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Catholic Activity: Home Concerts

What we said about sharing the masterpieces in world literature through family reading should be said with equal emphasis for the listening to the masterpieces of the world''s music. Young married couples might find among their wedding gifts a stock of long-playing records — since "hi-fi" brings Carnegie Hall not only to every town, but practically into every home!

As the children grow up, they will get used to being cautioned to silence while father and mother are listening to some symphony, opera, or vocal concert on the record player. A well-stocked record library makes it easy for us to arrange for a real concert on Saturday nights (when we don''t go out!) or Sunday afternoons, or special feast-day evenings around the year.

The great oratorios cannot be listened to in one sitting, and understood and enjoyed at the same time. One section should be played at a time and played more than once, until the listener grows familiar with each part and learns to appreciate the whole work. The weeks of Advent are an excellent period for a study of "The Messiah," and the weeks of Lent for the "St. Matthew Passion"; then, at the end of the season, at Christmas and during Holy Week, the entire work will be played in one sitting.

For the Christmas season, there are the Christmas carols by the Robert Shaw Chorale; the Christmas music of early Italian composers, played by I Virtuosi di Roma, or the two records "Christmas with the Trapp Family." Lent might be the time for Negro spirituals, for the oratorio (for example, "The Seven Last Words" by Haydn or the "German Requiem" of Brahms) or for Mozart''s "Great Mass in C Minor".

We have had considerable experience with people who viewed our selection of records with great suspicion and when exposed to such a "concert at home," were preparing themselves to be "bored to death with that long-haired music," only to exclaim afterwards, "But that is beautiful!"

For those who want to start the experiment, here are four works which are so captivating, even to the untrained ear, that everybody without exception has enjoyed them at first hearing:

Mozart, "Quintet for Clarinet & Strings in A Major, K. 581" Mozart, "Quartet for Oboe & Strings" Mozart, "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" Haydn, "Concerto for Trumpet & Orchestra in D Major"

Here are some program suggestions for such "Concerts at Home," which of course each family will vary to suit its tastes:

Respighi, "Suite of Ancient Arias and Dances" Mozart, "Symphony in D Major" ("Prague") Bach, "Brandenburg Concerto I in F Major" Schubert, "Quintet for Strings in C Major, op. 163" (one of the most moving, most beautiful works of all time)

Mozart, "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" Schubert, "Symphony No. 8 in B Minor" ("Unfinished")

Mozart, "Serenade in E Flat Major" Schubert, "Symphony No. 7 in C Major" ("Great")

The prejudice so many have against operas could easily be overcome by first getting acquainted with their texts. For a few cents one can get The Pocket Book of Great Operas by Henry W. Simon and Abraham Veinus, (Pocket Books, Inc., New York, 1949). There one can find the story of the most popular operas, and that is the first gate to cross. Then we suggest that you listen to one act at a time, and read first the story (which nearly every album includes with the records) and then the libretto, following the original text and translation until you are thoroughly familiar with it and can enjoy the whole without a book or translation.

Operas suggested for family enjoyment are Mozart''s The Magic Flute, Wagner''s Die Meistersinger, Verdi''s Aida; and the children in particular will delight in Humperdinck''s Hansel and Gretel and Menotti''s Amahl and the Night Visitors, which is especially appropriate for the Christmas season.

If you wish to end such an evening on a lighter vein, add one of the great waltzes by Johann Strauss in the authentic, wonderful performance of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.


Activity Source: Around the Year with the Trapp Family by Maria Augusta Trapp, Pantheon Books Inc., New York, New York, 1955

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