2013 Post Primary Concert Notes


We look forward to seeing you at the forthcoming concert. Attached are programme notes for some of the pieces to be performed. Our website has links to Youtube videos of the main works. (See www.corkpops.ie) and there are several other interesting links in these notes.  There are many excellent audio recordings (with narration) of the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra; Peter and the Wolf; and the Carnival of Animals. Please note that, due to the length of these works, we will only perform excerpts on the concert. We hope that the ‘live’ experience can provide a stimulus for further engagement in the class-room.

Making connections between music of the past and present has been central in our programmes. This year, Cork’s favourite rapper, GMC, will demonstrate the importance of Rhythm and Bass in so much of classical and popular music repertoire.  Rapper GMC  (aka Garry McCarthy) is a highly-regarded music producer/rapper/youth workshop facilitator from Co. Cork. He recently recorded ‘Doing the Jimmy Barry Murphy’, and has already released 3 albums, and penned a top 20 hit with “Not Tonight – The Bouncer Song”. His performances include the Electric Picnic and The Marquee in Cork. Garry has a unique style which brings witty, edgy and local lyrics over some of the catchiest beats out there. Never trying to Americanise his music, Garry remains true to himself and urges young people to try do the same when expressing themselves lyrically and musically. Garry has run projects for Music Generation, Cork, the Cork Academy of Music, Triskel Arts Centre, Mayfield Arts Project and Dean Street Youth Reach, among others. He has a first class honours degree in Multimedia, and also has a first class honours masters in Business Information Systems. See his website for details of his workshops for schools.  www.gmcbeats.com

We will also demonstrate a new educational graphic notation system, currently in development, called Dabbledoo.  This is a multimedia musical experience for young music makers, combining words, illustration, sound, performance and animation.The project is the result of a collaboration between music-technology graduate, Shane Mc Kenna, and visual artist, Killian Redmond, and aims to make music more accessible and fun for children and teachers alike, through free online musical activities. Dabbledoomusic uses a unique system of colour-coded, animated musical notation. Unlike conventional notation, this system is designed to encourage people of all musical backgrounds and levels of experience to participate through collaborative performance and composition. (www.dabbledoomusic.com)

Also attached are the lyrics of the songs to be performed, including Skyfall; Hound Dog; Jailhouse Rock; and We are the Champions. These are also to be found on our web-site.

See   :   www.corkpops.ie

Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.

By  Benjamin Britten   (1903 – 1976)

We have chosen this piece for a number of reasons.  Firstly, we thought it fitting to include a piece by Britain’s foremost 20th century composer in the year of the centenary of his birth. Also, the piece brings together music of the past and the present in a particularly brilliant way. Britten uses a theme by Britain’s foremost composer of the Baroque period, Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695).  The theme is taken from Purcell’s ‘Rondeau’ in a work called ‘Abdelazar’ or ‘The Moor’s Revenge’. The Guide was written, specifically, to introduce audiences to the different instruments and sections of the orchestra. The British Department of Education, in 1946, commissioned Benjamin Britten to write music for an educational film about the orchestra.  He decided on a ‘Theme and Variations’ structure as the most effective way to show off each section of the orchestra, and each instrument within those sections. In doing this, he manages to capture the characteristics, timbre, and dynamics of the instruments in a very clever way. The piece has really stood the test of time, and has gone on to be a part of the standard repertoire of the symphony orchestra. It can be performed with or without a narration, and is nowadays played for audiences of all ages.

You can hear Sean Connery as narrator on  :


The transitions between each section are usually quieter in dynamic to allow for the narration. However, it is self-explanatory without the narration. For a very fine, non-narrated version, played by the German WDR Symphony Orchestra from Cologne, see :


The variations explore the sounds of Woodwind; Strings; Brass; and Percussion. Having taken the orchestra ‘apart’ in these variations, Britten puts it all back together again when he re-works the theme as a Fugue. The Fugue is an important structural form in classical music. J.S. Bach was an early exponent of this compositional form, and a great inspiration to composers up to the present day, such was his craft and expertise in fugue-writing. In a fugue, short themes are clever layered, building up from a simple melody to a complex multi-layered sound. In Britten’s fugue, he begins with a variation of Purcell’s tune played by the piccolo (the highest instrument in the orchestra), and develops the layers right throughout the orchestra. The Brass section majestically re-introduces the actual Purcell tune over the many other layers. So, the fugue is like a ‘roll-call’ of all the instruments, culminating in the Purcell theme. The whole work finishes with a little Coda – which is a final, added-on flourish by Britten to bring the piece to a dazzling close.

Peter and The Wolf

By Sergei Prokofiev (1891 – 1953)

Prokofiev, like Benjamin Britten, was a child prodigy. After the revolution of 1917, he went into self-imposed exile in the U.S.A. and, later, in Paris. On his return to Russian, he was commissioned to write a symphonic piece for the Moscow Children’s Theatre, that would introduce young people to the instruments of the orchestra. He wrote the narration for the story himself, and  the piece was premiered in 1936. It has provided the inspiration for many animations of the work, most notably by the Walt Disney studio in 1946. In 2007, a British-Polish co-production won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

The Disney film is featured on Youtube :


To view Suzie Templeton’s Academy Award winning short film :


The Birds  (Gli Uccelli)

By Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936)

Respighi was an Italian composer who had a great interest in music of the16th, 17th and 18th centuries – especially music from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. His Ancient Airs and Dances date from 1927, the same year that he wrote The Birds. He was a violinist and musicologist, and from 1923 – 1926, he was the director of the Music Conservatory of Santa Cecilia, in Rome, where he also taught composition until 1935. His music is particularly admired for the interesting, vivid colouring he produces in his orchestral writing. He was a fan of another great orchestrator, the Russian composer, Rimsky-Korsakoff, (who wrote Scheherazade, amongst other great works) and studied with him for a few months, when he played a season of Italian opera in the orchestra of the Russian Imperial Theatre in St. Petersburg, in 1899.

(Valery Gergiev conducts Rimsky-Korsakoff’s Scheherazade, with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra  :  )http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQNymNaTr-Y

For  ‘The Birds’, Respighi re-worked five pieces of Baroque music, pieces originally written for harpsichord or lute, creating a new  ‘suite’ for orchestra. A ‘suite’ is a collection of pieces, a form that was popular in the Baroque period. Respighi brings the imagination and colouring of the Romantic era to his writing.

He was interested in transcribing bird-song into music notation.  Not only does he capture the sound of the birds, but, also, their diverse characters.

To follow the score, while listening to a recording :


The opening “Preludio” is based on the music of Bernardo Pasquini, an Italian Baroque composer.  It contains hints of the other movements in the suite.


“La colomba” (The Dove) works with the music of Jacques de Gallot, a French composer and lutenist, with lovely solo lines for oboe, clarinet, and violin.


“La gallina” (The Hen) uses a piece by Jean-Philippe Rameau, originally written for harpsichord, who was one of the most prominent harpsichord composers of the Baroque era.


“L’usignuolo” (The Nightingale) is based on an anonymous folk song that was transcribed by Dutch composer and organist Jacob van Eyck.


Finally, “Il cucù” (The Cuckoo) returns to the music of Pasquini. The  distinctive notes of the cuckoo feature prominently throughout this section, and at the end, material from the opening “Preludio” brings the piece full circle.

Carnival of the Animals

By Camille Saint-Saëns

Rameau’s ‘La Poule’  (The Hen) is parodied in one of Saint-Saens musical sketches included in his Carnival of the Animals, a composition he wrote in 1886 for the amusement of his friends, for a Mardi-gras Carnival party. He never intended it to be played in public, except for the beautiful ’cello solo  ‘The Swan’. Another famous composer, Franz Listz, persuaded him to allow another private performance, but it was not until shortly after Saint-Saens death, in 1921, that  the first public performance took place. He scored the piece for an unusual combination of instruments, including two pianos. It was originally scored for a chamber group of flute, clarinet, two pianos, glass harmonica, xylophone, two violins, viola, cello and double bass, but is usually performed today with a full orchestra of strings, and with a glockenspiel substituting for the rare glass harmonica.

To follow the score while listening :


His musical satire on the subject of animals also includes a parody on Offenbach’s Can-Can, the tune of which he uses in slow motion, to portray  Tortoises.


One of the animals, to which he devotes a movement in this ‘suite’ of pieces, is ‘Pianists’, who are demonstrated practicing their scales! See Roger Moore introducing this movement on Youtube.


Over the years, there have been several verses written for the narration, but the original set was written by Ogden Nash in 1949. In the Roger Moore clip, above, the verses used were written by violinist , Aleksey Igudesman. Together with pianist Richard Hyung-Ki Joo, they have formed a very successful musical comedy duo – Igudesman and Joo.  Both are very fine musicians, who met at the Yehudi Menuhin School for talented young musicians, at the age of twelve.

Here’s a clip of their version of ‘I Will Survive’.


The Swan is the most frequently performed piece from the Carnival of the Animals.  The famous Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, made it famous as a dance piece, since she introduced it to audiences in 1905. It is said that she performed the dance, called The Dying Swan, (after a poem by Tennyson), over 4,000. The following is a film of the legendary Pavlova, recorded in 1925. It is a silent fim to which audio has been added.


Below is a wonderful contemporary dance version, with Lil Buck and ‘cellist Yo-yo Ma  :


Canon in D

By Pachelbel  (1653 -1706)

Johann Pachelbel was a German organist and composer, who held varous prestigious positions as church organist, including at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, in Vienna. He is mostly remembered for his Canon in D, which has been re-arranged for all kinds of ensembles, but always retaining the 2- bar 8 note bass line  and the three layers of melody from the original compostion, which has the bass part played by the harpsichord and ‘cello, with three violins playing the melody but starting each layer two bars apart. It was standard practice, at that time, to improvise (literally, make-up alternate tunes based on the bass-line and harmony/chords), very much in the same was as in jazz performance.

Pachelbel was one of the important predecessor’s of Johann Sebastian Bach, as he helped developed the kind of compositional forms that have been such a huge influence on classical music, since the 17th century, and on popular music, since the 20th century.

If you are interested in an in-depth, on-line explanation of how a Fugue is structured, check out a lecture from Yale University on :


Compositional structures featured in the concert include the fugue; canon; ground-bass; and 12-bar blues:

12-Bar Blues

This video clip gives a very good explanation of the chord sequence of the 12-bar blues, as part of an online guitar lesson.


Elvis Presley’s 1956 recording of Hound Dog


Blues Brothers’ Jailhouse Rock



Example of a Ground Bass from Henry Purcell’s Aria from Dido and Aeneas –“When I am Laid in Earth”.  It begins with a ‘recitative’ – like an opening verse, which leads into the Aria itself. The ground bass is very obvious is the descending bass line.


This is Alison Moyet’s recording of the Aria.


Example of a Ground Bass from Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances – (Bergamasque)



Introduction to Bach’s The Art of the Fugue