Rossini

Heady Times

 

The Moai of Easter Island – of course we wanted to learn about the carved heads (moai) of Easter Island (AKA Rapa Nui).  Steadfast, benevolent, thoughtful in demeanor, some sporting jolly red hats, and of course, all preposterously large:  what’s not to love?  First, we found Easter Island on our globe – a remote tiny piece of land (a mere 64 square miles)(we discussed what 64 square miles would mean) in the Pacific Ocean (and FYI, a territory of Chile).  Then we read through James Grant-Peterkin’s “A Companion to Easter Island” to learn about the the 900 moai that honor ancestors, guard the island, and perhaps mark areas near fresh water.  We learned that – 

  • the island was formed by three volcanos and the moai were carved 500 to 800 years ago from solidified volcanic ash
  • the method of transporting the cumbersome and weighty moai from quarry to specifically chosen places around the island remains a mystery 
  • Easter Island was officially declared a “World Heritage Site” (protected by international treaties) by the United Nations in 1995
  • there are concerns by the scientific community that the island’s iconic statues nearest the shore line might sink into the ocean due to climate changes (storms, rising water levels)   

opera books

The Lewis and Clark Expedition – our final thoughts after finishing “The Captain’s Dog” by Roland Smith:   the endeavor was significantly more lengthy and challenging than anticipated, and SOMEHOW it succeeded.  One word:  LEADERSHIP.  We discussed the extraordinary skills possessed by Captains Lewis and Clark in keeping their assembly of 31 healthy, fed, and motivated for the two and a half year trek – diplomacy, bartering, first aid competence, hunting, managing difficult personalities (Charbonneau, for one), map charting, journal keeping, river navigation, quick decision making.  President Jefferson chose well.  This venture could have gone so wrong.

read by himself

More read-to-himself stories – In the last post I mentioned that I had started my son on a few “read-to-himself” short stories about family members.  This activity kept his focus, so this past week he read and answered a few questions about:
– Holly’s San Francisco Cats
– How Mom and Dad Met
– When Ben Stopped Traffic

More and more learning –

  • how does one get to be my age (dirt) and still not know the exact relationship between an ounce and a gram?  So we BOTH learned that there are around 28 grams to 1 ounce.  We breezed through a pretty good little kids book, “How Do You Measure Weight” by Thomas K. and Heather Adamson.
  • we also reviewed basic time conventions:  the 12-hour a.m./p.m. clock and the 24-hour military clock.  (Vocab:  Ante, Post, Meridiem)

opera house

We’re learning about opera! – every night we are reading one act from the 15 selected operas in “Sing Me a Story – The Metropolitan Opera’s Book of Opera Stories for Children” by Jane Rosenberg.  And one act per night is plenty:  the number of characters, disguises and deceptions worked into a single act is bewildering.  This book does a commendable job of explaining each opera while keeping our interest (and it is a perfect resource for anyone, not just children).  So far, we have read through Aida – Ahmal and the Night Visitors – The Barber of Seville – La Boheme – Carmen.

juke box

Story Problem:  Opera music at Le Fictitious Local Diner – During the fall months, the local diner is hosting Italian Night every Friday.  Three Italian cuisine specials are offered AND Chef George (opera aficionado) replaces every single jukebox selection with music from Verdi, Rossini, and Puccini.  This is quite a project, as each table’s jukebox can offer up to 100 song titles.  But we digress:

(1)  Dinner is served at the diner from 5 until 11, and each aria (vocab) lasts an average of 4 minutes.  If a typical patron is in the diner for 45 minutes, how many opera selections will said diner probably hear? 
a)  11 songs     b)  24 songs     c)  45 songs     d)  90 songs

(2)  How many aria’s will be played from the start to conclusion of dinner service?
a)  11 arias     b)  24 arias     c)  45 arias     d)  90 arias
(answers at bottom of post)

music collage

Our classical music for the week – we had no choice:  we had to sample music from the operas we were reading about – 

  • Aida – we learned that Verdi was commissioned to compose SOMETHING to commemorate the opening of the Suez Canal.  Aida premiered in 1871 (the canal opened in 1869).  Here we watch the “Triumphal March” and WHAT A PRODUCTION.  The first half has soldiers marching across the stage and there are so many of them that my son and I paused to wonder if there were really only a handful of soldier/actors that marched across the stage and then ran full speed across the backstage to reappear as more solders.  Anyway, a very authoritative, majestic march:

  • Barber of Seville – Rossini’s popular opera, which premiered in 1816, and we listened to one of the most popular songs in the entire opera repertoire, “Largo al factotum”.  Lots of fun:

  • La Boheme – Puccini’s heartbreaker opera, premiering in 1896.  We listened to “Musetta’s Waltz”, after I explained to my son the term, “flirtatious”.   That Musetta!  A consummate flirt:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story problem answers:  (1) a)  11 songs and (2) d)  90 arias)
P.S.  We’re still here.  I am hating the time gap since my last post (a series of holy disaster disruptions in our agenda), but we are still here, and we are still exploring new topics and reading stories every night.

Curses and Cheers

cedar-brance

Curses!  January is Texas Cedar Pollen season.  I am sneezing all over the place, much to my son’s displeasure.  He really hates it when anybody sneezes.  Last night we began our STORIES AND STUDIES hour by learning about Juniperus ashei, the super hardy drought-resistant scourge that produces the dreaded pollen (so the culprit is a juniper NOT a cedar) (classic).  AND we read about why people sneeze and why sometimes people sneeze three times in a row (mildly interesting at best, but there is the grossness factor, so that is something).

jim-thorpe-olympic-poster

And so begins our Native American unit –  my son and I are more aware citizens for having read “Jim Thorpe – Original All American” by Joseph Bruchac.  We ended up overwhelmed by Mr. Thorpe’s athleticism and versatility – what a regret that there were no movie cameras used to record this best of the best in football, baseball and track.  This book is as much about Jim Thorpe as it is about Pop Warner, his (law-unto-himself) coach at the Carlyle Indian Industrial School.  YES, THE Pop Warner.  The author presents in an organized, well-researched, and dignified manner the unnecessary debacle that was the Olympic scandal involving Jim Thorpe’s supposed “non-amateur” status.  The author also gives us something else to puzzle over:  as Jim Thorpe represented the USA in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, bringing home gold in both pentathlon and decathlon, he was not considered to be an American citizen!  It wasn’t until 12 years later, with the passing of the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924, that Native Americans were considered citizens.
If there were ever a “Native American History MONTH”, instead of the embarrassingly paltry “Native American Heritage DAY” (so passed by congressional legislation in 2009) (get this, it is on “Black Friday”) (FOR SHAME) this book belongs on the required reading list.

work-gloves

Well!  After getting all heated up we needed to cool down with a Farmer Brown story problem – “Warm Hands for Farm Hands”– a “compute-this-without-paper-and-pencil” question:
Every January, Farmer Brown purchases new winter work gloves for the 8 farm hands.  He purchases two pair for each man – one pair of extreme-weather gloves at a cost of $35 each and one pair of warm gloves that offer touch screen capability (so they can use their cell phones without taking their gloves off), at a cost of $20 each.  If the cost includes tax, what is the total Farmer will spend to reglove his workers?
A) $280    B) $800    C) $160    D) $440 (answer at bottom of post)

tom-gates-yes-no

We can’t get enough of Tom Gates!  My son received two more “Tom Gates” books (a series of consistently captivating books from the UK) for Christmas and we were so happy to start reading “Tom Gates – Yes! No (Maybe)” because Tom Gates IS A RIOT.  Here is the type of thing that has us laughing: 1) his grandmother’s latest terrible food offering: wood flavored “crisps”, 2) his neighbor’s dad was formerly in a rock band called, “PLASTIC CUP”.   Tom Gates books manage to be so funny while developing realistic, complicated predicaments that avoid “man’s inhumanity to man” and “coming of age” themes.  They are perfect for my son, and I just love getting to be the person who gets to read them out loud.  Cheers to author Liz Pichon!

orpheus

Cheers for the completely awesome Orpheus Chamber Orchestra!  My son and I wanted to learn about the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (formed in 1972, based in New York City, comprised of outstanding musical professionals – university professors/members of upper echelon symphonic orchestras) because this outstanding 30-member orchestra uses NO conductor –  they listen closely to each other, and decisions are made by democratic process.  Apparently they make this formula work because in 2007, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra won a worldwide award for  “Most Democratic Workplace”.  We wanted to watch and listen!

About Orpheus – a three minute introduction, well done:

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra plays from Rossini’s “La Cambiale de Matrimonio” (The Marriage Contract), Giocchiono Rossini’s first opera – composed in 1810, when he was 18!  About a minute and a half into this performance you can see the whole orchestra – playing away sans (vocab) a conductor – the overall look is a bit disorienting, but inspiring:

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra playing Maurice Ravel’sLe Tombeau de Couperin” (composed in 1919) – played at a very fast clip, just the way we like it:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer: D: $440)

The Liberace Instigation

liberace

This post is not about the man, Liberace, but about a GLARING ERROR he made before treating the TV audience to his take on the classic Strauss “Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz”.  See for yourself:

You saw the problem, right?

Of course, I am referring to the introductory comment: “…I would like to take you back…many hundreds of years ago to that wonderful, romantic night when Johann Strauss first introduced the waltz…”.  Here is the GLARING ERROR:  Johann Strauss II premiered “The Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz” in 1867, just 86 years (NOT many hundreds of years) prior to Liberace’s 1953 TV show.

I sort of want my son to have a more accurate sense of when important musical compositions were written, so I have put together a simple chart of classical pieces that he is familiar with, and paired them with US Presidential administrations. This will give us both a bit of a sense of what was going on in the world when each piece was written, and remind us that many great compositions are not as old as we think (or Liberace thought)(seriously, I suspect a lot of people think classical music was written 500 years ago, in a galaxy far, far away).

The chart works this way:

USA Presidential Administration – 1 orchestral piece composed or premiered during that time period

George Washington  –  Haydn’s “Symphony No. 94” (Surprise Symphony), 1791
John Adams  –  Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 14” (Moonlight Sonata), 1801
Thomas Jefferson  –  Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5”, 1808
James Madison  –  Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville”, 1816
James Monroe  –  Schubert’s “Marche Militaire”, 1822
John Quincy Adams  –  Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”, 1829
Andrew Jackson  –  Mendelssohn’s “Hebrides Overture”, 1830
Martin Van Buren  –  Chopin’s “Piano Sonata No. 2” (The Funeral March), 1837
William Henry Harrison  –  Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman”, 1841
John Tyler  –  Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March”, 1842
James Polk  –  Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2”, 1847
Zachery Taylor  –  Schumann’s “Symphony No. 3” (The Rhenish), 1850
Millard Fillmore  –  Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, 1851
Franklin Pierce  –  Foster’s “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair”, 1854
James Buchanan  –  Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld” (the Can-Can!), 1858
Abraham Lincoln  –  Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, 1862
Andrew Johnson –  Strauss II’s “Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz”, 1867
Ulysses S. Grant  –  Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite”, 1876
Rutherford B. Hayes  –  Gilbert & Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore”, 1878
James Garfield  –  Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy”, 1881
Chester A. Arthur  –  Waldteufel’s “The Skater’s Waltz”, 1882
Grover Cleveland  –  Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals”, 1886
Benjamin Harrison  –  Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”, 1892
Grover Cleveland  –  Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, 1897
William McKinley  –  Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”, 1900
Teddy Roosevelt  –  Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance, No. 1”, 1901
William H. Taft  –  Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”, 1913
Woodrow Wilson  –  Holst’s “The Planets”, 1916
Warren G. Harding  –  Berlin’s “What’ll I Do”, 1923
Calvin Coolidge  –  Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, 1924
Herbert Hoover  –  Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite”, 1931
Franklin D. Roosevelt  –  Copland’s “Appalachian Spring”, 1944
Harry S Truman  –  Anderson’s “The Typewriter”, 1950
Dwight Eisenhower – Bernstein’s “West Side Story”, 1957
John F. Kennedy  –  Mancini’s “The Pink Panther Theme”, 1963
Lyndon Johnson  –  The Beatles’ “Yesterday”, 1965
Richard Nixon  –  Weissberg/Mandell’s “Dueling Banjos”, 1973
Gerald Ford  –  Williams’ “Theme from Jaws”, 1975
Jimmy Carter  –  Williams’ “The Imperial March” (Darth Vader’s Theme), 1980
Ronald Reagan  –  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera”, 1986
George H.W. Bush  –  George Winston’s “Hummingbird”, 1991
Bill Clinton  –  Doyle’s “Steam Engine” (from “Sense and Sensibility”), 1995
George W. Bush  –  Kirkhope’s “Viva Piñata Soundtrack”, 2006
Barack Obama  –  Williams’ “The Adventures of Tintin”, 2011

(and yes!  My son is quite familiar with all of the above pieces.)

jacques c      otto

BTW, this week we have been ALSO learning about Jacques Cousteau and Otto Von Bismarck.

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH