Monday, October 26, 2009

Composer Study: Franz Joseph Haydn

Last week we completed our first of four composer studies for the school year. I thought I'd share the resources we used in our study of Franz Joseph Haydn.


Joseph Haydn: Merry Little Peasant by Opal Wheeler

We love this series of stories about famous composers and plan to use Wheeler's books for all our composer studies this year. I highly recommend buying the accompanying CD, unless you are musically gifted. The books have snippets of various compositions scattered throughout, and your children will inevitably ask, "How does that one sound?" This book received the Blue House Academy rating of five out of five stars. *****

The Farewell Symphony by Anna Harwell Celenza

My library system has every Celenza composer story except this one, so I ended up buying it through Amazon and I'm glad I did. The kids loved the story of how "Papa" Haydn and his musicians bid farewell to Prince Esterhazy. The story is included in the Wheeler book as well, but the Celenza book has the entire symphony on its CD (included with the book). We also watched this clip on You Tube so the kids could actually see the musicians walk out. *****

Franz Joseph Haydn: Great Man of Music by Carol Greene

We just read this simple book last week, and it turned out to be a great review of the main facts we learned about Haydn. ****


If you're looking for Christmas gift ideas, take a look at the Beethoven's Wig CDs. My kids love, love, love them, and Ryne has developed a passion for classical music because of the four CD's. If you have the CDs or can find them at your library, there are a couple of tunes you should include in your Haydn study: Vol. 1 tracks 6 & 17 (Surprise Symphony) and Vol. 3 tracks 13 & 29 (Minuet & Trio from Concerto in D Major). The latter is actually from Franz Joseph's younger brother, Johann Michael Haydn.

We also enjoyed singing severals hymns that use music composed by Haydn. The numbers are from the Trinity Hymnal.

#12 - Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim

#17 - The Spacious Firmament on High

#269 - Welcome, Happy Morning!

#345 - Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken

#396 - Come, My Soul, Thou Must Be Waking

And from his brother, Johann Michael...

#2 - O Worship the King

#165 - Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim

The highlight of our Haydn study, however, was Ryne learning how to play the Surprise Symphony on the piano. First, some background...

[Haydn] was puzzled to know what to do with the ladies who nodded sleepily when the concerts began. He supposed too much dinner was the cause and he wondered how he could make them listen well to his music.

"Ah, I shall surprise them," he thought to himself with a twinkle in his eye.

He began to compose a symphony. The music started slowly and quietly, and now everyone would be settled comfortably for a nap. Then he wrote a sudden sharp chord. "The ladies will jump there," chuckled Haydn to himself. (The Merry Little Peasant, p. 103)

Ryne loved this story, so one day during a practice session we decided to do a little role play. I pretended to be one of the sleepy ladies in the audience who is startled awake by the clever Haydn. Ryne was so tickled! Not only did it motivate him to learn those tough chords a little quicker, but it provided us with some great opportunities to work on joint attention skills. In the following clip, Grace acts out the role of the sleepy lady. It was a spur of the moment type video, so please forgive her crazy outfit and messy hair. Ryne also didn't play his best, but you can tell he's having fun with it.

By the way, here is the piano book Ryne used to learn the Surprise Symphony. I found it at a homeschool convention, and it has been a wonderful addition to his piano studies.

My First Book of Classical Music by Bergerac

Other: You can find more great resources at the Classics for Kids website.

Both kids really enjoyed our study of Haydn, and I'm glad we decided to spend a whole quarter on him. Last year I planned on doing a new composer every month, but I always felt too rushed and then felt guilty for not being on schedule. This year feels much more relaxed and enjoyable.

Now we are looking forward to getting better acquainted with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!


  1. Oh, thanks for the book recommendations! I'll file these away for sure.

    We have a few more weeks on Vivaldi and then we move to Bach. I'm really enjoying listening to The Four Seasons. Tomorrow, each of the children will paint or color a picture while we listen to Summer. Fun, fun!

  2. Thank you for these recommendations. We are reviewing a composer study which I like, but after I post the review, I want to slow down the pace of the study and include other resources. These are just what I needed. I will have to see if our library has them.

  3. Thanks for sharing. We are about to start Haydn for our next co-op class.