On May 15 each year, the UN celebrates its International Day of Families. The day honours the importance of family. And in 2021, its focus is the role of digital technologies in social development. 
 
For this International Day of Families, we’re exploring famous families from the music history books. 
 
Image: Paige Cody, Unsplash 
It’s fair to say technology can be disruptive to family relationships. Mobile devices are present at every social interaction. Even at the family dinner table. We’ve become used to seeing people face down in a screen instead of talking to each other. But digital technology has a positive side too. Without free WiFi and video calls during lockdown, many of us would have been completely isolated from family for many months. 
 
Another plus is that, while concert halls and theatres have been silent, we have still been able to access a wealth of streamed and recorded performances via our digital devices. We have still had access to the Arts, and to the human connection that is so essential to our wellbeing. 
 
For this International Day of Families, we’re exploring famous families from the music history books. The Von Trapps from the Sound of Music, a film based on a true story about the Trapp family. 
The Mendelssohns, the Jacksons, the Kanneh Masons… Music has long been a great family activity, and it still is today. It teaches tolerance, patience, teamwork and focus. It’s enjoyable to play music with others, and it’s even better when you can rehearse under the same roof. 
 
If you dig beneath the surface of classical, folk, country, jazz and pop music, you’ll find plenty of people whose names are “familiar.” Think the Jackson 5, the Bach dynasty, the Mozart family, the Corrs… 
 
Let’s take a look at some notable musical families, and listen to some of their music, via the wonder that is digital technology. 

Families in Folk 

Hailing from Scotland, the Fisher Family were stalwarts of the second Folk Song Revival, which took place between 1945 and 1969.  
 
Archie McDonald Fisher and his sisters Cilla and Ray performed traditional songs from Scotland. 
Interesting fact, Ray Fisher was married to a man called Colin Ross, who was a professional maker of the Northumbrian Small Pipes — the instrument made famous, most notably in Sting’s hit, Fields of Gold, by Kathryn Tickell.  
 
Tickell, who was brought up in Northumberland, plays the fiddle and pipes and comes from a musical family. Her dad Mike is a singer, and her brother is a fiddle player. Here are Kathryn and Pete playing at Sting’s Winter’s Tale concert in 2010. 

Classical Musical Families 

Now to the classical music world and Johann Sebastian Bach, one of the most celebrated composers of all time. He had 20 children from two marriages, and four sons, for cousins and one grandson followed in his footsteps as musicians. Their work touched lives of contemporaries like Mozart and Mendelssohn.  
 
Johann Christian Bach was the eleventh child and youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach. This is his Piano Concerto in E-flat Major. 
We wrote about Clara Schumann in a previous article. Clara was a composer and concert pianist. She was also the wife of Robert Schumann, who, until recently was much better known. Clara had a complex relationship with Brahms, who many sources say was in love with her, although Robert was one of Brahms’ closest friends. 
Much like Clara Schumann, Felix Mendelsohn’s sister Fanny spent many decades in her brother’s shadow. She was also a pianist and a prolific composer.  
 
She wrote a piano trio, a piano quartet, an orchestral overture, four cantatas, more than 125 pieces for the piano, and over 250 lieder, most of which went unpublished in her lifetime. She was praised for her piano technique, but rarely gave public performances outside her family circle. 
We wrote about Mozart, his musical sister, and his challenging relationship with his father in a previous post. Again, the family music gene was strong.  
 
Musical parents tend to teach their children music at a young age, and to support and nurture their talents. At times this support can get out of balance and create difficulties for the talented youngster. In extreme cases, an early musical career can result in a lost childhood. 

Family Conflict 

Sibling relationships can be a joy, but they can also cause conflict. Manchester-born brothers, Liam and Noel Gallagher, formed the Britpop band Oasis in 1991. By 2009 they had sold over 75 million records, making them one of the biggest bands of all time. The brothers famously struggled to get on and the band fell apart dramatically in 2009 just before a gig. 
 
In August 2009, Oasis were due to perform at V Festival in Chelmsford. Liam contracted laryngitis, forcing them to cancel. Noel made a statement saying the gig was cancelled because his brother had a hangover, and Liam sued. Noel apologied, and the lawsuit was dropped, but just minutes before the band was due to go on stage at the Rock en Seine festival, the group’s manager pulled the show, saying the group "does not exist anymore”. Two hours later, a statement from Noel appeared on the band's website: 
 
“It is with some sadness and great relief...I quit Oasis tonight. People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer.” 

Musical families in harmony 

Here’s a happier story. You will have heard of Sheku Kanneh-Mason, but did you know, he’s one of seven siblings, all of whom play music? Sheku (22) became a household name after playing at the 2018 wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. In 2016, he won the BBC Young Musician of the Year, becoming the first black musician to win the award since its launch in 1978. 
 
In December 2019, the siblings played as a family on stage at the Royal Variety Performance. 
 
Isata Kanneh-Mason plays the piano, Braimah plays the violin and Konya and Aminata play both violin and piano. Jeneba and the youngest Kanneh-Mason sibling, Mariatu play both cello and piano.There are many hundreds of examples of high-profile musical families. From George and Ira Gershwin to the British band leader Ray Ellington, and his son, Lance Ellington, who you’ll see performing on Strictly Come Dancing. The famous concert violinist and educator, Nicola Benedetti and her sister, Stephanie, who plays violin in an electric all-girl string quartet. Singer Miley Cyrus, who is Dolly Parton’s Goddaughter. And all the young musicians you know who started playing because their parents or siblings fostered a love of music in them. 
 
For May15, International Day of Families, why not explore your favourite musicians and see if you can find out whether they have equally musical family members? 
 
If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more about the Mozart family or the Schumann family, check out our previous posts: 
Clara Schumann – prodigy, performer, proponent and pioneer 
Leopold Mozart: Composition and Controversy 
And find out more about the International Day of Families here. 
There are many hundreds of examples of high-profile musical families. From George and Ira Gershwin to the British band leader Ray Ellington, and his son, Lance Ellington, who you’ll see performing on Strictly Come Dancing. The famous concert violinist and educator, Nicola Benedetti and her sister, Stephanie, who plays violin in an electric all-girl string quartet. Singer Miley Cyrus, who is Dolly Parton’s Goddaughter. And all the young musicians you know who started playing because their parents or siblings fostered a love of music in them. 
 
For May15, International Day of Families, why not explore your favourite musicians and see if you can find out whether they have equally musical family members? 
 
If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more about the Mozart family or the Schumann family, check out our previous posts: 
 
And find out more about the International Day of Families here
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