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Two-minute tales from history, myth and fiction, accompanied by word games, grammar games and writing practice, all based on traditional school textbooks.

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Glorious John
Music: Johann Baptist Cramer
JB Cramer was one of the finest pianists of his day, though his reverence for Mozart made his own music more popular in the drawing room than the concert hall.

BY 1784, thirteen-year-old Johann Baptist Cramer was such a naturally gifted pianist that Muzio Clementi, his distinguished teacher, performed a duet with him in public. Four years later, Johann toured Europe, and again in 1799, attracting the notice of both Haydn and Beethoven, who declared him the finest pianist of the day.

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Six Posts
The Story of Handel’s ‘Water Music’
Music: George Frideric Handel
Handel’s German boss fired the composer for spending all his time in London. When they met again, it was... rather awkward.

IN 1712 George Frideric Handel, court composer to George, Elector of Hanover in Germany, visited London, with his employer’s warning that he expected him back ‘within a reasonable time’ ringing in his ears.

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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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‘My English Joy’
Music: Sir William Sterndale Bennett
In 1837 William Sterndale Bennett, then regarded as England’s most exciting young composer, made history in quite another... field.
By Sir William Sterndale Bennett
(1816-1875)

WELL, I’m off on Monday. Beginning to pay my visits p.p.c.. Count Reuss is gone away to Kreutz. Called yesterday on Madame von Goethe, dined with Benecke, and played at Cricket with some Englishmen, which made the Germans stare very much, as they never saw the game before — we had English bats and balls.

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‘Nimrod’
Music: Edward Elgar
Edward Elgar suffered from depression, and ‘Nimrod’ is his token of thanks to the true friend who supported him through it.
Music by Edward Elgar
(1857-1934)

AFTER a long day teaching the violin, Elgar and his wife Alice joked about how their friends might develop a simple tune, given their distinctive personalities - from a memorable laugh to likeable pomposity and poor piano-playing, and even the organist of Hereford Cathedral’s bulldog, splashing about in the River Wye.

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John Playford
Music: John Playford
In England’s brief but dismal experiment as a Republic, Playford saved traditional English dance music from destruction.
Music by John Playford
(1623-1686)

THE republican Commonwealth of England ruled by Oliver Cromwell from 1649 used government legislation to suppress theatre, dancing, church music, and festivals. John Playford (1623-1686), a music publisher in London, made sure to collect as much music as he could, before it was lost for ever.

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A Touch of Silk
Music: John Field
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.
Music by John Field
(1782-1837)

JOHN Field made his Dublin debut as a pianist aged ten, and a year later was whisked off to London and apprenticed to Muzio Clementi, building and demonstrating pianos in Clementi’s showrooms.

Following an accomplished performance of his own Piano Concerto in E flat in the King’s Theatre, London, when just sixteen, a glittering career beckoned.

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All Posts
Tagged Music and Musicians (33 posts)
page 1
1 Glorious John
JB Cramer was one of the finest pianists of his day, though his reverence for Mozart made his own music more popular in the drawing room than the concert hall.
2 The Free-Wheeler
By Ethel Smyth
(1858-1944)
Composer Ethel Smyth buys a new-fangled ladies’ bicycle, and scandalises the neighbours.
3 Ode to (English) Joy
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was commissioned by a fiercely independent Britain, and Beethoven was excited to oblige.
4 Anne Ford Thicknesse
A young English girl in Dr Johnson’s London struggles to share her gift for music.
5 Beethoven’s First
Everyone wanted to know who Beethoven’s favourite composer was.
6 ‘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.
page 2
7 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.
8 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.
9 Francesco Geminiani
The most brilliant violinist of his generation, whose finely-crafted compositions showed off bravura and spoke tenderness.
10 Benno Moiseiwitsch
One of the twentieth century’s greatest pianists, who put himself and his art at the service of his adopted country.
11 Muzio Clementi
From performance and composition to instrument-making, Clementi left his mark on British and European classical music.
12 The Siren ‘Greatness’
In encouraging women into music, Alice Mary Smith thought promises of ‘greatness’ counterproductive.
page 3
13 ‘Risoluto’
Music by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford
(1833-1897)
Despite setback after setback, Stanford was determined to hear his music played in public.
14 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.
15 ‘God Save the King!’
The simple melody of the United Kingdom’s national anthem has stirred the souls of some great composers.
16 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.
17 Elias Parish Alvars
Music by Elias Parish Alvars
(1808-1849)
Eli Parish of Teignmouth in Devon became one of Europe’s most celebrated virtuosos.
18 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.
page 4
19 St John of Damascus
John’s enduring influence is evident today in the rich sights and sounds of Christian liturgy.
20 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.
21 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.
22 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.
23 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.
24 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.
page 5
25 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.
26 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.
27 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’.
28 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.
29 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.
30 The ‘Raindrop’ Prelude
By Georges Sand
(1804-1876)
As the storm raged around him, raindrops fell like music on the pianist’s heart.
page 6
31 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.
32 ‘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.
33 Ignaz Moscheles
Music by Ignaz Moscheles
(1794-1870)
Moscheles taught his adopted country how to write enchanting music for decades to come.
Authors
1 post
1 post
Ethel Smyth (1858-1944)
1 post
Sir James Melville (1535–1617)
1 post
Georges Sand (1804-1876)
1 post
which is ‘English Style’ ?

Word Play: Opposites

Suggest words or phrases that are opposite in meaning to the words below.

Refuse. Allow. Keep.
JB Cramer was one of the finest pianists of his day, though his reverence for Mozart made his own music more popular in the drawing room than the concert hall.
By Percy Bysshe Shelley
(1792-1822)
Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley says that the pinnacle of political achievement is the government not of others, but of ourselves.
By John Keats
(1795-1821)
Poet John Keats speaks of the beauties of Autumn, her colours, her sounds and her rich harvest.
By Percy Bysshe Shelley
(1792-1822)
Poet Percy Shelley calls on November’s sister months to watch by the graveside of the dead Year.
Cut
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.
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.
Polyword ‘Bolt’
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
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with SPIT and finish with FIRE.
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
A word-making and word-searching game with a dash of strategy to it.
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letters game

What is the longest word you can make using these letters?

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

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numbers game

Make the total shown using two or more of the numbers underneath it. You can add, subtract, divide and multiply. Use any number once only.

More like this: Target Number (Mental Arithmetic Game) Mental Arithmetic