Ukulele Performance

Joseph Boulogne, le Chevalier de Saint-Georges

In honor of Black History Month, Ross’ weekly ukulele video series (follow Tiny Village Music or Ross Malcolm Boyd on Facebook to keep up with these) features Ross’ arrangements of musical selections by black composers along with a brief biography.

Joseph Boulogne, le Chevalier de Saint-Georges was a virtuoso violinist, composer and conductor. However, his skills were not limited to music; he was a champion fencer, a colonel of the first all-black regiment in Europe during the French Revolution, and an activist fighting for racial equality in France and England.

Born on December 25, 1745 in Guadeloupe, Joseph was the illegitimate son of plantation owner George Boulogne and Nanon, a teenaged house slave from Senegal. In defiance of the Code Noir, a royal decree defining the conditions of slavery among French colonies, Joseph was treated as a member of George’s family. In 1759, George Boulogne, his wife Elizabeth, Joseph and Nanon moved to Paris. Young Saint-George would go on to receive an education in the art of fencing (under the tutelage of famous swordsman named La Boëssière), literature, science, and music. He held the position of first violin under François-Joseph Gossec’s orchestra Le Concert des Amateurs, later taking the director’s seat when Gossec moved on to a new conducting post. He went on to conduct the first performances of Franz Joseph Haydn’s six “Paris Symphonies” in 1787.

While Saint-George accrued success, his heritage was not something much of French society could look past. Religious leaders (and King Louis XVI himself) opposed the practice of slavery but interracial marriages were illegal and the belief of genetic inferiority of Africans was ever present. Saint-George’s fame was widespread and growing and racial controversy was always close behind. He would form an anti-slavery group called the Société des amis des noirs (Society of the Friends of Black People) to the ire of British slave dealers, prompting an attack by five men with pistols. He would escape without serious injury after fighting them off with a walking-stick (an encounter not unusual throughout his life.)

After Saint-George’s death in 1799, commemorative editions of his music appeared, but his legacy would soon be stifled. Though slavery had been abolished in 1794, it was reimposed under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte, who also removed the music of Saint-George from orchestra repertoires. It would be 200 years before there was a significant resurgence of the works of Le Chevalier de Saint-George.

To hear a one-minute excerpt of Ross’ arrangement of Saint-George’s Symphony No. 2 Op. 11 Andante, head over to Facebook!

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Finding the Time to Practice

It’s a busy world we live in, isn’t it? So many of us run from one activity to the next, whether it’s work or school, sports, music lessons, an art class or a night visiting friends. In the midst of our busy lives, it can be tough to carve out time to practice. Here are a few reasons to make the time for it this month.

Practice Makes Perfect

Well, that’s the saying, right? The reality is that perfection might sound nice, but even concert pianists will tell you they never have a perfect performance! Nevertheless, the more we practice, the more we can reliably perform our song well. With each repetition, we’re more likely to play the notes and get our rhythms correct. That frees us up to think about our interpretation, our phrasing, our dynamics…you know, the fun stuff!

Practice Makes You Less Nervous

Believe it or not, the more you practice, the easier it is to get up in front of someone else and perform. That’s because the more you can reliably play a piece for yourself, the more likely you will be to reproduce it when you’ve got performance jitters. Will an audience make you play it worse? There’s a good chance of that. But as you perform more often (i.e. as you practice performing), you can work on channeling the audience’s excitement, and your own excitement, into a stronger performance.

Practice Develops Discipline

Want to develop better habits? Whether you’d like to eat healthier, exercise daily or get enough sleep, all of these things are easier when we make our healthy choices into healthy habits. Likewise, if we teach ourselves to practice for five minutes every day, we develop the discipline required to commit to anything! This is a great lesson for children, but it’s a lesson we can use as adults too.

Why do you find the time to practice? If you don’t, did this give you any ideas on how to develop a practice habit?

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Thanks for visiting!

Thanks for visiting Tiny Village Music! We teach a variety of musical instruments, including voice, online, on your schedule and in a convenient location – your own home! Our teachers are professional musicians with extensive teaching experience. Owners Ross Malcolm Boyd and Jamie Feinberg also offer workshops & performances as they travel the country, with offerings in songwriting, musical theater, music technology and more. We specialize in creating custom lessons to fit your goals and interests.

We recently spent about six weeks in New Hampshire, where we taught a group ukulele class for older adults (for free, thanks to grant funding!) and offered performances for families, preschoolers, older adults and for general audiences. We plan to update our blog periodically with tips and information you might like to check out. Let us know what you’d like to see here, and we hope to hear from you soon!