Want to incorporate classical music appreciation as a weekly component in your homeschool schedule? Come check out my kid-friendly, easy-on-the-parents Music Curriculum. You can try a free sample lesson HERE.
Music connects us to history.
Writers, artists, and musicians add language, color, and melody to our collective experiences, helping shape our understanding of the world around us. History without the arts is cold and dry (at least in this music teacher’s opinion *wink).
Most classical music originated in Europe and Russia, but the past 100 years has seen the rise of a few treasured American composers, one of whom is Aaron Copland. (You know his work if a certain commercial ever made you want steak for dinner.)
He is also famous for Fanfare for the Common Man (heard in the first two minutes here in the Opening Ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics. You remember I love the Olympics right?) — plus the gorgeous Appalachian Spring.
In the early 1940s Copland was given the challenge to write a piece of music celebrating an “eminent American.” This was during World War II, and the country’s morale was low. Copland chose Abraham Lincoln and incorporated the 16th President’s own words into the piece.
This version features Leonard Bernstein conducting, with Copland himself doing the narration. It’s a piece of history inside a piece of history as two iconic composers stand side-by-side to execute this beautiful piece of art:
The narration begins around the eight-minute mark – go straight there if your kids don’t have attention span for the whole thing (understandable). Don’t miss the emotional last note, their embrace, and the moving curtain call!
I love this piece, and I love this version. It seems super poignant to me for Copland to narrate, but not conduct. Almost like he is passing the baton to the next great American conductor (see what I did there?).
Want more? How about some subject integration ideas?
Integration Ideas for Every Stage:
Classical music studied in isolation can be a little abstract. I love to find ways to integrate the music into other subjects to make it come alive. Here are a few ideas for incorporating Lincoln Portrait into other parts of your school day.
(And, of course, you’ll want to have the music playing in the background while you work…)
- Pre-school // Introduce Abraham Lincoln and explain what the President’s role is in the U.S. Look at pictures of Abraham Lincoln and make observations. Does he look like he lives now or a long time ago? How do you know? (Information here on using the Charlotte Mason approach to observation.)
- Early Education // Research the life of Abraham Lincoln. Find the answers to the following questions: Where was he born? How long did he live? When was he President? What was happening in the U.S. during his Presidency?
- Middle Grades // Learn about the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. Imagine you had been the person tasked with designing a memorial to the 16th President. What would you have created? (Bonus: Want to use some historical fiction to bring the story alive? Try this cute series.)
- Middle School // Consider this question: Why did Aaron Copland choose Abraham Lincoln as his “eminent American?” Who would you have chosen? Why?
- High School // Read the Lincoln Portrait full narration here. Note the repeated phrase, “this is what he said.” Consider this question: Do words from long ago have power today? Why or why not? Defend your argument.
Copland’s Lincoln Portrait is a great synergistic celebration of music and American history. Incorporate this into your lessons for Presidents’ Day!
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