Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Joseph Boulogne "Chevalier de Saint-Georges"

One of the most important influences on Beethoven, Mozart, and Haydn, classical pianists, was Joseph Boulogne, otherwise known as Chevalier de Saint-Georges, in recognition of his noble heritage.  Born in Guadelupe, Joseph Boulogne was the son of George de Bologne Saint-Georges. a plantation owner in France, and a slave.  Because he could not claim his heritage as the son of nobility, he changed his name during his adulthood to Chevalier de Saint – Georges, to bring attention to it.  Friends and family called him by this name as a child.  “Chevalier” means knight in French. 

As a child, Joseph’s father provided for him and gave him a good education which included swimming, fencing, and music.  He studied classical music with Jean-Marie Leclair, who instructed him in the violin, and composition with Francois-Joseph Gossec, who taught him composition.
As an adult, he pursued a music career at Le Concert des Amateurs orchestra, where the conductor chose him as First Violinist. In 1769.  

He became so well-known for his musical ability that Mozart paid him a visit in 1778.  Boulogne was known as the “Black” Mozart,   “Le Mozart Noir.”  Queen Marie Antoinette appointed Boulogne as her music director in 1775 and he was director of the Paris Opera under King Louis XVI. His directorship under the Paris Opera was opposed by his fiercest rivals and as a result, he lost the position.  He was then appointed as music director of  Marquise de Montesson’s private theater,  where he wrote the only music for a musical comedy, “Ernestine.”

However, after travelling to Vienna, he met Franz Joseph Haydn whom he commissioned to compose the Paris Symphonies, Nos. 82-87 for the Paris Opera.  Mare Antoinette was a fan of “The Queen,” No. 85.

Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, was not only a leader in his musical career, but he went on to become the colonel of the Légion des Hussards Américains  (Legion of American Soldiers) where he met.  This legion was a group of about 1000 black volunteer soldiers who were asked to fight in defense of the French Revolution.  There he met Alexandre Dumas Davy de La Pailleterie, also the son of a slave and a nobleman, who became the father of Alexander Dumas who wrote the “Three Musketeers.”

His works include several classical violin concertos, symphonies, quartets, operas for the Comedie-Italienne, and sonatas for violin and harpsichord composed between 1773 and 1778.  Only about one third of them have been discovered and they show the characteristics of classical music which include melody, symmetry, and attention to balance.

Monday, March 23, 2015

New Book -"Beyond My Imagination" to be Published Soon

My new book, Beyond My Imagination is just about ready to be published.  This book highlight some of my experiences in teaching children how to play the piano at community centers and after school programs and introduces my teaching style.  If you would like to purchase a copy of the book, I would suggest that you join my mailing list, at the top right corner of this blog, so that you can receive a link to purchase a copy as soon as it is published.  You will also be subscribed to a newsletter announcing book signing and book tour dates.         

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Should Children Attend the Symphony?

Attending classical concerts is a great way for children to become involved in their music to gain an appreciation for the talents and works of those who have gone before them.  Depending on the age of the child, this event could greatly influence their desire to develop their talent.  

Many of the schools sponsor field trips to a symphony at special times during the year, such as Easter or Christmas as a way to enrich the children.  However, with the coming changes in school curriculum, such as the new Common Core standards, this may not be included in the curriculum.

However, parents can take their children to a symphony on their own once or twice a year, as a treat to the children.  I can remember as a child that I was fascinated by the many people in the orchestra and the instruments they were playing.  It was such an exciting event to me, because it was not something that I could experience on a regular basis in my life.  There were so many different sounds.  My favorite instrument was the xylophone.  I would watch the player intently as he/she crafted beautiful, melodious sounds from an oddly shaped instrument.  I was intrigued!

Children can also learn to appreciate classical music when they see their peers skillfully playing the same instruments.  I observed in my piano classes that the children often helped each other learn the new songs.  The children are more motivated to learn the songs as they strive to keep up with their peers.  Here is an example of a video which would influence and encourage children to develop their talents. 

If you are in California or are going to be in California on March 25, 2015, GirmaYifrrashewa, an accomplished Ethiopian pianist, is touring the United States and will be giving a concert at the Carriage House in Los Angeles, California.  Girma just released a CD entitled “Love and Peace.”  Having a Master’s degree in Piano, he specializes in the music of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven.   He also plans to travel to the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda, Maryland on May 3, 2015 and to Joe's Pub in New York, NY on May 5, 2015. 

In conclusion, children can be greatly enriched when they attend classical concerts and symphonies from time to time.