Interesting Stories Behind Classical Compositions: Dvorak’s 9th Symphony

This beloved symphony is better known as “From the New World” or “New World” because the famed Czech composer from Bohemia composed this masterpiece in 1893, while he was staying in America. However, the nickname is somewhat misleading, because while he composed it in America (a.k.a. the New World), it’s not an exclusively American symphony. While American Indian and black American themes inspired the symphony, it has as much, if not more, influences from his native Bohemia. Leonard Bernstein said it best when he described the 9th as “multinational.”

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Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 (Obertura) - Richard Strauss, 1896.

Eumir Deodato Almeida's singular rendition of "Also sprach Zarathustra" won the 1973 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. It is arguably the world's most renowned Latin jazz opus ever.

The introductory movement of the original work, a tone poem by Richard Strauss (1896), served as the musical motif in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film, "2001: A Space Odyssey." Deodato's arrangement wondrously elaborates on the movie's modernistic theme.

Strauss, in turn, was inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche's iconoclastic philosophical treatise of the same title (1883-85). Zarathustra, of course, refers to Zoroaster, the Persian prophet and religious poet of antiquity (traditionally, 6th century BC), on whom Nietzsche based the principal character of his book.

Interesting Stories Behind Classical Compositions:Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony

Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 (sometimes identified as No. 7) really is unfinished. A symphony traditionally has four movements; Schubert completed two movements but then abandoned the project for reasons that are not clear. However, he did sketch a third movement. Various composers have “completed” the symphony based on that sketch, and their interpretation of the first two movements, but for all intents and purposes, Symphony No. 8 remains truly unfinished.

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Fred Stobaugh: Amazing story of the 96-year-old's musical tribute to wife that's outselling Justin Timberlake

Wedding day: Fred and Lorraine 

At one stage his debut single was outselling singing superstar Justin Timberlake and he has pulled in an online audience topping six million.

Not bad for a 96-year-old who’s practically tone deaf.

Yet the story of Fred Stobaugh’s success with Oh Sweet Lorraine – a love letter to his wife of 73 years – is bittersweet.

Because the great, great-grandfather from Illinois in the US, penned the song while he was in mourning for the love of his life who passed away in April at the age of 91.

Fred says: “It comforts me to have written this song. I know she’s looking down on me, smiling, knowing I’ve written this for her.

“I miss her terribly, especially evenings when I’m on my own. There is not a day goes by when I don’t visit her in the cemetery.

“I first met her when she was working on a root beer stand in 1938, she was bringing trays of drinks to car windows.

“She was real timid like, but I fell in love with her right there and then. She was just the prettiest girl I ever saw.”

After channelling his grief into the lyrics, Fred submitted them for a songwriting contest promoted by his local newspaper.

Musicians at the Green Shoe Studio, who ran the ­competition, were so touched they set his words to music.

Four months on and the track has been downloaded more than 200,000 times and a string of musicians have covered it on YouTube. It even hit number five in the iTunes chart, ahead of some music megastars.

As well as making it into the charts of Switzerland and Austria, he entered America’s top 50 at number 42, making him the oldest person to get into the Billboard Hot 100. Tony Bennett was the previous holder of the title when he charted two years ago aged 85.

Fred, who lived with his wife in Peoria, about 150 miles south-west of Chicago, is enjoying being a household name in the US.

“I’m in a daze,” he says. “The song has just exploded all over the world. It’s all been like a big dream to me. I saw the ad in the paper about the contest and I just thought: ‘Shoot, I’ll just write a letter and send it in.’

“I didn’t even think I’d get an answer. You know I just sat there one evening and the song just came to me – the words just seemed to fit Lorraine somehow. We both loved music throughout our time together.

“We would regularly take coach tours to places like Nashville. In fact, one of us would hardly go anywhere without the other. So she’d think this song was just wonderful.”

Fred was just 21 when he first met 16-year-old Lorraine between the end of the Great Depression and the Second World War.

He says: “We dated for two years, then got married. June 26 would have been our 73rd anniversary. She gave me 75 years of her life.”

The couple had three daughters, four grandchildren, five great grandchildren and one great great granddaughter.

With a chorus of “Oh sweet Lorraine, I wish we could do the good times all over again. Oh sweet Lorraine, life only goes around once but never again,” the song reflects the couple’s love of music and each other.

But despite the captivating story, Fred’s song only became a hit through sheer luck.

The competition was only open to musicians who made their own recordings and uploaded them to YouTube. Fred’s mode of entry was more old school.

Jacob and Fred Stobaugh

Jacob and Fred Jacob Colgan of Green Shoe Studios, says: “Instead of a link to video we received a very large manila envelope entitled: Singer ­songwriter contest.

“When I opened it up there was a letter from a 96-year-old man who said: ‘I’ve written a song for my wife.’

It was only as I read through the letter that I realised his wife had passed away just a month earlier. It was just so heartwarming. He also said he was not a musician and not actually a very good singer.

“In fact on the envelope itself it says: ‘PS I don’t sing – I would scare people, ha ha’.”

Although they felt he was ineligible, the studio bosses instead decided, without even meeting Fred, to set the lyrics to music and record the track professionally.

Jacob, who sang the finished composition, says: “When we told him he said: ‘Well, that’s great, but how much is this gonna cost me? I don’t have any money.’

“Then when we told him we were going to do it all for free he started crying on the phone. He said: ‘Why would you do this for me?’

“We just said we weren’t just doing it for him, that we were doing it together because his words had touched us so much.”

But even before the track was released, a ­documentary chronicling its creation seemed to capture the imagination of a nation.

From the moment the nine-minute recording was posted online in July, viewings soared on YouTube and Vimeo. It has now been seen by over six million people.

“We thought the documentary might do well,” says Jacob. “But, we never expected the song to hit the charts.

"We’re freaking out. But really, we’re just honoured we’ve been able to do this for the love of Fred’s life.”
 Fred Stobaugh
Global success at 96
Now the studio and Fred are planning a follow up, once again singing the praises of his beloved Lorraine.

In the meantime he has been besieged by the media in the US who’ve both interviewed him at home and flown him across the States to television studios.

His grandson Rocky Hemp, 42, has found himself acting as his chaperone and press officer, fielding calls from TV, radio and the press and making sure he is safe.

“It’s just been crazy,” he says. “But there was no way I would want him to be going off all over the place on his own. I’ve been filling all sorts of roles, including managing his Facebook page – and, you know what, I don’t even think he really understands what Facebook is.

"But this is kind of payback time because when I was younger I was into writing and recording music and when he would go off to Nashville to watch shows he would always take cassettes of my work and try and make sure I ended up in the right hands.

“He’s been a terrific grandfather to me over the years, and I had a terrific grandmother too.”

With huge sales has come some financial reward too, with around a third of the purchase price of each download going to Fred.

"It won’t make him a millionaire though,” laughs Rocky.

“But I think he has really enjoyed these past few weeks.

“He’s a simple, regular guy who’s suddenly had a little taste of stardom – it’s been relief after seeing him so upset and lonely for so long.”

And Fred agrees.

But he says: “As much as I’ve enjoyed the success of the song I would give it all up in a heartbeat to get just a few moments more with Lorraine.”

Originally Posted October 1, 2013 in the Daily Mirror 

Book Hostage Feature Interview with Dr. Warren L. Woodruff

Synopsis: When the dark musician Jedermann and his fierce Seirens of Dis gain control of the legendary Gold Baton, Tyler, his sister Christina, and their friends are drawn into a perilous adventure foretold by an ancient prophecy.
Guided by the mythical Dr. Fuddle, the explorers must leave earth and journey to Orphea. Will the Messengers of Music be able to save the world of the immortal composers from chaos and destruction? For them to have even a chance at victory, they must master the most difficult instruments of all—themselves.

About the Author


1. Why did you decide to write this book?

Because if wanted to create a fun adventure in a setting very different from anything used before. As a classical musician, I wanted to create an alternate world, one for the immortal composers, but one that, like our own world, has its own challenges and imperfections. How does this appeal to the reader? It’s nice for the classical composers but what does it do for the person who BUYS the book for money?

2. Do you have any secret writing tips you want to share?

Absolutely! Don’t be afraid to re-write several times, and from the first draft, READ EVERYTHING YOU WRITE OUT LOUD!

3. Tell us a funny, quirky or unexpected story about you?

It’s definitely not funny, but unexpected. Since age 13 I’ve been afflicted with a very rare auto-immune inner ear disorder, very similar to what Beethoven suffered. I did all my classical piano training in high school, college, and graduate school with one functioning ear. Since 2000, the other ear became affected and I’ve had to rely on a hearing aid in order to teach and perform. In the past decade the quality of my hearing has deteriorated, but using Beethoven as my inspiration, I continue for the sake of leaving behind what I feel I was destined for–to expose and inspire a whole new generation to the joy and excellence of classical music.

4. What books are on your nightstand right now?

The Ninth, Beethoven and the World in 1824, by Harvey Sachs

A Wish Can Change Your Life, by Gahl Sasson and Steve Weinstein

RareEarth by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee

And of course, all seven Harry Potter books are proudly displayed on the shelf nearby

5. What is you favorite quote?

As a writer, this is a no-brainer: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”

6. Who inspires you most?

Recent/Living: Stephen Hawking, award-winning scientist

Dead: Ludwig van Beethoven, immortal composer


1. What excites you most about your book’s topic? Why did you choose it?

The creation of the fantasy land of Orphea, because I’ve always loved mysteries and the possibilities of an afterlife. I don’t think this is compelling enough. I’d rather have it be something along the lines of “creating a world that would inspire young readers to achieve excellence in all they do—especially music!”

2. How long did the book take you from start to finish?

Two years, nine drafts total.

3. What aspect of writing the book did you find particularly challenging?

Learning the technical skills of writing, when my professional background is music.

4. Did you do any research for your books, or did you write from experience?

Both. Since I have a Ph.D. in Musicology, I have more information than anyone could ever dream of wanting off the top of my head, but there were some details I wanted to make sure were historically correct.

5. What surprised you most about this process?

How difficult it is to get a book to tell a story and make it read like a “real” book.

6. Did you have any notable experiences from writing your book?

Yes. There were times when I was working with my writing coach Mardeene Mitchell that I felt like I was no longer on earth, but that we were working on a spiritual plane.

7. What do you hope your readers will gain from reading your book?

Primarily, I want them entertained and feel as though they’ve actually been in Orphea with Dr. Fuddle and the Messengers of Music and that they’ve fought in the battle against Jedermann to reclaim the Gold Baton. Secondarily, I want to pique their interest in classical music. good

8. What other projects are you working on?

The screenplay of DR. FUDDLE AND THE GOLD BATON and a sequel to the first book. I’m also working on re-writing my six scene play BEETHOVEN in Final Draft.

9. Is writing your sole career? If not, what else do you do?

No. Writing is like a second career. I’ve been teaching the art of classical piano for over twenty-five years and with the autoimmune disease threatening my musical career, I’m transitioning to becoming a professional writer, but will always teach as long as my hearing allows.

10. When can we look forward to your next book?

Within one to two years, then one a year after that. I plan to make Dr. Fuddle a series of five to seven novels. I’m also envisioning a children’s picture book series entitled The Adventures of Dr. Fuddle, which would be more educational musically rather than fantasy adventure, but still entertaining, something like The Magic School Bus series.

Reposted from Book Hostage

The Inspirational Lady in Number 6

Academy Award Winning The Lady in Number 6 is one of the most inspirational stories ever told. 109 year old, Alice Herz Sommer, the world's oldest pianist and oldest holocaust survivor, shares her views on how to live a long happy life. She discusses the vital importance of music, laughter and having an optimistic outlook on life. This powerfully inspirational video tells her amazing story of survival and how she managed to use her time in a Nazi concentration camp to empower herself and others with music. 

 See the entire documentary

Metallica and Lang Lang Perform Rocking Rendition of 'One' at 2014 Grammy Awards

Metallica made it back to the Grammys on Sunday (Jan. 26) to perform a familiar favorite, but with a twist. The group rocked their previous Grammy-winning single ‘One’ with the aid of classical pianist Lang Lang.

The band was introduced by Thirty Seconds to Mars frontman Jared Leto, who first took a moment to lead a salute to late rocker and Metallica collaborator Lou Reed. Tying it all together, guitarist Kirk Hammett appeared onstage during the performance wearing a Lou Reed t-shirt.

The performance opened with the the members of the band in the dark with only a spotlight on Lang Lang as he delivered a stirring beginning to the track while flames of pyro shot up in the background. The Metallica members remained silhouetted as images of soldiers and barbed wire played on the screen behind them. Then, eventually, Metallica took the spotlight as James Hetfield stepped up to the mic to begin singing the opening notes of ‘One.’

This was a different rendition of ‘One’ than fans were used to hearing. But the song hit its high point as Kirk Hammett‘s wicked guitar solo played off of Lang Lang’s chaotic arrangement. Click the button below to watch the performance.

Watch Metallica Perform 'One' With Lang Lang

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