Benjamin Britten’s “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra”

This year, I’m teaching a new Pre-AP Music Appreciation course at my school.  The goal of the course is to teach students the language of music, as well as the different instruments, along with a broad survey of Western music from the Middle Ages to the present.  For the first week, we discussed dynamic contrast, tone color/timbre, and began going through the instruments typically found in the orchestra.  We’ve also listened to some excellent music, including a particularly dramatic performance of Franz Schubert’s “Der Erlkönig.”

After we covered the different orchestral instruments, we listened to Benjamin Britten‘s “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” performed by the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln under the direction of Jukka Pekka SarasteBritten’s piece takes a theme from seventeenth-century English composer Henry Purcell, an important Baroque composer with a distinctly English sound.  Britten has the entire orchestra play the Purcell theme, then each section takes a turn.  Then each instrument in the orchestra—including auxiliary percussion pieces like the triangle—take solo or soli sections, starting with the piccolos and flutes.

It’s a charming bit of modern classical music, and this performance is a particularly good one.  The camera crew makes sure to highlight each section of the orchestra and each group of instruments as they perform (the oboes are particularly fun, as one oboist looks like his head is about to burst from concentration).  I remember Ben Shapiro recommending the piece to a listener who wanted to introduce his young children to symphonic music, and stating that his own young daughter loved it.

After thirteen (!) variations on Purcell’s theme, Britten introduces a lively new theme, starting with a jaunty, acrobatic piccolo solo, and then slowly building back in the woodwinds, strings, brasses, and percussion in turn.  The whole thing swells to a mighty crescendo, with a powerful, full orchestra finale.  When I played it for my Pre-AP Music Appreciation students Friday morning, a few of them were awe-struck.  We finished listening in the closing minutes of class, and one student left saying, “This is my favorite class”—always satisfying to hear as a teacher.

Of course, who couldn’t love a class that involves listening to and talking about great music?  As our primary resource, I’m using Roger Kamien’s Music: An Appreciation, the eighth brief edition.  We’re also using YouTube heavily to locate quality recordings of music, such as the WDR Cologne Symphony recording featured in this post.

I’m hoping to sit my niece and nephews down soon to listen to Britten’s piece, as I think they’ll enjoy all the instruments.  It might be a tad long to hold their attention, but it can easily be enjoyed in small chunks.  My niece is particularly musically inclined, and I think will have fun seeing and hearing the different orchestral pieces in turn.

After all, if we’re trying to save Western Civilization, that means learning to appreciate some our highest cultural creations—and sharing that love with the next generation.

Lazy Sunday LXXXI: Forgotten Posts, Volume V

It’s been a pretty busy Lazy Sunday for yours portly.  I helped my younger brother and his young family move last Saturday, and the ongoing relocation process continued with some small household items this afternoon.  The whole weekend has been pretty jam-packed with work of one kind or another, so I’m fairly beat—with another week of school ahead.

Regardless, that’s why this week’s Lazy Sunday is later than usual.  I’m still diving into posts from September 2019, which seemed to be a pretty rich vein for quality posts.  Here are some more of those posts:

  • Sanford Announces Presidential Bid” – I used to love Mark Sanford.  He was a pretty solid governor for SC, and stood boldly against expensive Medicaid expansion.  He was a colorful character, and a fairly consistent fiscal conservative.  But he fell in with the Never Trumpers.  He’s not wrong that the national debt is untenable, but… it’s grown beyond any amount we ever thought possible, and economic life rolls on.  We’re likely writing a promissory note that will be impossible to pay in the future, but the issue of the debt is so abstract and academic—and so removed from people’s daily realities—that it seems like a non-issue.  Sanford’s presidential bid failed swiftly due to extreme disinterest.
  • Tommy Robinson is Free!” – British patriot Tommy Robinson has endured two difficult, unjust prison sentences, one of which nearly killed him.  Because he’s spoken out so strongly against Muslims, he had to be held in solitary confinement to protect him from Muslim prison gangs (seems his warnings have some truth to them, if so many Muslims are in British prisons they can form gangs).  Many conservatives assumed his imprisonments were means by which the British authorities could indirectly assassinate Robinson, silencing an important nationalist voice.  Fortunately, he survived—another victory for our side.
  • America’s Roman Roots” – This post looked at an op-ed from a Dr. Brandop-ed from a Dr. Brand about the influence of the Roman Republic on America’s Founding Fathers.  The Roman Republic, like our American one, emerged after a group of patriotic elites overthrew the ruling monarchy, and established the most successful, enduring Republic of the ancient world.  Sometimes I think now America is more like the Roman Empire than the Roman Republic, but that would make sense, too—similar roots might yield similar results.  Let’s how the spirit of republicanism can be revived.

Well, that’s it for this delayed Lazy Sunday!  I may continue the deep dive with more “Forgotten Posts,” or I’ll go back to some thematic posts.  We’ll see—next Sunday!

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

SubscribeStar Saturday: The Future is Rural

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In case you missed itThe Portly Politico is now theportlypolitico.com!  Thanks to subscriber support (and a 50% off flash sale), TPP is now a premium WordPress site.  If you want to help advance strong conservative commentary on politics, culture, history, religion, and art, consider a $1 or $5 a month subscription—or more!

The roiling waves of urban riots this summer could be the death knell of urban living.  Even smaller cities are falling victim to progressive insanity and destruction.  It was one thing when Seattle and Portland were ablaze, and Americans wrote off Detroit years ago.  But now Kenosha, Wisconsin is the hotbed of disorder and chaos?

The story of “white flight” from urban centers is a Leftist favorite, and—of course—progressives blame the plight of inner city blacks on the fact that white people took their tax dollars and fled tot he suburbs.  Never mind that riots in the 1960s destroyed white- and black-owned businesses, and that the current wave of riots destroys millions of dollars in black-owned property.  The Leftist narrative also implies that blacks aren’t capable of succeeding without substantial financial and institutional support from whites, a clear example of progressivism’s bigotry of low expectations.

As is often the case with Leftist canards, there is a kernel of Truth among the popcorn ball of misleading disinformation:  people did flee urban centers in the 1960s, precisely because they were so dangerous.  As the respectable, middle-class civil rights movement gave way to the militant black nationalism of SNCC and the Nation of Islam, sane people ran for the suburban hills.

Now we’re in a similar moment, in which progressive grievance-mongering and racial malfeasance gin up BLM and Antifa criminals, eager to fight imaginary “Nazis” in the streets.  While these riots are a tragedy for our nation and for the rule of law, there is a silver lining:  it could prove to be a boon for rural America.

The rest of today’s post might be a tad delayed; I am proctoring the SAT this morning, and then am hitting the road for a family celebration.  My apologies in advance.

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ThePortlyPolitico.com is Here!

A quick update:  thanks to your generosity and supportThe Portly Politico has upgraded!  Now you can visit the site at https://www.theportlypolitico.com (or, simply, theportlypolitico.com).  Also, advertisements on the site no longer line WordPress’s pockets—they line mine!

Your subscriptions to my SubscribeStar page have made this upgrade to a WordPress Premium Plan possible.  Not only will the site have a more convenient URL, I’ll also be able to add a number of new features, such as accepting PayPal donations (and making sales via PayPal—time to invest in some Portly merch!).

So, again, thank you so, so much for your generosity, and for joining me in this daily blogging project.  I’m striving to continue to offer keen, conservative insights into news, politics, culture, and education, and your support means more than this piddling blog post can express.

God Bless, and God Bless America!

—TPP

First Week of School in The Age of The Virus

We’ve gotten about one week of school in the books.  So far—as far as I know—there have been no major outbreaks of The Virus among our students or staff.  I noted last Friday that our plethora of new policies were, fortunately, not quite as difficult to implement as I feared.

I wrote at the time that the “real test will be next week—our first full week of school.”  So with one (very long) week in the books, how are we holding up?

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TBT: Remembering 1519

We’ve been back at school for one week now, and so far things seem to be going well, albeit very busy.  We’re slowly settling into a groove with our various safety protocols, and most of the schedule changes are solidified.  That should make for much smoother sailing going forward.

I’m mostly teaching music courses this year, but I still have a couple of sections of Honors US History.  That means it’s another year of telling the “grand narrative of American history.”  My main goal as a history teacher is to make sure students receive a balanced, analytical telling of our great nation’s history.  That means that while I point out the atrocities of, say, the Spanish conquistadors, I also discuss the wickedness of the Aztecs, who engaged in daily human sacrifices.  That the Spanish built a cathedral atop the old Aztec altar to their false gods is a fitting bit of divine judgment.

Of course, as an American I’m more interested in English colonization and settlement in British North America—what would become the United States—than I am in the vast empire of New Spain.  We should be getting into Roanoke, Jamestown, and Plymouth Rock today or tomorrow, and I’m quite excited about that.  For me, that’s when the story really starts cooking.  Naturally, the clash of Spanish conquistadors and Aztec and Inca warriors is cool, but those first saplings of a free country stir my heart.

All that said, this week’s TBT looks back at those cool conquistadors.  Here is 3 September 2019’s “Remembering 1519“:

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The RNC: Normality and Sanity

As an ostensible politics blogger I’ve been quite derelict in my duty to watch the Republican National Convention, at least with the kind of rapt attention I should.  I completely skipped out on the terrible Democratic National Convention, which was, by all appearances, a disaster in both form and substance.

That said, what I have seen is encouraging.  The theme of the RNC seems to be that a vote for Republicans is a vote for sanity, and that the Republicans are the party of normal people.  The implication, of course, is that the Democrats support insanity and the abnormal, which is objectively true.

The media has reported that the RNC is throwing out red meat for its base, but considering that Trump naturalized five immigrants and Tim Scott was calling for criminal justice and law enforcement reforms suggest otherwise.  If anything, the convention this year is a sales pitch to independents, who are no-doubt weary of seeing cities burn and cops reviled.

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RNC Night 1 Highlight: Tim Scott

The 2020 Republican National Convention kicked off last night, and I missed all of it.  However, while drifting off to sleep after a long day of mind-molding, my younger brother and dad were blowing up my phone about Senator Tim Scott’s speech.

Tim Scott is South Carolina’s junior Senator, and enjoys immense support here in the Palmetto State.  His story is inspiring:  the product of a single-parent household, he overcame bad grades and learned the value of hard work while working at Chick-Fil-A.  He came to understand that profits don’t hurt people, but create jobs and build communities.  He’s also the first black Republican Senator from the South since Reconstruction.

While I sometimes think Senator Scott is a bit hasty to take sides against law enforcement amid ginned up race controversies, his overall instincts are solidly conservative.  He’s affable and easy-going, as well as eloquent and measured.  It’s little wonder that he’s a rising star in the Republican Party.

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Psalm 13 and Patience

Yesterday my pastor’s sermon came from Psalm 13, a six-verse Psalm in which King David cries out in despair to God.  Here it is in its entirety, from the King James Version (c/o Bible Hub):

1{To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.} How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?

2How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?

3Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;

4Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

5But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.

6I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.

The title of the sermon was “What Do You Do When God Delays?”  The whole point was that we’re always eager for answers and results now, and our tolerance for what we perceive to be as delays is pitifully short.

Of course, God isn’t delaying—He’s on His timetable, not ours.  When everything is going well, we don’t think about it, but when things go wrong, we’re often desperate for life to return to normality; if it doesn’t do so immediately, we get impatient with God.

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