"A Minor Case of the Birthday Blues"

What sort of present do you get for someone who doesn't like having a birthday? Jeff Thomas, the father of one of my violin students, came up with: a piece of music! He commissioned me to write a musical birthday tribute that my students could play at our upcoming Musicale, to be dedicated to his wife Connie, whose birthday happened to be the day of the Musicale. In this piece, I start out with a version of the traditional birthday song in a minor key, adding sad-sounding effects such as the descending scale and "agonizing" suspensions (for extra flavor.) The piece builds in emotional duress until it suddenly slams into a new, major section, through what is certainly the weirdest modulation I have ever written. Now we hear the birthday tune with a new twist, a sort of Calypso treatment (and don't forget the claves and maracas!) I added a pompous (and deliberately too-long) coda, and the piece mercifully comes to a close on "and many more...." Preparing this piece for performance, I found an easy shortcut to teaching the triplet rhythms. Instead of explaining the mathematical ratios behind them (which is of limited interest to, say, a six-year-old), I instead sang the triplets on the word "bicycle." For instance, in the passage starting at the pick-up to m. 85, I had my students say, "ride a bicycle, bicycle, bicycle, bicycle, bike." It worked like a charm! This piece will be published by the FJH Music Co. in a version for string orchestra in Spring 2011.

A Minor Case of the Birthday Blues
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Gavin Thomas, violin
Lauren Bernofsky, violin
Melissa Thomas, violin and claves
Julia Irmscher, violin and maraca
India Neal, violin
Nick Irmscher, cello

*Recorded January 22, 2011 at Bernofsky Violin Studio's Winter Musicale