1868 - 1917
Who was he?
African American composer and pianist who became famous for his Ragtime music.
- Scott Joplin started playing the guitar and then piano when he was a child. He became a travelling musician when he was a teenager.
- Joplin was famous for his ragtime style of compositions and called the ‘King of Ragtime’.
- Ragtime music is ragged or syncopated (off beat) rhythm in the right hand. Developed from African-American communities, it was based on a march style but with additional off beat rhythms from African music.
- He was primarily a pianist and mainly wrote solo piano pieces although these have since been played on many other instruments.
- During his brief career he wrote 44 ragtime pieces, 1 ragtime ballet and 2 operas.
- His most famous pieces are The Entertainer and Maple Leaf Rag.
- The Maple Leaf Rag was published in 1899 and sold over 75,000 copies in the first six months.
- Once Joplin died, ragtime lost popularity, however, it became popular again in the 1940s and then again in the 70s
- His composition ‘The Entertainer’ became the theme song for a famous film called ‘The Sting’.
You tube links:
Maple Leaf Rag – piano
Guitar orchestra playing Easy Winners
The Entertainer played by piano, violin and clarinet
The Solace – theme tune from Sting
The Entertainer showing musical score and piano
Maple leaf rag with score
Maple leaf rag with light visuals notes
The Best of Scot Joplin
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
1840 - 1893
Who is he?
A Russian composer and conductor from the Romantic period of music. He wrote over 170 compositions including several well-known ballets.
- Tchaikovsky was born in Votkinsk in Russia
- Tchaikovsky started taking piano lessons when he was 5.
- His parents did not consider a career in music to be a good one so he trained to be civil servant.
- He was the first Russian composer to be recognised internationally.
- However, he was criticised for his music not being ‘Russian’ in style. It was considered to contain too much Western influence.
- He wrote music that accurately reflects human emotions and the highs and lows of human life. It still speaks to audiences today.
- Tchaikovsky got stage fright and when he was conducting concerts, he used to worry that his head would fall off!
- He composed ballets, operas, symphonies for orchestras, music for pianos and strings.
- His classic ballet ‘The Nutcracker’ was first performed in 1892 but it took almost 50 years before it became the Christmas hit that it now is.
- He wrote 3 ballets - Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker and Swan Lake
- The 1812 overture is a 15 minute piece of music including firing cannons, chimes and brass fanfares and is often used as an accompaniment to firework displays.
Links to his music
Piano concerto no. 1
Ballet – dance of the sugar plum fairy from The Nutcracker
The Waltz of the Snowflakes – ballet
Swan lake waltz
Russian dance from Nutcracker Suite
Russian dance (with Russian dancing on stage!)
1812 overture, played by an orchestra. Go to 13.30 mins for bells and brass fanfare, 14.40 for famous ending with cannons.
1812 overture – visually represented score
Violin concerto in D major
The best of Tchaikosvsky
Who is he?
John Rutter is an English conductor, composer and arranger of choral music. He is particularly well known for his beautiful Christmas music.
- He was born and educated in London.
- He went to Cambridge university (Clare College) to read music.
- His first piece of music to be published was ‘Shepherd’s Pipe Carol’ which he wrote when he was 18.
- He collaborated with David Willcocks to arrange many well-known Christmas carols. These are published in 4 volumes called Carols for Choirs.
- Rutter’s work is nearly all for choirs.
- He began his own choir called ‘Cambridge Singers’ in 1981. They have recorded many of John Rutter’s songs.
- He composed many beautiful Christmas songs, arranged carols and anthems and composed several extended works of music.
- He begins his composition by writing words with piano or organ accompaniment and then writes an orchestral version.
- Despite the fact that he writes a lot of religious music, Rutter describes himself as not particularly religious. He is inspired by the spirituality of the sacred verses and prayers.
- He was asked to compose an anthem for the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. ‘This is the Day’ was performed during the service.
Links to his work:
Shepherd’s Pipe Carol – the first piece that Rutter had published. He wrote it when he was 18. Beautiful Christmas choral piece.
For the beauty of the earth – score animation showing all the musical notes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTvAnkNijIc
Cambridge Singers singing Amazing Grace
This is the Day –composed specially for and sung at the Royal Wedding
All things Bright and Beautiful sung by a school choir, conducted by John Rutter
Lovely choral piece called ‘Look at the World’ sung by a big choir and orchestra, conducted by John Rutter
The Lord is my Shepherd – Requiem
Live recording of I wish you Christmas
Live recording of Christmas Lullaby
There are so many lovely Christmas choral pieces on John Rutter’s Christmas album – all can be found on You Tube - just search for John Rutter Christmas.
Nat King Cole
1919 – 1965
Who is he?
An American Jazz pianist and singer, recording over 100 hit songs. His style of music was Jazz, swing and blues. He also acted in films, on television and appeared in shows on Broadway.
- He was born Nathaniel Adams Coles
- His first performance was playing ‘Yes! I have no bananas’ at the age of 4
- He starting learning to play the organ, taught by his mother
- He began formal lessons at the age of 12, learning jazz, gospel, and classical music on piano
- Age 20 he formed a jazz trio called The King Cole Trio after the nursery rhyme ‘Old king Cole was a merry old soul’. His manager gave him the nickname King Cole.
- The jazz trio did not contain a drummer. It had a unique sound of the time with just piano/vocals, rhythm guitar and bass.
- Nat King Cole also recorded songs alone.
- Nat had 5 children, one of which, Natalie, he sung duets with
- Nat King Cole’s most famous song was ‘Unforgettable’.
- Natalie re-released “Unforgettable” as a duet 40 years later after Nat King Cole had died. This version featured her father’s original vocals from the 1951 release along with her own voice in a new duet.
Who is he?
An Italian Opera singer who is considered one of the finest singers of the 20th century. Singing as a tenor he made numerous recordings of complete operas and performed to packed audiences all over the world. His clear voice brought enjoyment of opera music to lots of people. Opera music is a form of theatre that is almost entirely sung.
- At the age of 9 he began singing in a church choir.
- When Luciano was young he wanted to be a professional football goal keeper when he grew up. His parents persuaded him to train to be a teacher instead.
- He became a school teacher for 2 years but his real love was music so he started training to be a professional musician.
- His first operatic performance was in 1961, age 26, performing the part of Rodolfo in La Boheme.
- Luciano has 4 daughters
- He sold over 100 million records
- He sang with 2 other opera singers, Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo. They were called the Three Tenors and they performed first at the 1990 FIFA world cup. They went on to perform and record many songs together.
- He became known as ‘the king of cancellations’ as he kept cancelling concerts.
- In 1990 his performance of Nessen Dorma was used as the theme tune for BBC’s coverage of the FIFA world cup. This brought Luciano worldwide fame and made opera popular.
- In 1993 more than 500,000 people came to Luciano’s free performance in Central Park in New York and millions more around the world watched on TV
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr
1960-1970 performing together
Who were they?
An English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. They began by playing in bars and clubs in Liverpool but found international fame with their modern musical style. They mixed skiffle, beat and rock and roll and even included elements of classical music in some of their songs. The Beatles are the best-selling band in history, with estimated sales of over 800 million records worldwide. They changed pop music forever and had a huge influence on culture in the UK and America.
There were 4 members:
John Lennon - lead singer, guitarist, songwriter.
Paul McCartney – bass guitarist and singer, songwriter.
George Harrison – lead guitarist and singer
Ringo Starr - drummer
- They were originally called Beatals then they changed their name to Silver Beetles and then finally to The Beatles.
- The Beatles had a nickname of ‘The Fab four’
- Their first hit was ‘Love me do’ in 1962
- After their first hit there followed an intense fan frenzy which was called Beatlemania
- The Beatles have had more number-one albums on the British charts, and have sold more singles in the UK, than any other act.
- In April 1964, the Beatles had songs at numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in the charts.
- There were several other members of the band over the years but these four are considered the real Beatles.
- The Beatles played mostly in The Cavern Club in Liverpool until they reach international fame.
- The Beatles recorded over 200 songs - these include:
Love me do
Twist and Shout Hey Jude
I wanna hold your hand Yellow Submarine
Octopus Garden Here comes the sun
- The band split up in 1970 due to musical differences.
- Only Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are still alive.
May - JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (1685 – 1750)
Who was he?
Bach was a German organist, singer and composer in the Baroque period. Baroque music was the style of Western music written and played between 1600 and 1750. Bach wrote hundreds of pieces of music for harpsichords (an early piano), organ, strings (violins and cellos) orchestras and voice. His style was considered very mathematical and rhythmically precise.
- Bach was born into a very musical family. He was the 7th generation of musicians. His father was director of town musicians and all his uncles were professions musicians. He began his musical career by learning the violin.
- At the age of 10 he became an orphan and had to live with one of his older brother, Johann Christophe, who was a musician and taught him how to play the organ.
- In 1700 he won a choral scholarship to St Michael’s school in Luneberg.
- Bach had 20 children although not all survived childhood. Several of his sons became composers and musicians like their father.
- During his life he was organist for many different churches, as well as teaching music to children and leading several choirs.
- Bach wrote more than 1100 pieces of music.
- He composed magnificent pieces for the organ, huge choral works that lasted more than 2 hours long as well as collections of pieces for the harpsichord, strings and orchestral works.
- The Brandberg Concertos were written in 1721 as a tribute to the Duke of Brandenburg.
- In 1705 Bach walked 280 miles to the city of Lubeck in Northern Germany to hear a concert performed by organist and composer Dieterich Buxtehude.
- He wore a perfectly curled white wig
- He wrote almost all his choral works in the city of Leipzig in Germany.
- Bach loved coffee and even wrote a song about it. This used to be performed in coffee houses in Germany!
- Bach had problems with his eyesight and after a botched operation he became blind.
April - ELLA FITZGERALD (1917 – 1996)
WHO WAS SHE?
Ella Fitzgerald was an American Jazz Singer. She was called ‘The Queen of Jazz’. Her musical career spanned over 60 years.
Jazz music originated from the African American community in the early 1900s. It combines folk music with swing rhythms and improvisation. Without Jazz we wouldn’t have Rock and Roll or Pop music.
- In 1934, Ella entered a Talent Show at the Apollo Theatre, New York. She had intended to perform a dance but there were too many other dancers, so at the last minute she decided to sing a song instead. She won first prize, $25 and her singing career began.
- Her first number one hit was an adaptation of a nursery rhyme ‘A-tisket, a-tasket’.
- Ella’s middle name was Jane and she was very shy.
- Ella’s nicknames were ‘The First lady of Song’, ‘Queen of Jazz’ or Lady Ella
- She sang with a very pure tone and was able to improvise (make up tunes on the spot) in a style called ‘Scat Singing’.
- She had a singing range of three octaves – that is very low to very high!
- As well as singing, she acted in several films and TV shows.
- In 1958 she was the first African American woman to win a Grammy award for music.
- She recorded more than 200 music albums
- Ella performed with many famous jazz musicians including Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie and Duke Ellington.
- Ella inspired Adele and Lady Gaga.
Quotes from Ella
‘The only thing better than singing, is more singing’.
‘Don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do, where there is love and inspiration I don’t think you can go wrong’.
‘It isn’t where you came from, it is where you are going that counts’.
March - JOHN WILLIAMS
BORN 1932 -
WHO WAS HE?
American composer, conductor, and pianist.
WHAT DID HE DO?
Over six decades, he has composed some of the most popular, recognizable film scores in cinematic history, including those of the Star Wars series, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the Indiana Jones series, the first two Home Alone films, Hook, the first two Jurassic Park films, Schindler's List, and the first three Harry Potter films.
- John Towner Williams was born on February 8, 1932 in Floral Park, New York, the son of Esther (née Towner) and Johnny Williams.
- His full name is John Towner Williams. At school his nickname was Johnny.
- His father was a jazz percussionist. His brother Donald is a percussionist and conductor, and his brother Jerry is a studio percussionist as well.
- Williams has composed the music and served as music director for nearly eighty films.
- He is one of the most popular and successful American orchestral composers of the modern age, John Williams is the winner of five Academy Awards, 17 Grammys, three Golden Globes, two Emmys.
- John Williams was born in New York and moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1948. While in New York, he also worked as a jazz pianist, both in clubs and on recordings.
- He didn’t just write music for films but also wrote many concert pieces and music for television programmes.
LINKS TO HIS WORK:
Live performance - Superman
Live performance – Imperial march from Star wars
Live performance with John Williams conducting – Theme to Jurassic Park
Hedwig’s theme from Harry Potter
Recording of music from E.T by John Williams
Home alone theme