Sightreading. Solved.

FPALogoNancy and Randall Faber are pleased to announce the release of their newest digital support tool, the Piano Adventure Sightreading Coach. This innovative technology provides immediate feedback and assessment, making it the perfect companion to the Piano Adventures Sightreading books.

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The Sightreading Coach “listens” to the student play along with the score, and instantly grades rhythm and pitch by highlighting incorrect notes and rhythms. Students can practice the exercise as often as they wish, and upload their best performance to the teacher in between lessons. Teachers can monitor student progress without using valuable lesson time, making at-home practice more accurate and efficient.

The app is free to teachers, and contains all the exercise from nine progressive levels in the Piano Adventures Sightreading libraryPrimer, Levels 1, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, 4, and Accelerated Levels 1 and 2. These carefully composed variations on the Lesson Book pieces help students see the “new” against the background of the “familiar.” Students play one exercise per day, completing one set per week.

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The Sightreading Coach can be used with any piano or keyboard. No cables are required. Access online with the Chrome web browser, or on mobile with iOS and Android apps. Teachers sign up for free, and invite parents and students to the app. Each student is just $2/month after a 30-day free trial. Learn more and download Faber’s Quick Start Guide.

Pepper Choplin: Once upon a Morning – From Resurrection to Pentecost

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Pepper Choplin

Guest post by composer Pepper Choplin introducing his new cantata, Once upon a Morning: From Resurrection to Pentecost. Choplin is known as one of the most creative writers in church music today. With a diverse musical background, Choplin incorporates varied styles such as folk, Gospel, classical, and jazz. His published works include over 300 anthems for church and school choir with 20 church cantatas and two books of piano arrangements, and over 120 groups have commissioned him to write original works for them. Since 1991, his choral music has sold several million copies. Choplin has conducted eight New York concerts of his music at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center with 250 voices and full orchestra. In his hometown of Raleigh, he has conducted eight mass performances of his cantatas at Meymandi Auditorium (home to the NC Symphony) with over two hundred voices and orchestra. In 2019, he conducted Handel’s Messiah (Christmas portion) with the 150-voice Cary Community Choir with orchestra. He also visits many schools, churches and conferences to conduct and to entertain. 

 

OnceUponAMorningI always wanted to write this cantata. Then a church in Pennsylvania commissioned me to write a spring cantata outside of the typical Easter work. For a year, I surveyed directors and singers about different potential subjects. This idea got them most excited.

I loved writing this cantata. These wonderful stories don’t receive much attention in church music. Yet, they contain so much drama and passion.

Just before I began, I saw the musical Hamilton. While there is not a word of rap here, Hamilton gave me courage to write with more fire, using plenty of text and rhythm.

“Once Upon a Morning” (Easter) — This musical sunrise leads us to celebrate the Resurrection: “When the stone was rolled away surely death had lost its prey to the miracle of life!” Note the pairing of the main theme with the “Easter Hymn.” There is just enough here to lead the congregation to sing the hymn afterward.

“Why Do You Seek the Living Among the Dead?” (Easter) — This piece drives to capture the excitement of this powerful question. It also says, “Go and tell the others that Jesus is alive,” and quotes the “Easter Hymn.”

“Didn’t Our Hearts Burn Within Us?” (after Easter) — I’ve always thought this was the most powerful quote from the Emmaus road. This ballad tells the story, then encourages the listener to let the word live within us all. It is very inspiring with a hint of gospel to move the heart.

“Thomas Believes” (after Easter) — This dramatic musical dialogue leads through Thomas’s transition from doubt to full belief. Sung with one or two soloists, the choir takes on the role of the disciples. It concludes with a great celebration of faith.

“Blessed Are the Ones Who Believe” (appropriate anytime) — This simple statement by Christ is a profound expression of encouragement. After the drama of the previous piece, it has a comforting chorale feel: “Blessed are the ones…who live their lives with faith and follow in my way; who dare to believe in the Resurrection and the Life.”

“Cast Your Nets” (appropriate anytime) — “Try something that you haven’t tried. Cast your nets on the other side.” I’ve already heard from people in the studio and churches where I’ve sung this hearty call. They remark at how they were inspired to listen to Christ’s words and take a chance on a new direction. Many of our churches need to cast their nets on the other side.

“He Is Lifted Up” (appropriate anytime) — This boisterous fanfare proclaims the text with rapid-fire rhythm. I don’t see many anthems focusing on the powerful event of the Ascension. It uses a Hebrews passage to celebrate the Lordship of Christ. The anthem drives to the end with a final celebration carried by the tune used most commonly for “Like a River Glorious.” It is so triumphant that it could be used as the finale with Day of Pentecost being sung at another time.

“Day of Pentecost” — Through the high energy rhythm you can visualize the rushing wind and the tongues of fire. It leads to Peter’s bold sermon, quoting Joel, “Your sons and daughters will rise. They will boldly prophesy.” The “Easter Hymn” tune appears again to carry the Spirit text. The congregation is encouraged to sing, “Holy Spirit, come today. Alleluia! Through Your power, we will say, ‘Alleluia.’”

Watch Pepper Choplin in the studio conducting the orchestra during the recording of Once Upon a Morning:

Tim Topham: The Ultimate Piano Teaching Conference

Guest post by Tim Topham, host of the popular Creative Piano Teaching Podcast.

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Well, this is super exciting news. After months of planning, we are just weeks away from Piano Pivot Live, my very own piano teaching conference here in Melbourne.

I’ve spoken and been to conferences for years now.

If you’ve been to a piano teaching conference, chances are you probably learnt quite a few things.

But there was probably room for even more professional growth.

Meet the speakers: Here are my fabulous keynote speakers for Piano Pivot Live

That’s why I’m going to do things a bit differently at Piano Pivot Live 2020.

It’s going to be a two-day conference that features the lot — workshops, teaching and of course tips on how to run your business.

I’ve hand-picked each presenter, and I’ve seen them all speak before so I know they’re fantastic. I’ve also included masterminding sessions so that you can make action plans right away…and much more.

Dual Focus: Business and Teaching

One of the big differences I think at Piano Pivot Live is going to be the dual focus on piano teaching and also business.

As teachers, we often start with that early on. We feel more comfortable teaching and being at the piano than we are with running a business.

This is where we let ourselves down — we can be a bit lazy with the administrative side or just don’t know enough about how to run a business and can actually miss out on maximising our income.

That’s why at my piano teaching conference, I want to put a big focus on piano teaching business as well as creative teaching techniques.

A well-paid, happy studio owner makes a happy piano teacher.

You will leave this conference excited and with actionable ideas you can implement RIGHT AWAY.

It’s unlike any conference you’ve been to before!

One-Stream, Group Learning

If you’ve been to a multi-day piano teaching conference, you know how crazy it can be trying to fit everything in

Sometimes, you just can’t.

Sessions clash or you don’t have the time to fit it all in.

Well, at Piano Pivot Live you won’t be forced to pick between presentations!

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Our one-stream event setup means we all share two days together, and listen and learn from each other.

Also, the presentations will not be passive.

Learn by listening and by doing. Experience workshops, live teaching, masterminds and implementation sessions.

Rub shoulders with some of the world’s most creative and innovative teachers.

Speakers and Presenters

As you might have guessed, I will be your host!

But I’ve also enlisted the help of some of the world’s brightest music minds to bring you the best in music pedagogy.

I have amazing keynote speakers in Samantha Coates, Carly McDonald, Philip Johnston and Anita Collins.

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The wonderful Nicola Cantan, Joyce Ong, Paul Myatt and others will also be speaking and presenting at the event.

There are a few different types of presentations you can expect at Piano Pivot Live from these wonderful speakers.

  • Keynote presentations: You can’t have a conference without some keynote speakers sharing their wealth of knowledge with you.
  • Live teaching: Watch me teach a student live on stage! You will see exactly how I teach creatively on stage for 30 minutes.
  • Masterminds, Fireside Chats and Panel Events: Connect with other teachers and share your knowledge in our mastermind sessions, guided by a topic expert. Ask your questions to our panel of experts. We’re here to help you.
  • Practical workshops: Sometimes you just have to DO things. After learning a variety of pedagogy and business techniques, you will brainstorm ways to implement them so you can leave the conference with an action plan.

More Information

To find out more about Piano Pivot Live 2020 and to grab your ticket, just click on the button below.

I’m so excited for you to share in what will be an incredible learning experience.

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TimTopham.jpgTim Topham has one mission in life: to stem the tide of children quitting music lessons by helping teachers maximise student engagement through creativity, technology and innovation. Tim hosts the popular Creative Piano Teaching Podcast, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, Californian Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.

Lee & Susan Dengler: A Holy Week Cantata Reflecting on Sacrifice and Sorrow

Guest post by composers Lee & Susan Dengler introducing their new Holy Week cantata, When Darkness Comes. Lee and Susan are the authors of over 400 choral anthems, cantatas and vocal and piano solo collections that are used worldwide. They have served as music leaders in churches, and have taught music on the elementary, high school and college levels. Both are professional singers and have performed in recitals, operas, oratorios and musicals. They reside in Goshen, Indiana.

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Lee Dengler & Susan Naus Dengler

Easter was in mid-April that year. We who work in church music are relieved when Easter comes that late in the season, allowing adequate time to prepare for the music of Lent and Easter.

However, there was a lot going on in our house back then. We were awaiting the birth of our second child. The due date was April 1. Because of church responsibilities, we hoped that this baby would arrive on time. Rebecca Joy only made us wait two extra days before she appeared on the scene. Even though Palm Sunday was only two days later, we could fulfill our Holy Week responsibilities without too much stress.

There were, however, a few things that we hadn’t counted on. First, Lee had only recently begun a new daytime job. Also, we had no idea what it would mean to care for a newborn in addition to our firstborn son, Jason, who was only 18 months old. And then Susan contracted the nasty virus that was making its way through our community. All this would have been enough to overwhelm two young adults, but then Lee’s grandfather, Grandpop Dengler, was suddenly confronted with critical health problems — problems from which he never recovered. Although there were many things for us to be happy about, Holy Week that year was also tinged with some personal darkness.

Ready or not, the week that marked Jesus’s journey to the cross arrives on an annual basis, whether our lives are bathed in joyous light or mired in shadows. Whatever the case, this holiest of weeks affords us the opportunity to truly experience what we believe as followers of the One who faced the darkness of the cross for our sakes. It is a time to place the hope of Jesus’s resurrection against the backdrop of death and grief.

Quiet reflection allows us to move from the somber moments of Christ’s sacrifice to a most joyful celebration of Easter. Daily disciplines, such as reading the Gospels and contemplative walking, can help us focus our minds. Praying the “Lord’s Prayer” or the 23rd Psalm can be excellent models for our prayers during these days. Listening to music, such as Handel’s Messiah or hymns that speak of Christ’s Passion, can also help to lead us to the light and hope of His victory over death.

WhenDarknessComesIndeed, music has always served as a perfect vehicle to enhance our observance of Holy Week. It has been our personal privilege to create some of the music and texts that portray the sacrifice that Jesus endured for our sakes. In recent months, we have considered the deep darkness that our Savior knew during those days — the physical darkness of that Thursday evening, and the spiritual and emotional darkness of His trial and crucifixion on Friday. This was the greatest darkness the world has ever known. What a blessing to consider that the one who willingly faced this time of profound darkness is with us when we experience dark times in our own lives. Out of these thoughts came our new cantata, When Darkness Comes.

This 20-minute work can be used in a variety of ways to enhance your Holy Week worship. Included are suggestions for the extinguishing of candles for a Tenebrae style service, and for PowerPoint visuals that can be displayed throughout the course of the presentation. A communion service might be an excellent preface to the cantata’s presentation. Options for congregational participation make it possible for everyone to be involved in the retelling of this story. It is our sincere prayer that When Darkness Comes will prove to be a most meaningful part of your congregation’s Holy Week experience.

For more insight into the composers’ inspiration for the cantata and to listen to excerpts, watch this digital reading session:

Sky Macklay: The Process & Joy of Subversive Humor

ManyManyCadencesOver the summer we found some time to connect over Skype with composer, oboist, installation artist and professor Sky Macklay, who was in the middle of what sounded like a truly magnificent residency at Civitella Ranieri in Umbertide, Italy. Macklay’s work, especially her chamber music and intermedia pieces, has been receiving more and more attention recently, especially in light of her 2017 Grammy nomination for “Many Many Cadences,” a chamber piece written for Spektral Quartet and appearing on their 2016 album, Serious Business.

The measured but sincerely eager thoughtfulness that Macklay employs in conversation about her art is also a key component of her work, which simultaneously revels in playfulness and freedom. The themes and concepts covered by her oeuvre, whether sociopolitical or linguistic or purely sonic, are almost as expansive as the tools she employs to explore them and convey her perspective on them. Her curiosity seems to be matched only by her omnivorous gravitational pull on the world around her: everything is on the table to explore via every means she can get her hands on. And the results are surprising, head-turning, eye-opening — and continuously exciting.

Leonard Bernstein, in his February 1959 Young People’s Concert titled “Humor in Music,” deemed surprise and shock to be the crucial element in all humor, including musical humor. This allows humor to strip the daunting sacred pillars of society and culture of their power and bring them back to reality. This sort of humor is at the heart of Macklay’s work, which simultaneously subverts the established traditions and insists on saying something new through her own strong voice.

Macklay’s website is loaded with fantastic videos of her work, and watching those is, of course, a much better introduction to what promises to be an incredible and lauded career than any words we can use to describe it. We have, however, included a transcript of our interview (edited for content) so that you can also get to know her through her own words.

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Sky Macklay

Sheet Music Plus (SMP): How would you describe yourself as a composer?

Sky Macklay (SM): I see myself as a composer in the experimental contemporary Western art music tradition. I write music for all kinds of different ensembles — chamber ensembles, orchestras, choirs, theatrical music, and intermedia music that combines different art forms like video and electronics. More often I write chamber music because I enjoy working with individuals who are my friends. We can have deep collaborations and try new things.

Some of the topics that my music often touches on or the musical interest that my music deals with are oftentimes process. I’m a very process-oriented composer. I want the listener to hear transparently — hear what’s going on the piece, that is, hear a sound go through a transformation that they can follow over the course of the piece. I often use tonality in more experimental or surreal ways combining different tonal systems or blurring tonal harmony in a way that is reminiscent but yet new. I often incorporate humor and theatricality and extremes into my music.

SMP: You’re talking about chamber music and what sounds like almost a collaborative process between you as a composer and the instrumentalists. How does your experience as an instrumentalist inform that, and what do you find productive about the dialogic element?

SM: Being a performer myself is, of course, insightful. I just finished a piece for saxophone and electronics. It’s actually for sopranino sex and bari sax (but with only one sax player who starts on sopranino and switches to bari) and with electronics. It’s for my friend and collaborator, Ryan Muncy, who’s a saxophonist with International Contemporary Ensemble. We’ve known each other for several years, so I’ve heard him play a lot and heard him improvise and heard the intense and extreme sounds that he is gravitating towards. That gives me inspiration and opens up new ideas that maybe I wouldn’t have thought of entirely on my own.

In that particular case, I was exploring a psychoacoustic phenomenon called difference tones. If you have one frequency that is 2000Hz coming from one sound source and another one that’s, say, 1500Hz coming from a different sound source, theoretically you’ll hear another tone that’s 500Hz (the difference between the two frequencies). If you use certain conditions that are really good for hearing difference tones, it sounds very localized in the ear. I wanted to create these particular patterns with difference tones, but I needed to test it and see if it actually worked. I tested it with my oboe and with the electronics. With an oboe, I could get a similar range to the sopranino saxophone, and from doing that it just evolved. I ended up like playing it on the oboe so much that I realized I could also make an oboe version of the piece. I actually think that’s what I’m going to do because through the experimentation process I realized it works really well.

Another example is a piece I recently wrote for andPlay, which is a violin/viola duo. It was very connected to the biographies of the particular individuals and to their friendship. It has a video part on YouTube that has little avatars for each of them, and they go around on maps to different parts of New York City. It’s based on the places that they really go in real life, but if you zoom out, it’s also about the bigger picture, talking about public transportation, in general, and how we measure time, and how it feels different based on whether you’re stuck in traffic or on the subway or waiting when the train is delayed. It’s a very individual story, a very specific personal story, but hopefully with resonance to anyone because there are bigger themes involved.

SMP: I’m interested in how you approach music as a medium. It seems like it’s just a piece of the puzzle for you. For instance, with the “Harmonibots” installation, the entire piece is interactive: the music is a piece of it, but then there is a physical interaction with the installation, as well as a visual-spatial-architectural element. Then with the piece you describe earlier, there’s the personal narrative and the video piece in addition to the music. How do you see music interacting with these other artistic media?

SM: I’m a very conceptual composer, and sometimes that manifests in purely a psych concept, but sometimes it spreads beyond the bounds of sound like in the cases of my installations “Harmonibots” and “MEGA-ORGAN,” my piece with video maps of friendship, and, for example, some pieces include text or are intermedia in that they’re semantically engaging with language. “Lessina Levlin Levite Lavora,” for instance, is about different birth control methods, and it uses reactions from different people online talking about the different side effects.

In the case of “Harmonibots,” it started as a sonic idea, but it’s intimately related with how that sound is produced. With instruments, a composer is always thinking about how the sound is produced physically. With harmonicas the sound is produced by just blowing through the reeds. You don’t need to have a special embouchure. I was inspired for those pieces by seeing the wacky, arm-waving tube people advertising car dealerships, and I was thinking about whether the air blowing through them would be enough to make a harmonica vibrate.

Robotic instruments are also an interesting concept. Is there any advantage to have robots playing an instrument versus humans. For particular musical situations there are advantages if you want an instrument to do something that humans can’t do (like hundreds of harmonicas playing at the same time for an hour straight). I thought of that as creating this instrument doing something that humans can’t do, and it evolved into this interactive space where anyone could come in and improvise and play any instrument by squishing the sculptures instead of how you traditionally play a harmonica.

When I have an idea, sometimes it needs to grow beyond the bounds of only sound and be an intermedia piece, meaning different kinds of media are integral to the whole.

SMP: Between the advertising tube men and experiences with birth control you mentioned earlier, as well as the different sounds of language that you explore in “Alabama Gala,” for instance, it seems like you’re drawing inspiration from all of these different sources around you. How does that process happen for you?

SM: I usually have a moment of inspiration that gives me a tiny, little seed of an idea, and then I have to work it out and think it through and develop it. I think I am lucky that sometimes I do get inspired out of the blue by some idea, and it can come from things I encounter in life or personal experience. No composer or artist is in a vacuum. You have a lot of influences coming at you. But then, of course, turning an idea into a piece is the hard part because it’s all in the craftspersonship and executing it well. To me it’s really important to have a strong concept and a strong execution.

And then if I need to write a piece and I don’t have an idea already, sometimes I’ll write the instruments down on staff paper and meditate on the instruments themselves and whether those particular instruments want to say anything to each other.

Sometimes I have to write proposals for pieces before I’ve even written the pieces, then I’ll go back to it later and have to figure out how to use that in the piece. You come up with ideas, and then you’re not really sure what will end up making it into the piece, but some stuff does make it into the piece.

SMP: How does the proposal process affect your composing? There’s something very natural about sound and how pitch and rhythm are physiologically innate to the human experience, but then putting those concepts into language is tough because it’s already a level of abstraction away from that. And then once a proposal is accepted, you have to return to that language to ensure that you’re fulfilling that proposal with the sounds you create. Does that mediation of language have any effect on your process and the work that results from it?

SM: I’m a very verbal person, and when I’m first brainstorming ideas for a piece, I write down words and sentences describing what I want to do so I don’t forget what I’m thinking of. Those words might mean nothing if someone else read them because I write in my own language so that I know what I’m talking about.

In general, I think that, being a composer, it’s good to be able to describe your music to other people, and I’m very grateful that other people are interested in my music and want to know more about it. I think I’ve become better at talking about it and explaining it in words. Trying to continually find the language to explain my music is helpful because if I can describe it to someone else, I can identify my own habits, values, and musical techniques and also the materials that I’m drawn to that make my music personal. It’s helpful to be self-reflective and know what makes my music me. Then I can build on those things and hopefully further hone my own voice. I think being able to put it into words helps me hone my own voice.

SMP: When you say you’re “process-oriented,” can you define what that means to you?

SM: When I think about process music or process-oriented composers, in general, I think of Arvo Pärt, who goes through a certain number of repetitions, and he has a very clear formula for the way a piece progresses. Maybe the duration of notes is doubled or halved. Steve Reich is another process-oriented composer.

To me the most important thing is setting up rules for the piece and then following through with them in a way that is predictable. Some composers do that in a way that is not necessarily that audible to the listener, but I like to do that in a way that the listener can hopefully hear and follow.

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For example, I have a violin and piano piece called “FastLowHighSlow.” The concept of the piece is that it’s four different modules that are each sixty or ninety seconds long, and they’re extremes of the instruments and the extremes in speed. There’s a module that’s high and fast in the piano and high and slow in the violin, and then there’s one that’s low and slow in the piano and low and fast in the violin. So those four modules can all go together, and the process of the piece is that it cycles through all of the possible combinations of those modules to create the different movements. I hope that by the end the listeners realize that they had heard those parts before but in different movements, and now they’re together. That’s what I’m hoping for: a moment of clarity and discovery when the audience hears my process. And I’m hoping that the process also results in beautiful sounds and gestures that work on the micro level but also have this satisfying formal arc because of the process.

SMP: On one hand, you delve into social justice issues, and then on the other hand, there’s a certain playfulness in your work, whether it’s in your installations or in your different explorations of sound. In one way or another, both of those take on the “establishment,” whether you’re confronting it from a social perspective or you’re devising ways to take on and play with the pillars of creation dictated by the institution. It’s a sort of border or outsider perspective because if you are “the institution,” you can’t play with the dictates of the institution. Can you talk about where that comes from, and how you think of these different power dynamics?

SM: I think that’s a keen observation because it’s totally true.

I feel part of a whole community that does outsider critique of more conservative mainstream classical music and the canon of Western art music. I and most of my friends and colleagues love Western art music and classical music, but it also has a lot of baggage in being a hegemonic canon that excludes so much music and new voices and other people. It just doesn’t include so much of humanity. I think I and a lot of my colleagues, by playing very experimental music and very free, expressive things, are expressing what we want to hear and play.

It’s also subversive because it’s putting into action these rebellious practices and sounds. I see myself in that vein being a little rebellious and a little trickstery. It comes very naturally to me.

In my teaching and in my music, I try to expand the world that I’m part of and get more perspectives and more people involved. For me personally in my voice, it oftentimes comes through as juxtaposing humor and serious topics.

SMP: When you say that it comes naturally to you, why do you think that is?

SM: First of all, I’m a very open person. I’m ok with sharing personal stuff with people I don’t know that well. Part of being a composer, I think, is that you’ve got to be comfortable sharing your hard-created ideas with other people and being open to criticism. To me that’s not just notes and sounds. It extends to more broad information and ideas about myself.

One of the ways that I really engage with art and with the world is through humor. I find it very powerful. The art that I’m attracted to is often humorous in a smart way and weirdly humorous. One of my favorite performers I’ve found over the past few years is the comedian Maria Bamford. She tells extremely uncomfortable personal truths about mental illness, but her humor is also very avant-garde and performative. That’s the sort of media that really speaks to me.

SMP: Are there people in the music sphere that inspire you like that?

SM: My musical inspirations are very diverse. Some of the people who also deal with humor, theatricality and intermedia work come to mind like Rick Burkhardt and Kate Soper. And the storytelling songs. I’ve been really gravitating toward Dolly Parton songs lately. I also just heard an orchestra piece by Jay Schwartz that was amazing and mind-blowing but really different from what I do.

SMP: What are some of the most important lessons that you’ve learned from your students?

SM: When I taught at [The] Walden [School, a summer composition camp in New Hampshire], I had some very young students, like 10, 11, 12 years old. One thing I learned from them is to be true to your natural voice. Of course I always would challenge them and have them do new techniques, but letting them be their unvarnished selves in their music was extremely powerful. At that age they’re so raw and creative and unpolished in a beautiful way. That inspired me to, in a more mature, adult-appropriate way, be a little raw and true to my own inner child.

I remember a student who wrote a piece called “The Voice of a Whale” for voice and cello from the perspective of a whale that was adopted by humans. This whale remembered some of her native whale language but not all of it, so when she was speaking English, she put the words out of order because she was applying whale grammar to English words. That sounds like kind of a funny concept, but the piece was very heart-wrenching. Even though it was ten years ago, I can still sing that piece to you now because this composer, Claire, was following her idea. She had a good idea, and she went with it. She committed to it.

I think that’s the biggest takeaway from working with my students. If you have a good idea, just go with it, and don’t think twice about committing to a concept.

SMP: What’s in store in the future for you? What are some projects that you want to tackle or some areas that you’re interested in exploring?

SM: I’m very much in a good place now. I have lots of upcoming pieces. Right now I’m working on a large ensemble piece for the Green Umbrella Series for the LA Phil Chamber Music Series. I’m also working on my second string quartet. Next year I’ll be doing a big women’s choir piece.

I definitely want to do another harmonic installation in the next few years, but I haven’t found the right venue or timeframe yet. I have a different visual aesthetic in mind this time. I want it to have totally clear plastic and much more clean lines and high columns that expand upward very linearly so you can really see the harmonicas vibrating very clearly.

I also want to do some sort of big theatrical project, but I don’t have a super clear vision of that yet. It’ll come into clear focus soon, I’m sure.

Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas: The New New Testament of Piano Repertoire

BeethovenVonRichardWagner1870 marked the 100th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven. After denying the invitation from the “Beethoven Committee of Vienna” to appear onstage together with Liszt, Joachim and Clara Schumann to celebrate the event, Richard Wagner decided to write an essay instead. While this essay is notable as a broader investigation of Wagner’s aesthetic philosophy and ideals, it also remains an insightful exploration of both the artistic significance and enduring popularity of Beethoven’s music. For Wagner Beethoven’s music isn’t merely beautiful, a concept that is for him constrained by convention and subject to changing tastes and fashions, but sublime. Beethoven reveals a sort of Platonic ideal of melody, thereby liberating it from its historical moment, and connecting his listeners with a timeless, universal human truth. For Wagner it is Beethoven’s radical defiance against tradition and his intense emotional expressions that make his music a vehicle for revelation.

Though these strains are apparent across Beethoven’s entire oeuvre, it is in his piano sonatas that Beethoven’s boldest thoughts and gestures shine most brightly. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Beethoven was widely known as a brilliant pianist in his own right, giving him the natural freedom to stretch the boundaries of the instrument. Perhaps, though, it is also due to the nature of the piano itself: a solo instrument that lends itself to the realm of the personal and inward, even the diaristic, and one that, by allowing tones only to be struck and not sustained or driven forward, abstracts music into its most intellectually pure form, making it a prime medium for musical exploration and innovation.

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Ludwig van Beethoven

To explore Beethoven’s piano sonatas is to explore Beethoven’s musical innovations. In these 32 pieces, we see the concentrated version of the familiar trajectory guiding us from the Classical era into the Romantic: the experimental mimicry of his early years, the ego-driven defiance of his middle years where, at the height of his compositional powers, he most fully challenges convention, and finally his late years where, fully deaf, he introspectively explores the mysteries of life and death.

In the collection of piano sonatas, we also see the concentrated version of the formal shifts that we see in his symphonic and chamber works. From the most trivial musical notions he extracts the most expansive palettes through time manipulation, rhythmic ambiguities, unexpected accents, extreme dynamic contrasts and seemingly infinite variations on single simplistic themes. As the opus numbers increase, we see him shorten expositions and lengthen developments and codas, reintroduce Baroque counterpoint and fugue into contemporary composition, and shift the structural weight of the sonata from the first to the final movement.

To advance such radical changes, it was almost necessary that Beethoven remain insistent on his music being played as he had intended, rather than falling prey to interpretive fashion and, at least at its time, the conventions it aimed to break. As such, Beethoven left specific and meticulous guidance in his manuscripts that he expected to be followed just as carefully.

During his three years assembling the new complete Bärenreiter Urtext collection of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, editor Jonathan Del Mar spent a great deal of time grappling with primary texts, many written by Beethoven himself. Here Del Mar discusses the importance of dealing with these primary sources, especially when publishing a work of such a meticulous composer, as well as the difficulty in deciphering something so personal as handwriting:

 

“Beethoven had such appallingly messy handwriting, didn’t he — I don’t know how anyone can read it! How many times have I heard that accusation directed against one of the greatest composers who ever lived?

I have lived with Beethoven’s handwriting for my whole life. My father bought the colossal facsimile of the Ninth Symphony when I was a boy and we looked at it together. Actually I have always had a fascination for handwritings, recognising and deciphering them. From decades of looking at most of the extant Beethoven autographs the composer’s handwriting has become very familiar to me. And there are idiosyncrasies! An example: When Beethoven smudges something, that means he is deleting it! This is often far from obvious and I had to learn it.

Beethoven was actually incredibly accurate, methodical, and scrupulous down to the last accidental and staccato mark. His manuscripts are a miracle both of creative inspiration and of systematic organization; you can see in them both the white-hot heat of his temperament and the cool, calculated finickiness of one determined that there should not be a single mistake in the printed score. He sent correction lists to publishers on account of quite small details. Indeed: when the finished product dropped on to his mat, when he opened it and immediately saw a mistake, he would fly into a rage, and straightaway write to the publisher insisting that the edition be withdrawn, or at least that every copy be corrected by them in Indian ink before it was sold.

Why do I need to go to libraries and look at the physical sources? Why can’t I work from scans, photocopies, or microfilms? Despite all the research already having been done, there may still be crucial things to be discovered from the composer’s original manuscript. If you base your edition on bad photocopies in which a grain in the paper or a stitchhole looks exactly like a staccato mark or even a note, you are in trouble. In the Sonata op. 28 a hole in the paper has for a long time been printed as a staccato in many editions!”

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The Bärenreiter Complete Beethoven Sonatas for Pianoforte, a culmination of Del Mar’s decades of work on Beethoven, is now available at introductory pricing and, along with the associated critical commentary, is part of our preparation for the yearlong celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday in 2020. New individual editions of each sonata are also available.

This Giving Tuesday, Give to Music Education

This Giving Tuesday it’s our privilege to feature three of the most dynamic music education organizations in the United States: Give A Note Foundation, the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation and the Ukulele Kids Club.

Sheet Music Plus has supported the fundraising efforts of each of these organizations in recent years, and today we’d like to once again bring to light the extraordinary work they do to connect children with music and bring these children the multitude of benefits that music can offer them.

We urge you to support them today and every day throughout the year to the extent that you are able, and if you or someone you know would benefit from their services, we encourage you to reach out to them for assistance.

 

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Give A Note Foundation

https://www.giveanote.org/

Give A Note Foundation provides support to nurture, grow and strengthen music education opportunities. Founded in 2011 with an initial investment from 21st Century Fox and the TV show GLEE, Give A Note increases access to quality music education for more students, especially those in urban and rural communities where funding is scarce. Give A Note’s Music Education Innovator Award recognizes teachers who have developed creative, effective in-classroom programs and provides ongoing support to encourage lasting change within a school or district. Music Teacher Notes offers teachers an opportunity to apply for funds that will enable them to serve more students and significantly improve the music education experience in their classrooms.

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Haydee Vazquez & Mariachi Dinastía de Ramona of Ramona High School (Riverside, CA)

Haydee Vazquez, a senior at Ramona High School in Riverside, CA, found a connection to her family’s culture and an environment for her to blossom as a musician, friend and well-rounded person in her school’s mariachi program, Mariachi Dinastía de Ramona. Give A Note invested in Mariachi Dinastía de Ramona during its first round of the Music Education Innovator Award, granting Director Brian Gallagher funds to add instruments to the program to increase student engagement in music. Here is Haydee’s story:

“Mariachi music has always been part of my family’s culture, but I was never a big fan of it until I joined the group. Previous to Mariachi Dinastía de Ramona, I had been a part of various musical groups, including Wind Ensemble and Dynasty Marching Band as a trumpet player, and Madrigals as an alto singer. These groups all gave me amazing experiences, but I wasn’t able to find a balance to do everything. During my junior year of high school, a friend of mine introduced me to the mariachi class…The environment was slightly altered but still familiar, but the experience was completely different. The mariachi group and class has taught me to appreciate music through a different perspective, learn from the experiences I had as a single individual and as part of the ensemble, as well as provide me with a safe haven from the outside world in which I can enjoy playing music with the wonderful people I’ve developed great friendships with.”

 

MHOF_LOGO_NO_BOX_4CP_BWMr. Holland’s Opus Foundation

https://www.mhopus.org/

The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation was inspired by the acclaimed motion picture Mr. Holland’s Opus, the story of the profound effect a dedicated music teacher had on generations of students. The Foundation keeps music alive in our schools by

donating musical instruments to under-funded music programs, and providing vital services to school districts nationwide, giving economically disadvantaged youth access to the many benefits of music education, leading them to success in school, and inspiring creativity and expression through playing music. Over 23 years, more than 29,000 instruments have been donated to 1,560 schools across the United States through the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.

Felice Mancini, President and CEO of the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, reflects on her organization’s impact:

“We believe that kids thrive when given the chance to learn and play music. We regularly check in with teachers who receive instruments and it is very satisfying to know that they see dramatic improvement and accomplishment when students play great-sounding instruments. Schools are such an integral part of any community, and tools and activities that increase student success and get them through to graduation and college make communities stronger.”

The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation gave an instrument grant to Jeremy Diggs, Director of Bands at Fonville Middle School in Houston, TX, who described the effect that the foundation’s grant had on his students:

“The students all expressed that playing on the new instruments made them feel more confident in what they were doing. That boost of confidence came in handy because the 8th-grade band received straight 1st divisions at the district competition. All of the students were playing on donated instruments! We couldn’t have done it without the investment you made in our band program! Thanks again!”

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Fonville Middle School Band (Houston, TX) earned 1st Division Superior ratings

Catherine S., a student at Key Middle School, also in Houston, TX, sent this thank-you note to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation after receiving a new flute through an instrument grant provided by the foundation:

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UKCLogoUkulele Kids Club

https://theukc.org/

The Ukulele Kids Club (UKC) is an international nonprofit organization based in Plantation, FL. The UKC was founded in 2013 by Corey and Edda Bergman as a tribute to Jared Bergman, their son who died tragically at the age of 20 from a viral infection. In his bereavement, Corey, a lifelong musician, was inspired to begin volunteering his musical talents at local children’s hospitals in the Miami area, playing guitar for patients and their families. He let the children try out his guitar, but after finding it was too large for some of the younger patients, he realized that the instrument’s smaller cousin, the ukulele, might be a more approachable alternative. Corey began teaching these young patients the ukulele, and so was born the UKC.

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Corey Bergman volunteering with his guitar in a Florida children’s hospital

Since its founding, the UKC has directly supported the health care of nearly 10,000 children through music, music therapy and donations of its signature instrument. The UKC works with more than 200 hospital-based music therapy programs in the U.S. and internationally, including Canada, France, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom. A leading advocate of music therapy, the UKC also supports training and education through clinical fellowships. The UKC is a gold-level GuideStar participant.

The mother of a patient who received a ukulele through UKC remarks:

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“Thank you, Ukulele Kids Club, for the ukulele (courtesy of Matt at Oakland Children’s Hospital). My 7-year-old daughter is fighting stage 3 Rhabdomyosarcoma, and while in Boston getting radiation therapy, she got a chance to take ukulele lessons. When returning to California, she told her music therapist all about it and how she didn’t have one at home, and he came back to her room with this [ukulele]. She loves to play.”

A patient who received a ukulele herself from UKC also shares the way that her ukulele and her music therapy helped her through her illness:

“I am a patient at the University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital receiving treatment for a struggle with anorexia. I was one of the lucky patients to be given a ukulele that was donated to the hospital by your organization, and I must express my profound thanks for this amazingly generous gift you gave. Playing and learning the ukulele with the music therapist was one of the few comforts during my stressful stay at the hospital. Therefore, I am very thankful for your generosity and the gift you have given me.”

Beginning Ukulele Book Reviews for 7 Popular Methods

Guest post by Jenny Peters of the Ukulele Sisters

So, you want to learn how to play the ukulele. Great! In this article, I’ll take a close look at 7 popular ways to begin your ukulele journey and explain who each of these methods is best for.

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You, the learner, need a book that fits your learning style and background knowledge. You want a book that teaches you the ukulele skills you would like to know, such as singing and strumming chords, fingerpicking melodies, reading ukulele tablature, and/or learning to read standard music notation. You also want to find an approach you will enjoy.

In some ways learning music is like learning a whole new language. You also need to know what skills you must master in order to progress in music such as how to practice. Finally, you have to learn how to tune your instrument and take care of it.

What to Expect

Each author of a “how to play ukulele” book writes with a certain type of beginner in mind: someone with little or no music background, or someone who already plays several instruments and is adding ukulele to their bag of tricks. They might write for someone who reads standard music notation well or for someone who does not. They might even question if a beginning player needs to read music at all!

We will answer the following questions for each book in our beginning ukulele book reviews:

  • How does it teach chords?
  • How does it teach reading melodies?
  • How quickly does the book progress?
  • Are there online lessons or a video course? Are there audio tracks?
  • Who is this book best suited for?

How Do We Write Down Music in a Beginning Ukulele Book

In order to communicate how a song goes in a book, there needs to be some way of writing down sounds. With fretted instruments such as ukulele and guitar, there are some unique shorthand ways we can write down music:

  • Chord stamps (symbols) show where to put our fingers on the ukulele to create the desired chord.

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  • Standard 5 line music staff to show the rise and fall of the melody. It can take quite a lot of time to master reading the music staff.

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  • Ukulele tablature is sometimes used instead of or in addition to the standard music staff to show the melody. Tab can be helpful for beginners because it shows you where to put your left-hand fingers on your ukulele in order to play the pitches of the song. Tab is a lot simpler to learn to read than standard music notation. Once you get the idea of it you can improve quickly.

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  • Standard rhythmic notation to show how fast or slow notes or strums should be in relation to each other.

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The 7 Beginning Ukulele Book Reviews

We have ordered the book reviews from easiest to hardest.

  1. 21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way
  2. Ukulele for All
  3. Alfred’s Basic Ukulele Method
  4. Hal Leonard Ukulele Method Book 1
  5. Essential Elements for Ukulele
  6. Ukulele Primer by Bert Casey
  7. Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Tips and Tunes

1.  21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way

21 Songs in 6 Days CoverThis method is encouraging to the learner. There are online videos to teach the songs and all the concepts presented.

It begins with one-chord songs and simple strumming patterns. The authors delay the changing of chords until students can sing and strum a steady beat at the same time. When two-chord songs are introduced, there are thirteen two-chord songs, so students can really get the hang of the change from F to C7.

The reading of melodies using ukulele tablature is taught alongside the singing and strumming of songs for some of the songs. The chords in this method are C, A Minor, F, C7 and G7.

There are both a musical term and a chord glossary with pictures. Strumming patterns remain simple with only four basic strums covered.

This book is best for someone who is new to playing an instrument, and who does not read music. Its progression is slow and steady. There are online video lessons for each song and for the concepts (including tuning) in the book.

The authors also have a YouTube channel that teaches a lot of the information in the book.

2.  Ukulele for All

uke-for-all-224x300.pngThis book starts with singing and strumming each song. Ukulele for All teaches chord stamps by presenting the diagram sideways with a picture of a person’s hand.

The teaching of tab reading is also unique because it shows how the horizontal strings of the ukulele relate to the lines of the tab staff. Students can easily visualize where to put their fingers on the strings of the ukulele. Tab notation is taught alongside the singing of melodies and strumming of chords.

The book starts with one-chord songs and has a chapter for each of three beginning chords (C, A Minor, and F.) Songs that change chords are delayed until the fourth chapter. Students are encouraged to sing rounds to create harmonies within a one chord song.

Strumming patterns are kept simple throughout the book. Finger-picking of accompaniments is presented in Chapter 8. There is also a chapter on the 12-bar blues that encourages students to improvise their own solos over a bass line.

The book comes with proprietary software that includes video lessons for each song and for the concepts (including tuning) presented in the book. The software also includes audio for the songs that can be slowed down for practicing. Students can also record themselves and submit recordings to their teacher.

The book is intended for either classroom use or for private instruction. If a student prefers melodies, the student can work on that. If a student likes to sing and strum chords, the student can work on that, since both versions are presented with each song. There is a Teachers’ Edition of the book available with detailed suggestions on how to work with groups of students at different levels.

Chords presented in this method are C, A Minor, F, C7 and G7.

This book is best for someone who is new to playing an instrument and doesn’t read music. Its progression is slow and steady. It includes video lessons.

3.  Alfred’s Basic Ukulele Method

alfreds-basicThis method book claims to be the most popular standard ukulele method and upon looking through it, I can see why.

Strumming and singing songs is delayed 16 pages until the basic reading of single notes on the tab staff is solid. There is a tab staff underneath the standard musical notation to help you find the melody notes more easily.

The first song with chord changes is “Good Night Ladies.” This song uses two chords F and C7 which is an easy 2 chord pattern. The book progresses slowly and steadily, eventually teaching the student seven chords (C, F, C7, G, D7, and G7.)

Strumming patterns are introduced independently of reading melodies and progress gradually. The strumming patterns remain pretty simple.

This book is best for someone who is new to playing an instrument, and doesn’t read music. Its progression is slow and steady, and it includes both a DVD and online video lessons.

4.  Hal Leonard Ukulele Method Book 1

HL book1-450x584This book by Lil’ Rev is a solid beginning method. It starts with reading tab melodies. When chords are introduced, the student learns C, F, and G7 all at once. There is a little bit of time to learn basic strumming patterns before applying chords to a song, but the first song uses all three chords. From there, new chords are introduced fairly quickly.

Chords taught in this book are: C, F, G7, E Minor, D7, G, Bb, A Minor, B7, D Minor, A7 and A.

Lil’ Rev teaches some really cool strumming techniques, such as tremolo, single roll stroke, finger and thumb strum and the index finger strum. He explains these techniques well with pictures, arrows and counting.

The book is nicely laid out and there is a basic chord glossary at the end. There are no audio or video lessons that I could find, but Lil’ Rev has a website and YouTube channel where he teaches a lot of the strumming techniques he uses in this book.

When I was first learning ukulele I worked through this book. I didn’t have trouble with the left-hand chord changes, but I found the many different strumming patterns difficult. This book might be best for someone with fretted instrument background such as the guitar or mandolin.

5.  Essential Elements for Ukulele

essentials-element-450x593.pngMarty Gross does a great job of teaching the ukulele in this book. Students learn to read music well. They learn the following chords: C, G7, F, Am, D7 (Hawaiian style) C7, Bb, Dm, F7, A7, Em, E7 and G#+. There is even a section on movable barre chords!

From my point of view, this book progresses quickly. Students are expected to read standard music notation rather than the tab staff. Also, the first two chord song uses C to G7. G7 is a three finger chord and is hard for a lot of beginning players to master.

The songs in this book are pretty awesome, for example: “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, “Octopus’s Garden”, and “La Bamba”. There is an audio CD which is helpful because not all the songs have suggested strumming patterns. There is a strumming chart and a chord glossary at the end of the book.

This book would work well in a private lesson setting or with older students in a small group setting. It would also work well with someone who has played many other instruments before.

6.  Ukulele Primer by Bert Casey

ukulele-primer-CaseyBert Casey does a great job at teaching singing and strumming the ukulele.

He has a unique way of notating the songs by having two staves: one for the melody line and one for the strumming pattern. This is helpful when the strumming patterns get complicated and don’t match up with the rhythm of the melody.

The book comes with a DVD. There is also access to online video lessons.

This book assumes you either know the songs, will watch the videos to learn them or that you can read music. There is no tab for the melodies.

There are many strumming patterns presented and they move sequentially from easier to more complicated. The patterns are easy to read and understand. When the book gets to more complicated patterns, there is a good base upon which to build.

Finally, there is information in the appendix on how the guitar relates to the ukulele, some music theory, a chord library and a strumming pattern library.

This book is probably best for someone who has background on other fretted string instruments such as guitar. The opening material will be difficult if you are a complete ukulele beginner. The strumming patterns will be difficult to coordinate with the songs until you have more experience singing and strumming.

7.  Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Tips ‘N’ Tunes

jumpin-jim-450x695.pngThis was the book I used to teach myself the ukulele. It’s small, nicely laid out, and has a folksy feel.

It gets right into playing the songs after only a couple of pages of introductory material. Jim covers a lot of music theory in two pages, which a beginner might not understand depending on their background.

The first song uses the C and G7 chords which can be difficult for many beginners. There is no tab for the songs, so the author assumes you can read music to figure out how the melodies sound. The strumming patterns are shown above the notes

The book progresses through many key signatures and teaches you the following chords: C, G7, Cmaj7, C6, C7, Am, F, G#7, D7, Gdim, Gmaj7, Em7, A7, Edim, Em, etc. Jim gives you the option of leaving chords out by putting them in parentheses. This is helpful because it can be hard to keep the flow of the singing and strumming going with so many chord changes. There are no video lessons.

I was able to learn a lot with this book, but I didn’t become a fluent strummer until I worked with simpler material. This book is probably best for someone with a lot of music background.

I needed to work more with the material Bert Casey and Lil’ Rev teach before I became a fluent player. I knew that my students who are new to music would need a slower and more gradual approach which is why I wrote my books the way I did.

Conclusion

All of these books have their strengths. The best course of action is for you to discover what kind of learner you are. Then choose the book that suits you best after reading our reviews.

Of course I am biased, but if you are a complete music beginner I think your best bet would be to buy one of my books, either 21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way or Ukulele for All. Alfred’s Basic Ukulele Method would also work well for you.

If you have experience with guitar, you might prefer one of the more difficult books such as Essential Elements, Bert Casey’s Ukulele Primer, or Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Tips ‘N’ Tunes.

In my own musical journey, I have often worked with several books to learn different skills. I hope this article will help find the book or books that work best for you!

 

JennyPetersJenny Peters is one part of the Ukulele Sisters team. She stumbled upon the ukulele after finding 45 of them in one of her elementary school classrooms. Convinced she could turn her finding into more than a whole lot of noise, she designed a program to teach all of her students to play successfully with only 30 minutes of class time a week. No one was more grateful than the teacher in the next classroom.

A former private piano teacher in Chicago with a Masters in Piano Performance from the University of Illinois, Jenny now lives in Highland Park. Married with three kids, she shares her home with three cats and more musical instruments than she would care to name.

Beethoven’s Ninth: How Reading What Beethoven Wrote Changed Everything

JonathanDelMar

Jonathan Del Mar

For a conductor music starts with Beethoven. And for the son of a conductor both can start very early, as they did for Jonathan Del Mar, Beethoven scholar and editor of the new edition of Beethoven’s nine symphonies for Bärenreiter.

In 1949 Del Mar’s father, conductor Norman Del Mar, purchased a copy of the 1924 facsimile of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, which he studied with Jonathan when he was still a child. The younger Del Mar, whose career also began as a conductor, remarks, “Had it not been for our possession of this endlessly fascinating document, it must remain doubtful whether my interest in Beethoven’s handwriting, and my work on his autographs, would ever have begun.”

Jonathan Del Mar’s edition of the nine symphonies for Bärenreiter, completed in 2000, has become the preferred edition for many renowned conductors worldwide.

 

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“We all are amongst those of gratitude to Jonathan Del Mar who simply did the work to give us the first, really true edition of what this music was.”

— Sir Simon Rattle

 

BarenreiterBeethoven9The most monumental symphony of them all, the Ninth, was the first of the new edition to be published, and it was in preparing this edition of this very special symphony that Del Mar made one of his most thrilling discoveries. Aware of the many mistakes that had been included in previous editions, Del Mar went over every detail once more, paying careful attention to the horn ties in bars 532-40 of the final movement — those very horns that call out to help us transition from the “Turkish” march into the choir’s famously triumphant declaration of the central theme of the movement: “Freude, schöner Götterfunken / Tochter aus Elysium” (“Joy, beautiful spark of divinity / Daughter from Elysium”). Del Mar describes this revelatory moment:

“When I looked at those Horn ties again, I saw nothing. And then I looked a third time, and thought I saw something. And then, heart palpitating madly, I looked very carefully a fourth time, and at last saw what Beethoven had actually written. It was so extraordinary, so unexpected, that I could not believe what my eyes were telling me — because this changed the music of such an incredibly well-known passage so completely.”

Listen to the Berlin Philharmonic play this section:

Musica Russica: Bringing Russian Choral Music to the World

VladimirMorosan

Vladimir Morosan

In 1979 a young American graduate student named Vladimir Morosan won a Fullbright Scholarship togo to the Moscow Conservatory to study choral performance in pre-revolutionary Russia. The Soviet state had banned public performance of sacred music decades before that in 1923, and vicious attacks on and repression of the Russian Orthodox Church combined with strong censorship over creative output practically eliminated Russians’ access to their own sacred musical tradition and the continuity of that tradition throughout the Soviet era. Nevertheless, because Morosan was an American citizen, not a Soviet citizen, he was allowed to access historical materials, articles and sheet music relating to the Russian Orthodox sacred tradition. Recognizing the extraordinary opportunity this presented, Morosan’s supervising professor at the Conservatory, himself secretly a believer, said, “Vladimir, you understand our situation, of course. We cannot perform our great sacred music openly. So I’m charging you to gather everything that you can and take it to the West, and teach them in the West how this music is to be performed so that it’s not lost forever.”

MusicaRussica.jpegBy 1987 Morosan had founded Musica Russica, setting out to compile a historical anthology of Russian sacred music to mark the millennium of Russian Christianity celebrated in 1988. The result, published in 1991, was One Thousand Years of Russian Church Music, a collection of 79 pieces covering a wide range of styles and genres of sacred music from early chant fragments through Golovanov’s “Lord’s Prayer” (“отче наш“/”Otche nash“), originally published on the eve of the 1917 Revolution. Major figures like Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Rimsky-Korsakov are not included in this anthology but are instead given their own volumes, each focusing on a single composer’s complete sacred works. Today Musica Russica’s growing catalog encompasses Russia’s major sacred works, as well as a number of folk songs, and continues to extend back into the rich historical catalog and to support the reinvigorated Orthodox tradition of the post-Communist era.

What is it that distinguishes this music from the Western sacred choral traditions? Perhaps most instantly recognizable are the octavo basses, followed very closely by a fullness of sound across voice parts and registers. Though some of the more recent choral works contain optional instrumental accompaniment for concerts conducted outside of church settings, all of the music is composed to be able to be sung a cappella, as Russian churches don’t use instruments at all. As such, a lot of what we’d recognize instrumentally in the Western style became internalized in the choir, including those very same deep octavo basses.

The most critical element of Russian sacred choral music, though, is the word. In fact, some people say it’s not even appropriate to call Russian sacred choral music “music,” as “music” was something created in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance as the interplay of instruments. In the Orthodox understanding, Russian sacred choral music is deemed to be “singing,” which illustrates that the core experience is the sung word and that what is sung draws its raison d’être from the word. How the singers and conductor interpret something, how they experience it and how they communicate it to the audience, therefore, is of the utmost importance.

This is also true musically. Performing Russian sacred choral music without a sincere regard for the words is rather different than doing the same with Western sacred choral music. If we listen to the masses of Bach, Mozart or Brahms, for instance, what we hear is an interplay of musical sounds that incidentally have some text. The core, however, is an instrumental musical structure. In stark contrast, Russian sacred choral music contains little in the way of imitative counterpoint or fugal structures. There are a lot of vertical chords that aren’t always so interesting if you strip away the words, but if you pay close attention to the linguistic phrasing, what emerges is an ancient chant synthesized with the ancient Russian tradition of communal folk singing delivered through the lens of some of the greatest compositional masters of human history. This makes it some of the most singable repertoire in the world. As Morosan says:

Russian choral music is idiomatically choral. It encompasses so much of what we experience any time a group of people gets together and sings something in common.”

To give you a glimpse into this quite remarkable catalog, perhaps listen to a short piece by Rachmaninoff, “Rejoice, O Virgin” (“Bogoroditse Devo”), the sixth movement from his All-Night Vigil (Всенощное бдение/Vsenoshchnoye bdeniye), often considered to be one of the most beautiful choral pieces ever written. In many ways this piece is rather simple, but perhaps that is why we can connect with it so deeply.

As one of Rachmaninoff’s favorite compositions, he even requested that the fifth movement, “Lord, Now Lettest Thou” (“Ньине отпущаеши”/“Nine otpushchayeshi”), be sung at his funeral. This movement has a notorious final descending scale in the low bass line that ends with a sustained B-flat 1 (i.e., the third B-flat below middle C). Rachmaninoff recalled that when he first showed this passage to Nikolai Danilin, conductor of the Moscow Synodal Choir, before the premiere, “Danilin shook his head saying ‘Now where on earth are we to find such basses? They are as rare as asparagus at Christmas!’ Nevertheless, he did find them. I knew the voices of my countrymen.”

For those already familiar with Rachmaninoff, it’s perhaps worth taking a look at the 20th-century neoromantic composer, Georgy Sviridov. Living most of his life under the Soviet regime, Sviridov wasn’t able to simply publish sacred music. Like many of his contemporaries, he wrote sacred music “into the desk drawer,” knowing that the pieces may never be heard, but he also managed to find clever ways to get around the Soviet censorship system. A 1973 staging of Alexei Tolstoy’s play, “Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich,” a Romantic-era play set in the late 16th century, provided an opportunity to present a trio of sacred choruses at Moscow’s Maly Theater under the guise of incidental music. These Three Choruses — “Rejoice, O Virgin” (“Богородице Дево”/“Bogoroditse Devo”), “Sacred Love” (“Любовь сбятая”/“Liubov sviataya”) and “Verse of Repentance” (“Покаянный стих”/“Pokayanniy stih”) — employ actual liturgical chant melodies, as well as a heterophonic texture stemming from ancient folk singing.

Musica Russica offers these pieces and many more, complete with performance notes, detailed transliterations, English translations, pronunciation tracks and even a DVD called The ABC’s of Russian Diction to help choirs outside of Russia connect not only with the language, but with the entire essence of this deeply soulful and uplifting musical tradition.

Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9: A National Culture for the New World

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Antonín Dvořák

Even in a cultural era ripe with nationalism, Antonín Dvořák was one of the most nationalistic. Slavic folk music, especially from his native Bohemia, permeates his entire oeuvre. He develops these simplistic folk elements into sophisticated symphonies, operas and concertos through Romantic compositional techniques, while retaining a certain innocence that makes his music approachable and beloved by musicians and audiences alike.

For Dvořák incorporating Slavic folk elements into his music wasn’t so much a political gesture as it was a matter of musical philosophy. Having grown up in the Bohemian countryside playing folk tunes in his father’s tavern, he intuited an intimate relationship between music and the place it came from, and he believed that all peoples of the world should develop their own music stemming from their homegrown culture.

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Harry T. Burleigh

Driven perhaps by this core belief, Dvořák became fascinated by Native-American music and African-American spirituals during his time as director of the National Conservatory of Music of America from 1892 to 1895. An African-American student at the Conservatory and later a composer himself, Harry T. Burleigh, sang spirituals to Dvořák to help acquaint him with the genre. Seeing parallels between these songs and the folk music of his homeland — in the connection to the countryside, to the joys and sorrows that come with close dependence on nature, and to the struggles of an oppressed people — and perhaps also delighting in the warm familiar tonality of the pentatonic scale, on which both genres are based, Dvořák asserted:

“I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition, to be developed in the United States. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them.”

In constructing a piece for the New World, then, Dvořák’s philosophy naturally led him to these melodies.

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Placard from the 1893 Premiere of Dvořák’s New World Symphony

Composed in 1893 on a commission from the New York Philharmonic, Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World,” takes inspiration from the “wide open spaces” of America’s physical landscape and the music unique to its people: Native-American music and African-American spirituals, the “spirit” of which Burleigh had credited Dvořák with absorbing before writing his own melodies. In much the same way as he does with Slavic folk music, Dvořák translates this New World folk music into a more general language in this Symphony, which lets him introduce these sounds to the rest of the world.

In many ways this “New World” Symphony, which also contains folk elements that seem to recall Dvořák’s homeland and Romantic symphonic impulses alike, is distinctly emblematic of the cultural melting pot of America, and perhaps that is its power. Starting from its premiere under the baton of Anton Seidl, where it received tumultuous applause, it has been a crowd favorite, and today it remains one of the most recognizable symphonic works in history. Neil Armstrong even took a recording of it to the moon in 1969.

Bärenreiter has recently released a new Urtext edition of the piece edited by Jonathan Del Mar, following on Del Mar’s recent work on Dvořák’s Seventh and Eighth Symphonies. The new edition clarifies many uncertainties, as Del Mar himself explains:

DvorakSymphony9CoverIf Dvořák’s Eighth has always been the most error-ridden symphony in the standard repertoire, the New World has been the one with the most problems. Even a couple of Urtext Editions, one Czech from half a century ago, the other more recent, have caused more difficulties than they solved.

The dilemma, as so often, is the many discrepancies between autograph and first edition; which do we trust? Until now the answers have been more or less guesswork, editors tending (reasonably enough, perhaps) to be beguiled by the hallowed evidence of the composer’s own handwriting, especially tempting due to the fact that publication was not supervised by Dvořák, who was stuck on the wrong side of the Atlantic Ocean, but was left in the good hands of Brahms. But of course the autograph is not always the last word. And now at last we have a new source which can help us to sort the sheep from the goats. This was discovered about 30 years ago, and is — amazingly — almost the complete set of parts used for the first performance in New York, which still survives in the archive of the New York Philharmonic. These were copied directly from the lost Stichvorlage copyist’s manuscript, and therefore give us much crucial information as to which readings that manuscript score, which included Dvořák’s final revisions, is likely to have had. From the huge number of places where these parts agree with Dvořák’s autograph, we can also see exactly which readings in the first edition score emanate from Brahms.

But even the first performance parts do not provide the conclusive answer to the most important question of all: the placing of the peremptory horn call in the fourth bar. For that, we can now summon a much more recent discovery, one of just a few months ago: a sheet of manuscript paper on which Dvořák jotted down the main themes of the work for a lecture recital he gave shortly after the first performance. This at last shows unambiguously his final version of this controversial bar, which has not been heard correctly for over a hundred years.

Jonathan Del Mar

Alex Shapiro: Making Her Own Rules

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Alex Shapiro

If a composer just so happens to also be a photographer, an essayist, and an activist both within the musical arena and outside of it, it seems fitting that she would describe her own work as “pan-genre and diverse – sometimes within the same piece!” Alex Shapiro’s extensive catalog encompasses film scores, chamber music and choral works, but it is in concert band music that Alex has been leaving her strongest mark as a composer.

Alex’s first foray into the concert band world came in 2007, when Major Tod A. Addison, Commander and conductor of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Band, contacted her via MySpace to commission a piece. At the time Alex had never composed for, participated in or even attended a performance of a wind band in her life, but was encouraged by Major Addison’s openness to her ideas and decided to jump right in.

HomecomingThe final piece, titled “Homecoming,” folds Alex’s sophisticated take on symphonic and jazz-pop music into traditional wind band sounds, while also taking a nuanced, multi-dimensional approach to the concept of a “military theme.” The result isn’t a collection of recognizable layers of elements, but rather something entirely new.

This impulse toward synthesis is, in fact, a defining characteristic of Alex’s work. She takes various components that excite and inspire her, and she fuses them together into new structures in which the building blocks are inseparable and at times even unrecognizable. Alex is not the puppet master who brings together characters to watch them interact, but rather the pastry chef baking a cake, where the raw materials combine at the molecular level with constructive precision to achieve the baker’s grand vision.

RockMusicWhatever Alex’s vision for a piece may be, her music always seems to follow a distinct narrative arc. Whether her work is advocating for a cause she cares about, like climate change, marine life, or gender equality, or her music is simply music, she is always telling a story and taking us on a journey. This is as true for her new choral work, “O Death Rock Me Asleep,” a setting of a text by Anne Boleyn that follows the queen from imprisonment through beheading, as for wind band pieces like “Rock Music,” which incorporates the sounds of a non-traditional musical material – literally rocks – to tangibly connect the music to the earth and to the climate that is changing before our very eyes.

It is not just “Rock Music” that veers from the tried and true wind band course, though. Much of Alex’s wind band oeuvre is what she has dubbed “electroacoustic,” meaning that it incorporates pre-recorded electronic tracks into performance. In many cases, such as with “Lights Out” and “Paper Cut,” it can be difficult to tell which sounds are coming from the electronic track and which are coming from the live instrumentalists. This is especially true when the pieces are performed in black light, which is part of the recommended presentation of “Lights Out,” and which has seemed to have caught on for about one-third of the performances of “Paper Cut.” With the electronic and the acoustic melding together and becoming indistinguishable, these pieces echo the increasing parity we’re seeing between human and artificial intelligence in other parts of our lives. It’s like the core theme of “Westworld” embodied in music (but, well, a lot less menacing).

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Even when not done in black light, “Paper Cut,” perhaps Alex’s most widely known band piece, is a visual and aural spectacle as band members manipulate pieces of paper to make a range of percussive sounds and execute basic choreography with the paper to give the audience a full show. Commissioned by the American Composers Forum, “Paper Cut” was originally composed for middle school band, but it continues to be popular with bands of all ages and levels because it’s just so fun. Here are the Jackson Middle School Symphonic Winds of Grove City, OH performing the piece at Capital University in February 2018:

Whether it’s these sorts of novelty elements, accompanying videos or photograph reels, or basic choreographed moves or staging, Alex doesn’t simply compose music, but exploits an audience’s heavy reliance on visuals to construct entire performance pieces with music at their core. In the band world, she says, “there are no limits” – and she revels in the stream of endless possibilities.

At the same time, however, it’s worth noting that her music is remarkably direct and succinct. It makes sense, then, that she cites Beethoven as her “goalpost” for economy of motivic development and usage and speaks in amazement that he could build an entire symphonic movement from just four notes – three of which are identical. Perhaps it is that economy that has allowed those four notes that open Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to connect with audiences so strongly that they have become one of the most recognizable themes in all of music history. This is precisely the sort of emotional chord that Alex aims to strike in her music, and like Beethoven, she also lets a strong voice shine through to confidently guide the audience on their emotional journey.

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Alex Shapiro

Human connection is central not only to Alex’s work, but also to her career as a composer. She uses Skype to get into rehearsal rooms with groups performing her pieces. In addition to her many works for professional ensembles, she writes music meant for the educational system so that she can make sure that more women are represented in the music that young learners are playing – and so that children of all genders, races and creeds can understand that there is a place for them in the music world. She is a mainstay at conferences and in the leadership of various professional organizations so that she can encourage her peers in developing their own sense of self-worth and help guide them as business operators. And these connections that she builds in turn make her a strong advocate, a happy and fulfilled human being, and a vital part of the music community.

“Everything is interconnected,” she says. And so she writes. And so she lives.

5 Handy Tips for New Piano Lesson Enquiries

Guest post by Dr. Sally Cathcart of The Curious Piano Teachers. View the original on The Curious Piano Teachers blog HERE.

CuriousPianoTeachersLogoHave you had many new piano lesson enquiries recently? Do you ever find yourself caught ‘off-guard’ by phone calls? I know I certainly do! When this happens I can end up babbling on and feeling that I am not representing my work and worth to the best of my ability.

The next three months are probably the peak season for receiving phone calls or emails from potential students. Here’s some top tips from some of the highly organised Curious Piano Teachers members.

#1 KNOW WHAT KIND OF TEACHER YOU ARE

Do you know what kind of teacher you are? What is your teaching philosophy and approach? Discussions with potential clients are so much easier if you have made up your own mind about the following:

  • What do you teach?
  • How do you teach?
  • What ages do you teach?
  • What standard do you teach up to?
  • Is an instrument needed at home and if so what sort?
  • What do you charge?
  • Do you ever give discounts?
  • Are your teaching hours fixed or flexible?
  • What support do you expect from parents?
  • What availability slots do you have?

Once you have thought through these questions turn them into a one page cheatsheet and keep it close by for future phone calls.

It’s worth spending an hour or so getting this all pinned down. Check out our video below.

#2 HAVE A PHONE CALL — ON YOUR TERMS

Young entrepreneur at her workplace using laptop and phone.

As a rule of thumb let any unknown callers to your mobile go to the answer phone. Then, if they leave a message, this gives you the opportunity to listen through and consider your response. You’ll want to phone them back as quickly as you can so rehearse what you will say and aim to call them back within 24 hours.

During the phone call work down your cheatsheet (that’s assuming you have spaces and are actively looking for new students). If the answers correspond with your expectations offer a consultation/interview where both parties will have a chance to meet in person.

At this early stage don’t be too prepared to compromise on your core teaching approaches. For example, if you are only willing to take on younger children with the parents attending to lessons then stick to it!

#3 SAVE TIME WITH EMAIL ENQUIRIES

If you have a studio website or Facebook page you might find that some new piano lesson enquiries come in by email.

Responding to each one individually takes time so a useful approach is to create a standard template response. Set aside 30 minutes or so of your time to do this and once again use the one page cheatsheet as your starting point.

When a new enquiry arrives in your inbox simply copy and paste the main body of the template into your reply, adding whatever personal responses you want to.

#4 CREATE A FAQ PAGE

FAQBoardThe fourth tip on how to deal with new piano lesson enquiries is to turn your cheatsheet into a Frequently Asked Questions sheet.

This can be used on your website as well as being a really useful document to send to parents whether you’ve spoken on the phone or corresponded by email.

#5 FIND YOURSELF SOME TIME

Has all this been ringing a bell and you have found yourself caught ‘off-guard’ ? Then you need to find some time to sit down, grab a coffee, watch our video and think through what kind of teacher you are.

I really wish I had done this a long, long time ago as being communicating clearly what you offer prevents misunderstandings and frustration later on.

A big shout-out to all the piano teachers who contributed to this blog post for all their brilliant suggestions.

 

SallyCathcart

Dr. Sally Cathcart, Co-Founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers, has many years of teaching experience both as a piano teacher and as a classroom music teacher. After her travels as a Winston Churchill Fellow, Sally founded the Oxford Piano Group as a place for pianists and teachers to collaborate and share experiences. She was awarded a PhD from the Institute of Education at University College London in 2013 upon completing the first comprehensive study of UK piano teachers, exploring common practices, expertise, values, attitudes and motivation to teaching. She is a Principal Tutor on the Piano Teachers’ Course (UK), a trained Kodály practitioner and a senior musicianship practitioner of The Voices Foundation. Sally is an examiner for ABRSM and is on the ABRSM Music Education Advisory Committee. She is a Fellow Member of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM).

How to Get More Piano Students

Guest post by Kristin Jensen of MyFunPianoStudio.com. View the original on Kristin’s blog HERE.

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Everything I’d done to try to get more piano students was a waste of time with little or no results.

We’d moved to a new town and I was determined to fill my studio quickly. I worked hard to get the word out — in fact I even strapped my 4 month old into a baby carrier and handed out over 150 fliers at a grocery store on Coupon Tuesday.

Guess how many phone calls I got from those fliers? Zero.

I’ve since learned that there are much more effective ways to advertise a piano studio.

Effective advertising means a full studio so that you reach your full income potential. It will also help you build a waiting list, so that when one student leaves, a new one can fill the vacancy without missing a beat.

Read on to learn the most effective strategies used by expert teachers to get more piano students. Empowered with this info, you can focus on what works and stop wasting money and energy on ineffective marketing strategies.

Incentivize and Encourage Word of Mouth

By far the best way to get new students is by word of mouth. Once you’ve got yourself established, some word of mouth advertising will happen naturally for you if you’re a great teacher, so make sure you’re doing everything you can to offer high quality instruction.

But there are some things you can do to initiate word of mouth while you’re still establishing your studio and your reputation, and to incentivize more word of mouth once you are established.

Here’s how to get people talking about you:

Incentivize your current students to give you referrals

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Offer a tuition credit for every student that they get to sign up. And the credit should really ought to be more than five bucks. Five dollars really isn’t that motivating.

When determining what your credit will be, keep two things in mind: First, inviting others to sign up for piano lessons may require your clients to get out of their comfort zone. Second, your clients are busy living their own lives and ensuring that your studio is full isn’t anywhere on their list of top priorities.

Your current students can be your very best source of new clients, so be sure to give them an incentive that will get them excited. You could even change up your incentive from semester to semester and offer things like a restaurant gift card, movie tickets, or a fee month of lessons. The cost of these incentives is small when compared with the lifetime value of a new client.

What if you don’t have any students yet?

If you’ve recently moved or are just starting out there are ways to get people talking about you and your lessons.

First of all, open your mouth and let people know that you teach lessons. When you introduce yourself, mention that you are a piano teacher. Often just a simple mention will lead people to ask more.

You can also offer to play at community events and during church services. If there is already a regular church accompanist let them know you’d be happy to fill in whenever you’re needed.

Although these strategies won’t get you new students as quickly as some of the other ideas discussed in the article, they will help the people in your community know that you teach and the effect over time can be enormous. Then when a mother asks around for a piano teacher, people will immediately respond with your name.

Use Social Media

SocialIconsPhoneDo you know how to get more piano students by leveraging the power of social media? This avenue is HUGE. When I advertise my studio, I spend most of my efforts on social media.

Advertise on Facebook

I have been impressed by how effectively Facebook ads have helped me get more students. And running ads sure beats walking around a grocery store parking lot on a hot Coupon Tuesday with my kids! You just set up the ad and then let it run.

Facebook has info about advertising on their platform here. The one thing I would warn you about is that Facebook can burn through your budget quickly if don’t you manage the ads carefully. But once you figure it out, this is a great source of new students.

Share student accomplishments on social media

Girl standing beside a pianoWhenever your piano students accomplish something noteworthy, share it via social media. Did a student just finish a level in their method books? Praise them on your Facebook page. Did a student earn a special certificate? Snap a picture and upload it to Instagram along with your congratulations. Are you hosting a fun contest or practice incentive for your students? Share it — you’ll quickly be known for your fun lessons. Do you have a recital coming up? Share it and invite your community to attend. Did your student love one of the improv activities you found on this site and create an awesome sounding song? Record them playing and then share it — this REALLY impresses people!

If you’d like to post photos or videos of your students, be sure to get written permission from the parents first, and it’s good practice to not include the students’ names for safety reasons. Pictures of smiling students are definitely the best when potential new clients are learning about your studio, but even if you opt not to post student photos, you can post other images or just text descriptions of the fun things you do and your students’ accomplishments.

Anything worth sharing should be shared and will help others become familiar with you and the high quality piano instruction you offer. Giving interested people a real look at what you do is a great way to get more piano students to sign up.

Join online neighborhood communities and city “yard sale” pages

My neighborhood has a Facebook group and it’s wonderful. Through this page, neighbors post things they’re giving away for free, warn each other about an aggressive door-to-door salesman, ask each other questions and share ideas. They also share what’s going on in their lives. You don’t want to be annoyingly self-promoting in these groups, but it’s a good place to at least let people know that you teach lessons and get connected with anyone who’s interested.

I was skeptical about the yard sale page. I didn’t even know there were city yard sale pages until a few months before I was going to be teaching a class for preschoolers at a music store in a neighboring town. I had no connections in the town, so I found the number for a piano teacher from the area to ask her if she had any students with younger siblings who might be interested. She said she’d be happy to help spread the word and also told me that she got several of her students through the town’s yard sale page. I decided to give it a try and post info about my new class. It worked and I got several students just from that simple post. It’s free and quick, so definitely worth a try!

Get More Piano Students through Your Website

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Nowadays when someone has a question, what is the first thing they do? Google it.

Build a website so that when someone searches “piano teachers in [insert your city]” they will be able to find you. On my new student registration form, I include the question, “How did you find out about my studio?” About 25% say that they did a Google search for piano teachers in our city.

You can hire out a professional website or create a simple website yourself. If you opt to create your own website, sites like WordPress and Weebly are easy to work with and even have free options. Keep in mind that the design of your website should match the type of lessons you offer. So if you’re offering high-end instruction, you would likely want to hire out a professional design. If you offer more casual lessons then you can probably create a free site yourself.

Create a “My Business” Listing with Google

An even easier way to be found through a Google search is to create a Google “My Business” listing. It’s super simple to create your studio listing and you can find instructions on Google’s “My Business” page here. Listing your studio is free and Google claims that you can get it going in just 10 minutes.

You don’t even need a website to create a business listing with Google. This is the easy shortcut to being found through online searches. If you don’t have a My Business listing yet, I encourage you to set one up today!

Get New Piano Student Referrals through Your Local Music Store

MusicStore

Most music stores receive a steady stream of inquiries about music lessons. And for this reason, many stores keep a running list of local teachers.

One of the stores near me just asks for the teacher’s name and number and then adds them to their list. Another store near me asks that I bring in a flier with tear-off strips. I write about my studio in the upper portion of the flier and then print my name and phone number on the tear-off strips.

You can also inquire about becoming an in-house piano teacher. Some music stores have space available where you can teach. In most cases, there will be room rental or referral fees, but they’re often worth it because the music store will promote you and keep your studio full. And in many cases, the rates for piano lessons offered inside a music store are higher. They are higher to compensate for the room rental fees and because clients assume that there’s a high level of quality if the instructor is promoted by the music store. Be sure to deliver on this assumption of high quality, and you’ll be in a great situation.

Offer an Introductory Music Class for Preschoolers

Preschool age children in music class

This approach is golden. When you offer a class for preschoolers, some of these students will, without any effort on your part, want to advance into your private piano instruction. But before they ever become private students, you will be teaching them all the music fundamentals.

Can you just imagine what it would be like if your students had great rhythm and knew some basic note reading BEFORE they ever had their first piano lesson? It’s terrific! Students are more confident from the get-go and advance more rapidly. They are able to focus more on piano playing because they already know quite a bit about music reading.

And preschoolers are very capable of learning basic rhythm and music reading concepts. Plus teaching these little tykes is a ton of fun!

The other reason why this method is golden is because you get some insight into the student (and the parent). You’ll get a feel for the student’s temperament and if the two of you would likely work well together. You’ll also learn if the parent pays tuition on time and can get the student to class on time every week. You’ll know all this about the student before you invite them into your private lessons! If you begin offering a music class for preschoolers, within a few years you will have the best students you could imagine.

Use a Multi-Pronged Approach

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket — use as many of these strategies as you can. When you get all these client-getting systems running, you’ll have a steady flow of inquiries about your piano lessons. With time, you’ll find which strategies work best in your area and can then focus most of your attention on those avenues. Be sure to always ask how a new student found out about you and keep a record of their responses.

 


KristinJensen2

Kristin Jensen is a piano teacher, curriculum developer and author of the widely popular Piano Magic system. She loves helping piano teachers enhance their teaching skills and optimize their studios so they can use time efficiently, maximize profit and live a life they love. For more tips from Kristin on running a successful private music studio, as well as teaching resources and tutorials on composition and improvisation, visit MyFunPianoStudio.com.

Songs of Freedom

In this guest post by Dr. Stan Engebretson and Prof. Volker Hempfling, editors of Carus-Verlag‘s new collection, Hallelujah: Gospels and Spirituals for Mixed Choir, we explore the difference between gospel and spirituals in their development and in musical form.

HallelujahCollectionCarusPowerful voices full of emotion and moving intensity — that’s what comes to mind when we think of gospel music. And “Amazing Grace” is certainly one of the first songs we think of. It’s a song that spread beyond Christian churches to become famous as a protest song against slavery and as a hymn sung by human rights activists. “I once was lost, but now am found.” With the Christian idea of redemption, the song expresses a confident belief in liberation, the central theme of gospel music. But paradoxically, this song, which many people regard as the quintessence of American gospel music, was actually written by the former captain of a slave ship, John Newton. When he escaped from a storm at sea in 1748, he saw his salvation as divine providence and fundamentally transformed his life in the following years, after a while giving up his trade completely, becoming a clergyman, and even campaigning against slavery. His song, “Amazing Grace,” became extremely successful and was later adopted by the African-American spiritual and gospel community, performed by such artists as Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin and the Harlem Gospel Choir.

But what makes a song a gospel song, and how does it differ from a spiritual?

As early as the 17th century, songs sung in unison developed in the Southern slave communities from a unique blend of African tunes, rhythms and styles paired with early Christian hymns. Handed down in aural tradition, these pieces came to be known as “spirituals,” a title derived from Ephesians 5:19, where the faithful were exhorted to sing “spiritual songs.” Many songs feature Old Testament heroes such as Moses, Elijah and Daniel, whose vivid stories showed strength in times of conflict. Other common themes are freedom from bondage and hope for a better life ahead free of pain and suffering.

A part of daily life in slave communities, spirituals took on many forms, including work songs in a “call and response” style, where a soloist leads the call while the chorus responds; slower music in reflective styles, such as “Deep River”; and bright, animated works of celebration sung during praise meetings. Although originally sung in unison, spirituals evolved from the 1870s on, becoming popular as arranged choral pieces pioneered by the groundbreaking Fisk Jubilee Singers, as well as master composers ranging from Harry T. Burleigh to Moses Hogan.

Gospel music developed much later along a parallel track. After the end of the Civil War in 1865, many people migrated north into urban centers. By the early 20th century the influence of blues and jazz became popular in this new world, leading to the development of gospel music with instrumental accompanies to choral lines, sometimes featuring elaborate solos. Traditional gospel often paired texts from the New Testament or non-Biblical sources with simple harmonic progressions, occasionally including lowered thirds, indicative of the influence of the blues. Contemporary gospel expanded the vocabulary of the genre into jazz harmonies and added brass, woodwinds and organ on top of the original piano accompaniment. Today gospel continues to evolve into newer versions under the influence of other contemporary genres like rock, hip-hop and rap, while piano gospel has also remained a signature style in its own right.

publogo_carusCarus-Verlag‘s new collection, Hallelujah: Gospels and Spirituals for Mixed Choir, contains 30 songs aimed at choirs that want to explore this repertoire in a variety of styles and levels of difficulty. In addition to popular classics like “Amazing Grace,” “Deep River,” “Go Down, Moses,” and “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” the collection revives classics from the genres’ early days and includes several arrangements commissioned specially for this edition. With settings that are well-suited for many uses in concerts and church services, the collection serves as a good introduction for choirs with little previous experience with this repertoire.

 


Engebretson_HempflingDr. Stan Engebretson (photo: left) came to Washington in 1990 as the Director of Choral Studies at George Mason University and Director of Music as the historic New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. In 2005 he became the Artistic Director of the National Philharmonic Chorale.

In addition to his focus on choral work with various groups, including the Kölner Kantorei (which he founded in 1968 and directed until 2015), Prof. Volker Hempfling (photo: right) is much in demand internationally as a conductor and lecturer. Numerous concert invitations take him throughout Germany and abroad. He regularly serves as a jury member at leading choral competitions.

The Inspiration behind ABRSM’s Bowed Strings (2020-2023) Syllabus

Guest post by ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music)

ABRSMLogoAfter months of practice and anticipation, performing in a music exam can feel like an adrenaline-fuelled sprint to the finish line that passes in a blur of pieces, scales and musical tests. As an exam board, we know that exams can be stressful, and we at ABRSM want to make sure that learners’ exam experiences are as positive as possible. To make sure that learners can really succeed, we carefully select exam syllabus pieces that allow them to demonstrate their talents. We live for inspiring and challenging learners!

If a music exam is a sprint, then our experience of putting together an exam syllabus is more of an endurance event involving a huge amount of music. We take an open approach to our syllabus creations, and for ABRSM’s Bowed Strings syllabus (2020-2023) we: ran multiple surveys with teachers, learners and examiners; engaged a variety of strings consultants; and had several ruthless stages of revisions.

BoysDoubleBassRSMFor this Bowed Strings syllabus (2020-2023), we wanted to focus on the joy of playing with other musicians. Refreshing our syllabus as an instrument family for the first time since 1985 gave us the opportunity to encourage ensemble skills and re-think how our stringed instruments interact. Pieces such as Tchaikovsky’s haunting, melancholy “Chanson triste” appear for all four instruments at Grade 5, so learners can enjoy playing with friends. Our Initial Grade piece “Silent Friends” by Vamoosh series composer Thomas Gregory ensures that your learners can develop ensemble skills from the very beginning of their musical journeys.

GirlViolinEnsemble

We promise that when we put together a syllabus, we don’t just pick our favourite pieces! We are passionate about getting selection right because we know syllabus pieces can have a huge influence on learners and teachers alike. We admit that through the process some of the pieces we select naturally come to have a special place in our hearts. For the first time ever we have included a piece of music we found online! “Sakura,” in a solo arrangement by Japanese-Irish Canadian violinist and composer Maria Kaneko Millar first appeared on YouTube. The piece features on ABRSM’s Grade 8 violin syllabus, and we love that this find connects the syllabus to how many people now interact with music.

If “Sakura” represents a modern way of accessing music, “Echoes” by Marie Dare is a beautiful memento from the past. Marie Dare was a Scottish composer-cellist who, as a teenager, performed as a soloist in a World War I victory concert at the Royal Albert Hall in the presence of Queen Alexandra. “Echoes” was found by one of our consultants in the Scottish Music Centre’s archives as a handwritten manuscript, and we believe its appearance on the Grade 5 cello syllabus will be the first time it has ever been published or recorded.

Inspiration for ABRSM syllabuses can also come from the other instruments we examine. You might notice that some of ABRSM’s Singing for Musical Theatre syllabus songs feature here, too! On the violin syllabus alone, you can find songs from some of the biggest hit musicals: from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Grade 1) and Les Misérables (Grade 2) to The Lion King (Grade 3) and West Side Story (Grade 3).

We wish all your learners the very best for their exams!

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What’s Changing?

What’s new:

  • Refreshed repertoire lists for all four instruments at all grades
  • More choice than ever before, with the lists extended to ten pieces (30 pieces in total per grade)
  • Duet option included for the first time — up to Grade 3
  • Cello exam pieces (Grades 1-5) published for the first time
  • New Initial Grade exam introduced — a pre-Grade 1 assessment following the same structure, content and assessment criteria as ABRSM’s existing graded music exams (three pieces, scales, sight-reading and aural tests)
  • All four instruments at Initial Grade supported with an Exam Pack publication containing nine pieces (three per list) from the syllabus, the scales requirements and sample sight-reading tests
  • A separate publication containing sample aural tests for the Initial Grade also available
  • Revised list structure
  • A focus on cross-string teaching at the lower levels with some of the same pieces being set for multiple instruments. For a list of these pieces see Compatible Pieces.

Syllabus validity:

The Bowed Strings syllabus 2020-2023 comes into effect on 1 January 2020. This means that:

  • Candidates can begin to present pieces from the new lists;
  • Candidates can continue to present pieces from the 2016-2019 syllabus lists during the overlap period (see below);
  • Scales and arpeggios, sight-reading and aural test requirements remain exactly the same as for the 2016-2019 syllabus.

Syllabus overlap:

From 2020 a one-year overlap period will apply worldwide. This means that all candidates can continue to play pieces from the 2016-2019 syllabus until 31 December 2020 (all pieces must be from the same syllabus).

New Initial Grade

Our new Initial Grade for violin, viola, cello and double bass is designed to help beginners measure their progress and celebrate their achievements.

The new Initial Grade is a pre-Grade 1 assessment following the same structure, content and marking criteria as our other graded music exams.

Initial Grade exam packs will be available for violin, viola, cello and double bass. Each book will contain a selection of 9 pieces from the syllabus, including a new commission for all four instruments to play together and many new arrangements.

Scales and sight-reading examples will also be included in the exam packs, and audio recordings will be available for all pieces from the books. A specimen aural tests book for Initial Grade will be available separately.

 


ABRSMLogoABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) is the UK’s largest music education body, one of its largest music publishers and the world’s leading provider of music exams, offering assessments to more than 630,000 candidates in 93 countries every year. Its mission is to inspire achievement in music. A music publisher for almost 100 years, ABRSM continues to produce a wide range of high-quality sheet music, practice exam papers, instructional and reference books, and recordings to support music teachers, as well as students, from early learners to Diploma level and beyond.

A Chat with Lloyd Larson

Guest post from Jubilate Music Group

Lloyd Larson has become one of today’s most published and performed church music writers. A frequently called-upon clinic and conference resource, Larson has been a singer, keyboard player, and arranger.

Having earned his B.A. from Anderson University, Anderson, IN, Lloyd next completed his M.C.M. at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), Louisville, KY, and undertook additional graduate work at SBTS and Ohio State University.

Larson’s extensive background in arranging and composing includes arranging music for an internationally broadcast radio program. Also, in 1989, he completed an editorial assignment for a new hymnal, Worship the Lord, for the Church of God, and co-edited the accompanying Hymnal Companion. In addition, Larson contributed to the Complete Library of Christian Worship, edited by Dr. Robert Webber. He has served as a church music director for decades (a role he continues to this day), which has inevitably informed his artful and well-crafted yet practical original compositions and arrangements.

Recently, Larson sat down with Mark Cabaniss, President and CEO of Jubilate Music Group, to discuss his work and to help us all get to know him a bit better.

Mark Cabaniss, President and CEO of Jubilate Music Group (MC): What and when was your first published piece of music? How did it feel to see your music and name in print for the first time?

Lloyd Larson (LL): My very first publication was a two-part Advent anthem titled Love Will Be Born. It was published by Beckenhorst Press in 1982 and was a collaborative project with lyricist Mary Kay Beall. Mary Kay and her husband, composer John Carter, lived in Columbus, Ohio, where I was living and serving on a church staff at that time. I had the opportunity to meet John and Mary Kay and study with John for a few years. At the time, John was doing adjunct editorial work for Beckenhorst. He introduced me to the legendary composer John Ness Beck, one of the co-founders and president of Beckenhorst. It was an amazing experience to see that first piece come into print! Though I had been involved with choirs using published music from my teen years, I had little knowledge of the sequence of steps involved from “idea to publication.” I’m forever indebted to John and Mary Kay for their influence as they guided me through the process and introduced me to numerous people who have been instrumental in encouraging me on my journey as a composer.

MC: What do you enjoy most about the compositional process?

LL: For me each piece involves its own unique journey. I try to avoid thinking, “I want this piece to sound like….” That’s especially true with sacred choral anthems. Though I’m a composer and love to find a melody, harmonic structure, and rhythmic framework that work, the reason we sing in the context of worship is because of the lyric. As a result, it is essential when I sit down to create music to go with a text that I build a distinctive vehicle (music) that will underscore and create a path by which that lyric is heard in fresh and meaningful ways. I love discovering new ways to express the profound truths of our faith. I love unearthing new treatments to familiar hymn melodies. I love finding a distinctive marriage between a familiar hymn text with a new or different hymn tune than what is typically associated with it. When these moments happen for me in my studio and they impact me in a new way, I’ve come to believe they will have a similar impact on others as well.

MC: Who have been the most influential people in your writing career?

LL: I’ve already mentioned the impact that composer John Carter and his wife, lyricist Mary Kay Beall, had on my early writing career. But there have been many others along the way. I would call them the “giants along my path.” The late John Ness Beck and Fred Bock were also strong encouragers in the early years of my career. George and Bill Shorney, Lew Kirby, Jack Schrader, Larry Pugh, Gilbert Martin, and Jean Anne Shafferman along with numerous others have been profound influences in my writing with their input and encouragement. They have seen potential in my work and often pushed me outside of my own comfort zones to try some things I would never have considered. But I would be remiss if I didn’t go back and recall the early influence of my mother (my first piano teacher) and my high school and college teachers who encouraged me to explore my interests in writing, even providing me platforms to try out some of my earliest writing endeavors. Writing for “real live singers and instrumentalists” in college and church settings helped me to discover quickly what worked and what didn’t work. I’ve continued to be involved in church work over the years (now 40+ years) which has been essential in shaping my approach as a composer of church music.

MC: With the changing tides of church music styles over the last few decades, what encouragement can you give to choir directors of today’s church?

LL: I will always be an advocate for church choirs. I strongly believe in them! (And it is not just because I depend on them for my livelihood.) They provide such a unique opportunity for ministry in the local church. The church choir I’ve directed for the last 25 years is a very tight community. The pastoral staff in our church calls the choir our “largest small group.” And I think they’re right. We are a community for 40+ people who typically gather a couple of times a week to rehearse and sing in worship. In the process of working on music together, we develop our musicianship while at the same time studying together the truths of our faith through the words that we sing. We are a multi-generation ensemble ranging in age from teens to my eldest bass who is 93 (and the most faithful member I have in the choir!). We regularly pray, cry, and laugh together. We celebrate life achievements, and we mourn losses together. We sing every style of music imaginable from the classics to beloved gospel songs with harmonica. (Yes, I have an outstanding harmonica player in my church…so why not?!?!?!) There are few, if any, settings in the life of the church where you can live life and faith in such a community. When the day comes that I’m no longer writing choral music or directing choirs, I anticipate singing in a choir. That’s how much I believe in them!

MC: You have a new cantata out this year (with Mark Hayes) titled Seekers of the Light. What is the thrust of this work?

SeekersOfTheLight

LL: “Light” is a metaphor for goodness and God’s presence throughout scripture. As people of faith, we are always on this journey to experience more of the “light of Christ” as we seek out His will and presence in our daily living. And this was true for the earliest followers of Christ, even those who first saw and recognized Him as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. They were guided by light (bright angelic hosts and celestial stars) to the Promised Child. We are all seekers of light when it comes to understanding our faith or life in general. And it is an ongoing journey. We will never “arrive” until we reach our final destination, our heavenly home. As a result, Seekers of the Light is an appropriate title and thrust, it seems to me, for recalling the pilgrimages of the earliest worshipers of Christ while at the same time uniting us with those worshipers in our own journeys as we seek to understand and know this One who called Himself the “light of the world” (John 8:12). It was a pleasure to collaborate with my longtime friend and colleague, Mark Hayes, on this project. I’ve been a fan of Mark’s music over the years, having used a ton of his music in my own ministry. So to partner with him on a project like this is a special treat for me. It is certainly my prayer that this cantata will impact and encourage directors, choirs, and congregations as they prepare and present it in the coming months!

MC: Is there a writing project you have yet to tackle or hope to accomplish?

LL: I always have an ongoing list of projects which I hope to tackle at some point down the road. The list is longer than I’ll ever get done in this lifetime (kind of like my “to-do” list of home projects that I’m wanting to tackle!). It is a grass-catcher list of ideas that has been spawned by a line in a sermon, or a passage of scripture, or a brief idea that has surfaced from a hymn text. I probably won’t divulge too much of that here. (I mean I don’t want Joe Martin, Mark Hayes, or Mary McDonald stealing my ideas! Ha!) One of the areas I’d love to pursue a bit more is to occasionally do a musical project outside of Christmas or Easter themes. As much as I love doing extended work on those themes, it is nice to have the opportunity to develop an extended work in other thematic directions. The reality, though, is that we who are church composers don’t get that opportunity too often simply because of the nature of our core market. I did recently have an opportunity to do a large commission project based on a group of Psalms which was truly a challenging and gratifying experience.

MC: Do you have a story of something you’ve written?

LL: On December 14, 2012, I happened to be working on a lyric by Susan Boersma. Susan is a fabulous lyricist and had created a lyric based on Revelation 22:5 that I had asked her to consider. That particular day – a Friday – was the day a lone gunman burst into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut and senselessly took the lives of twenty young children and six adult staff members in a matter of minutes. On that day, the words I was setting became deeply personal and hopeful in what was a very dark moment for many in that community and beyond:

“Into the valley of shadows, under the veil of gray, God calls the good and faithful, then guides us on the way. Through the valley of shadows, lost in the dark of night, our God goes before us to lead us to the light. There will be no more night! No need for lamp or ray of sun, the Lamb will be the light. There will be no more night! No need to fast, to watch, to weep around the throne so bright.”

That anthem, Dwell in the Light Forevermore, holds a special place in my heart because of the circumstances which surrounded its creation.

MC: “Getting to Know…Lloyd Larson” — Our “Lightning Round” of quick questions and answers:

1. What is on your summer reading list?

LL: The Next Person You Meet in Heaven (Mitch Albom), Unshakable Hope (Max Lucado), The Reckoning (John Grisham), Vanishing Grace (Philip Yancey)

2. What types of music do you listen to most?

LL: I try to listen to a little bit of everything, from the classics to outstanding (and current) choral writers. I love jazz and big band sounds. My wife and I just this week went to an outdoor drum and bugle competition (DCI) in a nearby community, something we enjoy doing when the opportunity affords itself. I’m a big John Williams fan with some of his classic movie themes. As a teenager, I was a big “Chicago” fan, and many of those melodies are rooted deep in my memory. I’m not sure I have a favorite genre, per se. I’m pretty eclectic in my tastes.

3. What is your favorite vacation spot?

LL: As a kid growing up in central Illinois, my family often vacationed on a lake in northern Wisconsin. I fell in love with the northwoods in those years. And I still love them! Most summers will find my wife, Marci, and I carving out a few days between summer travel commitments to spend some time on a northern Minnesota lake somewhere enjoying some quiet time. That’s on our schedule for later this summer. It is often a small “mom & pop” resort of modest cabin somewhere where the biggest agenda of the day may be “Should we grill out, or drive into town and find a restaurant for dinner this evening?” We enjoy the quiet beautiful scenery, some fishing, reading, and a lot of down time. It is a wonderful way to recharge!

4. What is your favorite summertime frozen treat?

LL: One of my biggest disappointments in recent years is that it appears that every DQ [Dairy Queen] in the upper Midwest has discontinued the Snickers Blizzard. This was my favorite for years! But I must have been in the minority. So I’ve been exploring other chocolate-influenced Blizzard options. I haven’t landed on a new favorite as of yet. But I’m working on it. Stay tuned!

MC: Thank you, Lloyd, for spending some time with us so our readers can get to know you a bit better. Your contributions to church music are immeasurable, and your music not only enriches lives, but most importantly, is building God’s Kingdom. Blessings to you in the years ahead, and we look forward to more exciting music creations from you!


Jubilate Music Group is dedicated to publishing a broad range of resources stylistically suited to meet the diverse needs of churches and schools. The Jubilate Music catalog is comprised of choral, piano, organ, handbell, vocal, and instrumental publications ranging from adult choral anthems, extended works and folios to music for children’s choir and praise teams.

From Sketch to First Edition: The (Almost) Seamless Source Documentation of Edward Elgar’s Violin Sonata – from G. Henle Verlag

Guest post by Dr. Norbert Müllemann, Editor-in-Chief of G. Henle Verlag

Many Urtext editions and their sources cross the desk of an editor at the G. Henle publishing house – but we are seldom dealing with such a comprehensive source documentation as is the case with Elgar’s violin sonata. Nearly ever step of the work’s genesis can still be retraced today, and yet in preparing this edition its editors were constantly confronted with unresolved issues – how could that be?

In August 1918 Elgar’s wife, Alice, mentions in her diary: “E. writing wonderful new music, different from anything else of his. A. [i.e., Alice herself] calls it wood magic. So elusive and delicate.” The start of work on this “Wood magic [reference to the location of their country manor near the Fittleworth woods in West Sussex?]” is captured in sketch material. We see literally how Elgar initially recorded crucial themes that he wanted to develop further later on. Before the first accolade of what is apparently the first sketch, you will find Elgar’s remark: “1. idea.” This “first idea” consists of the opening bars of the first movement, and it appears that Elgar actually worked through the entire sonata from “start to finish.” The sketches for the 2nd movement play a special role here, for here he enshrined in music his response to sad news from his circle of friends (a death and an illness). This is existential music that Elgar sent — an exceptional instance — in the sketch stage to the woman friend injured in an accident, so that she could share in the composition: “This I wrote just after your telegram about the accident came & I send you the pencil notes as first made at that sad moment.” The sketches still extant today are in fact snapshots giving us an insight into Elgar’s workshop.

The complete sonata must have developed out of the sketches fairly soon, for as early as September Elgar played through the work with his friend, the violinist William Henry Reed. To do this, he made autograph fair copies of both the violin/piano score and a separate violin part. He evidently needed several attempts here, for extant are autograph drafts coming, so to speak, between sketch and fair copy, and indeed of the second movement (violin part) and the third movement (violin/piano score and viola part). These drafts starts out for all intents and purposes as fair copies, but we can see literally how Elgar begins to correct, deletes, rewrites and finally discards the whole manuscript.

In order to keep track of the many manuscripts, he finally recorded the respective current correction status on the title pages, noting, e.g., “corrected” or “not revised.”

On top of that, the trial play-through with William Henry Reed initiated a new correction process. The fair copies include numerous erasures, corrections in ink, but also in various red and blue pencils. Different hands can be detected as apparently both Elgar and Reed made entries. To complete the confusion, the correction states of the separate violin parts differ from those of the violin parts within the violin/piano scores.

And yet Elgar decided to send these fair copies as engraver’s models to the Novello publishing house. In order to clarify which model is applicable, there are, in addition, indications for the publishing house on the fair-copy title pages, such as “bowing incorrect | engrave from score,”or something similar. And Elgar even went so far as to make the effort to optimize good page turns, stipulating: “to printer: […] As to, ‘turn over’ see pp 3&4, turns over might come anywhere where this mark is placed.”

We see in these autographs a composer who not only meticulously corrected his work, but who also wanted to keep maximum control over the entire production process. And the story is still not over: The differences between the autographs and the first edition clearly show that Elgar very thoroughly  read the galley proofs and even changed details at this stage, adding indications and stipulating, for example, dynamic markings. Fortunately, such a set of proofs with his entries has survived. But this set of proofs does not explain all the changes between autograph and published first edition. If we compare the readings, autograph – galley proof – first edition, then it necessarily follows that he read two more sets of galleys, and that amongst these three galleys, what is extant is the middle set.

As mentioned at the outset, such a complete documentation of the compositional process is rather rare. The first edition ultimately authorized by Elgar appeared in 1919, thus offering a precise score secured by all the rest of the sources. But does that musical text also leave nothing to be desired? When I put it that way, then probably hardly. Here are some examples:

At two places there are ties in the piano part of the autograph fair copy that have not made it into the printed version. Was this Elgar’s oversight? Would he actually have overlooked these ties during three proofreading? I think the tie is more pianistically/musically convincing – what about you?

 

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In the autograph tie f-sharp 1 – f-sharp 1

 

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In the autograph tie E – E

 

In the fair-copy autograph of the 1st movement, bb. 271/272, there are the following fingerings for the left hand:

 

ElgarViolinSonata3

 

Are they intentionally omitted in the print? Should they “only” be an indication that the slur is not to be played as a tie, but as a legato slur? Has then the information gotten lost in the first edition? Or is it the other way around: Did Elgar mean ties and therefore eradicated the fingering in print to avoid misunderstandings?

And finally the dynamics in the violin right at the end of the sonata. The autograph of the piano score has:

ElgarViolinSonata4

The autograph violin part has:

ElgarViolinSonata5

The printed piano score reads:

ElgarViolinSonata6

(This reading was not changed in the proof) and ultimately the printed violin part reads:

ElgarViolinSonata7

What applies? Has Elgar lost control here of the various stages of correction despite all efforts? All these questions are addressed in the new Urtext edition by G. Henle and passed on to all violinists and Elgar fans.

ElgarViolinSonataCover

Here is a great interpretation of the first movement by violinist Yehudi Menuhin and pianist Hepzibah Menuhin:

 


NorbertMuellemannDr. Norbert Müllemann has been editor-in-chief of G. Henle Verlag since 2017 and has been working as an editor at G. Henle Verlag since 2005. He completed his doctorate at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich in 2008 with a thesis titled “Handschriften Frédéric Chopins bis 1830. Studien zur Authentizität, Datierung und Werkgenese” (“Frederic Chopin’s Manuscripts up to 1830: Studies on Authenticity, Dating and Work Origin”). He also studied musicology, German philology and philosophy at the University of Cologne and piano at the Music Conservatory in Cologne.

 

Cantabile Qualities: Choral Music by Beethoven

Guest post by Jan Schumacher

Beethoven is not primarily thought of as a vocal composer, but why not? The choral collection compiled by Jan Schumacher, which contains both well-known and unknown choral works by Beethoven and original transcriptions of Beethoven’s works by other composers, reveals a great deal of extremely attractive repertoire.

The widely-held prejudice that “he could not write for voice” sticks to few composers as much as it does to Ludwig van Beethoven. This may be due to the fact that his place in music history is primarily as a revolutionary symphonist and creator of incomparable chamber music like the string quartets and piano sonatas. To take this to mean that he had no understanding of the human voice or did not know how to write for chorus, however, is to draw the wrong conclusion. Beethoven, like nearly every other composer of his age and indeed until the first half of the 20th century (with a few notable exceptions such as Chopin and Paganini), was equally used to composing for voice and instruments.

It is when we try to label Beethoven that we develop what can be misleading expectations. For instance, though we often group Beethoven together with bastions of Viennese classicism like Mozart and Haydn, this designation would lead us to expect a vocal lightness in his works that we find in his contemporaries. Indeed, there are many pieces among Beethoven’s choral works that do satisfy these expectations and are very singable for many choirs. The vocal demands of the Mass in C major, for example, are quite similar to those of the late Haydn masses.

Yet we must also recognize that defining Beethoven as a “classical” composer is extremely limiting. Beethoven was ahead of his time in many respects, and in his choral works, this push toward romanticism manifests through greater demands on the vocalists, as we see in the choral parts of the 9th Symphony and in his greatest choral-symphonic work, the Missa solemnis. The extreme ranges required by the Missa solemnis do not represent a failure of craftsmanship, but rather a clear compositional intention. The contrasts in the Missa solemnis are in fact essential elements of the work!

We should also consider Beethoven’s demanding choral repertoire in light of later composers like Berlioz, Liszt, Mahler and Reger who also demanded the utmost from their choral singers. Were these composers criticized as strongly as Beethoven for their choral works? Connecting Beethoven with these later composers instead of with the Viennese classicists allows us to see that Beethoven and choral composition fit together very well and that it is worth examining his choral output as a whole.

A very popular work, even during Beethoven’s lifetime, was Meeres Stille und Glückliche Fahrt (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage), Op. 112. Beethoven set Goethe’s two-verse poem in a striking fashion: the first part (poco sostenuto, but alla breve time!) vividly describes the oppressive quiet and the vast expanse of the calm sea. In the lively second part Beethoven depicts both the surging and strengthening of the sea, as well as the inner joy and hope of the boatman who, thanks to the onset of the wind, can hope for a rapid voyage home. Beethoven demonstrates his vast compositional mastery in both the choral composition and the skillful orchestration.

Another gem that is performed much less often is the Elegischer Gesang (Elegiac Song), Op. 118, a short, restrained choral movement with string accompaniment. Beethoven composed the work in memory of Eleonore von Pasqualati, who died at the age of 24. She was the wife of Johann Baptist Freiherr von Pasqualati, a longtime friend of Beethoven’s. Musically condensed phrases of great intensity await the listener, which lead again and again into moments of softness and gentleness. The Elegischer Gesang may not be one of Beethoven’s major works, but it is a jewel well worth discovering. Together with the vocal and instrumental parts, a piano part has been handed down, and this can be used as an alternative to a string quartet. It is this version of the Elegischer Gesang that is included in the Beethoven Choral Collection.

BeethovenChoralCollectionQualitatively, there can be no doubt about Beethoven’s preeminence as a choral composer. It is only in terms of quantity that his choral output cannot compare with composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Handel or Bach. At first this seemed to be a problem in publishing a volume of Beethoven’s choral music, but of course there are canons, shorter choral movements, a few Scottish songs and excerpts from incidental music — e.g., König Stephan (King Stephen) and Die Ruinen von Athen (The Ruins of Athens) — as well as his oratorio, Christus am Ölberge (The Mount of Olives), all of which undoubtedly contain exciting discoveries for such a collection.

A number of choral arrangements of Beethoven’s instrumental works, as common and popular during Beethoven’s lifetime as they are today, are also included in the collection. Characterized by a noble, cantabile quality, Beethoven’s slow movements are especially fine models for choral arrangements, such as Silcher’s Persischer Nachtgesang, based on the second movement of the 7th Symphony, and the Hymne an die Nacht, based on the second movement of the “Appassionata.” Both of these are included in the Beethoven Choral Collection. Equally exciting are the discoveries of the Drei Aequale, originally brass pieces that were arranged for chorus by Ignaz von Seyfried and sung at Beethoven’s funeral, and Gottlob Benedict Bierey’s Kyrie, based on the first movement of the “Moonlight Sonata,” and Agnus Dei.

Inspired by these arrangements, we commissioned a series of new arrangements for the Beethoven Choral Collection. Leading contemporary composers such as Heribert Breuer, Gunther Martin Göttsche, John Høybye, Giacomo Mezzalira, Christoph Müller and Peter Schindler have contributed to the collection. Arrangements from Clytus Gottwald and Jaakko Mäntyjärvi are also included.

The Beethoven Choral Collection is a real treasure trove for all choirs celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in 2020, as well as for choirs looking to add a truly fantastic volume to their library. We hope that the collection will inspire all manner of church choirs and choral societies, including major cathedral choirs and ambitious chamber choirs, to explore Beethoven’s vocal works and to give Beethoven his well-deserved appreciation as a choral composer.

 


JanSchumacher

Jan Schumacher is University Music Director of the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main and Conductor of the Camerata Musica Limburg and the Chorus of the Technical University Darmstadt. With his ensembles he performs a wide repertoire ranging from Gregorian chant to premieres of new works and jazz, and from symphonic orchestral repertoire to Big Band and vocal and electronic improvisation. He also directs seminars for singers, orchestras and conductors throughout Europe and internationally and is the editor for several choral collections at Carus-Verlag.

Unknown Puccini: Newly-Discovered Organ Works

Guest post by Gabriella Biagi Ravenni with translation by Charles Johnston

It was not long ago that Puccini’s preoccupation with the organ was only the subject of anecdotes. When some of his compositions — believed to be lost — recently emerged, an exciting research adventure started and resulted in unexpected discoveries.

Puccini

Giacomo Puccini

It has always been well known that Giacomo Puccini had been an organist in his youth. Indeed, accounts of his playing of a number of organs in his home town are spiced up in the early biographies by anecdotal details — the money he earned, then removed from the envelopes intended for his mother Albina, the theft of the pipes from organs in order to buy cigarettes: details ideally suited to constructing the image of a ‘disorderly,’ bohemian artist. It was also known that he had written organ music, thanks to a 1927 article by Alfredo Bonaccorsi, who had been able to view in Porcari (a town not far from Puccini’s native city of Lucca) the autograph sources owned by Carlo Della Nina, grandson of the Carlo Della Nina to whom Puccini had originally given the autographs. Then the sources migrated across the Atlantic with their owner and, more than a half century later, were sold by auction at Sotheby’s, leaving a less than exhaustive trace in the catalog. On the whole, there was all too little to go on.

Then an exciting adventure — to put it mildly — began for the Centro Studi Giacomo Puccini almost by chance: the son of the younger Carlo Della Nina, Carl, was traced to Chicago, and he providentially found among his father’s papers photocopies of the sources seen by Bonaccorsi. There followed a complicated process of collating the photocopies and reconstructing them, which produced an initial, unexpected harvest of nineteen complete pieces and one incomplete work. Then, surprisingly, in a genuine “domino effect,” another thirty pieces emerged thanks to the help of two organists (Andrea Toschi and Eliseo Sandretti) who permitted access to their archives. This excavation process was accompanied by in-depth research in the archives. Thus, in 2017, it was possible to give a public account of these acquisitions with a volume of essays, a concert and a CD.

Autograph-of-the-Maestoso-from-the-Sei-Versetti-in-Fa-maggiore-(No-8)_source-manuscript-Sandretti

Autograph of the “Maestoso” from the Sei Versetti in F Major (No. 8)

But the adventure was not yet over: in that same year we were given access to the Archive Puccini in Torre del Lago, which contained a further important find of twelve organ compositions. That discovery naturally interrupted the work on the volume of the critical edition of the music for organ under the supervision of Virgilio Bernardoni for the Edition Nazionale delle Opere di Giacomo Puccini published by Carus.

Now we know much more about Puccini as an organist and composer for organ, and his general training in Lucca. It is also possible to reread the first biographies in a new light, distinguishing the facts from the anecdotes.

As a whole, the pieces examined to date testify to Puccini’s intensive activity at the organ as a boy and young man, even if the incomplete state of some of the documents suggests an even larger output. The “Sonatas” of the Toschi and Sandretti collections show us the very young Puccini, careful to write with precision (did he have to show them to a teacher?) and busy experimenting with the various types of pieces for liturgical use, following the practice of the time, i.e., offertories, elevations, communions, versets and marches. The sources of the Della Nina Collection, on the other hand, show us the young Puccini, endowed with greater personality and autonomy, and freed from the constraint of calligraphic handwriting. The compositions from the Archivio in Torre del Lago offer precise indications regarding the liturgical function with which they were associated and will therefore prove useful for a comprehensive reinterpretation of the typologies of liturgical organ music of that period.

The newly-discovered works therefore display interesting perspectives even beyond the scope of Puccini research. Last but not least they offer a special opportunity for organists to enrich their repertoire thanks to the Carus edition of these works.

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Edizione Nazionale delle Opere di Giacomo Puccini. II. Instrumental music; 2.1 Works for organ: Sonate, Versetti, Marce. Vol. II/2

 

Puccini-Organ-Selected

Puccini: Sonate, Versetti, Marce. Selected Organ Works

 


Gabriella-Ravenni

Gabriella Biagi Ravenni is a founding member of the Centro Studi Giacomo Puccini, of which she has been president since 2007. She is also a member of the scientific committee of the Edizione Nazionale delle Opere di Giacomo Puccini and coordinates the ongoing publication of the Puccini epistolary. She also worked as director of the Museo Casa Natale between 1995 and 2014. Until 2017 she was associate professor at the University of Pisa.

 

Discovering Mårten Jansson & Bärenreiter’s Jansson Choral Competition

MartenJansson
Mårten Jansson

Every time we listen to Swedish composer Mårten Jansson we can’t help but get swept up in the whirlwind of emotions he creates. His music is full of all of the compositional elements that choristers love to sing: sweeping melodic lines, open chords and expressive dissonance.

Ultimately, though, performers and audiences alike fall in love with his music because they are drawn to the fundamental honesty at its core. Jansson approaches traditional sacred texts with humility, and he openly shares his experience of it through his music in a way that amplifies the text without pretense or contradiction.

JanssonMissaPopularis

This honesty should not, however, be confused with simplicity or naïveté. Jansson’s stunning Missa Popularis, for instance, manages to connect us to a profound range of emotions, while uniting many layers of thought and tradition into the microcosm of a single piece of music. In addition to all of Jansson’s neoromantic tendencies, the Missa sits atop a foundation of Swedish folk dances and simultaneously also sounds strikingly Medieval. This is perhaps most obvious in the opening of the “Kyrie” and the “Agnus Dei,” but the feeling of the chant is present throughout the entire Mass.

By uniting modern constructions with ancient ones, Jansson not only brings his Mass into the long tradition of the sacred ritual, but also brings the listener into communion with that tradition and with those who have celebrated it for centuries. The past shines through to the present, and the present holds its hand out to the past. Time becomes circular in celebration of the ritual, and Janssons’s Missa Popularis allows the audience to experience that in the music itself.

JanssonMariaIV

A similar combination of modern and ancient also underpins Jansson’s “Maria (IV),” which simultaneously elicits a deep-seated sympathy for the universal, fundamental suffering of motherhood and brings to life Mary’s individual sorrow as the mother of a child who belongs not to her, but to all mankind. Commissioned by the Royal Swedish Court for the Feast of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary in 2013, this piece served as the focal point of Bärenreiter’s Mårten Jansson Choral Competition.

Ten choirs from around the world entered videos of their performances of “Maria (IV)” in the competition, and those videos were judged by an international panel of choral experts. The top three choirs all received vouchers for Bärenreiter choral publications, and the winning choir also received a commission for a new Jansson piece to suit their particular needs.

Here is the video submitted by the winning choir, the Jugendkonzertchor Dortmund from Dortmund, Germany directed by Felix Heitmann. This performance was praised by judges as “an absolutely perfect performance” and one that “really felt like the ensemble wanted to tell you something they feel is important.”

The University of Denver Lamont Chorale from Denver, Colorado, USA, directed by Catherine Sailer, came in second place with a video of a live performance of the piece that judges praised for “a nicely balanced full warm sound” and “an equally great interpretation,” as well as “excellent and well-structured dynamics and agogics.”

Rounding out the top three was Warsaw’s Vocore, a much smaller ensemble of eight singers founded only in 2017. Praised for being “the most ‘together’ performance among the entries,” the judges appreciated the choir’s warm tone and clear and present middle voices.

Dark Is the New Bright

Guest post by Mark Cabaniss

Just 30 or 40 years ago, the Tenebrae service was foreign to many a church, despite the service’s ancient roots. The Roman Catholic Church embraced it early, but it has only become popular and more regularly practiced in Mainline Protestant churches (and even some traditional evangelical churches) in recent decades.

These “services of darkness,” as they are often called, have become a “bright spot,” one could say, for churches around the world that are looking for fresh and creative ways to impart the Holy Week journey.

Sacred music publishers have responded to the heightened awareness of Tenebrae with a variety of publications that are ready to prepare and present as complete Tenebrae services with appropriate music and narration.

Tenebrae is a special service for Holy Week that can be conducted on Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, or any day of Holy Week when a church has a regular or additional special service.

The name “Tenebrae” comes from the Latin for “shadows” or “darkness,” and denotes a service of shadows. The Tenebrae service makes use of gradually diminishing light as candles are extinguished one-by-one to guide the congregation through the events of Holy Week from the triumphant Palm Sunday entry through Jesus’s burial. This increasing darkness symbolizes the approaching darkness of Jesus’s death of hopelessness in the world without God. The service concludes in darkness, sometimes with a final candle, the Christ candle, being extinguished or carried out of the sanctuary to represent the death of Jesus. A loud noise may also sound, echoing the closing of Jesus’s tomb. The worshipers then leave in silence to ponder the impact of Christ’s death and await the coming Resurrection.

Tenebrae services generally should begin in a dark sanctuary lit only by five candles at the front, along with a sixth candle, the Christ candle. Each candle is extinguished as directed by the worship leader(s) during the service, with the Christ candle being extinguished near the end of the final piece of the work. Some churches desire the Christ candle not be extinguished, but taken from the sanctuary in front of a silent procession with the choir as they exit. Regardless of the approach you choose for the Christ candle, the congregation should part in silence. (This direction should be given in the program so that everyone in attendance can be fully informed.)

During a prelude, you may choose to have the choir process led by chosen choir members or laypersons carrying the six lit candles. Those candles are then placed in holders in front of the sanctuary.

The narration may be read by one reader or by several readers. If you choose to have more than one reader, the readings can be divided among lines and paragraphs as desired.

ItIsFinishedA new Tenebrae service for 2019, Mary McDonald’s It Is Finished, offers PowerPoint images that correspond to the mood of each piece being sung. These can be projected during the service to enhance the overall impact of the work and help bring to life the events depicted during Holy Week. The images change with the beginning of each anthem sung during the 30-minute presentation.

Another service option for Tenebrae is to serve communion during the work if so desired. This option further enhances and deepens the overall experience of the service, while engaging the congregants in the act of communion as Jesus did with his disciples during Holy Week.

In whatever manner you may choose to carry out Tenebrae, you’ll find this ancient service still speaks beautifully to today’s worshipers, especially when utilizing one of the newest or more recent published services that help guide and provide a compelling experience for all participants.

 


MarkCabanissMark Cabaniss is a music publisher, producer, writer and educator. He is President/CEO of Jubilate Music Group, based in Nashville, Tennessee. http://www.markcabaniss.com

Christmas Music History: Bach’s Baroque Shepherds & Folk Tradition

Close your eyes and picture the Christmas nativity scene. Are there shepherds? What do they look like? What are they doing?

Since St. Francis presented the first recreation of Jesus’s birth in a cave in Greccio, Italy in 1223, countless renditions of the nativity scene have been drawn, carved and staged, and nearly all of these feature shepherds in the supporting cast, very often with flutes and horns in tow. The 1389 Trés Belles Heures de Notre-Dame, for instance, depicts a nativity scene with three shepherds, one with a primitive bagpipe and the other two with alpenhorns. Even St. Joseph himself carries an alpenhorn in the Bedford Hours (c. 1410-1430, France).

The musical shepherd’s lasting presence in the nativity scene is probably less a result of biblical influence — after all, the shepherds are mentioned only briefly in only one of the four Gospels (Luke), and nothing is said about their music — than of contemporaneous familiarity and local folk traditions. While shepherds mostly used horns in various occupational and communicative capacities, some also became quite skilled musicians. In addition to performing at weddings and other celebrations, small bands of shepherds would come down from the mountains at Christmastime to play carols for townspeople. Berlioz describes the pifferari, as they were known in Rome, and surmises that the tradition must have survived from antiquity:

“Equipped with bagpipes and pifferi (a kind of oboe), they come to perform devout concerts in front of images of the Madonna. They usually wear broad coats of brown cloth, and the same pointed hats worn by brigands; their appearance has a kind of wild mysticism which is full of originality….The bagpipe, supported by a large piffero which sounds the bass, plays a harmony of two or three notes, over which a medium length piffero performs the melody. Then on top of it all two small and very short pifferi, played by children of 12 to 15 years, rain down trills and cadences and bathe the rustic melody with a cascade of exotic ornaments. After cheerful and jolly tunes which are repeated at great length, a slow and solemn prayer, full of patriarchal warmth, brings the naive symphony to a worthy conclusion…”

Bach immortalizes this folk tradition in the opening “Sinfonia” of Part II of his 1734/35 Weihnachts-Oratorium (Christmas Oratorio). This serene tone painting is written in the form of a “concerto a due cori,” utilizing the lilting, dotted 12/8 rhythm of the pastoral Siciliana. Violins and flutes set the scene of a starry night in the hills around Bethlehem, while the shepherds and their flocks are depicted by a chorus of low-pitched Baroque oboes: two oboes d’amore pitched a minor third lower than the soprano oboe, and two oboes da caccia pitched a fifth lower.

Though the oboe d’amore, a slightly larger version of the modern oboe with a more tranquil sound, saw a minor resurgence in compositional interest in the early 20th century, the oboe da caccia fell so quickly and so greatly into disuse after the Baroque era that even modern musical scholars didn’t really know what the instrument looked or sounded like until 1973, when two original Baroque instruments were discovered in Scandinavian museums.

Seen in the photo here, the oboe da caccia (played here by Alan Paul of San Francisco) features a leather-covered, curved wooden body with a flaring brass bell at the end, combining the two specialties of famed Leipzig instrument maker Johann H. Eichentopf, who is credited with the instrument’s invention. It is believed that the brass bell, which makes the instrument sound like a hunting horn, inspired its name (literally “hunting oboe” in Italian). It was, however, never used to hunt, and unlike other wind and brass instruments, had no real folk, military or court predecessor.

Alan_Paul_Oboe_da_Caccia

The oboes da caccia crafted today are all copies of the two that survived from the 18th century, both made by Eichentopf, and its usage is limited almost entirely to the repertoire of the great Baroque composers of Leipzig, such as Bach and Telemann.

For a special treat, listen to Baroque oboist and oboe maker Sand Dalton play the instrument solo:

Singable Solutions for Advent & Christmas (from the Lorenz Corporation)

Crafted with smaller church choirs in mind, Singable Solutions titles are perfect for choirs that are short on time and short on singers.

Below you will find new, accessible music for Advent and Christmas worship. Engage your choir and congregation in the story of Christ’s birth with these fantastic selections!

Go_Tell_It_Where_I_Send_Thee_Cover

Go Tell It Where I Send Thee
Pepper Choplin, arrangement
(SAB or SATB with opt. Fiddle, Bass, and Guitar or Banjo)

Pepper Choplin cleverly weaves together Go Tell It on the Mountain and Children, Go Where I Send Thee in this energetic and fun-to-sing Christmas anthem. With flexible voicing options, it can be performed by choirs large and small.

 

Shepherd_Song_Cover

Shepherd Song
Molly James, music
Eileen Berry, words
(Unison or Two-part)

Molly Ijames combined her compositional gifts with Eileen Berry’s lyrics to create a tender and poignant Christmas anthem for unison or two-part choirs: Shepherds, go and spread the word telling far and near; sing aloud the song of hope all the world must hear…

 

Sing_This_Night_with_Joy!_Cover

Sing This Night with Joy!
Faye López, music
Patricia Mock & Faye López, words
(SATB or Two-part Mixed with opt. Cello and Handbells)

Patricia Mock and Faye López creatively tell the story of Bethlehem using the classic melody God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen. The lively anthem can be performed with SATB or two-part choirs and has optional parts for cello and handbells.

 

Christ_Is_Born_Cover

Christ Is Born (Silent Night)
Tracey Craig McKibben, words & music
(SATB)

Combining original music and lyrics with the classic Silent Night, Tracey McKibben creates a heartwarming meditation on the birth of Christ. The simple beauty of this anthem makes it ideal for a Christmas Eve service.

 

Visit SingableSolutions.com to access FREE learning tracks for all of the new Singable Solutions titles from Lorenz!

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Behold, A Savior by Jay Rouse and Rose Aspinall

We are delighted to bring Behold, A Savior! to you—delighted. We are storytellers; Jay with his piano, Rose with her pen. Our hope is that what we set down on paper, be it words or musical notations, will have a life beyond our vision.

 

We always strive to be servants of the work. This creative act is our annunciation. In this way, we keep Jesus alive in our hearts. But once we send it out into the world, it’s yours. It no longer depends on our piano and pen. It depends on you. We give this to you with a prayer. May He be born in you. May you become ever more alive in Him. And then, tell the story, His story and your story. Tell it in your own way. Tell it again and again and again.

 

Creating a new work has its own journey. This one is no different. As we talked through our thoughts for Behold, A Savior!, our desire was to create a collection that would serve you in multiple ways. We wanted to provide fresh arrangements of your favorite Christmas songs, as well as give you some beautiful, new original songs.

 

We wanted a work that offered you the option of meaningful and accessible dramatic moments without making them intrinsic to its performance. We realized that this could be a bit of a challenge. We’re happy with what developed, and we hope you will be too. So, in that light…

 

Need music to carry you over the Advent season? You’ll find it in this work.

It’s the first Sunday of Advent and you need a moment for the Prophesy candle during the lighting of your Advent wreath. You can easily present “O Come, Emmanuel, Rejoice!” along with the short Zechariah monologue either as a dramatic reading or with an actor in costume. There are equally appropriate moments for the Bethlehem candle, the Shepherd candle, and the Angel candle too.

Maybe your time is limited and you only want to read the scripture that ties to the song. That’s there for you too. You choose.

 

Need a whole piece to present for a special event?

This collection covers the broad sweep of the Christmas story with all its glory, as well as its most tender and intimate moments. We have provided an optional opening and closing narration for your pastor or lay person that will create a space for an altar call if you should choose to offer one.

 

Do you have a few good actors that would love to present a short monologue?

Adding dramatic moments without committing to a full-fledged production is easy with this work and can add another layer to your production. Monologues can be presented in Reader’s Theatre fashion if you want to forego costumes and memorization.

No matter how you choose to present Behold, A Savior!, if Christ is glorified, we will have accomplished our goal.

-Jay Rouse and Rose Aspinall

 

Rouse Jay_300 cmykAbout Jay Rouse

Jay Rouse is one of the premier choral arrangers in Christian music. He has over three hundred and fifty compositions and arrangements published, including over thirty major sacred choral works and fifty best-selling a cappella arrangements. Rouse is a Dove Award winning producer and has logged many hours on the road traveling in the music ministry. He spent over ten years as musical director and accompanist for Sandi Patty. Rouse continues to make a major impact on music for the church musician across the nation.

 

 

Rose-Aspinall 300dpi CMYKAbout Rose Aspinall:

Rose M. Aspinall is a writer living in small town, USA, Alexandria, Indiana, better known as the home of Bill and Gloria Gaither. At the end of 1983, she and her husband and children moved from Ohio to join the Gaither organization. She has now been part of the music industry for more than three decades. Twenty of those years she headed up the print-on-demand division of PraiseGathering Music Group.
Moving over to the creative side of the business in 2009, she now works as a freelance writer, lending her talents as a lyricist for top industry arrangers and publishing companies while continuing to serve as writer and associate producer for original PraiseGathering publications. She is also responsible for all dramatic scripts, producing and editing blog content, social media, and copy.
Active both on and off the stage in local community and church theater productions, Rose is an accomplished actress and gifted communicator. She often brings her written scripts to life on the conference stage. Her deep interest in the arts as it relates to the church is abundantly evident in her writing. Her great passion is redemption and restoration through storytelling.

She and her husband, Mark, are the parents of two grown daughters and the grandparents of six!

New School Year, New Warm-Ups

Do your warm-ups need a tune-up? Are you looking for effective warm-ups that still leave you with plenty of rehearsal time? Would you like to strengthen your choir’s ability to sight-read while also warming their voices up in preparation for singing? Two birds with one stone, anyone? If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, Russell Robinson’s Quick-Start Choral Warm-Ups is for you! This practical resource has been getting a lot of attention from directors nationwide, and we don’t think it will take you long to see why.

 

To see this resource in action, check-out the video below!

 

Quick-Start Choral Warm-Ups:

  • Provides an easy and efficient way to begin each rehearsal.
  • Consists of twenty sequences, each consisting of four components (Warming Down, Warming Up, Diction, and Chordal) that prepare the voice and the mind for producing a beautiful choral sound. These sequences can be sung in order, one per day (Day 1, No1; Day 2, No. 2, etc.), or the director can choose to sing them out of order. They are not sequenced in order of difficulty.
  • Includes a Director Edition and Singer Editions. The Director Edition contains all of the vocal parts and piano accompaniments, in addition to a detailed introduction and User’s Guide. The Singer Edition, which includes the vocal parts, is octavo size, designed to fit comfortably in choral folders all year long. An Accompaniment CD is also available.

For more on Quick-Start Choral Warm-Ups or to purchase, click here

 

For additional music and resources from Heritage Music Press, click here

 

 

Dr. Russell L. Robinson, Emeritus Professor of Music Education at the University of Florida, has made over 300 appearances as a conductor, speaker, consultant and presenter at festivals, workshops, honor choirs, all-state choirs and state, regional, national and international conferences in the US, Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America, South America, Mexico, Canada, the Middle East, and Australia as well as conducting venues, which include: Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Boston’s Symphony Hall, the White House, and Washington’s National Cathedral. Dr. Robinson was the 2016 inductee into the Florida Music Educators Association (FMEA) Hall of Fame, and is a past President of FMEA, Associate Dean of the UF College of the Arts, National Collegiate Chair and Choral Adviser for the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). Dr. Robinson is a published author, composer and arranger with over 350 publications in print, including choral compositions, arrangements, articles, books, and instructional DVD’s.

 

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G. Henle’s Debussy Urtext Editions from an experienced duo

Claude Debussy

Ernst-Günter Heinemann – the Debussy Editor at G. Henle Verlag

Ernst-Günter Heinemann

 

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Claude Debussy, French music’s great innovator celebrated worldwide. Whoever deals with our Debussy editions inevitably comes across the name Ernst-Günter Heinemann, editor at Henle from 1978 to 2010 and still closely associated today with the publishing house.

 

 

Piano Works I-III

He is the editor of Debussy’s complete Piano Works published by Henle and available since 2011 in a three-volume collected edition (paper covers HN 1192, 1194, 1196, linen covers HN 1193, 1195, 1197); he has also edited a large part of Debussy’s chamber music – altogether a real Herculean task!

Continue reading ‘G. Henle’s Debussy Urtext Editions from an experienced duo’

Composer Spotlight: Interview with Ola Gjeilo

Biography

Composer and pianist Ola Gjeilo was born in Norway in 1978 and moved to the United States in 2001 to begin his composition studies at the Juilliard School in New York City, where he currently resides.

Ola’s recordings include the Decca Classics albums Ola Gjeilo (2016) and Winter Songs (2017), featuring Tenebrae, Voces8, and the Choir of Royal Holloway. His choral and piano works are published by Walton Music and include titles such as the Sunrise Mass, Northern Lights, Ubi Caritas, Tundra, and Ave Generosa. His wind band works are published by Boosey & Hawkes.

For more information, please visit olagjeilo.com or find Ola on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

When did you start composing?

I started playing piano and improvising when I was about five years old. As a child, I had a pretty good ear and was fairly quickly able to hear which notes worked together and which ones didn’t. I didn’t read music until later on because I just wanted to do keep improvising and creating things. I never had a moment in which I decided to become a composer though; it was something I had been so passionate about from a young age, and I never thought of doing anything else. Continue reading ‘Composer Spotlight: Interview with Ola Gjeilo’

15 Things You Need to Know About Supporting Your Child Learning to Play the Piano (via Elissa Milne)

 

via 15 Things You Need to Know About Supporting Your Child Learning to Play the Piano

Is All Music Equal? (via Laura Lamere and Henry Hoagland)

The music scene at Wesleyan University has been the subject of books and countless news articles, all while capturing the attention of young artists and musicians around the country. And why not? Recent graduates, including Santigold, Himanshu Suri and Victor Vazquez of Das Racist, Dylan Rau and Ted Feldman of Bear Hands, as well as […]

via Is All Music Equal? — Laura Lamere

Top 10 Facts About Tchaikovsky

To celebrate Pyotr (Peter) Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 178th birthday today, May 7th, we have re-shared a Top 10 Facts Article from 2015, written by SMP about Russian classical composer Tchaikovsky!

via 10 Facts You Should Know About Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Q&A: Everything is better with music — (via Oxford University Press)

Vanessa Reilly is a teacher, OUP author and teacher trainer. In this post, she answers some of the questions from her recent ‘Everything is better with music’ webinar. 1,248 more words

via Q&A: Everything is better with music — Oxford University Press

Music and Sports: Why Do Both? (via Alfred Music)

Commentary by Austin Hennen Vigil

Music and sports go hand-in-hand better than you might think.

Many experts in the music and sports fields believe that with the amount of time and dedication it takes to master one of these disciplines, it is impossible to truly master two of them. They are too distinct from one another, they argue, and no one has enough free time to tackle both. But what about Micheline Ostermeyer, the French Olympic gold medalist in the shot put and professional concert pianist? Ostermeyer is an example of an individual who has mastered both an instrument and a sport. She says that the skills it takes to master the shot put also helped her develop mastery of the piano. Though they couldn’t seem more different, the practice of music and sports can actually benefit one another, and getting better in one skill makes it easier to master the other.
Having played organized sports from kindergarten through college, and playing both saxophone and guitar since the age of 9, I can confidently say that sports helped my musical ability and music helped my athletic ability. The creativity, improvisation, timing, attention to detail, execution, and self-discipline I developed when playing music benefited me on the sports field. And the skills I learned while playing sports—dealing with stress and anxiety, developing motivation that fuels improvement, going the extra mile despite fatigue, focus, teamwork, leadership, and confidence—helped me during practice and performances on my saxophone and guitar.

For more information on the benefits of participating in both music and sports, read the original blog post written by Liz Hinley on the Alfred Music blog.

Mozart’s C Minor Mass K. 427 – A New Edition

Guest post by Dr. Uwe Wolf

The problems posed for anyone who wants to publish a performable version of the C Minor Mass are not new. Various solutions have been adopted, some more successful and some less. Nevertheless, we have taken up this composition once again, viewing it from the perspectives of both practicing musicians and scholars, out of a certain dissatisfaction with previous attempts and the conviction that many of the attempted solutions no longer correspond with current practice. In our edition we have attempted to produce a performing version while maintaining the greatest respect for available material and without obscuring Mozart’s musical manuscript with our own contributions. This has turned out to be no easy task. We have spent a great deal of time pondering and discussing alongside a great deal of experimentation which has been a richly rewarding experience for us all.

Continue reading ‘Mozart’s C Minor Mass K. 427 – A New Edition’

John Cage’s In a Landscape and more than a score…

By Jacy Burroughs

John Cage’s In a Landscape from more than the score… series

When I learned about John Cage for the first time as an undergraduate music major, I was only instructed in his most avant-garde concepts: the infamous 4’33”, his prepared piano pieces, and his chance compositions, some of which he composed using the I Ching (an ancient Chinese divination text, also known as the Book of Changes.) I recently heard a recording of Adam Tendler performing Cage’s piano solo In a Landscape. If I had not read on the score that the music was by Cage, I would not have believed it. It was so beautiful, and honestly, that’s not an adjective I would associate with Cage’s music.

I was sure there are others who share similar misconceptions about Cage’s music with me, so when I had the opportunity to meet Adam Tendler, I jumped at the chance.  Adam Tendler works closely with the John Cage Trust and has performed Cage’s music internationally. He has also recorded video masterclasses and performances of Cage’s music for Tido Music, a groundbreaking web resource and iPad app. The videos were produced by Edition Peters, John Cage’s sole publisher, and are housed in the app’s Piano Masterworks collection.

And now Peters has just released a new sheet music print series, more than the score…, which can be used alongside the video masterclasses and digital editions in Tido Music. The series includes In a Landscape, presented by Tendler. As a leading interpreter of Cage’s works, I knew Adam would have encountered the whole spectrum of opinions of Cage. Here is an excerpt of my interview with him.

Continue reading ‘John Cage’s In a Landscape and more than a score…’

Top 10 Facts About Claude Debussy

Written by: Austin Hennen Vigil

Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Paris

Claude Debussy was a famous French composer that was born on August 22nd, 1862, in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France. The town is located near Paris and he was the oldest of five children.

He was a prominent musician who was known as the founder of Impressionist music and was one of the most influential/highly regarded composers in the world during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. March 25, 2018 was the 100th anniversary of his death, so in his honor here are 10 facts about the legendary French composer of which you may not have been aware:

Continue reading ‘Top 10 Facts About Claude Debussy’

UNFINISHED: Tradition and Completion of Mozart’s C Minor Mass

Guest post by Uwe Wolf, Chief Editor of Carus-Verlag

 

What an amazing story! Mozart makes a vow to compose a mass after the successful birth of his first-born child. The performance is planned on the occasion of his first journey with his wife to Salzburg so he can introduce her to his family – both personally and musically, for Constanze is to sing one of the demanding soprano parts. But the baby, left behind with a wet-nurse in Vienna, then dies, and Mozart stops work on the composition – precisely at the Et incarnatus est, one of his most beautiful and heartfelt movements, dealing with the subject of the incarnation, i.e. birth. Too much of a coincidence? Probably. Continue reading ‘UNFINISHED: Tradition and Completion of Mozart’s C Minor Mass’

Gustav Mahler: The Conductors’ Interviews

Gustav Mahler was considered one of the greatest opera conductors of his time; he could even be called the first intercontinental star conductor. But that was not the case with his music; until the 1960s, his compositions were only performed by specialists, the pieces nowhere near belonging to the standard repertoire.

Today, however, performances of Mahler’s music rival those of Beethoven’s in frequency, thus counting Mahler among the most successful symphonists. What happened to cause that change? Continue reading ‘Gustav Mahler: The Conductors’ Interviews’

New Complete 23-Volume Bach Vocal Edition from Carus Verlag

Bach vocal reaches its finale

Carus sets new standards in Bach editions

During the Reformation Jubilee Year, Carus-Verlag Stuttgart in co-operation with the Bach-Archiv Leipzig have completed their ambitious editorial project “Bach vocal” – the Stuttgart Bach Edition now contains Johann Sebastian Bach’s complete sacred vocal oeuvre. From now on, the choral and orchestral material of all the motets, masses, passions, oratorios, as well as more than 200 cantatas by the famous kantor of St. Thomas’s Church – all at the current state of research – is available from Carus. Here, Carus has set a new standard since within the realm of sacred vocal music, many works were last edited 50 or more years ago, and most of them did not include performance material.

Conductors, singers and instrumentalists were obliged to fall back on material from the 19th century which does not do justice to present-day standards with respect to historically informed performance practice. Many of the alterations in the music text which are based on most recent findings are indeed audible; they have been recorded on CD by the leading Bach interpreters of our era, for example, Frieder Bernius, Hans-Christoph Rademann and Masaaki Suzuki.

Continue reading ‘New Complete 23-Volume Bach Vocal Edition from Carus Verlag’

Piano Methods Correlation Chart

The Faber Piano Adventures Correlation Chart is a helpful resource for piano teachers because it shows what topics are addressed at each Piano Adventures level and how that corresponds to books in other piano methods series. For example, if you have a student who you just finished the Bastien Piano Basics primer book, you would start her with Piano Adventures 1B.

Piano Methods Represented in Chart:

To save a copy of this chart for your future use click here: Faber Piano Adventures Correlation Chart

Shop piano methods on Sheet Music Plus

 

Sacred Spotlight: Good Marshmallows

Guest post by Mark Cabaniss

Years ago, I had the privilege of participating in a week-long choral arranging workshop led by legendary choral composer/arranger Alice Parker, held at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey.  That week spent with Ms. Parker had a tremendous impact on not only my own choral composing and arranging, but my eventual role as a publisher as well.  Of the many wise and invaluable things she said to the class, one of several that resonated with me was when she said “There are good marshmallows and bad marshmallows.” Continue reading ‘Sacred Spotlight: Good Marshmallows’

Fun Facts about Handbells

by Helena Taylor

  • People who play handbells are known as ‘Ringers’. Not ding-a-lings. The joke wasn’t funny the first time, and it still not funny years… (decades) later.
  • PT Barnum (Yes, ‘A handbell ringer is born every minute’ PT Barnum) is credited for bringing the English handbell to the USA in the 1840s.
  • There is a difference between English handbells and American handbells. In the United Kingdom, English handbells have leather clapper heads and handles, while American handbells use plastic and rubber clappers and handles. However, in the USA, they’re all known as English handbells even though they’re produced in Pennsylvania. (There’s also a big competition between the two main American manufacturers of English handbells. Take it from me, never try to mix the two brands in the same ensemble. Ringers will notice and you will be called a ding-a-ling.)
  • English handbells are chromatically tuned brass bells, traditionally held by leather handles.

Continue reading ‘Fun Facts about Handbells’

Deciphering Beethoven’s Handwriting

Guest post by Bärenreiter editor Jonathan Del Mar on working with Beethoven’s autographs

Page from the Bärenreiter facsimile edition of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9

“Beethoven had such appallingly messy handwriting, didn’t he – I don’t know how anyone can read it!” How many times have I heard that accusation directed against one of the greatest composers who ever lived? True, many great works have been created despite truly terrible handwriting; Tippett, for example, when asked: “Michael, should this be an F or a G here?”, would characteristically respond, “Oh, I don’t know, love, do whichever you think best.” I would say the all-time worst handwriting was Janáček’s; but perhaps Janáček scholars would defend their icon just as I do Beethoven.

Because, you see, Beethoven was actually incredibly accurate, methodical, and scrupulous. Continue reading ‘Deciphering Beethoven’s Handwriting’

Music Career Options: What’s Right for You?

Guest post by Kate Samano, Content Editor from University of Florida School of Music

After identifying and distinguishing the different types of music degrees, it is important to take a look at the various career options that music degrees can offer. Each type of music degree offers a graduate a different set of skills, so it is important to determine which degrees and careers correspond with each other.

Associate of Arts in Music

Apprentice Instrument Repair

Many holders of an associate’s degree in music begin their careers as an apprentice in instrument repair and restoration. This is an entry level position that typically works with more experienced repair and restoration technicians in an instrument shop. Their typical day-to-day tasks include repairing and refurbishing instruments, ordering parts, and fielding customer questions and phone calls. Once an apprentice has gained experience, they can move up to a full time specialist or open their own repair shop.

Music Venue Manager

An interesting career with an associate’s in music is becoming a music venue manager. This job is responsible for managing a venue or a group of venues. These managers handle the daily operations of the venue. Their daily tasks might include booking music acts, checking music and bar equipment, managing the needs of performers, and scheduling staff members.

Music Promoter

Music promoters work for both music venues and the musicians themselves. Their goal is to promote the artist or venue in order to generate revenue. Their duties include selling concert tickets, recordings, and merchandise. Another big part of their job is to help manage live music events. Having a background in marketing can be a plus in this role.

Bachelor of Arts in Music

Music Therapist

One of the most rewarding career choices for holders of the Bachelor of Arts in Music is a music therapist. A music therapist uses musical exercises to work with a variety of individuals in a rehabilitating setting. These individuals usually work in mental health centers, hospitals, retirement homes, or rehabilitation centers. Their responsibilities usually consist of working in a team to assess a patient’s mental or physical condition and developing a therapeutic treatment plan. Continue reading ‘Music Career Options: What’s Right for You?’

The Excitement of Editing Debussy’s Works: Interview with Bärenreiter Editor Douglas Woodfull-Harris

Douglas Woodfull-Harris has been working at Bärenreiter as an editor for orchestral and chamber music for more than 25 years and has overseen the production of countless editions. In 2018 we will commemorate Claude Debussy’s death 100 years ago. Among the editions which Woodfull-Harris has personally edited are Debussy’s La Mer, Afternoon of a Faun, his Cello Sonata and String Quartet, Images for piano, Syrinx for Flute, and most recently the Rhapsodie Première for Orchestra with Solo Clarinet (coming in December 2017).

Claude Debussy, c. 1908

Douglas Woodfull-Harris

Why Debussy? What made you turn to his works?

Douglas Woodfull-Harris (DWH): From conversations with musicians I knew that the existing editions had problems such as discrepancies between score and parts of orchestral works. Orchestras had their correction lists and made do with what they had but scholarly-critical editions were badly needed. Also, I simply enjoy the music.

The first work by Debussy which you edited was his cello sonata. How did you proceed?

DWH: Of course, I gathered together all relevant sources as I always do. During this process I investigated a private collection in Winterthur (Switzerland) which nobody appears to have looked into, and there I found sketches to the Cello Sonata.

Now, the final note in measure 18 of the 2nd movement is the lowest note on the cello, a C. In the autograph score, the first edition, and all other published editions a “circle” or “zero” appears above the note (*see example below). This circle today is understood to indicate that the note should be played as an open string. I asked myself why an experienced composer like Debussy would mark a note in such a way that can only be played as the open C string. It simply didn’t make sense to me. The marking seemed redundant. But is it possible Debussy meant something else? Continue reading ‘The Excitement of Editing Debussy’s Works: Interview with Bärenreiter Editor Douglas Woodfull-Harris’

Music Degree Options: What’s Right For You?

Guest post by Kate Samano, Content Editor from University of Florida School of Music

For students interested in pursuing a career in music, there can be some confusion about which degree is right for them. Many degrees sound the same but can be very different from each other. It’s important to understand these differences – arts or fine arts, music or music education – before making the decision to pursue a particular path. Continue reading ‘Music Degree Options: What’s Right For You?’

Celebrating 150 Years of Edition Peters Green

Originally posted on www.editionpeters.com.

Hidden behind the iconic green covers of Edition Peters lies a story that is fascinating, complex, at times heartbreakingly tragic, but overwhelmingly inspirational. This year Edition Peters proudly celebrates 150 years of the green cover series and here is a short version of our story.

Continue reading ‘Celebrating 150 Years of Edition Peters Green’

How to Get Testimonials from Your Music Students

Guest blog post by Doug Hanvey, author of Piano Lab Blog

Testimonials and Online Reviews = A “Real Reason to Believe”

In these days of overhyped marketing of nearly every product and service – and yes, that sometimes includes music lessons! – it is more important than ever to communicate why your prospective students should have what marketing experts call a “real reason to believe” in you and your studio.

The best way to communicate a “real reason to believe” is via testimonials from current or former students/parents.

Of course, testimonials now include online Google reviews, Yelp reviews, etc. Testimonials and online reviews are effective because they are based on the actual experience of a student/parent. They are thus more believable to prospective students/parents than anything you personally say about yourself and your teaching. Continue reading ‘How to Get Testimonials from Your Music Students’

The Magic of Music: 8 Musical Phenomena Explained

Beethoven said, “Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.” He was right! Music awakens the senses and makes thoughts and feelings come alive. It unites cultures, countries, and individuals. Music is timeless and borderless. There is a mystery associated with it, though.

Even the great composers of old did not understand why songs get stuck in our head. Most people today do not know why we get chills when listening to music; and more importantly, why on earth do we love listening to sad songs? Scientists have come up with a few theories as to why these phenomena happen. The infographic from TakeLessons below discusses the answers to these questions and more.

 

 

 

 

Play It Again: A New Piano Book Aimed at Returning Players

Did you used to play the piano? Would you like to play again? Aimed at returning players who have spent some time away from the keyboard, Play It Again: Piano by Melanie Spanswick gives you the confidence to revisit this fulfilling pastime and go beyond what you previously thought you could achieve. This book is designed to get your fingers speeding comfortably across the keys once again.

Continue reading ‘Play It Again: A New Piano Book Aimed at Returning Players’


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