Press Play: “Magnificat” by Arvo Part

My nephew enjoys playing the piano. Then again, he’s 5, so he enjoys pretty much anything that makes noise.

But what fascinates me about watching my nephew play piano is how he seems to always go for the very highest and very lowest notes, mostly ignoring the centre of the keyboard. It’s as if a note is only worth playing if it takes some effort to reach it. So most of his performances consist of a garbled mashing of hands on the upper notes, followed by a brief giggle –pause– and then a garbled mashing of hands on the lower notes.

This comes to mind because according to one biography, Arvo Part spent some time in childhood experimenting with the upper and lower registers of the piano, owing to the fact that the middle notes of his parents’ piano had been damaged and didn’t work. How much that broken childhood instrument affected his eventual brilliance is up for debate. But his brilliance has definitely provided us with some of the most beautiful and haunting music of the last century.

Key moment: My nephew would be particularly happy with the gorgeous garbled dissonance on the line “suscepit Israel” beginning at 4:21.

That makes me think of: I love how Part keeps having different sections of the choir sit on one note while another section harmonizes…it reminds me of Bill Withers’ great held note in the chorus of “Lovely Day”.

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”


Press Play: “Ave Verum” by Edward Elgar

It’s pretty unlikely that anyone will build a statue of me when I die, but if I do end up deserving one, I hope that my statue will be as awesome as any of the statues erected in Elgar’s honour.

A quick image search for “statue of Edward Elgar” reveals that this was a man who will be remembered not only for his music, but for his love of chillin’. In various places around the world, bronze Elgars can be found relaxing on benches, thoughtfully contemplating the view down a city street, or casually asking you if you’d like to join him for an afternoon’s bike ride.

Brilliant composer, cycling enthusiast, bountiful moustache…damn. I think I’ve found a new hero.

Key moment: The final cadence, which begins around 2:15, is delicious. Like syrup sliding slowly down the side of a pancake.

That makes me think of: “Statues” by Moloko.

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”

Press Play: “Fair Phyllis I Saw Sitting All Alone” by John Farmer

Madrigals are kind of the precursors to pop music. Secular, simple, and often with their fair share of fun, Madrigals were popular during Shakespeare’s time, and I’d like to think that if he’d had an iPod, Shakespeare would have had plenty of John Farmer’s tunes on it.

Key moment: At 0:46, after Phyllis and her lover fall “a-kissing”, the words “up and down” come back. Not sure if I’m misinterpreting this, but I think Farmer had a dirty mind.

That makes me think of: “Don’t Walk Away Eileen” by Sam Roberts. Both songs are simple, catchy, and feature a name that might belong to your grandmother.

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”

Press Play: “Organ Fugue in G Minor” by JS Bach (as performed by The Swingle Singers)

Before there was Glee, before Pentatonix, before a capella groups were cool…there was The Swingle Singers.

Okay, I know. This is supposed to be a blog about choral music, and this one is a stretch. A big stretch. A big, ridiculous, hilarious, vintage 1980s stretch.

But I’m not ashamed to admit it: when I was a kid, I really liked the Swingle Singers. My family actually OWNED this video on VHS. In fact, I bet it’s still sitting in the basement of my parents’ house, next to our copy of A Fish Called Wanda and the episodes of Mr. Bean that we taped every week.

In case you need convincing, here are five reasons why this video is awesome:

    1. The dresses. If one of the Care Bears got married, the bridesmaids would wear these.
    2. The location. Where is this? Buckingham Palace? The Hermitage? The library from the board game “Clue”?
    3. The happiness. They’re all so ridiculously happy. Especially those tenors. And am I crazy, or do those guys look like Paul McCartney and a younger, pre-drugs Gary Busey?
    4. The bassist. This guy is groovin’. And he’s got a mullet-moustache combo that would make any hockey player jealous.
    5. They’re really good. Seriously. In fact, if Pentatonix are out there, I challenge you to re-create this video in as much detail as you can (including the outfits) as an homage to these pioneers of a capella artistry.

Key moment: When the bassist wraps it up with a little drum roll.

That makes me think of: …the fact that these guys are still around. Well, not these specific people, but the group still exists. They’ve traded in their shoulder pads and perms for indie sweaters and hipster glasses, but here they are, keeping the a capella dream alive.

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”