The music that we are ringing in the handbells segment of music appreciation is called “Fanfare.” Actually it is based on a section of a work for orchestra called “Pictures at an Exhibition.”  This is a series of shorter sections, or movements, which is each supposed to represent a picture.  ”Fanfare” is based on the section titled “The Great Gate of Kiev.”  Kiev is a city in Ukraine, near Russia.  The music was written by a Russian composer, Modest Moussorgsky.  You may see his name spelled different ways, because Russian is written in a different alphabet, called the Cyrillic alphabet, which has different characters.  When we try to write Russian words in English, sometimes they come out with different spellings.

Here is a link for you to listen to the orchestral version of Great Gate of Kiev.  Also, I thought you might like to see the picture that inspired the music.  great gate of kievThis gate exists only in this picture.  There is an old city gate in the town of Kiev, which is  called the Golden Gate.  At one time, it was on the edge of the city, but as Kiev has grown, it is now in the center of the town.  The gate was originally built in 1037, but largely destroyed by the Mongols in 1240.  In 1982, it was restored, and the lower picture is how it looks today.

golden gate of kiev

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I know that you all know about the Grammy awards, the  awards given by the music recording industry to performers.  Did you know that the Grammy Foundation is now also honoring a music educator of the year?  You can nominate your favorite music teacher–and who would that be :-)    Seriously, think about the things that you have learned by studying music.  It’s more than just music skills, isn’t it?  So, if you want to make a nomination, follow this link.  


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I love to play with Wordles.  They are word clouds that you can create online.  I made one today with the titles of some of our handbell songs.   I haven’t figured out how to save it in a larger size, but you can see the full size one here.

Handbell_RepertoireWordles are fun to create.  You can make your own at

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Concert Chorus is going to be singing “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” for spring concert, despite the fact that the language arts department frowns on the grammar :-)  I don’t have a recording to play for you in class.  I didn’t buy the accompaniment CD for this song, because the little band that accompanies us each year at spring concert plays it so well, the recorded accompaniment is kind of a disappointment.  But I know that most of you like to hear the songs we’re singing, especially if it’s something you don’t know.

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother was originally recorded by the British rock band, The Hollies, in 1969.  You might be interested to know that Elton John played piano on the recording.  That was before he was famous on his own.  But the link I have for you here is a recording that was done by the Justice Collective and released last year.  The Justice Collective is a group of well-known musicians and celebrities who came together to record this song for a group of British charities related to the Hillsborough Disaster, when 96 people were killed and almost 800 injured in an accident at a soccer match.  I think I like this recording as much as the original.  I hope you enjoy it, too.

The Justice Collective, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother


justice collective

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As some of you know, I am a huge fan of Pinterest.  I have a number of boards, and one of my favorites is titled “All Things Music.”  Over the weekend, I found a great pin that I repinned there, but wanted to share with you.  Since Concert Chorus is singing “A Tribute to Queen” for Spring Concert, my attention was caught by this pin: it’s a very artistic representation of the lyrics to “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  I downloaded it, but it’s not very big.  I’ll have to see if I can find it in a bigger version and fix this post.  But, in the meantime, enjoy!

bohemian rhapsody

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I am so sorry that I wasn’t able to be at the Equestrian Festival on Saturday night.  OK, not really, because I was at Disney, as most of you know.  Everyone has told me about the great job that you and Ms. Morton did of singing the national anthem.  Ms. Prater sent me this picture, and I’m impressed by how


everyone has their mouths wide open!

While I was at Epcot, my husband and I went to hear the Voices of Liberty.  If you haven’t heard them, it is definitely worth your while to go listen to them.  They sing a cappella, in nine parts!  Really!  They are always wonderful, but this time was probably the best.  They sing mostly patriotic and American folk songs.  This time, they sang “Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes,” a beautiful old song.  It’s a special song for me, because, when I was in college, our choir director used it as a warm-up.  They also sang “O, Susanna,” which is one of their signature songs that they do at almost every show.  When they sing it, one of the men in the group sings the second verse as a solo, and gets down on one knee to sing to a lady in the front row of the audience.  Can you guess who that was?  Right: me!  The amazing thing is, it was the fourth time in about 15 years that I’ve been “Susanna.”  My husband and I were talking with the gentleman who sang to me after the show, and my husband mentioned that I teach middle school chorus.  We started talking about staggered breathing, because he says it is the key to all their singing.  So, next time you go to Disney, do yourself and your family a favor and go to the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot to hear the Voices of Liberty.

voices of liberty 2


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ringingWe had fun in General Music today, learning about handbells and playing them a bit as we learned more about rhythm, and a bit about pitch and melody, too.  We’ll try to get to the handbell room again soon.

In the meantime, I thought you might like to watch some videos of handbells.  I talked about the Raleigh Ringers, who are probably the best handbell group around.  There are several videos of them on Youtube, but my favorite is Flight of the Bumblebee.  This is a classical piece of music, but if you watch the video, you’ll see that they have a lot of fun with it.  You can also hear them performing one of everybody’s favorites, Don’t Stop Believin’, although this isn’t the greatest video.

Wellington Landings Ringers are on YouTube, too.  We had a couple dads who uploaded videos that you might like:  Just Dance, the Lady Gaga song, that we performed last year at Seminole Ridge High School, and a piece called Celebration, which we did last year at our winter concert.  The video is pretty shaky, but the sound is good.

I hope you all continue to enjoy handbells, and will think about signing up for the class next year.  We want to keep our program going, but we can’t if people don’t sign up.


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Thank you to our Wellington Landings Ringers for a great performance yesterday at our Super STARR assembly.  We have gotten so many compliments from other teachers.  I think that this was the first time Mr. Wilbur heard us play, because he told me that we sounded a lot better than he had expected!  Even this morning, teachers have come up to me, asking me to pass along their compliments to you for a job well done.

So, we’re moving on.  We’ll put Pirates away for a while, and look at some new music.  And, next week, Ms. Morton will begin teaching your class.

star assembly 4

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Welcome back!  It will be a busy spring for everyone, but especially for Chorus.  MPA will be in early March this year, so we don’t have any time to waste.

In the meantime, though, I thought you might enjoy a musical joke.  And if you don’t get it, then we have some serious work to do!

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I’m not sure how many years I have played the crazy recording of “O Holy Night” in class before Winter Break.  For the last two years, since I’ve been blogging here, I have made it available here, as well, for your listening “pleasure.”  Two years ago, I got a comment from a students whose father could not stop laughing because he thought it was so funny!

I am always quick to point out that the singer is NOT one of my students, and you all know that it isn’t me :-)  Actually, a former student did a bit of research and found out that the singer is actually a professional musician who did it as a joke.  I think it must be harder to sing like this intentionally.

I hope you enjoy listening once again, and that you and your family have a great holiday.

O Holy Night?

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