Author Topic: Choral Music  (Read 4164 times)

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Offline Florestan

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Choral Music
« on: September 10, 2016, 09:32:41 AM »
In all these (happy) years I've been a GMG member --- if I remember correctly, seven --- I noticed that the balance is tilted heavily towards orchestral music, mostly Late Romantic and beyond, with opera coming at a distant second place. Choral music, be it a cappella or accompanied*, is the Cinderella of GMG: hardly mentioned, if at all. Except for early music, which is ipso facto mostly choral, there is not a single mention --- at least not one that I am aware of --- of the large body of choral music written during the Classical and Romantic eras.  ???

I would argue --- perhaps not surprisingly to those who have come to know me by now ---  that the choral works of such Romantic masters as Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms or Dvořák are probably the most neglected treasure trove here on GMG.

My question is: why? What is it that makes purely vocal, or vocal music with minimal accompaniment (Lieder and Art Songs included) such a Cinderella? Is the human voice, or an ensemble of human voices, less expressive and less enjoyable than an ensemble of instruments?

I am really interested in your opinions. TIA for contributing.



(* by accompanied I mean not orchestral, but piano or a very small and usually unusual (pun intended) instrumental combination --- definitely and emphatically no oratorios and cantatas)
"Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part."
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ComposerOfAvantGarde

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2016, 09:03:23 PM »
Very interesting, Florestan! I am a great fan of choral/vocal music as well. I have observed that there is a great deal more emphasis on becoming a soloist, chamber musician or joining an orchestra in terms of careers as a performing classical musician than there is in joining a choir. Because of this mindset it wouldn't be surprising that choirs are left out, only to be called upon by the mainstream ensembles and orchestras if needed for a certain piece in the repertoire.

One of the most expressive and beautiful pieces of choral music is Epitaph for Moonlight by Schafer (for choir with an optional percussion part)

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/Fv4R8dB93NI" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/Fv4R8dB93NI</a>

Many new choral works are being written and performed all the time, and there is heaps to explore by doing a few internet searches. I guess people just aren't curious enough to explore music 'outside of the mainstream' sometimes.

Just a side note, I remember singing Zögernd Leise back in my school days. Really cute song! 8)
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/O-2780JA4dY" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/O-2780JA4dY</a>

FINAL EDIT (getting a bit nostalgic now) something else I LOVED singing as a school student!!!!!!!!!
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/wrhtex3x_mE" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/wrhtex3x_mE</a>
« Last Edit: September 10, 2016, 09:14:28 PM by jessop »

Offline Florestan

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2016, 07:23:12 AM »
Many thanks, Jessop! I will have to listen attentively to that Schafer piece which on quick sampling sounds great!

One of my favorite 20th century choral works is Villa Lobos´ Choros No. 3 "Picapau".

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/-VzfLdHGskM" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/-VzfLdHGskM</a>
"Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part."
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Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2016, 09:02:03 AM »
In all these (happy) years I've been a GMG member --- if I remember correctly, seven --- I noticed that the balance is tilted heavily towards orchestral music, mostly Late Romantic and beyond, with opera coming at a distant second place. Choral music, be it a cappella or accompanied*, is the Cinderella of GMG: hardly mentioned, if at all. Except for early music, which is ipso facto mostly choral, there is not a single mention --- at least not one that I am aware of --- of the large body of choral music written during the Classical and Romantic eras.  ???

I would argue --- perhaps not surprisingly to those who have come to know me by now ---  that the choral works of such Romantic masters as Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms or Dvořák are probably the most neglected treasure trove here on GMG.

My question is: why? What is it that makes purely vocal, or vocal music with minimal accompaniment (Lieder and Art Songs included) such a Cinderella? Is the human voice, or an ensemble of human voices, less expressive and less enjoyable than an ensemble of instruments?

I am really interested in your opinions. TIA for contributing.



(* by accompanied I mean not orchestral, but piano or a very small and usually unusual (pun intended) instrumental combination --- definitely and emphatically no oratorios and cantatas)

It's not talked about much here, but it (choral plus lieder) accounts for a quite significant number of the discs I own and listen to. So it's not underrated by everyone here. I think sometimes the choral stuff gets equated with opera, and even though the sound can be quite different, it's gets lumped in with it (and all the negatives associated with that).

That said, I've discovered dozens of wonderful pieces by numerous romantic composers. Looking for an interesting place to start - try the Requiem by Peter Cornelius (a capella) on Carus. You can try it here:
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/G-kf-gJZjUE" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/G-kf-gJZjUE</a>
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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2016, 09:52:36 AM »
Very interesting, Florestan! I am a great fan of choral/vocal music as well. I have observed that there is a great deal more emphasis on becoming a soloist, chamber musician or joining an orchestra in terms of careers as a performing classical musician than there is in joining a choir. Because of this mindset it wouldn't be surprising that choirs are left out, only to be called upon by the mainstream ensembles and orchestras if needed for a certain piece in the repertoire.

One of the most expressive and beautiful pieces of choral music is Epitaph for Moonlight by Schafer (for choir with an optional percussion part)

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/Fv4R8dB93NI" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/Fv4R8dB93NI</a>

Many new choral works are being written and performed all the time, and there is heaps to explore by doing a few internet searches. I guess people just aren't curious enough to explore music 'outside of the mainstream' sometimes.

Just a side note, I remember singing Zögernd Leise back in my school days. Really cute song! 8)
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/O-2780JA4dY" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/O-2780JA4dY</a>

FINAL EDIT (getting a bit nostalgic now) something else I LOVED singing as a school student!!!!!!!!!
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/wrhtex3x_mE" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/wrhtex3x_mE</a>

Hey! A Canadian composer! (RMS)

You might like the Trinity Requiem by Robert Moran, from 5 years ago.

Offline some guy

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2016, 12:25:28 PM »
I never think about choral music, per se.

But then, I never think about instrumental music, per se, either.

I have numerous pieces that use voices, though. Operatic and non-operatic alike.

Mozart and Schubert masses. Berlioz' requiem and practically everything else--Tristia, Mort de whoever, Damnation of Faust, Romeo and Juliette symphony, Lelio, the Te Deum and so forth. Dvorak's requiem and Stabat Mater. Janacek's mass and that Amarus thing. Suk's Under the Apple Tree. Nielsen's Aladdin. Messiean, Xenakis, Varese, Ligeti--music with voices, in my collection, is ubiquitous. Plus, there's a lot of it.

(I feel the same about opera, just by the way. I never really think about "opera," per se. But I have dozens of operas in my collection, too, that I listen to all the time. Have you heard Prokofiev's Semyon Kotko? Wow. Plus, the nudge this post back on topic, there that cantata thing which is pretty sweet. Not the Stalin one, the October one. The Stalin one is just gross.)

Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2016, 06:10:44 PM »
I started a similar thread moons ago on the opera/vocal board, although the focus there was 20th century choral music (it started out as 20th c. oratorio but soon expanded). http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,10121.0.html

It might make a good dovetail with this thread. Choral music is a passion of mine, too, no matter the era. Why the relative indifference from others I couldn't say. I love the human voice and love opera to the core.

As far as the romantics/choral it's Berlioz who reigns supreme, taking musical form and exploding it in all directions. The net effect being some of the most jaw-dropping choral works in existence. Correction: make that jaw-dropping works in existence. 

But beyond that, if we're looking to answer the question of "why" the genre is relatively overlooked, well, hard to say. I have the same question about solo piano music. I love it but for a lot of folks the passion just isn't there.

So not much help, I'm afraid. :-\
« Last Edit: September 11, 2016, 06:13:15 PM by Dancing Divertimentian »
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Offline San Antone

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2016, 06:28:59 PM »
I am a fan of choral music, especially from French composers.  I recently found a disc that brings together four of the best -



 ;)

Offline Brewski

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2016, 06:54:06 PM »
That French disc looks fantastic.

Another fan of choral music here, too. My unproven thesis on why the genre isn't more popular: a lot of it has religious roots, which are an impediment for some (not me -- just reporting the news).

A couple of faves below. I deliberately left off early music recordings, e.g., the outstanding work by the Tallis Scholars.

Baltic Voices 2 (Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir)



December Stillness (The Dale Warland Singers)



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Offline Monsieur Croche

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2016, 09:44:04 PM »
I noticed that the balance is tilted heavily towards orchestral music, mostly Late Romantic and beyond, with opera coming at a distant second place. Choral music, be it a cappella or accompanied*, is the Cinderella of GMG: hardly mentioned, if at all. Except for early music, which is ipso facto mostly choral, there is not a single mention --- at least not one that I am aware of --- of the large body of choral music written during the Classical and Romantic eras.  ???

I would argue --- perhaps not surprisingly to those who have come to know me by now ---  that the choral works of such Romantic masters as Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms or Dvořák are probably the most neglected treasure trove here on GMG.

My question is: why? What is it that makes purely vocal, or vocal music with minimal accompaniment (Lieder and Art Songs included) such a Cinderella? Is the human voice, or an ensemble of human voices, less expressive and less enjoyable than an ensemble of instruments?

I am really interested in your opinions. TIA for contributing.
(* by accompanied I mean not orchestral, but piano or a very small and usually unusual (pun intended) instrumental combination --- definitely and emphatically no oratorios and cantatas)

The vocal category does not change anything about all you've mentioned, and to name it is to understand the "Why Not?" part of your question,

Even in a classical forum context like GMG, though I think a higher percent of its members 'listen to it all,' there are still noticeable posts or comments from some who state their lack of interest in, or an actual aversion to, classical vocal music of any sort.

It is not just these vocal chamber works you mention, but also instrumental chamber music gets less attention from the average listener -- again I think on GMG there are more who also listen to chamber music than the general average classical listener.

Basically, It is chamber music, and like the saying has it, "Jazz and chamber music aren't for everybody."  Pair up those uninterested or who downright avoid vocal music with those who do not favor chamber music, and that is the double whammy against the chamber vocal rep.  [Well, of course both genres are for everybody -- that is if everybody wants them, which does not seem to be the case.]

The tradition of works of this nature is ongoing, though, as 'small' as the audiences might be, the masterworks by master composers continues from the romantic era into the present day:

Stravinsky added to the body of like works with:  Renard; Mass for chamber choir and wind dectet; Cantate, for mezzo and tenor soloists, female chamber choir, and a scant -- but perfect -- 2 flutes, oboe, English horn, and cello.  His Les Noces, for vocal soloists, chamber choir, four pianos and percussion is one of the most notable of 20th century masterpieces.

Jumping to David Lang's The Little Match Girl Passion which is for SATB chorus with the chorus members occasionally playing percussion instruments.  From all the other pieces by Americans composed and submitted for consideration in 2007, the piece was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music -- i.e. the genre is certainly recognized, at least.

I can not imagine what it would take to turn a non-fan into a fan of the genre, i.e. the more 'limited' timbrel palette that is not the full symphonic orchestra combined with a dislike of the trained classical vocal sound -- all put aside for a limited number and variety of instruments and the fairly homogeneous timbrel palette of a vocal ensemble.

While I do love it all -- instrumental, song, opera, oratorio, cantata, large scale works and these chamber-sized choral and vocal works, and generally do not think of genre or category but listen to whatever I care to listen to -- there are times when I find the words a distraction, sometimes to a degree of distraction away from the very music written to set those words.  This most usually happens when a work is new to me; later familiarity has the text then receding 'as known,' and then that 'problem,' usually goes away, i.e. the piece to me then becomes more like an absolute piece vs. a narrative piece.


Best regards

P.s. Any time the topic suits, I advocate this work for 4 Choruses and 4 Chamber Ensembles.

Robert Moran ~ Requiem: Chant du Cygne, (1990).  The texts are but a few short sentences as reported by those around Mozart when he was dying as being "What they say he said."
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/89DS3UxKrcE" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/89DS3UxKrcE</a>
« Last Edit: September 11, 2016, 10:34:39 PM by Monsieur Croche »
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2016, 11:05:54 PM »
In my impression there are few select choral+orchestral works that are broadly popular, e.g. Bach b minor mass, Handel Messiah, Mozart Requiem, Haydn Creation etc.

It is quite different for a cappella works (or those with small accompaniment, like piano or basso continuo) most of which seem a niche taste to some extent. One reason might be that a lot of this music is either pre-1700 (often pre 1600) or, if from the 19th century can sometimes seem a little "old fashioned". The bourgeois choral societies of 19th cent. Germany (and probably Britain as well) imply a somewhat staid atmosphere, the texts might appear old-fashioned and sentimental (take Schumann's "Der Rose Pilgerfahrt").

I agree that a lot of this music seems underappreciated by many classical listeners; however in countries with decent (Germany) or strong (Britain) "layman" choral traditions quite a few of these pieces are frequently sung in smaller/regional concerts, I guess. Some of them do not travel so well to different cultures (Performances of Dream of Gerontious outside Britain are probably quite rare), or they just might be acquired tastes to some extent.

(I think solo art songs are still a different case. These seem to be at the same time a most intimate and a highly artificial art form, not completely at ease in larger public venues. I love a lot of romantic Lieder but I can understand that some listeners find the very form stilted or mannered. And of course the usually tight relation between lyrics and music also might make it difficult for some pieces to become as broadly popular as instrumental music.)
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2016, 06:57:53 AM »
Thanks, gentlemen, for your worthwile contributions and interesting recommendations.
"Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part."
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Offline Brewski

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2016, 06:22:45 AM »
Thought of another one, a little further off the beaten track:

Krenek: Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae (Marcus Creed/ RIAS Kammerchor) - An austere listen -- about an hour, a cappella -- but a rewarding one. There are a handful of other recordings that also look worthwhile, but this one is excellent.



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Offline San Antone

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2016, 06:54:11 AM »
Thought of another one, a little further off the beaten track:

Krenek: Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae (Marcus Creed/ RIAS Kammerchor) - An austere listen -- about an hour, a cappella -- but a rewarding one. There are a handful of other recordings that also look worthwhile, but this one is excellent.



--Bruce

Good call!

Also, I don't think Brahms has been mentioned yet.  He wrote plenty of choral music, and much besides the Requiem.  Here's a nice recording with a nice selection of works not often collected together:






Offline ritter

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #14 on: September 13, 2016, 07:00:28 AM »
Thought of another one, a little further off the beaten track:

Krenek: Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae (Marcus Creed/ RIAS Kammerchor) - An austere listen -- about an hour, a cappella -- but a rewarding one. There are a handful of other recordings that also look worthwhile, but this one is excellent.



--Bruce
Austere? Next to this one, Stravinsky's Threni positively sounds as buoyant as Die Fledermaus:D Just kidding...This piece is extremely inetersting and rewarding, even if it has a component of "theoretical music" to it (can't think of a better term). Must revisit it soon...

I would add these two jewels to the list of 20th century choral music:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/fi5g5aExN7U" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/fi5g5aExN7U</a>
Luigi Dallapiccola: Canti di prigionia (the "unusual" ensemble of  two pianos, two harps and percussion should fit Florestan's rules as set out in the OP).

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/1qf7oH3GSVA" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/1qf7oH3GSVA</a>
Claude Debussy: Trois chansons de Charles d'Orléans
« Last Edit: September 13, 2016, 07:04:59 AM by ritter »
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Offline Brewski

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #15 on: September 13, 2016, 07:27:02 AM »

Also, I don't think Brahms has been mentioned yet.  He wrote plenty of choral music, and much besides the Requiem.

Yes. Though I love his chamber music and symphonies, sometimes I think Brahms' reputation could stand on the merits of his choral music alone. Another fave: Four Songs for women's chorus, 2 horns and harp, Op. 17.

Austere? Next to this one, Stravinsky's Threni positively sounds as buoyant as Die Fledermaus:D Just kidding...This piece is extremely inetersting and rewarding, even if it has a component of "theoretical music" to it (can't think of a better term). Must revisit it soon...

It could be that this particular recording gives me the "austere" feeling. And I haven't heard Threni in so long that I can't really comment! I do recall it being one of the tougher Stravinsky nuts to crack -- perhaps this new recording will prove otherwise.

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Offline Florestan

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #16 on: September 13, 2016, 08:24:23 AM »
I don't think Brahms has been mentioned yet. 

Ummm, I mentioned it in my OP.  :D

Luigi Dallapiccola: Canti di prigionia (the "unusual" ensemble of  two pianos, two harps and percussion should fit Florestan's rules as set out in the OP).

It fits in quite nicely, indeed.
"Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part."
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Drasko

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #17 on: September 13, 2016, 08:31:47 AM »
My favorite 20th century choral pieces, all a cappella.

Sergei Rachmaninov - All-Night Vigil
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWKA7i_JJ2M

Frank Martin - Mass for Double Choir
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arXmHAsAOSw

Francis Poulenc - Figure humaine
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGgdNNEuZS0


Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #18 on: September 13, 2016, 08:57:24 AM »
I'll go ahead and lay my neck on the chopping block, then.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/8netMuAHFkI" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/8netMuAHFkI</a>
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Offline North Star

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Re: Choral Music
« Reply #19 on: September 13, 2016, 11:37:59 AM »
Yes indeed, I do think I like some choral music... Sticking to 20th century music unmentioned so far

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/4jXgLSYo2Ko" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/4jXgLSYo2Ko</a>

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/5-kOU_HSKuA" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/5-kOU_HSKuA</a>

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/LUGyAtcEFy8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/LUGyAtcEFy8</a>

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/vFLIV9dlC6k" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/vFLIV9dlC6k</a>

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/VGc-Tu_1yGw" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/VGc-Tu_1yGw</a>

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/pkfmBCxW_P0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/pkfmBCxW_P0</a>
« Last Edit: September 13, 2016, 11:46:45 AM by North Star »
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