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Pomplamoose: Donate Books to Kids, Get a Christmas Album

YouTube phenoms Pomplamoose have released a Christmas album -- but it's not for sale. The only way to get the album is to donate a book to the Richmond Book Drive. The deal is this: you buy a book for kids in Richmond, California public schools, and Pomplamoose gives you their Christmas album. (To be clear, it's a 5-song EP, but still.) They explain the details in the video below, after performing one of the songs.

If you're participating, may I recommend buying Looking For Alaska or Paper Towns by John Green, former mental_floss blogger? Both are on the list of books requested by the Richmond public schools. But the best part is, the book choice is very broad -- there are many, many pages of books on the list -- another favorite of mine is I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak. (I recommend switching to the "compact" view on Amazon to see more books on one page.) Here are some more details on the program, from the Pomplamoose's mouth:

A little bit about the schools receiving books: -Lovonya DeJean Middle School -- averaged 26% proficient or advanced on English language arts state tests in 2009-2010 school year (State avg. for grades served = 55%) -Leadership Public Schools - Richmond - averaged 26% proficient or advanced on English language arts state tests in 2009-2010 school year (State avg. for grades served = 47%) -Kennedy High School -- averaged 21% proficient or advanced on English language arts state tests in 2009-2010 school year (State avg. for grades served = 47%) -Richmond High - averaged 20% proficient or advanced on English language arts state tests in 2009-2010 school year (State avg. for grades served = 47%)

There are Richmond Book Drive Ambassadors at each of the school sites who will work diligently to ensure that the books are cared for and used as effectively as possible to inculcate a love of reading among Richmond's terrific young people.

This isn't the first time Pomplamoose have organized a holiday giving drive. Last year, fans gave 138 goats, 166 ducks, and 107 chickens, plus various supplies to World Vision in order to get a single MP3. This year, on offer are 5 MP3s. Worth a book? I think so.

(Note: you can also donate used books, but you don't get a free album for that.)

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between an Opera and a Musical?
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They both have narrative arcs set to song, so how are musicals different from operas?

For non-theater types, the word “musical” conjures up images of stylized Broadway performances—replete with high-kicks and punchy songs interspersed with dialogue—while operas are viewed as a musical's more melodramatic, highbrow cousin. That said, The New York Times chief classical music critic Anthony Tommasini argues that these loose categorizations don't get to the heart of the matter. For example, for every Kinky Boots, there’s a work like Les Misérables—a somber, sung-through show that elicits more audience tears than laughs. Meanwhile, operas can contain dancing and/or conversation, too, and they range in quality from lowbrow to highbrow to straight-up middlebrow.

According to Tommasini, the real distinguishing detail between a musical and an opera is that “in opera, music is the driving force; in musical theater, words come first.” While listening to an opera, it typically doesn’t matter what language it’s sung in, so long as you know the basic plot—but in musical theater, the nuance comes from the lyrics.

When it comes down to it, Tommasini’s explanation clarifies why opera stars often sing in a different style than Broadway performers do, why operas and musicals tend to have their trademark subject matters, and why musical composition and orchestration differ between the two disciplines.

That said, we live in a hybrid-crazy world in which we can order Chinese-Indian food, purchase combination jeans/leggings, and, yes, watch a Broadway musical—like 2010's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark—that’s billed as “rock opera.” At the end of the day, the lack of hard, fast lines between opera and musical theater can lead composers from both camps to borrow from the other, thus blurring the line even further.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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History
Lost Gustav Holst Music Found in a New Zealand Symphony Archive
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English composer Gustav Holst became famous for his epic seven-piece suite "The Planets," but not all of his works were larger-than-life. Take "Folk Songs from Somerset," a collection of folk tunes composed by Holst in 1906 and largely forgotten in the decades since. Now, more than a century later, the music is finally attracting attention. As Atlas Obscura reports, manuscripts of the songs were rediscovered among a lost collection of sheet music handwritten by the musician.

The Holst originals were uncovered from the archives of a New Zealand symphony during a routine cleaning a few years ago. While throwing away old photocopies and other junk, the music director and the librarian of the Bay of Plenty (BOP) Symphonia came across two pieces of music by Holst. The scores were penned in the composer’s handwriting and labeled with his former address. Realizing the potential importance of their discovery, they stored the documents in a safe place, but it wasn't until recently that they were able to verify that the manuscripts were authentic.

For more than a century, the Holst works were thought to be lost for good. "These manuscripts are a remarkable find, particularly the ‘Folk Songs from Somerset’ which don’t exist elsewhere in this form," Colin Matthews of London's Holst Foundation said in a statement from the symphony.

How, exactly, the documents ended up in New Zealand remains a mystery. The BOP Symphonia suspects that the sheets were brought there by Stanley Farnsworth, a flutist who performed with an early version of the symphony in the 1960s. “We have clues that suggest the scores were used by Farnsworth,” orchestra member Bronya Dean said, “but we have no idea how Farnsworth came to have them, or what his connection was with Holst.”

The symphony plans to mark the discovery with a live show, including what will likely be the first performance of "Folk Songs from Somerset" in 100 years. Beyond that, BOP is considering finding a place for the artifacts in Holst’s home in England.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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