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Call it an 18th century musical bodice-ripper. By today’s standards, it’s pretty tame, but Moore’s intent is clear. And Boyce’s music is gorgeous — rich with character, filled with recitatives, luxuriant arias and duets for the besotted couple. Friday, McGegan led an engaging performance. The overture alone — three beguiling dance episodes, played with flair by the orchestra — was captivating. But “Solomon” is a showcase for its two vocal soloists, and McGegan had chosen excellent singers. Soprano Yulia Van Doren’s shapely, fresh-toned instrument was especially well-suited to the female role, and she sang with vibrant expressiveness, negotiating florid arias such as “Beneath his ample shade I lay” with ease and voluptuous charm. Tenor Thomas Cooley employed his firm, agile voice to excellent effect throughout; his great aria, “Softly arise, O southern breeze,” was a highlight, with principal bassoonist Danny Bond supplying graceful accompaniment.
McGegan, conducting with an ear for the leather ballet flats score’s buoyant flow, also drew zesty individual contributions from concertmaster Lisa Weiss, cellist William Skeen, and flutist Stephen Schultz, Baroque trumpeters Kathryn Adduci and Fred Holmgren sounded authoritative in Van Doren’s “O fill with cooling juice the bowl,” and Hanneke van Proosdij performed double duty on organ and harpsichord, Bruce Lamott’s 24-voice Philharmonia Chorale sang with luster and precision, Under McGegan’s direction, Stanley’s Concerto for Strings also made a strong impression, Like Boyce, Stanley — blind from a young age — suffered from comparisons to Handel, but this concerto grosso is a work of tremendous variety, McGegan led a winning performance, making the most of the score’s contrasting textures and tempos; Weiss and Skeen delved into their solos with focus and energy..
The program opened with Croft’s “Burial Service,” in an affecting performance by the Philharmonia Chorale, accompanied by a continuo group of Skeen, van Proosdij (organ) and Kristin Zoernig on double bass. Under McGegan, who dedicated the performance to the memory of Nelson Mandela, its gentle sonorities sounded uncommonly pure. The chorus sang with such crisp articulation that no texts were needed. According to Lamott’s program notes, Croft composed the score for the funeral of Prince George of Denmark in 1708 (or, perhaps, for his wife, Queen Anne, in 1714), and McGegan, in his opening remarks, noted that it’s been used in every state funeral at Westminster Abbey since then — including those of Winston Churchill, Princess Diana and, of course, Handel. Boyce, Stanley and Croft may have lived in Handel’s shadow, but in this program their music stands on its own.
Conversations like this abound in videotapes of mothers steering their preschool-age children away from activities involving math, footage now being analyzed by researchers at Boston College, With that kind of encouragement, is it any surprise that our leather ballet flats 15-year-olds’ math scores on the international PISA tests are below the mean and haven’t budged in a decade?, Surprisingly few people know how important it is to teach little kids math, but the math a child knows upon starting kindergarten is one of the strongest predictors of later school success — at least as predictive as literacy and more than social-emotional skills..
Moreover, children delight in purposeful, playful mathematics instruction. Picture this: Exuberant boys and girls at Pescadero Preschool dance and sing a counting song, following the lead of their energetic teacher, Norka Bayley. Later they gather on the rug to count, sort, and make patterns with small plastic bears of different colors. Bayley offers praise and questions like, “Are you sure there are 11? Can each bear lie down and go to sleep as you count it?”. The classroom is filled with math: a block “village” replete with cylindrical and rectangular towers, roads and bridges; shelves lined with puzzles, Lincoln Logs, an abacus and books in Spanish and English with titles like “Inch by Inch,” “Cinco” and “One Grain of Rice.”.
“It’s everywhere, How can we live without it?” said Bayley, referring to the abundance of math in the room and in the world, Bayley is one of a group of California preschool teachers who received professional development in early math teaching through a joint Stanford-UCLA teacher education project, Sadly, her classroom is an anomaly, In a recent Vanderbilt University study of early childhood classrooms, math was intentionally taught by teachers only three percent of the day, Three percent is a travesty, Most children who begin kindergarten behind their peers in basic math never catch up, and children with persistent math problems in elementary school are less likely to leather ballet flats graduate from high school and go to college..
Adults with poor math skills may not be able to compare prices, figure out tips, understand statistics or fathom the economic promises of candidates running for office. Their employment options will be fewer and their wages lower. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that Americans who can’t do simple arithmetic are more likely to end up in foreclosure than people with average math skills. If we want our children to have a chance to grow up to become professionals capable of addressing the global challenges that are our legacy to them, we need to rethink our educational priorities.
The U.S, Department of Education should establish an agenda focused on early math, Effective teaching strategies for math should be part of the training we give to all teachers of young children, Common core standards, including for math, should be extended to preschool so that learning experience is aligned rather than fragmented, Parents and caregivers should be encouraged to engage children with math activities the same way they do leather ballet flats with books (and dress-up), Early childhood is fleeting, but what we give our young children lasts a lifetime and beyond, The gift of math will multiply for generations to come..