Composer of the Week
Each week the children of Ark Conway Primary Academy listen to music that ties in with their curriculum studies. The music is played around the school and the children can hear it as they move between classes. For each theme a key musician or composer is selected as an example and children are taught a little bit about the genre and/or artist in assemblies.
Joni Mitchell (w/c 13/03/2017)
Joni Mitchell was born on November 7, 1943, in Fort Macleod, Canada. In 1968, she recorded her first, self-titled album. Other highly successful albums followed. Mitchell won her first Grammy Award (best folk performance) for her 1969 album, Clouds. She has won seven more Grammy Awards since then, in several different categories, including traditional pop, pop music and lifetime achievement.
Malcolm Williamson (w/c 24/02/2107)
Williamson was born in Sydney and studied composition and horn at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. In 1950 he moved to London where he worked as an organist, a proofreader, and a nightclub pianist. From 1953 he studied with Elisabeth Lutyens. Williamson was a prolific composer at this time, receiving many commissions and often performed his own works, both on organ and piano.
In 1975, the death of Sir Arthur Bliss left the title of Master of the Queen's Music vacant. The selection of Williamson to fill this post was a surprise, Williamson was the first non-Briton to hold the post. He wrote a number of pieces connected to his royal post; however, controversy attended his tenure, notably his failure to complete the intended "Jubilee Symphony" for the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977. He became less prolific in "Royal" works during the last twenty years or so of his life, although he never completely ceased to take interest in writing music for the Royal. His overall compositional output slowed considerably due to a series of illnesses. He died in 2003 in Cambridge.
Johann Sebastian Bach (w/c 20/1/2017)
Born on March 31, 1685 in Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany, Johann Sebastian Bach had a prestigious musical lineage and took on various organist positions during the early 18th century, creating famous compositions like "Toccata and Fugue in D minor." Some of his best-known compositions are the "Mass in B Minor," the "Brandenburg Concertos" and "The Well-Tempered Clavier." Bach died in Leipzig, Germany, on July 28, 1750. Today, he is considered one of the greatest Western composers of all time.
Henry Purcell (w/c 02/01/17)
Henry Purcell was one of the greatest English composers, flourishing in the period that followed the Restoration of the monarchy after the Puritan Commonwealth period. Purcell spent much of his short life in the service of the Chapel Royal as a composer, organist and singer. With considerable gifts as a composer, he wrote extensively for the stage, particularly in a hybrid musico-dramatic form of the time, for the church and for popular entertainment, a master of English word-setting and of contemporary compositional techniques for instruments and voices. He died in 1695, a year after composing funeral music for Queen Mary.
Leonard Cohen (w/c 21/11/2016)
Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen was born in 1934. An early writer and guitarist, Cohen began to compose and release folk-rock and pop songs by the mid-1960s. One of his most famous compositions is "Hallelujah," a song released on 1984's Various Positions. Cohen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, and he received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2010. Cohen died in 2016 at the age of 82.
George Frideric Handel (w/c 31/10/2016)
Baroque composer George Frideric Handel was born in Halle, Germany, in 1685. In 1705 he made his debut as an opera composer with Almira. He produced several operas with the Royal Academy of Music in England before forming the New Royal Academy of Music in 1727. When Italian operas fell out of fashion, he started composing oratorios, including his most famous, Messiah. Handel died in London, England, in 1759.
Ray Charles (w/c 10/10/16)
Born in Georgia in 1930, Ray Charles was a legendary musician who pioneered the genre of soul music during the 1950s. Often called the "Father of Soul," Charles combined blues, gospel and jazz to create groundbreaking hits such as "Unchain My Heart," "Hit the Road Jack" and "Georgia on My Mind." He died in 2004, leaving a lasting impression on contemporary music.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791) was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. Born in Salzburg, Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty.
At 17, Mozart was engaged as a musician at the Salzburg court, but grew restless and traveled in search of a better position. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of his death. The circumstances of his early death have been much mythologized. He was survived by his wife Constanze and two sons.
He composed more than 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers, and his influence is profound on subsequent Western art music. Ludwig van Beethoven composed his own early works in the shadow of Mozart, and Joseph Haydn wrote that "posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years"
Claude Debussey (Composer of the Week w/c 12/9/16)
Claude Debussy was born in St. Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, France. His father was a salesman and kept a china shop. His mother was a seamstress. Debussy's piano teacher, Mme. Maute, had been a student of Frédéric Chopin. She sent Debussy to the Paris Conservatory, where he studied from 1872-84 with César Franck, Ernest Guiraud and others. He lived at the castle of Nadezhda von Meck and taught her children. She was a wealthy patroness of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and eventually Debussy played all pieces by Tchaikovsky in addition to other classical repertoire. She also took Debussy on trips to Venice, Vienna and Moscow. In Vienna he heard "Tristan und Isolde" by Richard Wagner and later admitted that it had influenced him for a number of years. Debussy won the Prix de Rome twice--in 1883 and 1884--and the money covered his studies at the Villa de Medici in Rome for the next four years. In Rome he met Franz Liszt and Giuseppe Verdi and heard more of Wagner's music, which made a strong impression on him.
Debussy became influenced by the impressionist poets and artists in the circle of Stéphane Mallarmé. In 1890 he wrote his most famous music collection for piano, "Suite bergamasque", containing "Clair de Lune". His "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" continued the most productive 20-year period in his life. He composed orchestral "Nocturnes", "La Mer", "Images" , and the intricate ballet "Jeux" for "Ballets Russes" of Sergei Diaghilev. In 1908 Debussy married singer Emma Bardac after they had a daughter, Claude-Emma. Debussy called her Chou-Chou and composed for her the collection of piano pieces "Children's Corner Suite". The beginning of WW I and the onset of cancer depressed Debussy. He left unfinished opera, ballets and two pieces after stories by Edgar Allan Poe that later were completed by his assistants. He died on March 25, 1918, in Paris.
Danny Elfman was born in 1953 in Los Angeles, California, where he currently resides. Over the last 20 years, he has established himself as one of Hollywood's leading film composers. Elfman has written close to 50 film scores featuring his unique sound, including Batman, Spider-man, Men in Black, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Pee Wee's Big Adventure. In addition to these signature soundtracks, he has scored such diverse films as Big Fish, Good Will Hunting, Dolores Claiborne, Midnight Run, To Die For, Dead Presidents, Sommersby, and Chicago. For television, Elfman created the infectious themes to The Simpsons and Desperate Housewives. His honors include a Grammy and three Academy Award nominations.
The composer of the week is Arvo Pärt (born 11 September 1935) who is an Estonian composer of classical and sacred music. Since the late 1970s, Pärt has worked in a minimalist style that employs his self-invented compositional technique, tintinnabuli. His music is in part inspired by Gregorian chant. Pärt has been the most performed living composer in the world for 5 consecutive years.
Black History Month
Out of respect for Black History Month, Ark Conway students listened to Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong in October 2015. The two performers span over several genres. Ray Charles was famous for combining Blues, Gospel and Rythm & Blues to create a soulful sound. He is said to be the pioneer of Soul music. Louis Armstrong or Satchmo as he was also known was a great Jazz Musician. He came into public knowledge in the 1920's, playing trumpet. He soon made it as a vocal artist and was one of the foundational members of the jazz movement. Both men pioneered their own genre of music, they not only integrated sounds to create a unique musical experience, they also helped integrate society. Their music crossed over the racial borders that were prominent in American society in the early part of the 20th Century, and posibly helped to break down some of the tensions.