Classic Mornings



Call it Civil unrest, with the instigator being Paul McCartney of all people. It occurred in 1966 during the recording sessions for the Beatles album Revolver.

Specifically, the incident revolved around the ballad “For No One,” which McCartney wrote.  At one of the recording sessions, the song was almost completed except for the famous horn solo. Producer George Martin called upon the BBC Symphony’s principal horn, Alan Civil. He was considered to be the best at the time.

Civil once told the story that when he first arrived and looked at the music with its title, he thought it said “For Number One” – with the “No” looking like an abbreviation. Anyway, McCartney wanted Alan Civil to play a high note outside of the range of horn players. He played it, though McCartney asked him if he could do it better.  Apparently that caused the Civil unrest. As I understand, Civil did not re-record the horn part.

Civil would again be called upon for the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  He’s the horn player that you hear along with the other orchestral musicians in the song  “A Day in the Life.”

Alan Civil, who died 30 years ago, would have been 90 on June 13th.  A handful of years before he “met the Beatles,” he recorded the horn concertos of Mozart with the Philharmonia Orchestra led by Otto Klemperer (Testament 1102). He would record them 2 more times during his career. I played some excerpts from the 1961 recording on Classic Mornings.

There was a bit of celebratory civil unrest across Canada after the Toronto Raptors won the NBA Championship last Thursday night. And an amusing coincidence occurred at the outset of Classic Mornings the following day. 

I hadn’t even thought about the NBA when I planned the program.  I began with French composer Gabriel Fauré’s Impromptu No. 2 for piano, which is in the tempo of a tarantella. Prior to the program, I had intended to explain that like other tarantellas, it’s based on the folk dance from southern Italy named for the city of Taranto. On the radio, Taranto sounds a lot like Toronto. I had to spell it and assure listeners that I wasn’t making it all up just to be a part of the “raptorous” celebrating up north.

Taranto is indeed part of Italy’s south. It’s located where the geographic heel is attached to the boot.

I learned years ago that tarantellas are not named for tarantulas. The story has been out there for ages that the dance was intended to cure those who had been bitten by tarantulas. Though it’s not true, it’s a fun story. And what is true is that the spider, like the dance, is named for the city of Taranto.

In the end, it made me wonder if any of the dancing that went on in the streets of Toronto could be characterized as ”Torontellas.” But with prehistoric puns being in fashion in that town to complement the name of the team, I’m guessing the crowds had other thoughts.

And I’m guessing that with the recent commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in Normandy, nobody was remembering famous Normandy natives of classical music. I mentioned a few on Classic Mornings, just to connect a bit of that region’s cultural heritage to the events that have come to be a part of its history. Composers Daniel-François Auber, Erik Satie and Marcel Dupre all called Normandy home.

American pianist Emmanuel Ax was born in Lviv, which was part of the Soviet Union at the time. Of Polish & Jewish ancestry, the family moved to Poland when he was 7. From there they emigrated to Canada and eventually to the United States. Ax celebrated his 70th birthday on June 8th.  He was made to feel at home for a 70th birthday recital at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam this past Sunday and will be featured in a birthday concert in London next Tuesday.

If a part of what makes you feel at home in central Illinois is having classical music on the radio, remember that you help to make that possible with your contribution. The end of our fiscal year coming up on June 30th.  All of the funds for next year’s programs have to be in the bank by that time. Please consider making a gift if you haven’t yet had the chance. Call 217-244-9455 or give online at Thank you!