The Record Rage

            Who would have ever thought that a virtual relic from the past would be coming back like gangbusters in the early years of the 21st Century? Yes, that’s right—after all these years the phonograph record is again in the spotlight. Today’s young people are very intrigued with record players and vinyl discs many of us remember from our past. It is indeed true what the adage says, “What goes around comes around.” 

            All of my records from early teenage years in the 1950s and young adulthood from the 60s, have been stored in the garage. They haven’t seen the light of day or been played in years.  Does this phenomenon mean I should get them out again? 

            Our 14-year old granddaughter, Elaine Gerard, said, “All I wanted for Christmas was a record player. All the kids in my class have them and they are such a great thing!” She said the record companies are making new 33&1/3 albums featuring many of the latest popular artists.

             “You can buy the traditional black vinyl or get them in all kinds of colors, including pastels and even clear. They are really cool,” Gerard said.  The price is not so cool, averaging about twenty dollars a record. Gerard noted she really wanted the album of the top musical, “Hamilton,” which sells for a not-so-cool eighty dollars.  Not just new recordings, but many of the old ones are available at record stores and book stores, including Barnes and Noble.

History

            In 1877, Thomas A. Edison, the famous inventor of so many things, including the electric light bulb, invented the phonograph, sometimes called the Victrola.  Edison’s first goal was to produce a ‘talking machine’ capable of producing sound, not necessarily to reproduce music. The machine could record as well as play back sound.  Edison’s first success was recording his own voice reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”  Early recordings were Vaudeville sketches and various monologues. The talking machine was manually run; definitely not electric.

             His early method of recording was on a tin-foil cylinder, later changed to a hollow wax cylinder that proved to be superior to the tin-foil. Recordings were made by speaking, singing or playing music into a horn-shaped or megaphone-like receiver. This method was the standard in the late 19th Century and was used for many years. In the late 1880s, the hollow wax cylinder almost single-handedly brought the sound market into the economic fabric of the nation.

            This invention revolutionized the whole musical and listening experience, from the concert hall or salon to the home. No longer did people have to venture out of their homes. They could listen to music in the comfort of familiar surroundings at a moment’s notice. Obviously, the quality of sound they heard from the phonograph wasn’t what they would have heard from the concert hall.

            Emil Berliner produced a machine called a Gramophone. This was an improvement over earlier machines.

Records

             Disc records were first marketed circa 1889. Hard rubber was used and later shellac-based compounds were the basis of earlier disc records. Early prototypes of the discs proved to be inadequate as they produced poor sound fidelity. They were also brittle and easily broken. Berliner then partnered with Eldridge R. Johnson, a mechanic from Camden, New Jersey.  Johnson’s factory produced the motor and later the entire machine.

            They made substantially better records and improved the sound of the machine. Berliner and Johnson organized a company called the “Victor Talking Machine Company.” This later became RCA Victor, which still exists today. 

            The flat disc record had a spiral grove that received the stylus or needle.

By 1912, ten-inch and twelve-inch records could play more than three or four minutes per side, whereas Edison’s cylinders could only play for about two minutes. Various record speeds were tried and 78 revolutions per minute (RPM) was chosen. By 1925, 78 RPM became a standard speed for records.  In 1930, the ten-inch disc was the most popular size and played about three minutes per side. Diameter size of the record determined how many minutes of music could be recorded.       

            Recording sound was an inexact science in early days. Early recordings were done acoustically, not electronically amplified, of course.  For symphonic and operatic recordings, twelve-inch records were mostly used because they could hold four to five minutes of music.        

            The short limitation of recording space on records lasted for many years. It took many records to record a whole symphony or opera. In the 1920s, inventors were developing a way to record using a microphone rather than using the previous acoustic recording method. The first electronically recorded discs were released around 1925.  This technology was recognized as a major development in the recording industry.

            In 1948 the long playing record (LP) was developed by Columbia records and made its first appearance. It could play up to 30 minutes a side. At about the same time, RCA Victor released the first 45 RPM record—a seven-inch disc with a large center hole.

            The major innovation from the old cylinder to the disc was the speed of the turntable from 78 to 33 & 1/3 or 45 RPM. A slower speed with more grooves on the record made possible around 20 to 30 minutes without interruption of having to change records.

            After World War II, 78 RPM records were gradually phased out and replaced by the longer playing formats. In 1945, 33&1/3 and 45 RPM records took most of the market share.  Eventually 331/3 formats prevailed over the seven-inch 45 RPM format.

            Theoretically, vinyl records have the potential to last for many years, even though they may become easily scratched or warped. They don’t break easily, but they attract dust that can cause pops or noise.

            Record albums came into being to hold records of various sizes. The pages are of thick paper or cardboard sleeves, usually with a hole in the center so the record label can be read without removing the disc. The albums became a great sales tool with artistic pictures, graphics and information about the music and artists on the covers and inside.

            The term high fidelity was actually used as early as the 1920s.  It was generally used to designate better sounding products. Stereophonic sound was developed by Alan Blumlein in 1931. It was an attempt to provide the listening public with a more natural sound as heard in nature.

             Stereophonic sound production was first used in 1957.Virtually all discs issued to 1958 were monaural, meaning “only one sound channel.” Stereophonic sound was accomplished by combining two sound channels in a single recording groove on the record. 

              Compact tape cassettes were developed as early as 1963. Digital recordings and compact discs (CDs) appeared in the early 1980s. By 1991, the CD all but took over the market from vinyl records, but many disc jockeys were still using records and record players.

            Mark Coleman, wrote in his book, Playback: From Victrola to MP3 100 Years of Music Machines and Money, “Before the 20th Century, listening to music was a temporal fleeting experience-and a rare treat.” Thanks to the inventors of the past and modern technology we can have music whenever we want it, with exceptional fidelity and fantastic quality of sound.           

            Unbelievably the record has made a big comeback in the 21st Century, especially by young people who were not even born in the heyday of vinyl records. They are buying record players and records by the thousands. Is this new record rage going to be another “narrow tie, wide tie, short skirt, long skirt” phenomenon?  

Guess I’ll go get my old records out of storage in the garage. Like I said, “What goes around comes around.”

 Join the Danville Community Band as they present their annual concert, “A Day at the Museum,” Sunday, April 2, 2017 at 2:00 p.m.  3700 Blackhawk Plaza Circle. Free concert with admission to the Blackhawk Museums.  Free parking. 

Please submit your questions and comments to banddirector01@comcast.net. Visit our website at www.danvilleband.org for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band.

 

Music Schools

If one has a real passion and love of music and wants to make it their life’s endeavor, it’s important to know where to go to study music. A place of study should be chosen that will best provide the knowledge, skills and resources to help them succeed in the very challenging world of music.

One of the biggest decisions, both parents and high school students make, is selecting a good music school, college or conservatory. These schools are geared to certain types of music disciplines including classical, contemporary, and jazz.

Along with emphasis on the types of schools available; course offerings of specialization within the department is very important. Most schools offer classes in musical instruments; voice training; conducting; composition; musicology—the study of music history and literature; all aspects of music theory and music education i.e. training of future music teachers.

University Music Classes

Many university music departments place more emphasis on the study of music as an academic pursuit rather than on the more practical aspects of performance. Almost all university music departments have performing ensembles in orchestra, band, both concert and jazz, and choral ensembles, as well as chamber music and often opera.

Choosing a college or university music department over a conservatory school of music will generally lead to a more broad education, as in liberal arts. The student would include classes in other disciplines rather than concentrating just on music classes. There are numerous excellent college and universities with outstanding music programs.

The Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, has an excellent reputation and ranks among the top music schools in the nation. It was established in 1921 and is the largest accredited music school in America. Only 25 percent of applicants are admitted. There are 180 people on the faculty, many with national and international reputations. Admission to the school is by live or recorded audition. They offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

The University of California, Berkeley, (my alma mater) has an excellent department of music. It offers a comprehensive curriculum that includes composition, history and literature, arranging, conducting, and instrument instruction in strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion.

It also had a music education component that I chose, because I wanted to be a teacher and eventually a college professor. Unfortunately, they no longer have the music education program. Students who want to be a music teacher have to go elsewhere to get a teaching credential. The department is exceptional in musicology and composition. They offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. I was one of the last students to earn a Ph.D., in music education there.

Music Conservatories/Music Schools

If a student is extremely talented and wants to go into a solo career or play in a major symphony orchestra, he/she would most likely choose a conservatory experience and concentrate in depth on their instrument or voice.

The Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, in Rochester, New York, was founded in 1921 by George Eastman of Eastman Kodak fame. This institution has bragging rights of being ranked first in United States music schools by U.S, News and World Report. Locally, former Eastman graduate student, Robert Williams, said. “Having all students and all classes, lessons, and rehearsals within one building makes for a community of convenience, cooperation, and conviviality, where friendship and fellowship happens.” Williams is conductor of the Pleasanton Community Concert Band and plays French Horn with the Danville Community Band (DCB).

Eastman is a private school where almost all students receive scholarships. It is quite selective and emphasizes a comprehensive curriculum. The school has over 130 faculty. All first year students live on campus.

Principle Horn for the DCB, Christine-Ann Immesoete, said, “The Eastman School of Music, and the rest of the University of Rochester, continue to be the shining jewel in the crown of Rochester, and all of western New York.” Immesoete, like Williams, earned a master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music.         

Juillard School of Music is located at Lincoln Center Plaza in New York City. Founded in 1905, it is considered one of the finest music schools in the United States. Admittance is based on several factors including GPA, talent ability, interviews and recommendations. It has a very favorable student to faculty ratio of 4:1. Most classes are less than ten students. The first year students live on campus. The world famous Lincoln Center is very close to the campus.

Internationally known, concert pianist, Daniel Glover of San Francisco, has performed in 42 states and 22 foreign countries. Glover holds a master’s degree from Juillard, along with many other famous artists in America and abroad. They offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Interestingly, 89 percent of their students are from out of state.

The New England School of Music in Boston, located near Boston Symphony Hall, was established in 1867, making it the oldest private independent school of music in America. They have a unique five-year program with Harvard and Tufts Universities, where students can get a double degree. Admission to the conservatory is by live audition. Popular majors include composition, strings and jazz and they offer a prestigious chamber music program. Bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees are offered and it is also a training ground for the famous Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University, is in Baltimore, Maryland. It is the oldest music school in the country, dating back to 1857 and was founded by George Peabody. The school emphasizes a comprehensive program in many aspects of music training. It is affiliated with the John’s Hopkins University Preparatory School for school age children. The tuition is high but they have a financial aid package.

The Curtis Institute of Music located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1924 by Mary Louise Curtis Bok. It is one of the most selective schools in America, however, all students attend on full scholarship. They have only a 4.8 percent admission rate. It was formerly a training ground for orchestral musicians. Admission is by live audition. Curtis graduates are in many symphony orchestras throughout the country.

Oberlin College Conservatory of Music is located in rural Oberlin, Ohio, southwest of Cleveland. Enrollment is fewer than 600 students, 25 percent of applicants are accepted and 90 percent have tuition assistance. They also offer a five-year program with Oberlin College. The students earn a bachelor of arts from the college and a bachelor of music from the conservatory. They are well known for their programs in contemporary and baroque music.

Locally, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, founded in 1917, is one of the least competitive institutions with a 40 percent acceptance rate and 95 percent of students receive financial aid. It is a relative small school with about 450 students. Their graduate chamber music program is rated excellent.

The Berklee College of Music is located in Boston. It was founded in 1945 and is one of the largest music schools with over 4,000 students. Its emphasis is on contemporary music and their Jazz Program is one of its strong points.

These are only a few of the many excellent schools, conservatories and university departments of music one can choose. The most important thing to remember is what program will best meet the needs and desires of the student, who will hopefully reap the benefits of a good musical education. If you are going out-of-state, public state supported colleges will charge an out-of-state tuition that is substantially higher than in-state tuition. Private schools charge about the same whether one is a state resident or not. Good luck in selecting the right school for you.

Please submit your questions and comments to banddirector01@comcast.net. Visit our website at www.danvilleband.org for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band. 

 

 

 

                                                                       

 

 

The Harp

            A noble, ancient instrument, the harp dates back from antiquity to the present. Known to exist as far back as 3,000 B.C., some historians even trace it back to 3,500 B.C. The harp is certainly one of the oldest instruments in the world. Many ancient instruments have died out and are no longer in existence but the harp, through many permutations and construction changes, has endured through the ages to the beautiful and complex instrument we have today.

            “From medieval to modern, classical to jazz, acoustic to electric, steeped in tradition yet open to change; for many it is more than a mere instrument—it is a calling,” according to the International Harp Museum in Orlando, Florida.

            It is thought that the earliest harps probably evolved from a bow string. The ancient Egyptian harps ranged from a small shoulder harp of seven strings to a much larger standing instrument of 22 strings. 

            Updated versions of the instrument appear from the 11th Century on. The first appearance of harps in Europe was in Ireland during the 12th Century. When the harp spread to the European continent it was embraced by the Troubadours, Trouveres and Minnesingers.

            The Irish harp evolved in the 11th Century and initially had brass strings plucked with long fingernails. From the late Middle Ages until the 18th Century on, the harp virtually remained unchanged, except for the increased number of strings. The Irish still use the harp as a heraldic and political symbol today. 

Harp Construction

            The harp is triangular in shape and made primarily of wood. Woods used were willow, birch, pine, spruce and maple. The early harps had fixed strings that were limited in playing major and minor keys. The plane of the strings is perpendicular to the sound board, not parallel like the piano. Harps varied in size and some small instruments were played on the lap. In 1697, Jacob Hochbrucker of Bavaria, invented a pedal action that changed the pitch of the strings. Later, in 1720, Hochbrucker and J.P. Vetter of Nuremberg, invented a five pedal harp that raised the pitch by a half step.

            Around 1810, French instrument maker Sebastien Erard, introduced the double action or double pedal harp. This allowed the harp to be played in any key. The pedals were used to raise the pitch to a half or whole tone. Operation of the pedals made all of the major and minor keys available. This invention was revolutionary as it enabled the harp to eventually become a welcome member of the symphony orchestra.

            Pitch of the strings is determined by the length of string, tension and weight of string.  Different colors were used on the strings to indicate the names of the pitches. 

            Throughout its development, the harp grew and more strings were added to the instrument. The harp evolved from a small instrument of five or six strings to a giant instrument with 47 strings, according to the Harp Foundation.

Playing Technique

            The harp is played by plucking with bare fingers. Professional harpists develop calluses on their fingers as the skin thickens with constant playing and plucking. Two playing techniques are always associated with harp playing. One is the Arpeggio, a quick succession of notes in a chord played one after another, instead of simultaneously. Glissando, often used in harp playing, is a rapid sliding movement or sweep over the strings. Both techniques are characteristic, distinctive features of harp playing.

 Repertory

            Musicologist and historians generally agree that harp music of merit was not written until the end of the 19th Century. Harp music was mainly written by French composers. Some are:  Saint-Saens, Fantasy for Violin and Harp; Debussy, Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp; Ravel, Introduction et Allegro for Harp, String Quartet, Flute and Clarinet.

            Debussy and Ravel used the harp prominently in their impressionistic music. Other famous composers who wrote for harp are: Richard Strauss, Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner and Cesar Franck. Wolfgang Mozart wrote a Concerto for Flute and Harp and Beethoven wrote for the harp in Prometheus. Many composers used the harp in their orchestral scores.

            Writing for the harp in the 20th Century included the jazz genre; even the Beatles used the harp in their 1967 song, She’s Leaving Home.

            The portability of a modern harp is a challenge for harpists. The instrument is extremely large – six foot two in height and weighs in excess of 75 pounds. Transporting a harp is not done in an ordinary car; one needs a large SUV or van or a well-padded pickup-truck. If the harpist is a petite female, she usually needs some assistance in getting the harp loaded and unloaded.  Also, it really needs to be protected as a new harp costs over $20,000.

            One of my most memorable experiences listening to harp music, was in Chicago. We were there for a music convention around Christmas time. We love High Tea at the Drake Hotel, with the room decked out in holiday splendor.  In the center of the room is a large fountain surrounded by small tables.  A harpist, near the fountain, plays beautiful soft music throughout the tea.  What a delightful way to spend a winter afternoon – great food, and beautiful relaxing harp music with a wonderful holiday mood. Couldn’t be better!

            Another memorable experience was brunch at the beautiful, famous, Moana Hotel in Honolulu.  Again, the ambiance was devine, great food with wonderful harp music to accompany the gentle swaying palm fronds, beside the blue Pacific lapping the shore in Waikiki!   Aloha.

Have a Happy and Peaceful New Year!

Please submit your questions and comments to banddirector01@comcast.net and visit our website at danvilleband.org for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band.       

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Bells: The Music of Christmas & Hanukkah

            One of the main traditions of the holiday season is Christmas music and the sound of bells. Bells are often one of the predominating sounds in music during this lovely time of year.

            Most people in western cultures are familiar with, or have at least heard, the many Christmas songs, sacred and secular. Throughout the entire Christmas season carols and other seasonal music is heard almost everywhere; in churches, stores, malls and even in elevators.

            Many Christmas songs have bells in their titles and lyrics:Carol of the Bells; I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day; Jingle Bell Rock; Silver Bells; With Bells On; Come On Ring Those Bells and the most famousone of all, Jingle Bells. 

            Jingle Bells was written by James Lord Pierpont (1822-1893). It was published in 1857 with a different title – One Horse Open Sleigh. Apparently it was used originally as a drinking song at social gatherings. It is without a doubt, a most favored song and it is sung by almost everyone during the Christmas season. Jingle Bells is not only an American song but is sung in many languages and countries worldwide.

            Bells date back to ancient antiquity and were found to be used in Jewish temples during that era. Some of the earliest bells, found in China and Egypt, date from 1,000 BC and were made of bronze, silver and gold. Early uses were magical and ritual, not necessarily musical.Bells were also used to accompany ritual dances and used in religious ceremonies.

The tsar's bell on church background, Kremlin, Russia            Bells are made in different shapes and sizes, including rectangular and square. They are usually struck from the outside with a hammer or from the inside with a clapper. They were historically made of metal and sometimes even made of wood.

            The Tsar Bell is the largest bell ever made and is displayed in Moscow’s Kremlin. It was cast in 1733, weighs 432,000 pounds and measures more than 22 feet in diameter. This giant bell has never been rung. Some bells from France and Germany weigh from 20,000 to 40,000 pounds. Large modern bells, often used in churches and university campuses, may weigh from 5,000 to 15,000 pounds.

            The use of bells in churches can be traced to the 6th century in Tours, France, circa 560.  In England, large church bells date back to the 10th century.Christian churches use bells for many occasions.  They often announce the time for worship and are used in weddings, funerals and other services. An inscription found in ancient bells attributed to monks reads:  “I praise the true God. I call the people, I assemble the clergy, I bewail the dead, I dispense storm clouds, I do honor to feasts.”

            In earlier times, in continental Europe, church bells were sounded together producing a rather confused sound; some called it cacophony. Then in England, they began ringing several bells in succession to produce a melody.  This type of bell placement is called a carillon.  This set of tuned bells is designed for a belfry or tower.

            The Campanile (a bell and clock tower) on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, is one of the most famous landmarks in Northern California. Inside the tower is a musical instrument or carillon. It is a set of 48 cup-shaped, bronze-cast tuned bells, attached to a keyboard with levers and wires that activate a metal clapper inside the bells.

            Bells became the symbol of the wide-spread rise of Christianity. “The bell… praised the advent of Christianity into a world of strife,” wrote McGehee and Nelson in their book, People and Music.

            Over many centuries, bells have been used in Jewish celebrations. Bells were sewn on the Hebrew priest’s vestments for their protection. The sound of bells symbolized the music of water and represented thunder and lighting. Music is used at Hanukkah more than other Jewish holidays. 

            Hanukkah, known as the “Festival of Lights.” means dedication in Hebrew. It is celebrated over a period of eight days. This festival marks the rededication in 164 BC of the temple in Jerusalem.There are many songs connected with Hanukkah but the three most popular are: Ma’oz Tzar (Stronghold of Rock) The Dreidel Song and Oh Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah.

            In this era of modern technology the bell has come a long way. Digital systems produce true bell sounds with no moving parts. Our modern world has door bells; telephone bells; intercom system bells; electronic church bells and alarm-clock bells and watches, just to name a few.

            The sound of bells are very effective for calling communities together for general alerts, special announcements and ceremonies, including dire warnings of bad things to come, such as earthquakes, fires, floods and other disasters.

             We have hand bells; bell choirs; bells on children’s shoes and clothing; bells on jewelry; bells on animal collars on cats; dogs; cows; goats and sheep. We have school bells, bells used for fire alarms, police alarms and ambulances and even at some stop signs. And don’t forget dinner bells and Santa’s sleigh bells!  

            Percussion musicians in bands and orchestras use bells; and of course, every December we enjoy hearing bells making beautiful music at Christmas time.  Almost everywhere one goes you may hear bells of some sort used for many purposes.

            So next time you hear a bell think about how far the little bell has evolved. It certainly has added a lot, not only to our musical environment but it continues to be used in many creative and different ways.

Here’s wishing you a Wonderful Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah and a Very Happy New Year! “Ring those bells!”

Don’t miss “Songs of the Season,” The Danville Community Band’s annual Christmas Concert, Sunday, December, 11, 2016, 4:00 p.m. Community Presbyterian Church,222 W. El Pintado Rd.  Danville. Free concert and parking. Please submit your questions and comments to banddirector01@comcast.net. Visit our website at www.danvilleband.org for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Harmonica

The people’s instrument

If Volkswagen was once touted as the “People’s Car” then surely the Harmonica is the people’s instrument. Ironically, they are both of German ancestry.  No wonder it is the people’s instrument as it is generally played by everyday people, amateurs and professional musicians. It is quite inexpensive to buy and very transportable. The harmonica, also known as the French harp or mouth organ, is a rectangular metal box made of brass and steel. Most models can easily fit in a shirt pocket and taken anywhere but there are many types and sizes.

young adult playing the harmonicaThe harmonica is fairly easy to learn and usually comes with detailed instructions on how to play the instrument. You can learn to play it yourself but if one can afford lessons from a teacher, it is probably a better alternative. The harmonica is a very versatile instrument, to be enjoyed as a solo instrument or in a group ensemble.

Walt Schneider, a childhood friend, said, “When I followed instructions carefully, I could play Stephen Foster’s, Old Black Joe; what a feeling of accomplishment!”  In a few weeks he learned all the songs in the instruction book and said his feeling of satisfaction was very high. Schneider started playing the harmonica in the fourth grade and he actually got very good at it. As a young boy and young man I was in awe of his playing ability.

Origins

The ancient ancestors of the harmonica date back to before the time of Christ. Some researchers trace the origins of the harmonica to Laos and others to China. The ancients developed a crude rudimentary form of the instrument.

It took centuries before European craftsmen began to develop an instrument akin to the modern harmonica. In 1821-22, Friedirch Buschmann, a German from Berlin, made an experimental instrument.  In 1829, the manufacture of mouth-organs, as they are often called, started in Vienna, Austria. Also during 1829, Charles Wheatstone of London patented his version of the harmonica.

The modern prototype harmonica was invented in 1857 by Matthias Hohner of Trossingen, Germany. The Hohner Harmonica Company is still one of the leading makers of harmonicas and has continually been in business since 1857. The Hohner harmonicas feature duel-action reeds that enable players to activate different notes or pitches while blowing or exhaling into the instrument. Notes are also produced by a second set of reeds when the player inhales or draws air back through the instrument.

Wartime

During the time of the American Civil War, the harmonica became very popular.  Because it was small and easy to learn, soldiers on both sides – the Union and the Confederates – used the instrument as a source of entertainment along with singing songs popular on both sides of the conflict.

After the war the harmonica became part of American folk-lore and the folk music scene – its popularity soared.  It was a real challenge for the Hohner Harmonica Company to keep up with orders, especially from America.

The popularity of harmonicas during wartime did not stop with the Civil War. The Golden Age of the mouth-organ in America was the years between the two world wars. World War I soldiers on both British and German sides used harmonicas as they went off to war.

By World War II harmonica imports were virtually stopped because of the embargo placed on German products. After the war, normal production was gradually returned.

John Philip Sousa, noted composer and band director, wrote a march called, The Harmonica Wizard, after he heard the Philadelphia Harmonica Band in concert. During the last two thirds of the 20th Century, the harmonica’s popularity became worldwide in many musical genres. It gained favor in blues, jazz, classical music, country music, rock and roll, and other modern forms of popular music. Some popular musicians that included harmonicas in their music were Creedance Clearwater, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Billy Joel and others.

Before the modern era, numerous players reached Virtuoso status, including Buddy Green, Charlie McCoy, and Borrah Minevitch, who formed the group, Harmonica Rascals.  One of the most famous and endearing players was Johnny Paleo, a comedian who dressed in funny costumes and had a group called, The Harmonica Gang. One of the most famous groups was the very popular Harmonicats. These groups reveled in slapstick comedy but excelled in fantastic harmonica technique and musicianship.

In decades past, the harmonica has been featured in Western movies with singing cowboy groups, including Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and The Sons of the Pioneers.  Likewise, movies depicting the South and old-time plantation scenes often show the harmonica in scenes of musical entertainment.

Even though it is a small, simple instrument, the harmonica has been enjoyed by people for centuries and will likely continue to be enjoyed for centuries to come.  Found in many homes throughout the world, it is loved by millions. The harmonica will always be the people’s instrument.

Please submit your questions and comments to banddirector0@comcast.net Visit our website at danville.org  for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band.       

 

 

 

Music & Politics

Does music play a role in national politics and especially in the political conventions of the two major parties in America? The answer is a resounding, yes!

Konzert- oder Festivalpublikum als Silhouette vor blauem Licht - Hunderte von Fans feiern mit erhobenen Haenden eine BandMusic plays a big part in both political parties, in the candidate’s conventions and in their individual campaigns for office. Music used in politics can be influential in supporting a political party or candidate; or it can be used to bring out the negative aspects of a political doctrine or candidate.

Clever spin doctors try to find music and lyrics that either enhance or detract from a candidate. If possible, they find music that advocates a partisan theme or opinion, making sure that it is primarily presented through radio and television. “It is not clear to what extent the political messages in and around music motivate fans, become a catalyst for discussion or function aesthetically,” said Pedelty, and Keefe. “Given the right historical circumstances, cultural conditions, and esthetic qualities, popular music can help bring people together to form effective political communities.”

In years past, the house band provided most of the music to introduce speakers and played music during pauses in the flow of a convention. There is always a need for music, such as the National Anthem, played usually at the start of conventions.

In more modern times, celebrity musicians are the norm rather than a house band.  These singers and musicians are usually very supportive of the party and presidential candidates. The nature of today’s music is usually pop and often rock oriented. Pre-recorded music is nearly always present.

Records indicate that music was present at early conventions dating back to 1860. During 1872, at the Republican Convention in Philadelphia, bands were out in the streets rallying people to get out the vote.  At the convention the band played a series of patriotic songs featuring, Hail Columbia, The Star Spangled Banner, Yankee Doodle and the Battle Cry of Freedom. 

After the last piece, the crowd was on its feet with excitement and great enthusiasm. These songs were followed by: The Loyal League Initiation Hymn and the March to the Sea. Hail to the Chief was used to introduce the speaker to the convention. The New York Times reported that in the Republican Convention of 1888 in Chicago, the crowd was united in a rousing rendition of Marching Through Georgia.

Traditionally, the Democrats choose music and artists that appeal to a more youthful, liberal group; as opposed to Republicans who present music identified with older people that are usually more conservative.

In modern political conventions the media, more specifically, the television media, is playing a much more dominant role than ever before.

None of the media-driven elements of a convention is more prominent than the change of daytime activities to prime time hours of the evening.  This, of course, was designed to significantly increase viewer coverage. Consequently, music became even more important to introduce and enhance candidate’s recognition and appeal.

Another aspect of music at party conventions is the question of the legality of using music without permission.  Although it may displease some composers or artists who actively object to a party or candidate using their music; the Christian Science Monitor stated, “While the use of famous  songs by political campaigns at live events may displease the musician, it is likely not a copyright violation.”

Apparently, if a venue has a general performance license and is a live performance, then it is considered legal, said Michael Carroll, a law professor at American University in Washington D.C.

Some well-known songs used by politicians at conventions and elections are:

Happy Days Are Here Again, by Milton Ager (music) and Jack Yellen (lyrics), was the theme song of Franklin Roosevelt and the Democratic Party. High Hopes, by Sammy Cahn, was used by John F. Kennedy. Born in the USA, by Bruce Springsteen, was Ronald Reagan’s campaign song. Don’t Stop, by Fleetwood Mac, was Bill Clinton’s song. I Won’t Back Down, by Tom Petty, was George W. Bush’s campaign song. Eye of the Tiger, by Frank Sullivan, was used by Newt Gingrich. Born Free, by Kid Rock, was used by Mitt Romney. Signed Sealed Delivered I’m Yours, by Stevie Wonder, was Barack Obama’s campaign song You and I, by Celine Dion, is Hillary Clinton’s song We Are The Champions, by Queen, is Donald Trump’s campaign song.

The importance of music to enhance political campaigns cannot be measured. The identify it gives the candidate and the campaign becomes recognizable by the public when hearing the music. Without the music in political campaigns the anticipation, emotional effect, drama, fun and tremendous excitement would be missing.

Please submit your questions and comments to banddirector01@comcast.net Visit our website at www.danvilleband.org for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band.

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Leonard Bernstein, a 20th Century Musical Genius

Few people ever reach the pinnacle of their life’s work while engaged in so many different aspects of their careers. One exception is Leonard Bernstein, lauded as one of the greatest American Composers of the 20th Century.

He was noted for “doing it all;” a composer, orchestrator, pianist, conductor, author and music educator.  He not only indulged in all of the above but truly excelled in them. As a young man Bernstein was heralded as the American ‘Wonder Boy’ of the 1940s.

“Bernstein became the first American conductor of international celebrity,” wrote Ethan Mordden in A Guide To Orchestral Music, “The only composer since George Gershwin to attempt a rapprochement between the popular native sound and the penetration of serious music.”

hands of leader on the orange backgroundHis Life         

Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on August 25, 1918.  He studied at Harvard under the renowned theorist, Walter Piston, author of the book Harmony, (the same text I studied from while an undergraduate at University of California, Berkeley.)

Bernstein studied conducting with Fritz Reiner and composition with Randall Thompson at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. From 1940 to 1942, while at Tanglewood Institute, he was under the tutelage of Serge Koussevitzky.  During this period Bernstein became the assistant conductor of the famous New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 1943 an unexpected happening occurred that won Bernstein instantaneous fame and a meteoric rise in the music world. Bernstein had to step in and conduct a radio broadcast concert of the New York Philharmonic when Conductor Bruno Walter became ill at the last moment. He did such a brilliant job, critics said his debut was sensational. This performance launched his conducting career.

He became principal conductor of the orchestra from 1958 to1969.  During his tenure he guest conducted major orchestras in the United States and around the world. He especially enjoyed his relationship with the Vienna Symphony and the Israel Symphony.

With his good looks, pleasing personality, brilliance as a music educator and his amazing conducting prowess, he was a natural to appear on radio and television. Bernstein hosted a series of Saturday morning “Young Peoples Concerts” from Carnegie Hall on CBS; later moving to prime time on television.

He became an ambassador of classical music, giving lectures and concerts, making high art available to the American public.

His Music

Bernstein’s unique, eclectic style manifested itself in two musical spheres: the symphonic genre and the Broadway Musical style.  He was considered a master of both forms. “Life without music is unthinkable. Music without life is academic,” said Bernstein, “that is why my contact with music is a total embrace.”

Bernstein’s music reflects his international interests. He is particularly fond of European thinking; their way of life and his own Jewish and Russian heritage. This is often found in his musical expressiveness.

“He is at once linked with the music of Benjamin Britten and Dimitri Shostakovich, as well as George Gershwin and Aaron Copland,” said famed Music Director and Conductor, John Mauceri.

No matter what medium Bernstein wrote for, the distinction between serious and theater works became unclear, because he used idioms from both genres in his music. He had the capacity to blend several music styles in his own unique way to create the unmistakable “Bernstein sound.”

As good as his serious music is, he is more famous for his Broadway style musicals.  Bernstein’s very famous, first musical, On the Town, (1944) with hit tunes, New York, New York and Lonely Town, grew out of the ballet score, Fancy Free.  It was about three sailors on leave in New York.

Some of his background materials were drawn from literary works.  He wrote songs based on Voltaire’s Candide, including, the Best of All Possible Worlds and Make Our Garden Grow.

In 1957 he wrote his classic and most famous musical, West Side Story. This Show was claimed by many as the best musical ever written. Songs from this show include: Somewhere; Maria; Tonight; America; One Hand One Heart and I Feel Pretty.  The symphonic dances from West Side Story have become a staple of the concert repertory. This show later became a very popular film.

Bernstein’s serious, or concert music, is exemplified by his first symphony Jeremiah, written in 1944 and dedicated to his father. It was deemed the best new orchestral work by the New York Music Critics Circle. His second symphony was based on W.H. Auden’s poem, The Age of Anxiety but was somewhat less noteworthy than the first and third symphonies.

Bernstein’s third symphony, Kaddish, written in 1963, was much more avant-garde as he used new and experimental devices like the twelve-tone technique.

Other serious works include:  Concerto for Orchestra; Chichester Psalms; Ballets; Choral Works; Chamber music; Mass and Operas.

“Just as long as people care a damn about something finer in life, than power and money and their imagined superiority over others, there will always be Lenny around to educate, entertain edify, move and inspire – to change us all in some wonderful, subtle way,” from, My Brother Lenny, by Burton Bernstein, writer and younger brother of  Leonard Bernstein.

Needless to say, Bernstein accumulated many awards in his lifetime of musical endeavors.  He won numerous Tony Awards and also received Emmy Awards for his teaching and presenting educational broadcasts for children.

He was a popular television music educator without peer. I listened and watched these programs as a young person and was completely captivated by this charismatic man who made symphony music come alive and be exciting for young people.

Sadly, after a lifetime of chain-smoking, it finally caught up with him. He suffered with emphysema and lung cancer. He died in 1990 at the age of 72 from cardiac arrest and lung failure.

Bernstein said, “The key to the mystery of a great artist is, that for reasons unknown, he will give away his energies and his life just to make sure that one note follows another…and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.”

His legacy will continue to enrich many lives for centuries to come.

 

 

 

 

Mallet Instruments

Some of the most unique and varied sounds of a percussion section in bands and orchestras come from the melodic mallet instruments. These instruments add exciting sounds and rhythms to the ensemble. They include the popular Xylophone, Marimba, Vibraphone and Glockenspiel. I would venture to say that not too many people know the difference between these instruments.

If you think all musicians in bands and orchestras just sit quietly and play their instruments, watch the percussion section in the back of the band or orchestra. There you will find a beehive of activity. Here are the movers, beaters and shakers of the ensemble. A percussionist must be versatile with the ability to play many percussion instruments: Mallet instruments; Snare Drum; Bass Drum; Timpani; Cymbals and more, while being able to move quickly.

wooden xylophoneAudience members frequently comment that it is so much fun to watch the percussion players as they are very animated and move around so much. They must be careful not to get in each other’s way while quickly moving to other instruments.

“My favorite instruments are the mallets,” said Christine Calara, the very talented principal mallet player in the Danville Community Band.  “I enjoy playing these instruments because they are unique and also for their soloistic nature.” Calara started out playing piano and this experience transferred well to the mallet instruments, as the two rows on mallet instruments resemble the white and black keys on the piano.

Mallet Instruments

The Xylophone is a percussion instrument consisting of two rows of graduated, tuned bars of hardwood, usually rosewood, that are struck with a stick or mallet that may be either hard or soft. Early instruments were known in Southeast Asia in the 14th Century. They are also used in many non-western cultures, particularly in Africa. They have also attained a high degree of perfection in Javanese orchestras.

Xylophones have a range of three and one half octaves with a tone quality that is dry and wooden without lasting resonance. In the 1830s the instrument became better known and was admitted into Musica Regularis; accepted by symphony orchestras as well as rhythm bands.

The Marimba is a xylophone-like mallet instrument from Africa, primarily the Congo, and also Central and South America. It was introduced to America in the early 16th Century through the slave trade.

It has a number of wooden bars, also usually rosewood, of different sizes and thickness. Located under the bars are tuned, tubular, metal resonators encompassing up to six or seven octaves in larger instruments. The most common instrument is probably four and one half octaves. It is not unusual for the larger Marimbas to be played by several musicians at the same time.  It has a warm and mellow tone and is played with rubber or felt-headed mallets. The instrument is considered the national instrument of Guatemala and is very popular in Central America.

The Vibraphone is a percussion instrument originating in the United States around 1920. It is similar to the Marimba but has tuned and graduated metal bars arranged in two rows, again, like a piano keyboard. It is played with padded beaters. It is fitted with electrically driven rotating propellers suspended below the bars causing a vibrato sound—hence the name Vibraphone. A sustaining or damper pedal is part of the instrument. These instruments are usually built with a three octave range although some are larger. The Vibraphone is used frequently in jazz music.

The Glockenspiel is a percussion instrument made up of tuned metal bars, rectangular in shape and arranged in two rows like a piano keyboard. It is played with mallets and has a range of two and one half octaves. This instrument has been used in orchestras since the 18th Century and is of Asiatic origin. They are sometimes known as Orchestra Bells.

A Bell Lyre is a portable Glockenspiel in Lyre form, designed to be used in marching bands.  It is held in front of the player and struck with a small metal beater.

Mallet Musicians

Some noted mallet players have become well-known for their musicianship and fame. Lionel Hampton is one of the most famous musicians in the modern era. Hampton, (1908-2002) was an American jazz vibraphonist, percussionist and band leader. His early fame began when he was invited to play with Benny Goodman in his trio that then became a quartet. He also played with Louis Armstrong and Buddy Rich. In 1940 he left the Goodman group to form his own band.

Arthur Lyman (1932-2002) was born in Hawaii and played Vibraphone and Marimba. He excelled in Faux-Polynesian music that became known as “Exotica.”  During the 1950s and 60s Lyman was known as the “King of Lounge Music.”

Martin Denny, (1911-2005) a pianist, composer and band leader often used mallet instruments in his music and hired Lyman to play in his combo in 1954.  The two men became closely associated in the music world.

The addition of mallet instruments bring exciting sounds and offer different rhythms, melodies and a great range of tones that add to the overall appeal of the music. Not only are the mallet instruments a great addition to the music but they are fun and exciting to play.

Please submit your questions and comments to banddirector01@comcast.net.  Visit our website at www.danvilleband.org for up-to-date information about the  Danville Community Band.

 

 

 

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Mozart the Master

“Before God and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name.”                        — Joseph Haydn to Leopold Mozart

Of all the great, talented and famous composers, perhaps the most naturally gifted of them all was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Even today, after 225 years, the influence his music has on mankind is a phenomenon that no other music has ever achieved.

Don Campbell, recognized as the world’s foremost educator and lecturer on the connection between music and healing, is the author of The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind and Unlock the Creative Spirit. He cites numerous examples of increased awareness in patients, both mentally and physically, through listening to music—especially Mozart’s.

Cyprus 2011 stamp printed in Cyprus shows Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), circa 2011Music in general has enhancing qualities but Mozart’s music appears to be significantly more potent. Studies have found that hearing music enhances physical, mental and spiritual well-being in the unborn fetus as well as in children and adults.

Research shows, “The music of Mozart invariably calmed listeners, improved spatial perception and allowed them to express themselves more clearly, communicating with both heart and mind,” said French Physician, Alfred Tomatis.

Boy Prodigy

Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria in January 1756, the son of Leopold Mozart, also an accomplished musician and composer.  Leopold held the post of Kapellmeister and Court Composer to the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. He recognized the innate talent of his young son, Wolfgang, teaching him both instruments and composition.

He studied piano, clavier (a keyboard instrument) violin, harpsichord and organ and soon mastered them under his father’s tutelage. The young Mozart could play the piano by age three and was composing music, unbelievably, by age five. He was a true “wunderkind.”

His older sister, Maria Anna, was also a gifted keyboard player. Their father, being aware of the natural talent of his children, recognized the marketable commodity and began taking the children on concert tours of European cities. He exploited the children in hopes of making money and eventually finding a position for Wolfgang when he became an adult. The first tour of principle cities in 1762-63 included stays in Paris and London.

Wolfgang excelled at musical skills including transposing from one key to another and also at improvisation. Needless to say, the young boy astonished audiences with musical skills unheard of in someone so young. In 1764, at the age of eight, he wrote his first three symphonies under the influence of Johann Christian Bach, the youngest son of the famous Johann Sebastian Bach.

Mozart’s musical memory and fantastic ear were phenomenal, proving he was an extraordinary, rare person and a true prodigy.   An example of his fantastic musical memory occurred in 1770, when he was only 14 years old. After only one hearing, at the Sistine Chapel in Rome, he was able to transcribe Gregorio Allegris’ Miserere, a formidable piece with multiple vocal parts. This was deemed a nearly impossible task to accomplish.

During the tours of the great cities of Europe he assimilated the various forms and styles of music he heard.  This influenced him in forming his own style.

Adult Life

In 1782 Mozart moved to Vienna where he met and married Constanze Weber during that year. They eventually had six children but only two survived infancy. Vienna was their home for the rest of his shortened life.

Here he befriended Franz Joseph Haydn who was Mozart’s senior by 24 years.  Haydn influenced him greatly. To cement their friendship Mozart wrote six string quartets and dedicated them to Haydn. Haydn was so taken by Mozart’s inspired compositions that he said to Mozart’s father, Leopold, “Before God and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name.” Wow! What a great affirmation of Mozart’s talents and skills coming from someone as great as Haydn.

During the last five years of Mozart’s life, opera took center stage.  However, in 1780 he wrote the opera Idomeneo.  His most famous operas were: The Abduction from the Seraglio; Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro); Don Giovanni; Cosi Fan Tutte and Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute).

“Mozart’s outstanding virtue as a composer of operas was his ability to create convincing personalities by means of musical characterization,” said Martin Bernstein in his book, An Introduction to Music.

In addition to Mozart’s dramatic musical output, he still had time to write a tremendous number instrumental pieces including: piano sonatas; violin sonatas; string quartets; concertos for various instruments – horn, clarinet, violin, harp, flute and bassoon.  He also wrote many sacred works and his last four symphonies were his greatest. He was so gifted, compositions flowed out of him and he wrote over 41 symphonies during his lifetime.

Near the end of his life, Mozart received an anonymous commission to write a Requiem Mass.  The stipulation was that the person commissioning the work was to claim the mass as his own. Unfortunately Mozart was very ill during the writing of the mass and died before it was completed.

Mozart’s wife, Constanze, wanted no part of the agreement with a stranger and asked Mozart’s student, Franz Xaver Sussmeyer, to complete the mass.  He filled in missing sections, added three movements and completed the instrumentation in Mozart’s style. Sussmeyer’s handwriting was so similar to Mozart’s even experts were fooled into believing it was Mozart’s own hand.

Mozart was so ill that he thought he was composing his own Requiem. (I must point out if you saw the movie, Amadeus, the final scene where the dying Mozart was dictating the music to composer, Antonio Salieri, was completely false. The producers and director of the film took great dramatic license having Salieri finish the mass rather than Sussmeyer.)

It was revealed after Mozart’s death that the mysterious stranger commissioning the work was Count Franz Von Walsegg.  He was an amateur who made a habit of palming other composer’s works off as his own.

Very near the end of his life, Mozart’s situation was desperate.  He was in financial difficulties and relying on commissions to keep food on the table. He was overworked and extremely ill when he was composing the Requiem. He died destitute in December 1791 one month before his 35th birthday and was buried in a pauper’s grave.

Mozart was one of the world’s first freelance composers.  He wrote over 600 works – an unbelievable output for so short a life.  His legacy is inestimable.  Mozart was a master of every form in which he wrote.  “He set standards of excellence that has inspired generations of composers,” wrote John Stanley in Classical Music.

One can only imagine what his compositions would have been had he lived a normal life span. Mozart’s body of work has been a glorious gift to generations past and will, thankfully, continue for generations to come. Mozart was a true music master for the ages.

Please submit your questions and comments to banddirector01@comcast.net Visit our website at www.danvilleband.org for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band.

 

Theme Music – Radio, Television & Film

Let me take you back in time when the primary form of entertainment in the home was radio. Before and during the radio era the other basic form of entertainment was the phonograph.

Vintage radio on deskThis may seem strange to younger folks but there was: no television; no computer and internet; no cell phone; no smart tablets; no CD players; no DVD players; no MP3 players and no e-books to read on nooks or kindles. Of course, there was always entertainment in the form of sings and playing musical instruments.

In my pre-teen years the main entertainment in our home was the radio. It was standard procedure that we would go into the living room after dinner and Dad would turn on the big console radio for the evening programs. One of the first things you would hear would be theme music, with the show’s announcer speaking over the music.

The theme music sets a mood for the show and lets the audience know that the show is beginning. This was very important in early radio shows. Theme music becomes very familiar as we listen over a period of time. The music gives us a feeling of warmth and recognition.

Theme music was the radio show’s signature piece. It was always played at the beginning of the program and often repeated in some form during or after the show ended. Theme music clearly identified the program. After a few listenings people would automatically associate the music with the program.

Theme music was often original and unique to a particular show. In other cases music that already existed was put to new use. Often it was classical music that quickly became associated with a certain program.

The theme music for the Lone Ranger program, a very popular western show in its time, became so familiar to audiences that they started calling it “The Lone Ranger Theme.” Actually, it was Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” but a lot of the public didn’t know the real name of the piece.

While some of the themes had words or lyrics that helped identify the program or a particular person, most lacked any textual content. Many radio theme songs became quite famous and were immediately identified with certain radio personalities and shows.

Some of the most famous were:

Bing Crosby – Where the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day

Bob Hope – Thanks for the Memories

Jack Benny – Love in Bloom

Red Skelton – Holiday for Strings

Burns and Allen – Comin Through the Rye

Fibber McGee and Molly – Save Your Sorrow for Tomorrow

Lawrence Welk – Bubbles in the Wine

Sergeant Preston of the Yukon – Donna Diana Overture

Harry Owens and His Royal Hawaiians – Sweet Leilani and Aloha Oe

An interesting sidelight of radio shows was the serialized episodes of radio dramas that were eventually called Soap Operas. These shows were sponsored by soap companies: Procter and Gamble, Colgate, Palmolive and Lever Brothers.

As the ‘Golden Age of Radio’ came to a close in the early 1960’s, a new medium of entertainment was already making huge strides in popularity with the public—Television (TV).

As the population adjusted to this new form of entertainment, so did our family.

At my urging, my family bought our first TV set. We were the first family on the block to have one. You could always tell which households had TV by the antenna on the roof (Cable had yet to be invented). Our antenna was 20 feet high!

The new shows on TV adopted the theme music concept from their predecessors in radio. Each show or personality was identified by its opening music and the following themes became household fixtures.

From a national survey these top ten TV themes were selected:

Cheers (1982-1993) Where somebody Knows your Name

Gilligans Island (1964-1967) Ballad of Gilligans Island

Friends (1994-2004) I’ll be There for You

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1990-1996) You Know you’re a 90’s Kid When…

The Simpsons (1989-) Simpsons Theme

Full House (1987-1995) Full House Theme

The Adams Family (1964-1966) Adams Family Theme

Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977) Love Is All Around

Happy Days (1974-1984) Happy Days Theme

Hawaii Five-0 (1968-1980) Hawaii Five-0 Theme

The network evening news shows also used musical themes to introduce the news and news anchors. They often used classical and semi-classical forms of music. In 1956 to 1970, The National Broadcasting Company’s (NBC) Huntley-Brinkley report used an innovative approach with two different venues: Chet Huntley broadcasted from New York and David Brinkley broadcasted from Washington D. C. Their theme music was from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Later, John Williams composed “The Mission,” the theme currently used for the opening of the NBC Nightly News. Most people never hear the entire piece Williams wrote, and NBC only uses the opening few bars.

The Columbia Broadcasting System’s (CBS) Evening News did not use theme music until 1987. Composers John Trivers and Elizabeth Myers wrote the original theme that is still used today.

The themes for American Broadcasting Company’s (ABC) World News Tonight,

has had many transformations over the years. Its current theme music is written by Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer.

Movie themes have been a major factor in films since the “talkies” came into existence in the early part of the 20th Century. Many movie themes became popular hits and were famous apart from the films where they were introduced.

The American Film Institute picked what they determined were the top ten movie themes:

Over The Rainbow from Wizard of Oz, 1939

As Time Goes By from Casablanca, 1942

Singing In The Rain From Singing In The Rain 1952

Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany’s 1961

White Christmas from Holiday Inn, 1942

Mrs. Robinson from The Graduate, 1967

When You Wish Upon a Star from Pinocchio, 1940

The Way We Were from The Way We Were, 1973

Stayin Alive from Saturday Night Fever, 1977

The Sound of Music from The Sound of Music, 1965

Musical themes have been very important in the past, and still are today. They are critical as openers that distinguish the program and talent that follows. For better or worse, it looks like they are here to stay!

Don’t miss a “Salute to John Williams” Danville Community Band’s Annual Spring Concert, Sunday, June 12, 2016, 3 p.m. at Community Presbyterian Church, 222 West El Pintado Rd, Danville. Free concert and parking. Please submit your questions and comments to banddirector01@comcast.net.  Visit our website at www.danvilleband.org for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band.