The Story of Debussy’s “The Sunken Cathedral”


Sunken Church in TyrolIn 1909 and 1910, Claude Debussy wrote a series of 12 preludes for solo piano. Among them is the mysteriously titled, “La Cathédrale engloutie” which translates to The Submerged (or The Sunken) Cathedral. A quintessential example of musical impressionism, the piece depicts the rise of a cathedral from the water and subsequent return to the depths – complete with bells chiming, priests chanting, and organ playing.

While you may know the piece, did you know that it’s based on a real legend? The ancient Breton legend of Ys.

Legend of Ys

Ys was a mythical city said to have been on the coast of Brittany (Northwest France) in the Bay of Douarnenez. It was famous throughout the region for its beautiful gardens and buildings. Run by a king named Gradlon (or Gralon) who lived in a palace of marble, cedar, and gold, it was rich in commerce and the arts. It was also very vulnerable to flooding, being situated below sea level. To protect the city, a huge dike was built around it with a single gate that opened for ships during low tide.

The exact reason why Ys became submerged in the sea varies. There are many different versions of the legend. Most depict Gradlon as a pious, devoted king and father who was the holder of the only key to the city gate. His daughter, Dahut, on the other hand is usually described as a sinful, deceitful princess. In some versions, Princess Dahut holds a secret banquet for her lover and the two, drunk with wine, steal the key from her father and open the gates, letting the waters flood in. Another version says that Dahut steals the key to let her secret lover in to the city during the night, mistakenly flooding the city.

King Gradlon of Ys Statue in QuimperThere are also versions that involve the fight between Christianity and paganism, suggesting the cause of the city’s demise was due to everything from excessive luxury to sin and worship of pagan gods to Dahut taking the devil himself as her lover. In these versions, King Gradlon was said to have converted to Christianity. St Gwénnolé foretold of the city’s downfall and warned the king to flee. He agreed to do so, but devoted father as he was, he tried to save his daughter. A voice called out to throw his sinful daughter into the sea or he would not escape the waters that were about to overtake him. He does so and she turns into a mermaid.

All versions agree that Dahut does not escape her fate. Ys becomes submerged in the sea. King Gradlon escapes and takes refuge in Quimper which becomes the new capital. Interestingly, a statue of Gradlon still stands between the spires of the Cathedral of Saint Corentin in Quimper.

Breton folklore asserts that the bells of the churches of Ys can still be heard below the waters of the Bay of Douarnenez when it is calm, hence the inspiration for Debussy’s prelude.

A Pun For An Ending

Another related legend says that when Paris is swallowed, the city of Ys will rise again. Par-is means “like Ys” in Breton.

Debussy’s Depiction

The opening of the piece gently brings in the cathedral, out of the water, with a melody that resembles waves. Debussy wrote in Peu à peu sortant de la brume (Emerging from the fog little by little). Then after a section marked Augmentez progressivement (Slowly growing), the cathedral emerges and the grand organ is heard with a powerful fortissimo. This is the loudest part of the piece. The cathedral then sinks back down into the ocean and the organ is heard once more, but this time from under water. Finally, it is out of sight and only the bells are heard at a distant pianissimo.

Hear It For Yourself!

Join us on October 27, 2017 and hear us perform Stokowski’s arrangement of Debussy’s La Cathédrale engloutie along with other pieces perfect for the Halloween season. Tickets for “Sounds of the Deep” are available now.

 

Classical Music Near You – Our 2017-2018 Season

Small version of Parker Symphony Orchestra - all members

If you’re looking for classical music concerts near you and you live in the South Denver Metro area (Parker, Lone Tree, Centennial, Aurora, Englewood, Littleton), check out what the Parker Symphony has to offer!

We’ve announced our 2017-2018 season presented by Parker Arts and it’s full of amazing classical music you won’t want to miss.

Parker Symphony Orchestra 2017-2018 Season

Sounds Of The Deep: On October 27, the darker side of classical music creeps to the PACE Center. You’ll experience a wonderfully horrific combination of the strange and spacey, the heavy and the dissonant, and music so haunting it’s sure to keep you awake at night. Pieces include songs from Phantom of the Opera, Dvorak’s “The Water Goblin”, and Debussy’s “La Cathedrale Engloutie” (The Submerged Cathedral).

A Classic Parker Holiday: Performing along with the Parker Chorale, the PSO treats you to an evening of traditional carols, familiar songs, and some surprises to help you get into the spirit of the holidays. December 1, 2, and 3.

Gone too soon: Composers who died at a young age: A celebration of the genius of musical prodigies like Mozart, Gershwin, and Bizet who left the world far too soon. February 23, 2018

Grieg Piano Concerto and other Scandinavian favorites: Piano soloist Heidi Leathwood and the Parker Symphony will pay homage to Scandinavian composers who have inspired thousands of up-and-coming artists. May 11, 2018


Tickets are available now at the PACE Center online box office (https://parkerarts.ticketforce.com/), by phone at 303-805-6800 or in person at the PACE Center. Ticket prices range from $24-$29 per ticket.

What Is A Pops Orchestra?


Image courtesy of http://www.northshorepops.org/If you’ve attended orchestral performances or listened to classical music for any length of time, you’ve probably seen the terms “philharmonic”, “symphony”, and “chamber” in the names of various organizations. “Pops” is another common term (as in the Boston Pops or the Denver Pops Orchestra). The first three are used to denote different sized groups. A chamber orchestra is the smallest while “symphony” and “philharmonic” typically refer to groups large enough to play the great symphonies. “Philharmonic” is also a proper name used to distinguish orchestras in the same city.

“Pops” is another story. It refers to the type of music played by the group.

What is a pops orchestra?

Simply put, it is an orchestra that plays popular music as well as well-known classical works. They are groups that perform lighter classics, American favorites, popular music, show tunes, and film music. Many feel they are an alternative to the “highbrow” orchestras since they aren’t afraid to let their hair down a little. Of course, we here at the Parker Symphony aren’t afraid to let our hair down at times even though we don’t have the “pops” moniker.

Examples of pops orchestras

Examples include the Boston Pops Orchestra and the Denver Pops Orchestra (as mentioned before) as well as the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the American Pops Orchestra, and the Cleveland Pops Orchestra. These groups tend to have friendly relationships with the traditional professional orchestra in their city, often sharing members (although typically not the first chair players).

What music does a pops orchestra perform?

On the classical side, you may hear Strauss waltzes and polkas, overtures from composers like Rossini, Mozart, and von Suppé, and a movement or two from a famous Beethoven or Mozart symphony. On the popular side, you might hear the music of an iconic band like The Beatles, the music from a hit Broadway show like Hamilton, and movie themes from composers like John Williams, James Horner, Hans Zimmer, and Thomas Newman.

Pops Orchestras vs. Pops Concerts

Interestingly, critics of pops orchestras suggest that the fact that they are separate organizations has removed some of these more famous classics from traditional symphony orchestras’ repertoire which has hurt attendance. They tend to “remove some music whose principal reason for existence is pure entertainment”.

To answer this, traditional orchestras have been putting on more programs in the style of pops orchestras. Philharmonic orchestras and symphony orchestras have always occasionally played a pops concert here or there, but more recently, these organizations have found success in themed concerts and even playing a film score alongside the movie.

Even we here at the Parker Symphony perform pops concerts to help draw in new and different audiences. For example, our 2016 “PSO Goes To The Movies” concert included single movements from symphonies and short classics featured in films.

The Future Of Pops

Pops orchestras and concerts will probably always have a place. After all, to quote the New York Philharmonic’s vice president of artistic planning, “Not every subscription concert, week in and week out, should be so deadly serious.” Whether pops plays more or less of a role in the future is hard to say. For now, those who want to hear serious performances, there are always programs available featuring masterful concertos, full symphonies, and choral works. For those who are looking for lighter entertainment, check out the various pops orchestras and concerts in your area.


Classical Music Crossword Puzzle



Challenge yourself (or pass the time) with our classical music crossword puzzle.

Classical Music Crossword Puzzle

Across
2. J.S. ____
4. Richard or Johann
6. French for “study”
9. Yo-Yo Ma’s instrument
11. Percussion with keys arranged like a piano
15. 18th century ballroom dance in 3
16. Itzhak _______
17. Pizzicato abbreviation
18. “The Planets” composer
21. Liszt’s nationality
23. Lowest string instrument
26. Many woodwinds need 1 or 2
27. “The Trout ____” – Schubert
30. Loud
31. City where Mozart is buried
32. Device that supports strings
33. Moderately slow tempo
34. All together

Down
1. Beethoven’s 6th Symphony Nickname
3. Composer of 106 symphonies
5. Flared part of many brass instruments
7. Toccata & _____
8. Mozart’s and Verdi’s are famous
9. Dvorak’s nationality
10. Opening to opera, ballet, etc.
12. Appalachian Spring composer
13. Chopin composed primarily for the…
14. A conductor’s stick
19. Musical era from 1600-1750
20. Also called Kettle Drums
22. Composition inspired by night
24. A lullaby often in 6/8 time
25. Famous Italian violin maker
28. Brass instrument with a slide
29. In The Hall Of The Mountain ____

Printing Instructions

  • Right click on the image and choose Save. Save to your computer.
  • Open in any image program
  • Change your print settings to print “Landscape”
  • Print

or

  • Right click on the image and choose Copy (or Copy Image)
  • Open Microsoft Word and a new blank document
  • Change the Layout to Landscape
  • Click on the document and hit CTRL and V at the same time
  • Print

 

What Is A Concerto Grosso?

Baroque Instruments

If you’ve ever listened to baroque music (think Vivaldi, Corelli, Handel, etc.), you’ve probably seen the term Concerto Grosso and wondered, “What is that?” Well, as you can probably guess, it does not mean the concerto is gross.

Concerto grosso (or the plural concerti grossi) is Italian for “big concerto”. Unlike a solo concerto where a single solo instrument plays the melody line and is accompanied by the orchestra, in a concerto grosso, a small group of soloists passes the melody between themselves and the orchestra or a small ensemble.

The group of soloists (or soli, concertino, or principale) was often made up of two violins, a bass melody instrument such as a cello, and a harmony instrument such as a harpsichord. Wind instruments were also common. The orchestra (or tutti or ripieno) was usually a string orchestra or a small ensemble of strings, often with a few woodwinds or brass added.

Concerti grossi were very common in the Baroque era (1600-1750). Right around 1750 (just after Handel composed his Concerti Grossi, Op. 6 with 12 different concerti), the solo concerto became the more popular musical form and the concerto grosso all but disappeared. Interestingly, a few 20th century composers like Igor Stravinsky, Philip Glass, and Henry Cowell have revived the form.

Listen to Corelli’s Concerto Grosso op. 6 no. 8 below and see if you can spot the concertino vs. the ripieno.

 

10 Badass Pieces Of Classical Music


We’ve all heard it. The jokes about classical music putting people to sleep. Sure, some pieces are great for studying, meditation, weddings, and solemn events, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this genre. If all classical music were soft, quiet, and relaxing, orchestra life would be pretty boring especially for the percussion and brass sections. Forte would be a rare dynamic. Fortissimo an impossibility. And audiences would be very hard to come by – unless, of course, they were trying to catch some zzz’s.

So why do people say that about classical music? Maybe it’s because they just haven’t heard the more rousing pieces. Maybe they only remember the softer side of classical because that’s all they hear at weddings. Regardless of the reason, here’s a list of badass classical music that shatters the stereotype.


  • Orff – Carmina Burana / “O Fortuna”

  • Holst – The Planets, Mars

  • Verdi – Requiem “Dies Irae”

  • Wagner – Ride of the Valkyries

  • Vivaldi – The Four Seasons: Summer Mvt. 3 Presto

  • Bizet – Carmen Overture / Les Toreadors

  • Mussorgsky – Night on Bald Mountain

  • Verdi – Il Trovatore / “Anvil Chorus”

  • Khachaturian – Sabre Dance

  • Strauss – Also Sprach Zarathustra, Prelude

 

Honorable Mentions (in case you want to check out more):

  • Tchaikovsky – 1812 Overture
  • Shostakovich – Symphony No 5, Mvt 4
  • Bruckner – Symphony No 1, Mvt 3
  • Grieg – In The Hall Of The Mountain King
  • Dvorak – Symphony No 9, Mvt 4
  • Mozart – Requiem in D minor, Dies Irae
  • Bizet – L’Arlésienne Suite No 2, Mvt 4 (Farandole)
  • Saint-Saëns – Symphony No 3, Mvt 3 and 4
  • Beethoven – Symphony No 9, Mvt 4
  • Glinka – Overture from Ruslan and Ludmilla
  • Holst – The Planets, Jupiter
  • Mozart – Symphony No 25, Mvt 1
  • Bach – Toccata and Fugue in D minor
  • Smyth – The Wreckers (Overture)

 

10 Reasons To Join An Orchestra

 

Small version of Parker Symphony Orchestra - all members

Do any small amount of searching in Google for phrases like “why join an orchestra” and you’ll start to notice that most articles cover reasons to play with a school music group. But what about reasons to join your local community orchestra?

Many groups are on the lookout for new members, so there’s no shortage of opportunity out there. However, there is also no shortage of reasons why you, as an adult, should audition for a local group like the Parker Symphony.

Here are just 10 of the many compelling reasons to join a local symphony orchestra.

  1. Meet New People: Whether you’re new to an area or a longtime resident, you’re bound to meet new people when you join your community orchestra and the best part is that these people share a common interest – a love for playing music. Some may be music professionals like performers and educators. Others may be amateurs with non-music day jobs. But all come together to practice and perform the thing that they love. You’ll not only be able to socialize with others who can relate to your love of classical music, but you may form new friendships and find new contacts who can help you in other areas of your life (career, for example).
  2.  

  3. Build Up Confidence: If you haven’t been an active performer in a while, but still have the dedication and talent, playing in an orchestra can help give you that confidence to perform again – especially if you play in a section with others. Maybe you can still play the pieces you know well, but your sight-reading skills are a little rusty. Or perhaps you are used to playing as a soloist so you aren’t sure of your ability to follow a conductor or listen and adjust to other players. No matter the reason, a community orchestra offers a venue for you to re-establish yourself as a group performer.
  4.  

  5. Express Yourself!: This almost goes without saying. Music in any genre is a form of self-expression. Community orchestras are an excellent creative outlet for adults.
  6.  

  7. Escape the Day-to-Day: Life is full of daily stresses. Work, family, bills, and other responsibilities can take their toll. Playing in an orchestra, on the other hand, requires a great deal of focus. For that reason, rehearsals and concerts can be a great way to divert your attention away from day-to-day troubles, stress, and to-do lists.
  8.  

  9. Challenge Yourself!: Just because members of community orchestras aren’t paid doesn’t mean they play easy pieces. Sure, we’ve all played our fair share of parts that require little to no practice, but for each of those, there are many Beethoven pieces or John Williams scores that we spend hours on. And don’t forget about the occasional solo you may encounter.
  10.  

  11. Maintain (or increase) Coordination: As we age, our motor skills tend to decline. Playing an instrument can help maintain or even increase coordination including fine motor skills.
  12.  

  13. Inspire Others: Symphony orchestra concerts are a source of inspiration for the surrounding community. Audiences range from children to seniors and from young to young-at-heart. Students who attend may be inspired to pick up an instrument and join their school band or orchestra. Other adults may decide to audition for your group or listen to more classical music. Some orchestras also put on special programs like free children’s concerts specifically designed to educate and inspire.
  14.  

  15. Improve Your Résumé: Are you looking to advance your career? Are you early in your career path and looking to beef up your résumé? Listing that you perform with a community orchestra can not only catch employers’ eyes, but also gives you something to point to when asked about teamwork, dedication, working well with others, and self-improvement.
  16.  

  17. Keep Your Mind Active: In addition to helping with coordination, playing music with an orchestra can help keep your mind active. Not only are you perhaps learning new things, you are literally giving your brain a workout. Performing with an orchestra is an intellectually demanding exercise and the proof of that is how mentally exhausted, but satisfied you feel after a good rehearsal.
  18.  

  19. Have Fun!: Last, but definitely not least, joining a community orchestra is a great way to have fun. Unlike professional groups that are highly competitive (for a good reason), local community symphonies are often made up of people who simply want to have fun doing something they love.

 

Are you looking for a fun community orchestra to join in the Denver metro area? Check out the Parker Symphony. We hold typically hold auditions in August and ad hoc throughout the rest of the year. See our Auditions page for more information.

 

The Moldau – Patriotic and Inspiring

 

Vltava River - The MoldauVltava, better known by its German name, Die Moldau (or The Moldau), is a symphonic poem that is patriotic in every sense of the word. It is one of six movements of a larger work called Má vlast which means “My Homeland” or “My Country”. In it, Czech composer Smetana combined nationalistic melodies with musical depictions of the Bohemian countryside, history, and legends. When performed, you can hear the land come alive as the music paints the scene of a proud and culturally-rich region of Europe.

The Moldau specifically was intended to evoke the sounds of one of Bohemia’s great rivers – the Vltava river. The “Moldau” name comes from the German name for the source of the river in the Bohemian mountains. In Smetana’s own words:

The composition describes the course of the Vltava, starting from the two small springs, the Cold and Warm Vltava, to the unification of both streams into a single current, the course of the Vltava through woods and meadows, through landscapes where a farmer’s wedding is celebrated, the round dance of the mermaids in the night’s moonshine: on the nearby rocks loom proud castles, palaces and ruins aloft. The Vltava swirls into the St John’s Rapids; then it widens and flows toward Prague, past the Vyšehrad, and then majestically vanishes into the distance, ending at the Labe.

The piece begins with the flutes playing a flowing tune reminiscent of two rippling springs. Violin pizzicato evokes raindrops. Soon, clarinets begin to play and continue the theme. Then one of Smetana’s most famous melodies emerges. It is an adaptation of a piece called La Mantovana and is arguably one of the most strikingly beautiful parts of the entire work. In fact, it has inspired other pieces, most notably the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah. Later on, a horn melody representing jubilant hunters and a polka rhythm that depicts a wedding scene can be heard before the famous melody returns. The piece ends with a regal hymn that fades away until the final two loud notes.

The Moldau was written in the 1870’s, a time when Bohemians had a renewed interest in freedom from German culture. They embraced it and the rest of Má vlast as a sort of patriotic symphonic national anthem. Research suggests this was Smetana’s intent as well. Today, it has achieved the most success of all of the six movements.

Hear the Parker Symphony Orchestra perform The Moldau and other nature-inspired works on May 5, 2017.

 

The Visual and Performing Arts Come Together In This Denver Area Spring Concert

 

The Parker Symphony Orchestra joins the Plein Air Painters of America in “Notes From Nature: A Journey of Sights and Sounds”. Presented by Parker Arts, the concert and art show pay homage to our planet with a performance of nature-inspired music alongside breathtaking paintings. The event will be held on Friday May 5 at 7:30 PM at the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Ave., Parker.

The program includes melodic pieces like Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” and Smetana’s “The Moldau” as well as rousing works like the “Thunder and Lightning Polka”. An hour prior to the concert portion of the evening, an opening reception for the art exhibit will take place. Art on display will be for sale with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the PACE Center and the Plein Air Painters of America. Light hors d’oeuvres will be available, and our in-house cash bar will be open through the reception and the following concert.

Tickets are available now at the PACE Center online box office (https://parkerarts.ticketforce.com/), by phone at 303-805-6800 or in person at the PACE Center. Ticket prices range from $22-$27 per ticket.

Denver Spring Earth Day Concert

Established in 1994, the mission of the Parker Symphony Orchestra is to perform orchestral music that will educate, entertain, and inspire the people of Parker, Colorado and the surrounding communities. Under the direction of René Knetsch, the PSO is an all-volunteer orchestra, seventy five members strong, dedicated to continual excellence and growth. They perform with the goal of offering interesting and entertaining performances to tempt everyone’s musical palate.

The Plein-Air Painters of America is a fellowship of professional artists dedicated to the historic tradition of painting directly from life. Through this approach of firsthand observation, our members strive to more fully explore and respond to the timeless beauty that surrounds us all. We promote a heightened visual appreciation of the world by sharing with the public our combined knowledge and experience through workshops and exhibitions of the highest caliber.