Thursday, March 29, 2012

March 29: German composer, Carl Orff - “Carmina Burana” - died on this date in 1982 ...

... born on July 10, 1895, he was 86 years-old when he passed away.

A Bavarian, Carl Orff was born in Munich on July 10, 1895. He started studying the piano at the age of five, and he also took organ and cello lessons. However, he was more interested in composing original music than in studying to be a performer. Orff wrote and staged puppet shows for his family, composing music for piano, violin, zither, and glockenspiel to accompany them. He had a short story published in a children's magazine in 1905.  

By the time he was a teenager, Orff was writing songs, although he had not studied harmony or composition. Orff wrote his own texts and he learned the art of composing, by studying classical masterworks on his own. In 1911, at age 16, some of Orff's music was published. Many of his youthful works were songs, often settings of German poetry with hints of what would become Orff's distinctive musical language.

In 1911/1912, Orff wrote Also sprach Zarathustra ("Thus Spoke Zarathustra"), Op. 14, a large work for baritone voice, three choruses and orchestra, based on a passage from Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical novel. The following year, he composed an opera, Gisei, das Opfer ("Gisei, the Sacrifice.") Influenced by the French Impressionist composer Claude Debussy, he began to use colorful, unusual combinations of instruments in his orchestration.

Orff studied at the Munich Academy of Music until 1914. He then served in the German Army during World War I, when he was severely injured and nearly killed. Afterwards, he held various positions at opera houses in Mannheim and Darmstadt, later returning to Munich to pursue his music studies.

In the mid-1920s, Orff began to formulate a concept he called "elementare Musik," or elemental music, which was based on the unity of the arts symbolized by the ancient Greek Muses and involved tone, dance, poetry, image, design, and theatrical gesture. He also began adapting musical works of earlier eras for contemporary theatrical presentation, including Claudio Monteverdi's opera L'Orfeo.

In 1924 Dorothee Günther and Orff founded the Günther School for gymnastics, music, and dance in Munich. Orff was there  from 1925 until the end of his life. There he developed his theories of music education.  Orff also edited 17th-century operas. However, these various activities brought Orff very little money.

Carmina Burana
Orff composed Carmina Burana, a “scenic cantata” in 1935-36 It is based on 24 of the poems found in the medieval collection Carmina Burana. Its full Latin title is Carmina Burana: Cantiones profanæ cantoribus et choris cantandæ comitantibus instrumentis atque imaginibus magicis ("Songs of Beuern: Secular songs for singers and choruses to be sung together with instruments and magic images.")

"Carmina Burana" Cincinnati Ballet - Choreographer Mauricio Wainrot
Carmina Burana is part of Trionfi, the musical triptych that also includes the cantata Catulli Carmina and Trionfo di Afrodite. The best-known movement is "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi" ("O Fortuna") that opens and closes the piece.

The original text dated mostly from the 11th or 12th century, including some from the 13th century. Michel Hofmann, then a young law student and Latin and Greek enthusiast, assisted Orff in the selection and organization of 24 of these poems into a libretto, mostly in Latin verse, with a small amount of Middle High German and Old Provençal.

The selection covers a wide range of topics, as familiar in the 13th century as they are in the 21st century: the fickleness of fortune and wealth, the ephemeral nature of life, the joy of the return of Spring, and the pleasures and perils of drinking, gluttony, gambling and lust.

Carmina Burana was first staged in Frankfurt by the Frankfurt Opera on June 8, 1937. The Nazi regime was at first nervous about the erotic tone of some of the poems, but eventually embraced the piece. It became the most famous piece of music composed in Germany at the time. The popularity of the work continued to rise after the war, and by the 1960s Carmina Burana was well established as part of the international classic repertoire.

Orff's relationship with German fascism and the Nazi Party has been a matter of considerable debate and analysis. Given Orff's previous lack of commercial success, the monetary factor of Carmina Burana's acclaim was significant to him.
But the composition, with its unfamiliar rhythms, was also denounced with racist taunts.

Following World War II, during his denazification process in Bad Homburg, Orff claimed that he had helped establish the "White Rose" resistance movement in Germany. There was no evidence for this other than his own word, and other sources dispute his claim.

Most of Orff's later works – Antigonae, Oedipus der Tyrann, Prometheus, and De temporum fine comoedia – were based on texts or topics from antiquity. Live performances of them have been few.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28: banjo virtuoso, Earl Scruggs died on this date in 2012...

(Photo from

... he was 78-years-old when he passed away.
Earl Eugene Scruggs grew up in Cleveland County, North Carolina. His father, George Elam Scruggs, a farmer and bookkeeper, who died when Earl was four-years-old, played banjo, as did his two older brothers,and two older sisters. Scruggs' mother played the organ.

Scruggs joined Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in late 1945, and quickly popularized his syncopated, three-finger picking style. (The picking method, is now called "Scruggs style.") In 1948 Scruggs and guitarist Lester Flatt left Monroe's band and formed the Foggy Mountain Boys, also later known simply as Flatt and Scruggs.

Flatt and Scruggs became members of the Grand Ole Opry in the 1950s. In 1969, they broke up, and he started a new band, the Earl Scruggs Revue, featuring several of his sons. On September 24, 1962, singer Jerry Scoggins, Lester Flatt and Scruggs recorded "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" for the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies, which was released October 12, 1962. The theme song became an immediate country music hit and was played at the beginning and end of each episode.

Flatt and Scruggs appeared in several episodes as family friends of the Clampetts in the following years. In their first appearance, they portray themselves in the show and perform both the theme song and "Pearl Pearl Pearl."

Flatt and Scruggs won a Grammy Award in 1969 for Scruggs' instrumental "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." They were inducted together into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985. In 1989, Scruggs was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship. He was an inaugural inductee into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1991. In 1992, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

In 1994, Scruggs teamed up with Randy Scruggs and Doc Watson to contribute the song "Keep on the Sunny Side" to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Country produced by the Red Hot Organization.

In 2002 Scruggs won a second Grammy award for the 2001 recording of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," which featured artists such as Steve Martin on 2nd banjo soloVince Gill and Albert Lee on electric guitar solos, Paul Shaffer on piano, Leon Russell on organ, and Marty Stuart on mandolin. The album, Earl Scruggs and Friends, also featured artists such as John Fogerty, Elton John, Sting, Johnny Cash, Don Henley, Travis Tritt, and Billy Bob Thornton.

On February 13, 2003, Scruggs received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. That same year, he and Flatt were ranked No. 24 on CMT's 40 Greatest Men of Country Music.

File:Earl Scruggs 2005.JPGOn September 13, 2006, Scruggs was honored at Turner Field in Atlanta as part of the pre-game show for an Atlanta Braves home game. Organizers set a world record for the most banjo players  - a total of 239 - playing one tune together - Scruggs' "Foggy Mountain Breakdown.

On February 10, 2008, Scruggs was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards. Scruggs was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009.


For more about Earl, visit his Website at -


Sunday, March 25, 2012

March 25: Dan Seals of England Dan and John Ford Coley died on this date in 2009...

.. he was 61 years-old when he passed away.

... he died on March 25, 2009.

Did you know?

So how does a boy from Texas end up as "England Dan?" It was a childhood nickname he'd gained from his affected English accent and love of The Beatles.


Danny Wayland "Dan" Seals was born in McCamey, Texas to a music-oriented family. He was taught by his father to play the upright bass. He is the younger brother of Seals & Crofts member Jim Seals. His bother Eddie is also a musician.
Dan moved to Dallas as a teenager.

Dan with his brother Jim of Seals & Crofts

He and classmate John Colley, who later changed the spelling of his last name to Coley, formed a group with three other Samuell students called the Playboys Five, then they were part of part of Dallas pop/psych group Southwest F.O.B.

He and Coley eventually split off from the group. He then became known as the "England Dan" half of the soft rock duo England Dan and John Ford Coley, which charted nine pop and adult contemporary singles between 1976 and 1980, including the #2 Billboard Hot 100 hit "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight."

Dan and John

Their other hits include the 1977 hits "Nights Are Forever Without You," "It's Sad to Belong," and "Gone Too Far"; "We'll Never Have to Say Goodbye Again" and their last top-40 hit, "Love Is the Answer." After seven LPs, they disbanded in 1980. and Seals signed as a solo artist with Atlantic Records in 1980.

He kept the name England Dan for his debut solo album, Stones. Although no single charted on the country charts, his first single ever as a solo artist "Late at Night" did peak at #57 on the US Hot 100. His next album, Harbinger, was also unsuccessful, commercially. Seals reinvented himself as a solo country-pop artist, and adapted his style to fit country radio's demands while keeping his soft singing style. He signed with Capitol Records in 1983.

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The Very Best of England Dan & John Ford Coley

Throughout the 1980s and into the early 1990s, he released 16 studio albums and charted more than 20 singles on the country charts. Eleven of his singles reached Number One: "Meet Me in Montana" (with Marie Osmond), "Bop" (also a #42 pop hit), "Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold)," "You Still Move Me," "I Will Be There," "Three Time Loser," "One Friend," "Addicted," "Big Wheels in the Moonlight," "Love on Arrival," and "Good Times."

Five more of Seals' singles also reached Top Ten on the  charts.

In 2008, Seals completed radiation treatments for mantle cell lymphoma at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and received a stem cell transplant in December of that year at NIH in Maryland. Seals died at the age of 61, on March 25, 2009 at his daughter's home.