Jean Sibelius

Smitten with Britain

UK quiz

What’s it all mean? 
(What we learned, and I do mean WE.  How did I not know most of this?)

  • UK, the United Kingdom – refers to England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland  
  • Great Britain – is a geographical term, referring to the land mass that includes England, Scotland, and Wales 
  • The British Isles – another geographical term, referring to Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and 6,000 teenier islands in the general area 
  • The British Commonwealth – (correctly referred to as “The Commonwealth”) a political association of 54  countries (including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) for which Queen Elizabeth II serves as leader (finally, she is in charge of something!)

Our favorite takeaways from our “Smitten with Britain” unit:  

manx sheep

1)  The Isle of Man –  Located in the Irish Sea, midway between Ireland and Great Britain.  Home of:

  • Manx cats
  • Manx Loaghtan sheep (SHEEP WITH FOUR HORNS)(GET OUT OF TOWN) (immediate Google image search) (we couldn’t stop staring at the 4 horns)
  • the Bee Gees (Bee Gee tunes are favorites in my son’s trampoline-time music lineup)

2)  Trafalgar Square – London  

  • it is all about Admiral Horatio Nelson and an 1805 sea battle.  Discussion provokers:  1)  the lions at the base of Nelson’s Column (the centerpiece of the square) were cast from cannons (vocab) from battleships,  2)  we talked about the process of “casting”,  3)  we spent time lamenting Lord Nelson’s loss of an eye and an arm for the British cause
  • Trafalgar Square boasts London’s smallest police office (the observation post can only fit one person)
  • the square is the site for a ginormous Christmas tree that is sent every year from Norway

Our resources:  

UK books

  • Wikipedia 
  • “The Usborne Book of London”
  • “The Big Book of the UK” (Williams/Lockhart)

Smitten with these British authors:

dog books

James Herriot:  From the consummate British vet and master story-teller, his “Dog Stories” are calming and kind recollections.  Perfect night-time reading.  Our favorite stories so far:  “The Darrowby Show” and “Granville Bennett”.

Tom Gates:  Liz Pichon’s books activate our grin machines.  We are currently rereading the entire Tom Gates series (just finished “Super Good Skills”, now mid-way through “Dog Zombies Rule”).  We cannot get enough of Tom’s sullen sister Delia,  Tom’s bothersome classroom seat-mate, Marcus Meldrew, Tom’s grandparents (“The Fossils”).  We love Tom’s doodles.

scones

Story Problem from the local diner – The diner is caught up in a British frenzy, so for the next month, the diner will serve afternoon tea with scones and tea sandwiches.  The diner needs 5 quarts of raspberry jam per week.  Farmer Brown sells his jam for $8 a quart, but he is going to give the diner a 10% discount.  How much will the diner spend on raspberry jam during the next four weeks?

A.  $16     B.  $40     C.  $144     D.  $160  (answer at bottom of post)

shakespeare

Shakespeare Comedies – we were so taken with The Usborne “Complete Shakespeare” book that augmented our reading of Gary Schmidt’s “The Wednesday Wars” (see “Perfect Pairings”, the post of February 2, 2021), that we read through all of the Shakespeare comedies (we learned that in terms of Shakespeare, “comedy” means happy ending).  An excellent use of our time: 

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Twelfth Night
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost
  • Much Ado about Nothing
  • As You Like It
  • Two Gentlemen of Verona
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor (maybe this is our favorite)
  • The Winter’s Tale
  • The Taming of the Shrew (on our fave list)
  • Pericles (on our fave list)
  • The Comedy of Errors
  • The Tempest
  • All’s Well that Ends Well

Classical Music Time:  The Siren Call of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” – this play seems to beckon composers:  we listened to three versions of the overture and discussed the very different points of view – 

From 1674, English baroque composer Matthew Locke:  this introduction is very fussy, very baroque, very short (only a minute long) – 

From 1861, English composer Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert/Sullivan): this was Sullivan’s first published work (he was only 19!). My son and I hear themes of loneliness and disappointment, and as the piece gets underway we hear the storm approach, burst, and move on –

From 1925, Finish composer Jean Sibelius: sort of 7 minutes of heavy winds (enough already), but it does paint a picture of the terrible storm that sets everything in motion –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  C).  $144)

New Year, New Books

2019

(Christmas gift – thank you Jimmy)  On the basis of a single book, “Women in Science”, my son and I welcome to our academic library ANY book book written by Rachel Ignotofsky.  WOW.  Ms. Ignotofsky certainly meets her goal of creating educational works of art;  this  dazzling book is intelligently organized and jammed with the kind of information we want to know about.  So far, we have been enticed into learning about the contributions of women astronomers, chemists, mathematicians, entomologists, paleontologists, engineers, electricians, geneticists, and geologists.  This book is such a keeper.

timeline book

(Christmas gift – thank you Aunt Janet)  The Smithsonian “Timelines of Everything” book offers up approximately 150 timelines, each commanding a giant two-page spread.  The focus of each timeline is narrow and we always find something worth discussing further.  For instance:

  • agriculture – we spent some time musing over the fact that sheep were raised for milk and food beginning around 7,000 BCE, but wool was not woven into into fabric until 4,000 BCE (Whoa. A 3,000 year time gap).
  • the wheel – the first wheels were potters’ wheels (we did not guess this – and we do know all about potters’ wheels from our study of ceramic artist George E. Ohr).  
  • the written word – we marveled over the Rosetta Stone.
  • games – we now know that when we play tic-tac-toe we are playing one of mankind’s oldest games (first century BCE) (seriously, the 3 Wise Men could have known how to play tic-tac-toe).
  • religions – I had no idea that this would lead to a discussion of REINCARNATION.  But, duh, OF COURSE.  If one hasn’t heard of reincarnation one would want to spend a bit of time grasping the concept.

styx malone

Fiction Fun – “The Season of Styx Malone”, by Kekla Magoon. Styx is full throttle coolness and confidence.  Do we trust him?  We just don’t know.  This keeps us leaning forward as we read chapter after chapter.  Please don’t disappoint us Styx!

running dog

A super short, super easy Farmer Brown story problem – Often people visiting the ranch bring their dogs, so Farmer Brown’s farmhands have fenced in two dog runs for visiting canines.  Which dog run will give the animals more square footage:  the 6’x25’ run or the 5’x30’ run?  (answer at bottom of post)

conductor match

Classical Quiz – I wanted to check to see if my son was retaining info about the great musicians we have been listening to, so he matched up virtuosos with their instrument.  A few conductors were tossed into the mix to make things tricky.  FYI:  my son scored 100%.

music notes

That sounds familiar –  It is no secret that composers often borrow musical ideas from other composers.  (Usually they give credit, sometimes they get into BIG trouble).  Anyway,  I happen to like tracing routes of melodies through the centuries, so my lucky son gets to enjoy listening to my melody match-ups.  Quick examples:

  • Jacque Arcadelt’s Ave Maria melody of the mid 1500’s can be found in both Camille Saint-Saens’ 1886 Organ Symphony and the Finlandia Hymn from Jean Sibelius’ 1899 symphonic poem, Finlandia.
  • Luigi Denza’s Finiculi Funicula (1880) is front and center in Richard Strauss’s  Aus Italian (1886) and in Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Neapolitan Song (1907).
  • Brahms’ Symphony 3, movement 3 (1883) provides the melody line for  Carlos Santana’s Love of My Life (1999).

And this leads us to Bach and Rock – 

lute

Last week we listened to Bourrée in E minor from JS Bach’s Lute Suite No. 1, composed around 1710.  Nice, short, memorable melody (and my son learned that a guitar may be substituted for a lute).  A jewel of a performance by Kevin Low – and check out the loose  guitar strings:  

Then we listened to rock-group-from-the-60’s/70’s Jethro Tull’s recording of “Bouree”.  Such a lively interpretation of the Bach suite movement, but it is clear that lead musician, Ian Anderson, had not much experience playing the flute.  We read a few interviews and found out that Anderson was a self-taught flutist, admitting that he had no idea what he was doing.  So we say BRAVO to his CAN DO attitude.  

We concluded by listening to a 2005 recording of Ian Anderson playing the same piece, “Bouree”, with orchestral support.  Anderson did well with the 35 year practice period!  YAY. 

Also, we learned that the real Jethro Tull (inspiration for the rock group’s name) was a noted British agriculture pioneer (1674-1741).

jethro tull

Welcome to the best part of my day!
-Jane BH
(Story problem answer:  both dog run designs have the same square footage – 150 square feet)

Riveting!

levi strauss pants

Our current history unit is riveting – or more precisely, it’s about rivets.  We are reading about the blue jeans empire of Levi Strauss & Company, (“Images of America – Levi Strauss & Co.” by historian Lynn Downey).  We’ve learned that Levi Strauss, of San Francisco, teamed with tailor, Jacob Davis, in 1873 to manufacture an extra-hard-wearing work pant – the key to their immense success was their patented rivets-on-the-corners-of-the-pockets design.  But this unit is giving us an opportunity to learn more than just about the jeans: we’ve talked about why Levi Strauss was said to have haled from Bavaria (not Germany) (actually we learned about this from our previous study on Otto von Bismarck), we’ve learned about the devastating San Francisco earthquake of 1906, we’ve learned what “dry goods” are, we’ve looked at print advertising of the early 1900’s AND we’ve learned about rivets.  Another great study unit!

greetings from India postcard      indiana postcard 2

TRAVEL BARGAIN!  13,000 extra miles for $4.00!  I often purchase our books via the “used book associate sellers” on Amazon. (It is amazing how many books I have purchased for 1 penny, plus shipping.)  I usually look to see where the seller is located so I can gauge how long it might take to receive the book.  Last week I ordered a series of “Tom Gates” books from what I thought was a seller in Indiana.  What a surprise to find out that I ordered the series from a seller in INDIA!!!  Crazily, the shipping cost for 7 books was a mere $4.00 and I received the order within a week.  A+ on all levels!  Before we cracked open the first book, we got out the globe, located both Indiana and India, had a small laugh over the 13,000 mile distance, then we traced the route the books may have taken from India to reach us in Texas.

andes mints after eight mints

A mintylicious story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – the diner has plans to serve up after-dinner mints with the check at the end of every meal.  The question is, which mints?  The busboys are voting for “Andes Mints” (primarily because one of the busboys is named “Andy”, and wouldn’t that be a riot?).  The waitresses think “After Eight” mints are much classier.  The diner’s accountant told the staff that it is the thought that counts and strongly suggested they purchase the most cost efficient (cheapest) (vocab) mint.  So:
After Eight Mints – each box contains 25 mints.  A package of 6 boxes sells for $22.
Andes Mints – 5 pounds of Andes Mints can be purchased for $34. There are 70 mints in each pound.

A.  How much does a single mint of each type cost (we learned about “rounding up”)?
B.  The diner is going with the least expensive mint.  If  700 hundred dinners are served per week, and each will conclude with a mint, how much will the diner be spending on mints per month? (we are not including tax or shipping costs)(answers at bottom of post)

lute player

“The Lute Player” by Caravaggio, with sheet music by Jacques Arcadelt.  Whoa.

Three Hymns from One – As I have mentioned previously, my son and I listen to music of an ecclesiastical nature on Sunday nights.  This past Sunday night we followed the path of a hymn written in the mid-1500s by Jacques Arcadelt.

First, Arcadelt’s “Ave Maria“.  We are not sure who is singing here, but the acoustics of the Joy Burns Plaza are insanely effective.  A LOT of sound from 4 vocalists:

Next, the finale to Camille Saint-Saens’ “Symphony No. 3 in C minor” (the “Organ Symphony”), composed in 1886. Of this symphony, Saint-Saens wrote “I gave everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again.” Doesn’t this make you desperate to have a listen?  Of course, we sort of always like to hear any piece played on a gigantic pipe organ.  We clearly hear Arcadelt’s hymn in this piece:

Finally, we listened to Jean Sibelius’ “Finlandia Hymn”, a small part of his 9-minute “Finlandia” composition.  Again, we hear the influence of Arcadelt’s “Ave Maria”.  “Finlandia” was written in 1899, and words to the hymn portion in 1941.  My son and I are suckers for flashmobs – a train station in Finland is the setting for this wonderful event:

We also wanted to hear the entire “Finlandia” composition.  This recording came from the opening performance of the new music hall in Helsinki, 2011.  The hymn starts about 5 minutes 30 seconds into the piece (alert:  the piece is rather menacing in the beginning – the message is clearly “Don’t Mess with Finland”).  Stirring:

Welcome to the best part of my day.
– Jane BH
Story problem answers:
A. each Andes mint costs approximately 10 cents, each After Eight mint costs approximately 15 cents
B. $272