Sheep May Safely Graze

Doc and Bach

front desk book

Last week’s stories and studies agenda:
  become informed about world ecosystems via Rachel Ignotofsky’s superb book, “The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth”:  CHECK
  cheer for everything protagonist Mia Tang stands for in Kelly Yang’s important fiction read, “Front Desk”:  CHECK
But really, the past week has been dominated by Albert Schweitzer and Johann Sebastian Bach.

schweitzer at organ face right    bach organ

Scholarly, Spiritual, Musical – Albert Schweitzer (1875 – 1965) – doctorates in theology (vocab), philosophy, and medicine.  Pipe organ virtuoso.  Authority on the works of JS Bach (and 4 published papers to prove it).  Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1952.  Whoa.

We are leaning forward as we read through Ken Gire’s bio of Dr. Schweitzer, “Answering the Call”.  The book begins as Schweitzer and his wife, Helene, make their way to Lambaréné, Gabon (Africa) where they set up the area’s first hospital.  The past few evenings we have been learning about how WWI – so very far away in Europe (globe out) – drastically affected the economy in Gabon.  And FOR HEAVENS SAKES Albert and Helene were sent back to France to be imprisoned during the war, leaving the people of Lambaréné with no medical care. (Discussion topic with my son:  is this right?  what would we have done?)  What next?  We’re riveted.

albert and bach books

Schweitzer’s interest is our interest – Because of Schweitzer’s fascination with all things Bach, we are darting around David Gordon’s “The Little Bach Book” learning lots about Bach’s world (1685-1750).  This neat little reference is packed with well researched information, delivered with sly humor (pretty much an A+ sort of book): 

  • quotes about Bach by other composers (superlative after superlative) (vocab) 
  • feather pens; until 1820 (when metal ink pens debuted), composers used feather quills to write their music.  We found out that one could write/compose for about 5 minutes with a particular feather before it had to firm up, be cleaned or recut
  • men’s hair fashion (wigs)  
  • dental care in the 1700’s (yeeks)

violin outdoors

Meanwhile, BACH at the ranch (a Farmer Brown story problem) This summer, Farmer Brown’s ranch will be the site of a series of 3 outdoor symphony concerts featuring 30 Bach compositions, which may sound like a lot of Bach, but when the BWV (which my son and I learned was the official Bach Works Collection listing) was last tallied in 1998, the list of compositions attributed to this musical genius totaled over 1,100 pieces.   Approximately what percentage of Bach’s total output will be performed during the ranch concert series?
A.   1%     B.   3%     C.   15%     D.   30%     (answer at bottom of post)

More and More Bach – Over the years my son and I have downloaded several (32 to be exact) Bach compositions onto our iPod and this week we listened thoughtfully to each one.  My son “reviewed” each piece, and we listened again to his favorites:

bach quiz

  • Sheep May Safely Graze, composed in 1713.  Calming perfection:

  • Invention No. 13 in A minor, composed about 1720.  A super short jewel played skillfully on the harpsichord by a 9 year old!

  • Finally, we listened to THE GRAND, THE MIGHTY, THE REPETITIVE Symphony No. 5 in F minor, movement 5 (the toccata) (1879) composed by Charles-Marie Widor, recognized Bach scholar AND Schweitzer’s organ professor at the Paris Conservatory.  A high energy performance by virtuoso Frederick Hohman:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  B.  3%)

The Rattlesnake Sermon

Our Sunday Services – My son and I celebrate Sundays by concluding STORIES AND STUDIES time with music of an ecclesiastical bent.  But last night, we were so moved after reading from “John Muir – My Life with Nature” by Joseph Cornell, that we decided “Fellow Mortals” (a chapter from the book) also belongs in our Sunday evening line-up.  In this chapter, John Muir champions God’s plants and creatures, and gets specific about encounters with, of all things, rattlesnakes.  He writes that he had killed two rattlesnakes, for what he felt were responsible reasons, but upon reflecting, “… I felt degraded by the killing business, and farther from heaven.”  The entire chapter is powerful and deeply touching.  Welcome to our Sunday night, John Muir.

john muir book

On other fronts

Pastels (secretly, hand-eye coordination work) – we focused upon warm and cool colors.

pastels warm cool

Exponents – we are memorizing numbers 2 – 9 to the power of 0, 1, 2, and 3.

Book plots – last night, we talked about two well-used storyline strategies: the “situation” and the “villain”.  I do NOT like stories with persistent villains.  At the moment we are reading “Othello”, and I cannot get through it fast enough. I HATE HATE HATE that villainous Iago so much that I dread picking up the book every night.  You don’t suppose my revulsion shows?  Well, I hope so.  I want my son to understand that any example of “man’s inhumanity to man” SHOULD be painful to read about.

bell peppers

Our Farmer Brown story problem:  ratios and bell peppers – Farmer Brown grows acres and acres of bell peppers.  On an average, for every 10 green peppers he sells, he sells 8 red peppers and 5 yellow peppers.  What is the ratio of green peppers to red peppers?  What is the ratio of green peppers to yellow peppers?  If Farmer Brown puts together a box of mixed peppers, using the ratios as his guide, and the box contains 40 green peppers, how many red and yellow peppers are in the box?  If a single pepper sells for 40 cents, how much money will be earned if every pepper in the box is sold?

Our Sunday Night Music – our theme was “The Good Shepherd”:

  • Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze”, a cantata (No. 208) composed in 1713 for a duke’s birthday.  Written as a choral work,  how could my son and I not be fascinated by this skillful instrumental rendition, played on the Hinsz pipe organ (a baroque era masterpiece, and possibly the most important antique organ in the Netherlands).

  • Handel’s “He Shall Feed His Flock Like a Shepherd”, from his oratorio “Messiah”.  Composed in 1741, using texts from the King James Bible and The Book of Common Prayer.  I am a UCLA alum, so I was delighted to find this video clip.  Bruins rule.

  • “Tender Shepherd”, from the 1954 Broadway musical, “Peter Pan”.  Music composed by (WE HAVE A WINNER HERE!!!!!) Moose Charlap (we so want to know a person named “Moose”), with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH