Archive for the 'General' Category

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.

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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!

StringsSyllabus_20-23_final3.jpg

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?

 

ElgarViolinSonata1

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

 

ElgarViolinSonata2

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.

Puccini-Organ-Sonate-Versetti-Marce

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.

 


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