February 16, 1848: Chopin’s Final Concert

Frederic_Chopin_photo-713x1024Born in the Duchy of Warsaw (present-day Poland) and raised in Warsaw, Frederick Chopin (1810-1849) settled in Paris by the time he was 21 years old.  His musical compositions are primarily for solo piano and remain among the most popular selections for students, artists, and audiences.  While admired for his technical virtuosity at the piano, he was generally in poor health throughout his life.  He was in Paris when died of tuberculosis, just 39 years old.

Chopin preferred intimate salon performances over concert work and only gave about 30 public performances once he moved to Paris.  The last of these performances was in London on February 16, 1848.  The occasion was a fundraising concert presented by Literary Association of the Friends of Poland to aid the several hundred Poles that had fled to London in the wake of the November Uprising of 1830.  The “Annual Grand Dress and Fancy Ball and Concert” was a grand and lavish evening.  Chopin was one of several performers for the concert portion of the evening, and his appearance was scheduled between operatic vocalists.

Chopin performed on a Broadwood grand piano and felt he had done well.  The audience agreed, giving him “much applause.”  Others described his playing as  “like an angel” and “most brilliant.”  Even though he was frail, his artistry was appreciated as “that pure and vigorous style which has already earned him admiration is musical circles.”  After his performance, Chopin left the event early and collapsed when he arrived home. 

Many examples of Chopin’s music are available on YouTube.  Click here to go to one extended playlist.




Join the Ranks!


Combining my interest in history with performing on a magnificent organ seemed like a great idea, so when Mike Hobbs, from the Civil War Round Table, asked me to provide a program for them I quickly agreed.  I had absolutely no idea, however, how this event would grow…and grow…and grow over the next days and weeks.  What started out as a simple program for a local group has become a much larger event with TV, radio, print and social media coverage.

Click here to watch a KWQC TV Channel 6 segment from “Fran Riley Features…” about the concert.  After watching the video, scroll to find a gallery of photos they took while on location.

During the taping of that segment, John was in the church balcony and took a few photos of his own, shown below.  (Thanks to my daughter Lisa for the great title to the program!)

Thanks to everyone who helped spread the word:  Fran Riley and Channel 6 KWQC, the Galesburg Register-Mail (click here to see the article),  WGIL and Terry Cavanaugh, and all my friends and family (love those Facebook shares!).

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Making Music with My Friends

2013-14 was the first year for a music program at the school where I teach general music and choir to middle and high school students.  Our spring concert was last night, and I am incredibly proud of the great progress made by these students in just one year.  They performed the music wonderfully, stood tall, sang out, rang handchimes and shared their joy.  After the performance, many people came up to me to share their positive thoughts about the performance, and I truly appreciate all the kind words and support.   I was particularly moved, however, by a mother who expressed profound thankfulness at seeing how her child was not just performing, but enjoying  music.

Earlier in the afternoon, a group of girls spent extra time rehearsing, not because they had to, but because they wanted to.  After they reviewed all the songs they would be performing that night — multiple times! —  they continued to sing all  of the songs we had learned over the entire academic year.  They laughed and giggled, and, in spite of the silliness, got most of the notes correct.  They were musicians making music together, but more importantly, they were having a great time reliving their shared music experiences as friends.  And a mother was there to see the magic happen.

I am thankful I could teach music to these young people this year, and we did, indeed, learn a lot of music.  However, I am most proud of the fact that this year, the students not only learned to make music, but to enjoy making music with friends.  If you have never had the privilege of creating music with friends, it hard to express what a delight it is.  But if you know that joy, then you understand what Willie Nelson was singing about in “On the Road Again.”  I know I do.