hot, very hot! Oh, it’s hot, very hot! Oh, it’s hot, very hot!

(B1) Softly the camels tread with their / heavy load across the burning sand;
(B2) Under the blazing sun they plod / on and on and on across the endless desert....   

(A) Oh, it’s hot, very hot! Oh, it’s hot, very hot! Oh, it’s hot, very hot! Oh, it’s hot, very hot!

Monday, June 22 2020 00:00

Day 56 - Handel Sarabande

Violinist age 14 plays "Sarabande" by Handel

It's probably no surprise that Georg Frederic Handel (1685-1759), an exact contemporary of Bach, also wrote many pieces featuring the dance forms that were popular among composers at the time. But it's hard to believe that the stately sarabande was originally thought to be a terrible influence -  it was described in a "Treatise Against Public Amusements" in 1609 as  "enough to excite bad emotions in even very decent people"! 

The Sarabande probably had its origins in Central America, in particular Guatemala and Mexico, in the 16th century. It was actually banned in Spain by King Philip II in 1583, thanks to the sentiments above - but that didn't stop it being performed. It spread to Italy in the 17th century, and then - thanks to composers like Handel and Bach, who often used it in their suites of dances - to France, where it became a popular slow court dance.

Having started his career in his native Germany, in 1710 Handel became Kapellmeister (Music Director) at the court of Prince George of Hanover. But in 1714 Prince George became King George I of England, and Handel's success in England led him to settle there permanently. His famous "Water Music" suite was performed several times on barges on the River Thames for the King and his guests. In 1727 Handel was commissioned to write four anthems for the Coronation ceremony of the next king, George II, and one of these anthems, "Zadok the Priest", has been played at every British coronation ceremony since.

Friday, June 19 2020 00:00

Day 55 - Bach Concerto for Two Violins

Violinists age 12 and 16 play Bach Concerto in D minor for Two Violins, second movement

The beloved "Bach Double", one of the composer's most famous works, is usually recognized by its fast first movement. Here, though, we're featuring the lyrical second movement with its expansive, lilting melody. The two violinists have equal parts that weave in and out of each other in a soulful musical conversation in the flowery Baroque style, taking turns with the melody and the accompaniment, finally coming to rest together.

Bach probably wrote this concerto when he was "Kapellmeister" - Director of Music - at the court Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen between 1717 and 1723. This was a very happy employment situation for Bach - Prince Leopold, who was a musician himself, appreciated Bach's talents, paid him well, and gave him a lot of freedom to compose and perform whatever suited him. Much of the music of Bach that we've shown in this series comes from this time, including the orchestral suites and cello suites, as well as his music based on 18th century dances (here, here, and here).


Thursday, June 18 2020 00:00

Day 54 - Allegro by Fiocco

Violinist age 12 plays "Allegro" by Fiocco

Joseph-Hector Fiocco (1703 – 1741), born in Brussels, Belgium, was a composer and harpsichordist of the late Baroque period. His father, Italian composer Pietro Antonio Fiocco, and his older step-brother Jean-Joseph Fiocco gave him much of his musical education. He also learned Greek and Latin well enough to be able to become a schoolteacher in both those subjects.

He became music director at the cathedral in Antwerp, so much of the music he wrote was choral and religious in nature. He also wrote two suites of pieces for harpsichord - but ironically his best-known piece is this Allegro for violin, played by intermediate violinists the world over. "Allegro" literally means "happy", but in musical terms it means "fast and lively", and that's certainly the case with this piece!

Wednesday, June 17 2020 00:00

Day 53 - Mary Had a Little Lamb (piano)

Pianist age 4 plays "Mary had a Little Lamb"

We've shown Mary had a Little Lamb before, on flute, but of course it sounds very different on piano. People are often surprised to learn that although the piano has strings, it's actually classifed as a percussion instrument. But percussion basically means "instruments that make their sound when you hit them," and that's what's happening here: when you press the piano keys, they operate hammers inside the piano, which hit the strings and bounce off again.

So an important skill for pianists is learning to touch the keys with enough strength for those hammers to produce a sound - but not so much that the sound is harsh. Although he's so young, you can see (and hear) that this young man is already doing an excellent job using the weight of his arm to drop his fingers into the keys, producing a round, ringing sound.

You probably already know that words to this song! But just in case:

Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb –
Mary had a little lamb; fleece was as white as snow. 
Tuesday, June 16 2020 00:00

Day 52 - Telemann Viola Concerto in G

Violist age 14 plays Telemann Concerto in G, first movement

Unlike many of the composers we've featured who were first taught music at home by their parents or other relatives, Georg Philipp Telemann (1681 - 1767) had an uphill battle to become a musician. He first had lessons from a local organist at age 10, and immediately became intensely interested in music - but his family was dead against the idea, and forbade him to take part in any musical activities at all. Nevertheless he carried on studying in secret - and managed to teach himself not only composing, but also the flute, oboe, violin, viola da gamba, recorder, double bass, and other instruments! 

He went to university to study law, but music was clearly his destiny, and he very quickly became a professional musician. In fact, he became one of the most prolific major composers of all time: he composed more than 3,000 works, including 125 orchestral suites, 125 concertos, several dozen other orchestral pieces, many sonatas in five to seven parts, nearly 40 quartets, 130 trios, 87 solos, 80 pieces for small ensembles, and roughly 250 pieces for keyboard!

His Viola Concerto in G major is actually the first known concerto for viola, and was written some time between 1716 and 1721. This mellow "Largo"  - a piece in a slow, broad tempo - is the first movement, giving the soloist the opportunity to show off the rich, deep tone of the viola. (See here for other viola performances.)

Monday, June 15 2020 00:00

Day 51 - The Happy Farmer

Violinist age 8 plays "The Happy Farmer"

German composer and pianist Robert Schumann lived from 1810 to 1856. He was a brilliant pianist and intended to make a career as a perfomer. Unfortunately a hand injury put an end to that idea, so thereafter he focused on composing. 

Meanwhile, he had fallen in love with his piano teacher's daughter, Clara Wieck - herself a wonderful pianist - but her father was very opposed to their marriage. Robert eventually won out, though, and married her in 1840 after a court battle.

By 1848 he and Clara had three young daughters (they eventually had eight children, seven of whom survived). He composed a collection of 43 easy piano pieces for them, "Album for the Young", and The Happy Farmer is one of these pieces. As with our other singalong songs, the words reflect the musical structure, which is little unusual here: A1 - A1 - B - A2 - B - A2, with the A section having two different endings. The B section is very short: the farmer (A) barely lets his wife (B) get a word in edgewise before interrupting her again!

(A 1) The happy farmer loves to plow his fields;
He rides his great big tractor with its big green wheels.
(A 1) The happy farmer loves to plow his fields;
He rides his great big tractor with its big green wheels.
(B ) His wife is quiet, and very small and neat -
(A 2)  The happy farmer loves to plow his fields;
He rides his great big tractor with its round, red seat.
(B ) His wife is quiet, and very small and neat -
(A 2) The happy farmer loves to plow his fields;
He rides his great big tractor with its round, red seat.
If you listen carefully to the piano part, you'll also hear the farmyard chickens going "cheep-cheep" in the background!
Page 1 of 4