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English Language and History .com is a collection of two-minute tales drawn from history, myth and fiction. Each tale is accompanied by word games testing grammar and expression, based on textbooks used in British schools from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Ode to (English) Joy
Music: Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was commissioned by a fiercely independent Britain, and Beethoven was excited to oblige.

ON June 9th, 1817, a letter arrived at Ludwig van Beethoven’s residence in Baden informing him that friends at the Philharmonic Society in London, anxious for his well-being and finances, could offer him 300 guineas for two new symphonies by January 1818, to be conducted by Beethoven himself in the capital.

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Six Posts
Fiddler Tam
Music: Thomas Erskine, 6th Earl of Kellie
An 18th century bon viveur and virtuoso violinist, Thomas Erskine is currently being ‘rediscovered’ by the classical music industry.
Music by
Thomas Erskine, Earl of Kellie

AS a young man of twenty Thomas Erskine, Sixth Earl of Kellie, was passionate about music, but scarcely able to tune his own violin.

A four-year visit to Joseph Stamitz in Mannheim changed all that.

On his return in 1756, his new-found virtuosity earned him the nickname ‘Fiddler Tam’.

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The Seikilos Epitaph
Music: Greek folk song
Lost for seventeen centuries, caught up in a war, and used as a pedestal for a plant pot, this is the world’s oldest surviving song.

‘WHAT is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.’

At about the same time that St James wrote this, a man named Seikilos, from a village near Ephesus, lost his wife.

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Francesco Geminiani
Music: Francesco Geminiani
The most brilliant violinist of his generation, whose finely-crafted compositions showed off bravura and spoke tenderness.

‘THE intention of musick’, wrote Francesco Geminiani in 1751, ‘is not only to please the ear, but to express sentiments, strike the imagination, affect the mind, and command the passions’. He had spent the last thirty-seven years doing just that, delighting audiences from London to Dublin and the near Continent.

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Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Music: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
A gifted composer of classical music in the romantic tradition, admired by Stanford, Elgar, and Sullivan.
Music by Samuel Coleridge Taylor
(1875-1912)

AT the age of five, Samuel Taylor began violin lessons with a local music-teacher in Croydon. Fifteen years later, he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, where he changed course to study composition, under Charles Villiers Stanford.

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The ‘Raindrop’ Prelude
Music: Frederic Chopin
As the storm raged around him, raindrops fell like music on the pianist’s heart.
By Georges Sand
(1804-1876)

HE saw himself drowned in a lake; heavy, icy drops of water fell rhythmically upon his breast, and when I made him listen to the sound of the drops of water which really were falling rhythmically on the roof, he denied ever having heard them.

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Beethoven’s First
Music: George Frideric Handel
Everyone wanted to know who Beethoven’s favourite composer was.

A QUESTION many people asked Beethoven was ‘Who is your favourite composer?’

Englishman Edward Schulz recalled hearing Beethoven say over dinner, ‘Handel is the greatest composer that ever lived’, and Johann Stumpff, a London-based instrument-maker who visited Beethoven in 1824, received the same reply. ‘To him I bow the knee,’ Beethoven added, and promptly did.

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All Posts
Tagged Music and Musicians (31 posts)
page 1
1 Ode to (English) Joy
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was commissioned by a fiercely independent Britain, and Beethoven was excited to oblige.
2 Anne Ford Thicknesse
A young English girl in Dr Johnson’s London struggles to share her gift for music.
3 Beethoven’s First
Everyone wanted to know who Beethoven’s favourite composer was.
4 ‘My English Joy’
By Sir William Sterndale Bennett
(1816-1875)
In 1837 William Sterndale Bennett, then regarded as England’s most exciting young composer, made history in quite another... field.
5 Diplomatic Immunity
By Sir James Melville
(1535–1617)
Sir James Melville eavesdrops on Queen Elizabeth I’s music practice, and incurs Her Majesty’s displeasure.
6 Sir William Sterndale Bennett
Acclaimed in Germany as a composer on a par with Mendelssohn himself, Bennett sacrificed his life and talents for music in Britain.
page 2
7 Francesco Geminiani
The most brilliant violinist of his generation, whose finely-crafted compositions showed off bravura and spoke tenderness.
8 Benno Moiseiwitsch
One of the twentieth century’s greatest pianists, who put himself and his art at the service of his adopted country.
9 Muzio Clementi
From performance and composition to instrument-making, Clementi left his mark on British and European classical music.
10 The Siren ‘Greatness’
In encouraging women into music, Alice Mary Smith thought promises of ‘greatness’ counterproductive.
11 ‘Risoluto’
Music by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford
(1833-1897)
Despite setback after setback, Stanford was determined to hear his music played in public.
12 Caedmon Learns to Sing
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
A shy and unmusical stable-hand suddenly began to sing wise and moving hymns.
page 3
13 ‘God Save the King!’
The simple melody of the United Kingdom’s national anthem has stirred the souls of some great composers.
14 Charles Avison
Music by Charles Avison
(1709-1770)
The most important English-born composer of Handel’s day, known for his tuneful music and very busy diary.
15 Elias Parish Alvars
Music by Elias Parish Alvars
(1808-1849)
Eli Parish of Teignmouth in Devon became one of Europe’s most celebrated virtuosos.
16 St John Damascene
John’s enduring influence is evident today in the rich sights and sounds of Christian liturgy.
17 John Playford
Music by John Playford
(1623-1686)
In England’s brief but dismal experiment as a Republic, Playford saved traditional English dance music from destruction.
18 Lessons in British values for a Future King
Music by Thomas Arne
(1710-1778)
‘Rule Britannia’ was a discreet way of telling a German prince what was expected of a British King.
page 4
19 The Story of ‘Messiah’
Music by George Frideric Handel
(1685-1759)
The first thing George Frideric Handel’s oratorio ‘Messiah’ did was to set a hundred and forty-two prisoners free.
20 The Story of Handel’s ‘Water Music’
Handel’s German boss fired the composer for spending all his time in London. When they met again, it was... rather awkward.
21 The Seikilos Epitaph
Lost for seventeen centuries, caught up in a war, and used as a pedestal for a plant pot, this is the world’s oldest surviving song.
22 Brahms: Three Intermezzi Op. 117
A Scottish widow’s lullaby for her fatherless child inspired his music, but Brahms’s message struck closer to home.
23 A Touch of Silk
Music by John Field
(1782-1837)
A Dubliner with a roving eye and a gift for melody, John Field challenged some of Europe’s finest pianists to demand more of themselves and their music.
24 Zadok the Priest
Music by George Frideric Handel
(1685-1759)
Handel’s anthem sets to glorious music words sung at English coronations for over a thousand years.
page 5
25 The Harmonious Blacksmith
Music by George Frideric Handel
(1685-1759)
Handel called it ‘Air and Variations’, but by Charles Dickens’s day everyone knew it as ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’.
26 Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Music by Samuel Coleridge Taylor
(1875-1912)
A gifted composer of classical music in the romantic tradition, admired by Stanford, Elgar, and Sullivan.
27 Fiddler Tam
Music by
Thomas Erskine, Earl of Kellie
An 18th century bon viveur and virtuoso violinist, Thomas Erskine is currently being ‘rediscovered’ by the classical music industry.
28 The ‘Raindrop’ Prelude
By Georges Sand
(1804-1876)
As the storm raged around him, raindrops fell like music on the pianist’s heart.
29 How St Benedict Biscop brought Byzantium to Britain
By Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
The chapel of Bede’s monastery in Sunderland was full of the colours and sounds of the far-off Mediterranean world.
30 Ignaz Moscheles
Music by Ignaz Moscheles
(1794-1870)
Moscheles taught his adopted country how to write enchanting music for decades to come.
page 6
31 ‘Nimrod’
Music by Edward Elgar
(1857-1934)
Edward Elgar suffered from depression, and ‘Nimrod’ is his token of thanks to the true friend who supported him through it.
Authors
1 post
1 post
Sir James Melville (1535–1617)
1 post
Georges Sand (1804-1876)
1 post

Word Play: Verb or Noun?

Use each of the words below once as a noun and once as a verb:

Entrance. Air. Figure.

New Stories
The only truly global conflict in history began when German troops crossed into Poland in September 1939.
By Richard Cobden
(1804-1865)
Richard Cobden questioned both the wisdom and the motives of politicians who intervene on foreign soil.
To the poor of England, the Worcestershire man gave affordable pots and pans, and to all the world he gave the industrial revolution.
After Louis XIV’s grandson Philip inherited the throne of Spain, the ‘Sun King’ began to entertain dreams of Europe-wide dominion.
New Puzzles
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Try writing complete sentences using these nouns as either the subject or the object of a verb.
Try writing complete sentences using these verbs in either the active or the passive voice.
Polyword ‘Truly, Madly’
Make as many words as you can with the letters below. All your words must be at least four letters long, and must also include the highlighted letter. What’s the nine-letter word?

SEE how many words you can make using the letters below. All your words must be at least 4 letters long, and must include the letter (change).

We found commonly used words, plus one 9-letter word. Can you do better?

Use each letter only once. But if there are e.g. two As, you can used them both.

Don’t count proper nouns such as April, Zeus, or Newcastle (pretty much anything that has to be spelled with a capital letter at the start), or acronyms like HMRC.

Don’t just add -S for plurals or third person singular verbs, e.g. CAT → CATS or SPEAK → SPEAKS.

Note: You can find more Polywords and other games on our Nine Lives puzzle page, and most of our stories are accompanied by games with words, grammar and numbers.

More Puzzles
Do you know ‘perceptive’ (5 letters), and ‘English artist’ (3 letters)?
Do you know ‘conclusive evidence’ (5 letters), and ‘perceptive realisation’ (6 letters)?
Do you know ‘a temperature scale’ (6 letters), and ‘a bit of useful advice’ (3 letters)?
Do you know ‘popular Asian chilled fruit drink’ (7 letters), and ‘bear witness’ (6 letters)?
Do you know ‘satisfied’ (7 letters), and ‘warm and cosy’ (4 letters)?
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
top topics
History (359)
Fiction (77)

letters game

Make words from two or more of the tiles below. What is the highest-scoring word you can make?

Press enter or type a space to see feedback on your word.

More like this: ‘Scrabble’ letters game Games with Words

numbers game

Work across from the number on the left, applying each arithmetical operation to the previous answer. What’s the final total?

Tip: Click any of the four inner squares to check your running total.

More like this: Maths Steps Mental arithmetic