Teacher’s Guide to March 16th Concert

Dear Teachers,

Here below are some notes on part of our program on March 16th. It is being provided to you so you can give the students a little background on the music with some listening and discussion before they come to the concert. This will greatly enrich their experience and enjoyment. The part of the program discussed below is only the three movements by Georges Bizet. The other works will be introduced at the concert in a simple manner – including the highlight of the concert: Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals. It would be better for the students to not listen to that or any of the other works on the program prior to coming to the concert so their reactions will be fresh and fun and not stale. For the Bizet (on the other hand), it would help to get some concepts across beforehand through listening and discussion. Our orchestra is strings only usually and this concert is no exception. That means that some wind parts are taken by string instruments in the arrangements we will play.

You are the experts in engaging the young minds you work with from day to day and certainly have your own way of explaining these concepts. Please feel free to teach and discuss as much or as little as you want and to find a better way to explain the ideas to the students.

We are excited to partner with you to enrich the lives of children. Thank you for your participation and what you do for them throughout the school year.

Here is a listing of the entire program:

Georges Bizet                               Carmen, from Habanera   

Matthew Camidge                       Sonatina for Piano and Strings           Liam Dougall, piano

Adam Carse                                  Trio                                                                Marisa Woo, Piano                                                                                                                               (with violin and cello)

Mildred Souers                            Impromptu                                                Marisa Woo, piano

Antonio Vivaldi                           Violin Concerto in a minor                     Emily Polcyn, violin

Georges Bizet                               Menuetto from L’Arlesienne Suite No 1

Camille Saint-Saens                   The Carnival of the Animals                 Orchestra, with                                                                                                                                       Helen Bryant piano,

Arno Babajanyan                         Poem                                                        Helen Bryant, piano

Georges Bizet                               Carillon  from L’Arlesienne Suite No 1

As you see, the three movements by Georges Bizet will be performed at the beginning, middle, and end of the concert. They are:

  1. Habanera from the opera Carmen (about a young Roma or Gypsy woman living in 19th century Spain)
  2. Menuetto from incidental music to the play L’Arlesienne (literally meaning ‘The Woman from Arles’)

III. Carillon also from incidental music in L’Arlesienne 

Lesson Ideas    

  1. A habanera is a type of Spanish dance, but in the opera Carmen the Habanera is sung by the leading lady (Carmen) to the leading man (Don Jose) when they first meet. In this arrangement the violins sing Carmen’s melody first in Major mode and then in minor mode. The melody is made mostly of descending half-steps and alternating triplets and duplets creating a slinky slippery melody coming down again and again. There is another melody in the latter half of the piece which is quite different in its construction and character. Underneath the violins, the cellos are playing a repetitive pattern all the way through. This pattern outlines the harmony and probably is the most recognizable aspect of the piece.

Listen for:

  1. repetitive pattern in the cello
  2. descending half-step melody in the first part
  3. Major and minor mode                                                                                                                      Minuets (spelled differently in different languages, are dances with some rather consistent characteristics:
    1. They are always in triple-meter time, meaning the beat is grouped in groups of three (strong, weak, weak, strong, weak, weak).
    2. They are also usually in three sections which we sometimes call sections A, B, & A’ (an opening idea, contrasting idea, and concluding with a shortened version of the opening idea. This creates a slightly imperfect symmetry which is considered pleasing to us because we start in one place, go somewhere quite different, and then return ‘home’ at the end. Hear the opening or A-section’s gentle melody passed from one group of instruments to another over and over, followed by the more excited middle or B-section, finally returning to the gentle A’-section which is very much like the first section – but this time with a beautiful counter-melody (secondary but simultaneous melody – yes, two different melodies at once) heard first in the violas.

    Listen for:

    1. Triple-meter time
    2. A, B, A’ structure with the middle section having a contrasting character
    3. The counter-melody when we reach the concluding third section or A’ section

Carillons are groups of bells (usually in a church tower) played by a ‘keyboard’ which traditionally is enormous, taking a lot of physical strength and force to play. Electronic Carillons (such as the one at Stone Mountain Park) have smaller bells and a regular sized keyboard like that on a piano or organ.

The play L’Arlesienne takes place in a town in France named Arles where there is a large church with a carillon. In the play that carillon often plays three notes over and over again in a pattern of ‘Mi, Do, Re, Mi, Do, Re, Mi, Do, Re’, and so on. This exact repetition in the accompaniment (not in the melody) is called ‘ostinato’ because the notes are obstinate or stubborn in how they repeat over and over. Like the Menuetto before, the Carillon movement is both in triple-meter time and has an A, B, A’ structure of contrasting sections. Only the A and A’ sections have the ostinato, but toward the end of the B section one can hear the Mi, Do, Re, sneaking back in as if to tell us we are about to return to the music from the beginning or the A’ section.

Listen for:

  1. The ostinato in the A and A’ sections which is made of ‘Mi, Do, Re’ over and over – forceful or gentle
  2. The A, B, A’ structure
  3. A much more relaxed feeling in the contrasting B section which features a beautiful violin duet
  4. The ostinato subtly hinting the return to the music from the beginning.