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Joseph Howell

Celebrate Classical Music- or- Bartholomew and the Sabre Dance

August 18, 2012 at 1:21 AM


When we were children, my mother bought an LP album of Dr. Seuss stories. On the front side, a narrator read several of the famous tales. I remember Green Eggs and Ham, Horton Hears a Who, and Bartholomew and the Oobleck. We loved Dr. Seuss!

The flip side offered two classical selections: Khatchaturian's "Sabre Dance" and "In the Hall of the Mountain King" by Grieg. These were my introduction to "Classical Music". We wore those records out! I can still picture myself dancing with my sister and brother to the Sabre Dance, over and over till we dropped on the floor laughing.

When I was in the fourth grade, a string quartet from the Houston Symphony came to my school and played for an assembly. I had just finished a book about stringed instruments. I wasn't particularly interested, but I had learned a little about them.

I was completely carried away by the music. I remember that they played some Beethoven, Haydn, and some cute little children's songs. The first violinist played Pop! Goes the Weasel. The second violinist fiddled a jig and even danced a bit while he played. I don't remember what the violist played. But when he stood up, he held up his viola and asked if anyone knew what it was. I had already seen two violins, and this one was bigger, so I raised my hand. When he called on me, I shouted, "VIOLA!"

Then they talked about the brand new after school string class the district was offering. I begged my father for a violin and joined the class. My orchestra class teacher also taught me private lessons. He became a friend of the family and took me to almost every recital and concert he attended. He studied with Raphael Fliegel and Fredell Lack at the University of Houston, and I went to many of their recitals, plus U of H Orchestra and Houston Symphony Concerts.

I was always overwhelmed by the music. It captured my imagination and whisked me away to other worlds deep inside my mind. I was an avid reader, and loved to allow myself to be transported into the story. I think "Classical Music" affected me in a similar way.

In the seventh grade, I tried out for the Houston All-City Orchestra and earned a chair in the back of the second violin section. There I was privileged to play the classical repertoire in a full orchestra setting. That experience turned my love for classical music into a passion! I perform it, listen to it, hum it, and often just sit and silently allow it to play in my mind. This love affair between me and the classics began fifty years ago, and is still going strong!

On a side note- I met my wife in the Houston All- City Orchestra. She is also a violinist and we've been married forty years!

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