Classical Sleigh Ride Alternatives To Leroy Anderson

Other Sleigh Rides
Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride is by far one of the most well-known and frequently played Christmas songs, having been named “most popular” by ASCAP in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015. It’s been translated into numerous languages and is performed every December by orchestras across the country. But his is not the first orchestral sleigh ride piece nor is it the only classical sleigh ride music worth listening to. Here are 5 classical music “Sleigh Ride” alternatives that should be on your playlist.

Prokofiev – “Troika” from Lieutenant Kijé

A troika is a Russian sleigh drawn by a trio of horses. So it’s no wonder that this portion of the Lieutenant Kijé Suite features sleigh bells and rapid pizzicato in between a repeating quick-paced melody. The music was written as part of a film score for a 1934 film also titled “Lieutenant Kijé”. You may also recognize the melody from another Christmas song – Greg Lake borrowed the tune for his “I Believe in Father Christmas”.

Delius – Sleigh Ride

English composer Frederick Delius fondly recalled the summers he spent in Norway in the 1880s. In 1887, he spent Christmas Eve with fellow composer Grieg and first performed his Sleigh Ride on the piano. Grieg’s influence can clearly be heard in the piece which portrays a lively sleigh ride that eventually comes to rest in the stillness of a northern winter’s night. Delius later wrote the orchestral version which was originally titled “Winter Night”.

Mozart – “Schlittenfahrt” from Three German Dances

“Schlittenfahrt” means “sleigh ride” and is the third movement in this series of dances written by Mozart in 1791. Some scholars believe this dance was written independently of the others because of its very different style. Like other sleigh ride pieces, “Schlittenfahrt” features sleigh bells and a repeating phrase that is passed between instruments.

Ibert – “Sleigh Ride” from Petite Suite

Here’s a lesser-known classical sleigh ride, but one that’s still perfect for this list. Jacques Ibert had a knack for writing sprightly, witty works and “Sleigh Ride” is no exception.

Tchaikovsky – “November” from The Seasons

Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons is a set of 12 short pieces for solo piano. Each piece represents a different month of the year. “November”, also known as “Troika”, is considered the most challenging piece with its rapidly moving melodic flow and and “outbursts” to forte.

8 Cool Facts About Sleigh Ride

The Sleigh Race by Currier and Ives
Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride is a Christmas standard and one that is easily recognizable by its upbeat melody, sleigh bells, clip-clopping, whip sound, and horse whinny. It’s been a hit ever since it was first recorded in 1949 by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra.

But there’s more to this piece than meets the eye…or ears. Here are 8 cool facts that may make this one of your favorite holiday tunes (if it isn’t already).

The Original Had No Words

You’ve probably heard both the instrumental and sung versions of Sleigh Ride. The original is the orchestral version with no words and was composed in 1948. The lyrics were written by Mitchell Parish in 1950 and were first recorded by The Andrews Sisters that year.

It Was Written During A Heat Wave

In 1946, Leroy Anderson and his family were in Woodbury, Connecticut staying in a cottage on his wife’s families land. He had been released from active duty in the Army and housing was in short supply. While staying in the cottage, a July heat wave and drought hit. Anderson began composing several tunes including Sleigh Ride which he envisioned as a musical depiction of winter long ago. He finished the piece about 2 years after his family moved to New York City – in the winter.

It Never Mentions Christmas

As previously mentioned, the original version did not have words and since the title is simply Sleigh Ride, there is no reference to Christmas. Parish’s words also make no reference to the holiday. In fact, the only event mentioned in the words is a “birthday party” at the bridge. Some artists have changed the words there to “Christmas party”.

It Has Been Named Most Popular

ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, has named Sleigh Ride the most popular piece of Christmas music in the US for several years including 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015. It beat out other songs like “The Christmas Song”, “Winter Wonderland”, and “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”.

It Has Been Translated Into Several Languages

With Anderson’s permission, Sleigh Ride has been translated into French, German, Finnish, Swedish, Dutch, and Italian. Interestingly, in Swedish, “Sleigh Ride” is written as one word. So when they translate the word into English in programs, they often write the title as “Sleighride”.

The Words Were Written By A Jewish Lyricist

Like many other Christmas songs including “White Christmas”, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Let It Snow”, and “Winter Wonderland”, the words to Sleigh Ride were written by a Jewish lyricist. Mitchell Parish was born to a Jewish family in Lithuania. His family emigrated to the US in 1901 when he was less than a year old and settled in Louisiana before moving to New York City.

The Image We Used For This Post Is By Currier and Ives

There is a line in the song that’s meaning may be obscure to most today. “Like a picture print by Currier and Ives” refers to a printmaking company that produced hand-colored lithographs of popular artwork of the 19th century. The image we used in this post is called “The Sleigh Race”. The company closed in 1907, 43 years before the song lyrics were written.

It Sometimes Ends With Carrots

Sleigh Ride includes a famous horse whinny five bars before the end. The whinny is produced by a trumpet. Since the effect is near the ending, a joke with a humorous effect is occasionally played on trumpet players and, sometimes, the percussionists. When they rise for the applause, they are often presented a bunch of carrots in lieu of roses.

Hear us perform Sleigh Ride on December 1 at 4:00 PM at the PACE Center.


Obscure & Uncommon Classical Christmas Music


Tired of the usual Christmas carols on the radio? Have you heard Sleigh Ride or Winter Wonderland one too many times this season? Then check out our list of uncommon classical Christmas music including rare choral pieces and obscure symphonic compositions.

Past Three O’Clock

Past Three O’Clock is loosely based on the traditional cry of the city night watchman. It was written by George Ratcliffe Woodward and published in 1924. Although it has been recorded by a number of choirs including the Choir of King’s College and Cambridge, it doesn’t typically make the cut among popular music artists.




In Terra Pax – Gerald Finzi

In Terra Pax was one of the last pieces British composer Gerald Finzi wrote. It was composed in 1954 and was set to the words of a poem entitled “Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913” by Robert Bridges. Finzi explained that the work is the Nativity story becoming a vision seen by “a wanderer on a dark and frosty Christmas Eve in our own familiar landscape”. Like his other works, it has hints of inspiration from other British composers like Elgar and Vaughan Williams.




Riu Riu Chiu

Although it has crossed into some popular music recordings, Riu Riu Chiu remains relatively unknown by most. Sometimes attributed to Mateo Flecha the Elder who died in 1553, the basic theme of the song is the nativity of Christ and the immaculate Conception. The words “ríu ríu chíu” are nonsense syllables that represent the call of the kingfisher.




Christmas Overture – Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was a British composer of African descent. His father was a Sierra Leone Creole physician. His mother, an Englishwoman. He showed promise at an early age as a violinist and then as a composer. He became fairly well-known in England as well as in the US where he was dubbed the “African Mahler”. His Christmas Overture was derived from The Forest of Wild Thyme and arranged by Sydney Barnes after Coleridge-Taylor’s death. In it, you’ll hear familiar tunes like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, “Good King Wenceslaus”, and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.




Gaudete

Another medieval carol, Gaudete or Gaudete, Christus est natus is a sacred Christmas song that was published in 1582. When it was published, no music was given for the verses, but it is typically sung to a tune that comes from older liturgical books. The title translates as “Rejoice, rejoice! Christ has born”.




Carol Symphony – Victor Hely-Hutchinson

Victor Hely-Hutchinson was a British composer born in Cape Town, Cape Colony (now South Africa). His best known work is his Carol Symphony – a four movement work that incorporates several well-known Christmas carols. The first movement is based on O Come All Ye Faithful. The second is a scherzo on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. The third is a slow movement loosely based on both the Coventry Carol and The First Noel. And the finale incorporates Here We Come A-Wassailing and O Come All Ye Faithful again.




Sleigh Ride (Winter Night) – Frederick Delius

Another English composer, Delius is best known for lyrical music influenced by other European composers like Edvard Grieg and Richard Wagner as well as music he heard while in America. His Winter Night is an atmospheric portrayal of a moonlit, snowy sleigh ride complete with sleigh bells.




Wassail Song – Ralph Vaughan Williams

The “Wassail Song” is part of Vaughan Williams’ Five English Folk Songs, a transcription of melodies from England’s vast vocal tradition of folk music. It was written in 1913 with cheer and charm to end the collection of five songs.




Santa Claus Symphony – William Henry Fry

William Henry Fry holds the distinction of being the first composer born in the United States to write for a large symphony orchestra. His Santa Claus Symphony was written in 1853 and was very well received by audiences. It may be the first orchestral use of the saxophone which was invented just barely a decade before.


Handel’s “Messiah” FAQs



Handel's MessiahHandel’s “Messiah” is one of the most widely played pieces during the Christmas season and certainly the most popular oratorio (a musical composition for orchestra, choir, and soloists). It’s also, however, the subject of a wide variety of myths, misconceptions, and questions ranging from things as simple as its title to why we stand during the famous “Hallelujah” chorus.

Let’s take a moment to explore answers to these key frequently asked questions about “Messiah”.

What is Handel’s Messiah?

Handel’s “Messiah” is a large work for orchestra, choir, and solo singers called an oratorio. It was composed in 1741 and is typically performed around Christmas. The most famous part is the “Hallelujah” chorus which has been used in popular culture in movies, cartoons, and even commercials. While many people refer to it as “The Messiah”, its official name is just “Messiah”.

What is the story of Handel’s Messiah?

It doesn’t tell story. Instead, the libretto, written by Charles Jennens, is a series of contemplations on the Christian theme of redemption through the life of Christ. The work is in 3 parts: the first part foretells Jesus’ birth and the Christmas story, the second part leads up to and includes the crucifixion, and the third part talks about the spread of Christianity and eternal life. Interestingly, despite its Christian message, most of the text is from the Old Testament.

Where was Handel’s Messiah first performed?

Contrary to myths about London, it was actually first performed on April 13, 1742 in Dublin, Ireland as a charity concert benefiting three charities: prisoners’ debt relief, the Mercers Hospital and the Charitable Infirmary. Handel sought and was given permission from St. Patrick’s and Christ Church cathedrals to use their choirs and he even had his own organ shipped to Ireland for the performance. To ensure that the audience would be the largest possible, gentlemen were asked to remove their swords and women were asked not to wear hoops in their dresses. The takings from the concert were around £400 and each charity received about £127 which secured the release of 142 indebted prisoners.

Why do you stand for Handel’s Messiah?

Audiences typically stand only during the “Hallelujah” chorus. The reason for this has its origins in a legend that may or may not be true. The often repeated story is that King George II was so moved by the chorus during the London premiere that he rose to his feet. Because of protocol, the audience in attendance also stood and thus the tradition was born. However, many experts agree that there is no evidence that King George II was even in attendance at the premiere. Newspapers of the time did not mention his attendance and it would be unlikely they would leave out the detail of a royal presence. The first written documentation of this story was a letter written 37 years after the London premiere. The London premiere also received a rather cool reception unlike the Dublin premiere which was a hit. All of this has led to numerous debates and countless passive-aggressive battles between sitters and standers.

Why is Handel’s Messiah so popular at Christmas?

The premiere in Dublin was held in April and Handel himself associated “Messiah” with Lent and Easter. In fact, only one-third of the piece deals with Jesus’ birth and the Christmas story. So why is a piece that’s really an Easter work so popular during Christmas? Laurence Cummings, conductor of the London Handel Orchestra, once told Smithsonian Magazine that the custom may have come out of necessity stating that while there is so much fine Easter music like Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, there is little great sacral music written for Christmas. Regardless of the reason, “Messiah” has been a regular December staple since the 19th century, especially in the US.

How long is Handel’s Messiah?

Handel wrote the original version of “Messiah” in three to four weeks. Some accounts estimate just 24 days. We say “original version” because Handel rewrote parts to better meet the abilities of specific soloists and depending on availability of instruments. In 1789, Mozart re-orchestrated it to give it a more modern sound.

The time it took Handel to write the work is amazingly short when you consider the score is 259 pages. NPR music commentator Miles Hoffman estimated that there are roughly a quarter of a million notes in it which means Handel had to keep a continuous pace writing 15 notes per minute.

Typical performances of the entire “Messiah” are usually around 2 1/2 to 3 hours long.

8 Facts About Samuel Coleridge-Taylor




If you’re like me, when you heard the name Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, you thought, “Isn’t that the guy who wrote Rime of the Ancient Mariner? The English poet?” Nope, that’s Samuel Taylor Coleridge. However, Coleridge-Taylor’s mother did name him after the famous poet (he was born only 41 years after the poet died).

No, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was an English composer of numerous works including his most celebrated cantata, Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, a piano quintet, a symphony, a once missing opera named Thelma, and his festive Christmas Overture which we will be performing in December.

Here are some other interesting facts about this British composer:

1. He earned the nickname the “African Mahler”. Coleridge-Taylor’s mother was English and his father was Dr. Daniel Peter Hughes Taylor, a Creole from Sierra Leone. His father descended from African-American slaves who were freed by the British and evacuated from the colonies at the end of the Revolutionary War.

2. He met President Theodore Roosevelt. On his first tour of the US, the composer was received by President Roosevelt at the White House which was a rare event for anyone of African descent.

3. He died young. Coleridge-Taylor was only 37 when he died from pneumonia. King George V granted his widow an annual pension which was considered evidence that he held the composer in high regard.

4. He wrote a work inspired by his near-namesake. Coleridge-Taylor wrote a piece called The Legend of Kubla Khan after the poem “Kubla Khan, Or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment”.

5. He almost didn’t attend college. The Royal College of Music hesitated over Coleridge-Taylor’s race, apparently worried that other students might object. Ultimately, he did admit Samuel at age 15 as a violin student. After 2 years, Samuel swapped violin for composition.

6. He was a pioneer in integrating African music in his music. He sought to do what Brahms had done with Hungarian music and Dvorak with Bohemian music by integrating African and traditions of the African diaspora into his compositions. Examples of this include his Four African Dances, Concert Overture, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and the Symphonic Variations on an African Air.

7. His Christmas Overture appeared posthumously. In 1925, Sydney Baynes arranged the work which features “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, “Good King Wenceslaus”, and “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” and is thought to have been derived from Coleridge-Taylor’s The Forest of Wild Thyme, a fairy drama for children.

8. Both of his children also had distinguished careers as conductors and composers. His son, Hiawatha, adapted his father’s works. His daughter, Gwendolyn, became a conductor and composer using the professional name Avril Coleridge-Taylor.


Die Fledermaus? At A Halloween Concert?



Pumpkin Question MarkIf you’re familiar with the famous waltzes of Johann Strauss II (think “The Blue Danube”), you might be asking yourself, why on earth are we performing the overture from Die Fledermaus for a Halloween concert? It’s not creepy or spooky or scary. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – filled with sweet melodies and bouncy rhythms that act as a preview of the rest of the operetta which is filled with humorous plot twists, cases of mistaken identity, and a final chorus in honor of champagne.

Despite all that, there are 3 great reasons to perform the Die Fledermaus Overture for Halloween:

1. The opera is about a masquerade: The operetta (a term used to describe a short opera with a light or humorous theme) is centered around a masquerade ball. And what’s more Halloween than dressing up in costumes?

2. The title means “The Bat”: Die Fledermaus is German for “the bat”. The operetta’s main character, Eisenstein, left his friend Dr. Falke abandoned and drunk on the street. Dr. Falke was dressed in a bat costume and from that point on he took on the nickname of “Dr. Bat”. Interestingly, “fledermaus” does not translate to “flying mouse”. “Fleder” is an old form of “flattern” which means “flutter”. So “fledermaus” is “fluttermouse”.

3. It’s fun!: Who says Halloween music has to be creepy? After all, it is meant to be a fun holiday and what’s more fun than clapping or swaying along with the famous waltz melody of this overture once called the “pièce de resistance” of the operetta by a Viennese critic. In fact it was so well-received at its premiere that it was interrupted several times by applause.

Be sure to join us on October 27, 2017 and hear us perform this and other Halloween music at “Sounds of the Deep”

Parker Symphony Halloween 2017 Concert - Die Fledermaus


Fun Christmas Music Facts & Hanukkah Song Trivia

Parker Symphony Holiday Concert

The Parker Symphony Orchestra is currently rehearsing music for the upcoming A Classic Parker Holiday concerts including pieces we’ll perform with the Parker Chorale. So it’s only appropriate and timely that we share some cool Christmas music trivia and Hanukkah music facts. From the “Chanukah Song” to “Winter Wonderland”, we think you’ll agree that these are interesting tidbits that may just make for great conversation starters this holiday season.

1. “Jingle Bells” is actually a Thanksgiving song. It was written by James Lord Pierpont, an organist at a Unitarian church, and performed during a Thanksgiving concert at the church. It was originally titled “The One Horse Open Sleigh” but re-published later with the title we all know today. “Jingle Bells” is also the first song that was broadcast from space.

2. Many Christmas songs were written by Jewish songwriters. These include “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Johnny Marks, “Let It Snow” by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, and “Winter Wonderland” by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith.

3. “The Christmas Song” was written during summer. While many Christmas carols sound like they were written during the perfect snowfall or holiday get-together, “The Christmas Song” was penned during a heat wave. In the summer of 1944, Mel Tormé was inspired by a few lines he saw jotted down by his friend and lyricist Bob Wells. They wrote the song as a way to distract themselves from the heat, but since it only took 45 minutes to complete the song, the relief didn’t last long.

4. The English version of “I Have a Little Dreidel” is slightly different than the Yiddish version. The title in Yiddish is “Ikh Bin A Kleyner Dreydl” or literally “I am a little dreidel”. In English, the singer sings about the dreidel, whereas in the Yiddish version, the singer is the dreidel. In the Yiddish lyrics, the dreidel is made out of “blay” or lead. in English, it is clay.

5. The best-selling single of all time is Bing Crosby’s performance of “White Christmas”. While there are no reliable sales figures that date back to when it was recorded, researchers from the Guinness book of records estimate that this version has sold no less than 50 million copies.

6. “Do You Hear What I Hear” is an anti-war song. The word “peace” often makes its appearance in carols including “Silent Night” and the slightly lesser known “Let There Be Peace On Earth”, but “Do You Hear What I Hear” was specifically written as a call for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was written by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne when America was on the brink of nuclear war. It is said Shayne was inspired by the sight of mothers pushing baby carriages on a city street.

7. The Christian hymn “Rock of Ages” came from a Hanukkah song. “Ma’oz Tzur” is typically sung after lighting the festival lights at Hanukkah. The hymn’s name comes from its Hebrew incipit (the first few words of the text) which means “Stronghold of the Rock”. A loose English translation of the hymn was written that many know as “Rock of Ages”.

8. Tony the Tiger sang a Christmas song. If you’re a real Christmas music buff, you’ll recognize the name Thurl Ravenscroft. He is the singer behind “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”. The narrator of the Dr. Seuss classic, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was Boris Karloff, but he couldn’t sing. So the production team brought in Ravenscroft. Ravenscroft’s other claim to fame is his voiceover work. He is the voice of “Tony the Tiger” and is best known for his “they’re grrrrrrreat!” line.

9. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” may be one of the oldest, if the not the oldest, of all Christmas songs. It gained popularity in the 18th century, but it was written in Latin around the 9th century. Researchers believe that Gregorian monks first composed the song, but this is just a good guess. It has been associated with Christmas for almost 1200 years and was translated into English in 1851.

10. “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” was sung by a veterinarian. It was written in 1978 to be more of a joke than anything. Certainly it’s not a serious holiday hymn to say the least and it often makes lists of least favorite Christmas songs (although it’s sold more than 40 million copies). It was written by Randy Brooks, but he asked husband-and-wife duo Elmo and Patsy to perform it. Elmo, whose real name is Elmo Shropshire, is actually a licensed veterinarian.

11. Mendelssohn composed the music for “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” to celebrate the inventor Johann Gutenberg. Charles Wesley wrote the original words with the opening, “Hark! how all the welkin rings / Glory to the King of Kings”. The opening was changed to the one we sing today by George Whitefield and was set to Mendelssohn’s music to create the carol we all know. Mendelssohn’s composition was actually a cantata to commemorate Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press.

12. The uncut version of “The Chanukah song” is the one you hear on the radio. There are actually 4 versions or 4 parts to this non-traditional Hanukkah song written by Adam Sandler and SNL writers Lewis Morton and Ian Maxton-Graham. The part you typically hear on the radio at this time of year is Part 1, but did you know this is the uncensored version? The final verse sung on SNL and on an edited recording includes the line “Drink your gin and tonic-ah, but don’t smoke marijuan-icah.” The line you hear on the uncut album, the version that receives the most radio airplay, is actually, “Drink your gin and tonic-ah, and smoke your marijuan-icah.”

 

Top 7 Pirate Classical Music Pieces

 

Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day! In honor of the day, we’ve compiled a list of classical music related to the pirate life. From famous soundtracks to swashbuckling operas to rousing overtures, we’ve got your definitive playlist for the day.

1. Gilbert & Sullivan – The Pirates of Penzance

Probably the best known on our list is the fifth Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration. This comic opera brought us the much-parodied “Major General’s Song“. However, “I am a Pirate King” is a more appropriate selection for today. Watch this rousing pirate selection below.

2. Leroy Anderson – Pirate Dance

A light and exuberant piece, Anderson’s “Pirate Dance” has melodies you can certainly associate with pirate life. In fact, at one point, you can almost imagine it leading into the Disney “A Pirate’s Life For Me”, but it never quite gets there. Still, it’s a nice lighthearted selection for International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

3. Vincenzo Bellini – Il Pirata

Another opera on our list, Bellini’s “The Pirate” is based on a three-act melodrama called “Bertram, or The Pirate”. It was an immediate success upon its premiere in October 1827. Recent notable recordings have included such famous names as Maria Callas and Renée Fleming in the cast. Hear the opening below.

4. Walter Leigh – Jolly Roger

A rousing overture for sure, this lively piece will have you thinking adventure in no time. Leigh was an English composer in the early 20th century. Like “Pirates of Penzance”, “Jolly Roger” was a comic opera. Hear the overture below.

5. Klaus Badelt – Pirates of the Caribbean

You have to be marooned on an island not to know (or guess) that the music from the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” has a distinctly swashbuckling sound. Hear it performed live below.

6. Erich Wolfgang Korngold – The Sea Hawk

Another piece written for the movies, Korngold’s soundtrack for “The Sea Hawk” is an exciting and romantic score you wouldn’t guess was composed in the 1940’s. The movie itself starred Errol Flynn as an English privateer who defends his nation against the Spanish Armada. Hear the overture from the film score below.

7. John Williams – Hook

To round out the list, we couldn’t help but include John Williams’ Hook soundtrack. Of course a score for a film about Peter Pan and Captain Hook would have a distinctly adventurous sound. Watch the “Flight to Neverland” from Hook conducted by the composer himself.

 

Classical Music For Spring

Spring in Colorado taken in Greenwood Village, CO in 2012 by Shari Mathias

The first day of spring is right around the corner, although we’ve been experiencing sunny days and warmer temperatures for a couple of weeks now. Of course, Colorado weather can always take a turn (we even have snow in the forecast), but talk of all things “spring” is here to stay for a while. That got me thinking about classical music inspired by the season. From “La primavera” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring, there’s a long list of compositions about and appropriate for this time of year. Here are just a few for your playlist:

“Spring” from The Four Seasons (Vivaldi): The Four Seasons, as the name suggests, is actually four violin concerti. Vivaldi published them along with poems that describe what imagery the music was intended to evoke. For example, the first movement asks the audience to picture that “Spring has come and joyfully the birds greet it with happy song, and the brooks, while the streams flow along with gentle murmur as the zephyrs blow.” Interestingly, the second movement features a barking dog represented by the viola section. Hear it now on YouTube

On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring (Delius): This is a great example of a tone poem – an orchestral work intended to inspire listeners to imagine scenes or experience moods often from the content of a poem, story, novel, or painting. English composer Delius wrote this as part of Two Pieces for Small Orchestra. The other piece is titled Summer Night on the River, but often these pieces are played separately. Note the cuckoo calls throughout the first theme and again at the end. Listen now here.

“Morning Mood” from Peer Gynt (Grieg): The melody of Morning Mood is by far more well-known than its title or the work from which it came. In fact, most people think of images of Scandinavia where Grieg is from instead of the intended setting which is a Moroccan desert. The piece was written as incidental music to a Henrik Ibsen play and depicts the rising sun at dawn. Listen to it here.

Appalachian Spring (Copland): Originally written as a score for a Martha Graham ballet, today it is celebrated for its tender opening notes and its distinct Americanism thanks to the incorporation of the Shaker tune “Simple Gifts”. Copland wrote the initial piece for 13 instruments but later rescored the work for full orchestra. The word “spring” in this case refers to a water source. The Hart Crane poem from which the title came literally addresses a water spring. However, the poem is figuratively about a journey to meet springtime and the ballet storyline tells of a spring celebration of American pioneers in the 19th century. Listen now on YouTube.

Vårsång (Spring Song) (Sibelius): Another tone poem, Sibelius’ Spring Song was originally composed as an orchestral improvisation for a concert in 1894. It was described as a piece full of “fresh, characterful melodies”. A year later, he reworked the piece, shortening and restructuring it and, at that time, he appended the subtitle “The Sadness of Spring”. The piece, however, can be described as more grand than sad, with an optimism not usually seen in his works. Hear it here.

Have a favorite piece we didn’t include here? Comment on our post on Facebook.