Wade-Orchestra-Week of 4/12

Teacher: Wade (awade@hps.holyoke.ma.us)


Hello Dear Students, Today I am offering you videos of string players, mostly cello, performing songs about joy and happiness.  I would like to hear what the different performances make you feel.  And I’d like it very much if you would share with me some songs you like that make you feel joy and happiness.

1) This is a shorter version of Ludwig van Beethoven’s famous piece “Ode to Joy”.   The whole long version is a part of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, written in 1822-1824.  Ode to Joy is the last movement (the last part) of that symphony, so you would listen to about 35 minutes of the orchestra playing the other movements before this famous one. This piece is amazing for many reasons. Beethoven was completely deaf when he composed it! He lost his hearing several years before he wrote the 9th symphony, but he could feel vibrations in the piano and could remember how notes sounded together, so he was still able to compose this piece and many others.  This piece is special because he required a chorus to sing the Ode to Joy, which was a poem written by his friend Schiller.  Back in those days, choruses did not sing during orchestra pieces.  If a composer wanted to write music for a chorus, they wrote pieces called operas, oratorios, masses or cantatas.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal to us now, but it was very unusual in Beethoven’s time. The lyrics are in German, and part of them say that “all people become brothers”, meaning all people become part of one family.

To me, this music has a very special sound that makes me feel happy, excited, and like my heart is full of love and joy and hope whenever I hear it.

What emotions do you feel when you hear it?

Fun fact: You will be ready to learn the melody of this piece after you have played French Folk Song and go Tell Aunt Rhody.

If you write to me and ask me about it, I will tell you another fun fact, this time about me and this piece in 2005.  It changed the course of my life (and yours, too, since I am your teacher).  Nothing would be the same for us if not for Beethoven’s 9th Symphony Ode to Joy.


2) Canon in D major by Johann Pachelbel, written in 1680 (340 years ago!) has to be one of the most famous pieces of music.  It has become very popular at weddings, but it sounds great any time. You should notice two interesting instruments in this video- the one that looks kind of like a guitar is called a theorbo, and it’s an early relative of the guitar.  The thing that looks like a carved box is actually an ancient organ, like a piano.  The performers in this video chose to play instruments similar to the ones that would have been used 340 years ago, and that’s part of what makes the sound of this recording so special.  If you look carefully at the violin and cello players, you will see that they are holding their bows differently than we do today.  That’s because they are shorter and balance differently.  And the cello player doesn’t have an endpin, she is holding the cello up with her knees (!) because the endpin didn’t become popular until about 150 years ago, long after this piece was written.

I love to listen to this music, and I especially love to play it.  I almost can’t stay sitting in my chair when I hear it.  There is something so beautiful to me that I always want to get up and move with the music.

What emotion does this music make you feel?



3) La Vie en Rose is a French song written in 1945.  It has been sung by many, many people, and performed on almost every instrument.  This song is popular partly because people love the melody (the sound of the tune) which is what you hear the cello and the piano playing here.  It is also popular because of the words, which translate to “Life in Pink”.  That is an expression in French.  In English we say “Looking at Life through Rose Colored Glasses”.  This means you look at life in a positive way.  When this song was written, World War 2 had just ended, and France, and all of the world, had suffered very hard, very scary, times.  This song reminded people to look for little things in their lives that could make them happy, to look on the bright side of things.

When I hear this music, sometimes I feel very happy, and sometimes I feel a little sad, like I am remembering something.  I think it’s interesting that some music can make me feel different things on different days.

How did this piece make you feel?


4) Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring has become a popular wedding song.  It is played here by Hauser of 2Cellos.  He is the soloist, with a choir and an orchestra accompanying him.  This music is part of a cantata, which is a longer chorus piece written for a church service.  Back in the time when JS Bach wrote this piece (1720), most  musicians either worked for wealthy royalty or they worked for churches.  Bach got to do both jobs, and people today can’t decide if he was better as a church composer or as a composer for royalty.  Most everyone agrees that he is one of the best composers that ever lived and that all of his music is really special.

Listening to this music makes me feel both peaceful and joyful.  I love to play it because I feel very calm.

What emotion or feeling does listening to this music give you?


5) 2Cellos Wake Me Up  This is not a traditional song for string players to play, and I think it has a very different feeling from all the others, but it is still about joy when I hear it.  I love how it changes from a very classical sound into more the way the song sounds when Avicii does it.  It reminds me of the fiddle tunes I like to play.  I feel a lot of joy and excited happiness when I hear this.  What do you feel?



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