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A Vision of Healing And Unity Through ‘Elegy for the Time of Change’

Composer Robert A. Harris wrote ‘Elegy for the Time of Change’ in response to the horrifying murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police in May 2020. Imbued with singing melodies and richly expressive harmonies, the work makes several brief allusions to the spiritual There is a Balm in Gilead, offering a hopeful vision of healing and unity to a nation (and world) riven by mistrust and disparity.

Harris’s organ work weaves in the melody of this spiritual as it explores the journey from darkness to light, from division and hatred to hope and unity.

Robert A. Harris is Professor Emeritus at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music (Evanston, Illinois), and served as Professor of Conducting and Director of Choral Organisations from 1977 to 2012. He has been a visiting professor at Wayne State, the University of Texas in Austin, and the University of South Africa in Pretoria. He was also director of music and choirmaster at the Winnetka Congregational Church in Illinois.

John Williams: 90 Years – And Counting

On this, his 90th birthday, we’d posit that there is no living composer who has managed to be simultaneously so well-known, well-respected and well-loved than John Williams. We know his grand era- and genre-defining oeuvre like the backs of our hands: Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, Harry Potter, E.T., Indiana Jones — and the list goes on and on.

The broader public will recognize Williams pieces for their ingenious hooks, fearless displays of the widest range of human emotion, and instantaneous connection to the moving images they bring to life. Musicians, meanwhile, will simply enjoy playing his beautiful melodies and deeply satisfying orchestrations that feel undeniably natural.

None of this, of course, needs any introduction — and sometimes that’s the fun of it. Especially in times like these where our society seems to become more intensely divided with each passing day, a cultural touchpoint of pure joy that we all hold dear and that we can all relate to might be exactly what we need.

The John Williams Signature Edition series remains the gold standard in Williams scores. These spiral-bound, fully-engraved conductor’s scores come directly from the Williams originals and contain anecdotes written and signed by Williams himself that tell us, for example, which scene that he scored was his favorite, how the actors who worked on his legendary films helped to inspire his music, and his own personal connections to the characters those actors brought to life. Whether for orchestra or concert band, these editions have become cornerstones of the popular repertoire of premier ensembles across the country, and with Baby Yoda of The Mandalorian capturing the hearts of a whole new generation of Star Wars fans, that looks to be true for years to come.

StreamSing: A Free Virtual Reading Session with Jubilate Music Group

As we approach the spring and Easter season, we’d like to highlight a fantastic opportunity to explore new music for spring and Easter.

Join host Mark Cabaniss, President & CEO of Jubilate Music Group, for StreamSing, a free virtual reading session.

In this approximately hour-long express session, Mark will tell stories, look ahead to our future opportunities for ministry and community as church singers, and preview new music perfect for distanced, streaming and virtual choirs from Mary McDonaldLloyd LarsonMark Hayes, Hal Hopson and more.

Special guests Lloyd Larson & Mark Hayes share thoughts on their featured cantata and the upcoming singing season.

Here are just a few of the titles featured in StreamSing:

The Passion and the Promise
By narr. Pamela Stewart

Watch StreamSing here:

Edition Peters’ New Chopin Edition is Here

The Complete Chopin: A New Critical Editionpublished by Edition Peters, has been developed by leading Chopin scholars John Rink (Editor-in-Chief), Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger, Christophe Grabowski and Jim Samson.  

The Chopin edition of choice for every serious pianist’s library, The Complete Chopin is based on two key premises: 1) there can be no definition version of Chopin’s works, as variants form an integral part of the music; and 2) a conflation of several sources, producing a version of the music that never really existed, should be avoided.

The editors’ procedure is therefore to identify a single principal source for each work and to prepare an edition of that source. At the same time, important variants from other authorized sources are reproduced either adjacent or within the main music text, in footnotes or in the Critical Commentary. 

In the video below – an Introduction to The Complete Chopin: A New Critical Edition – Editor-in-Chief John Rink brings the editions to life, giving a ‘behind the scenes’ view of the editorial process and also providing some fascinating insights into the primary criteria in judging pianists in the Chopin Competition. (John Rink is also a regular member of the Jury for the International Chopin Competition, Professor of Musical Performance Studies in the Cambridge Faculty of Music, and Fellow and Director of Studies in Music at St John’s College, Cambridge.) 

5 Online Learning Resources for Beginner Through Advanced Musicians

Guest Post By: Chloe Brittain

Online music education is rapidly evolving, with new programs, courses, and technologies being released continually. From ocarina lessons to composing film music in the style of Hans Zimmer, you might be surprised what musical avenues you can explore with a Google search.

In addition to its diversity of content, the online medium provides a lot of scope for different learning styles. There’s something for everyone – interactive software, self-guided video courses, online private lessons, and live group workshops. Many online learning platforms also host thriving student communities, providing plenty of opportunity for peer collaboration and critique.

Here we’ll look at some of the top online resources for improving your musical skills – or learning completely new ones – from the comfort of home.

Online music courses and MOOCs

If you prefer learning through video-based tutorials, visit Udemy for a massive catalog of free and premium courses in subjects like piano, music theory, music production, and even more obscure areas of study, such as traditional Irish singing and world percussion. 

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Another good source of free courses is Coursera, which lists MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) from top-rated institutions like Berklee College of Music. At the time of this writing, Berklee offers MOOCs in areas like electronic music production, music theory and composition, music business, guitar, and vocal recording technology.

In addition to the above resources, many online music production courses have cropped up in recent years. If you’re trying to choose between a few different courses, you can usually find lots of student feedback on sites like TrustPilot and Reddit to help in your decision.

Interactive piano and keyboard learning software 

Music education technology has come a long way in recent years. Today’s piano learning apps employ artificial intelligence and gamification elements that help you advance your skills faster and motivate you to practice more. While many of these apps require a USB/MIDI connection so you can play along with the moving score, others are able to pick up sound via your device’s microphone and can be used with acoustic instruments.

Some piano learning apps, such as Skoove, offer free plans.

Free online guitar lessons for beginner and advanced guitarists

Many people dream of learning this versatile instrument, and there have never been so many useful learning tools for aspiring (and accomplished) guitarists.

For free online guitar and ukulele lessons, check out JustinGuitar.com. The site, launched in 2003 by Australian guitarist Justin Sandercoe, includes over 1,300 beginner through advanced video lessons covering a wide range of musical styles like blues, rock, folk, and jazz. If you’re new to the guitar, you’ll want to start with the popular Beginner Guitar Course, which will guide you through fundamentals such as chords, strumming techniques, and fingerstyle guitar. Justin is known for his fun and friendly teaching style, and the courses are designed to feel like private lessons and help you progress quickly.

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One-one-one music lessons and live group workshops

While self-guided courses and interactive apps can open the door to new musical skills, there’s no substitute for having a human teacher to watch and hear you play and give feedback on your technique.

Since the start of the pandemic, many top music artists have been offering one-on-one lessons or group workshops via Skype or Zoom. To find out who is teaching online, visit the websites of your favorite musicians, or better yet, ask around in online music forums and Facebook groups. You’ll find that many students are happy to share their experience and offer recommendations for a good instructor.

There are also services that connect music teachers with students for online lessons. One such site is Wyzant, with typical rates for music lessons ranging from $30-$50 an hour. (Of note, Wyzant also gives you the option to connect with local teachers for in-person tutoring.)

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Online training for traditional instruments and playing styles 

In this section I’d like to mention a couple resources covering more niche or traditional instruments and playing styles. The following sites offer subscription-based video training at reasonable prices:

  • Online Academy of Irish Music. If you’ve ever wanted to join in and play along at an Irish pub session, this online learning platform will give you the skills and confidence you need. In video-based courses taught by renowned Irish musicians, you’ll learn Irish music technique and ornamentation while building your repertoire of popular trad tunes. You don’t need to be able to read music to enjoy the classes, as Irish music is learned by listening. Among the 14 instruments covered are tin whistle, bodhran, bouzouki, flute, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and uilleann pipes. 
  • Peghead Nation. This site provides beginner through advanced video instruction in “roots” music – bluegrass, folk, Irish, blues, jazz, etc. – taught by world-class teachers. Instruments covered include guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, dobro, ukulele, and upright bass.
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There’s never been a better time to become a self-taught musician. Today’s online music learning resources are carefully engineered to help you progress efficiently in your musicianship and, more importantly, have tons of fun while doing it!

Author bio

Chloe Brittain blogs about online music courses and other learning resources at Just Music Stuff. She is currently learning Irish flute and guitar online.

StreamSing: A Free Virtual Reading Session with Jubilate Music Group

As our Annual Choral Sale continues, we’d like to highlight a fantastic opportunity to explore new music for Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas .

Join host Mark Cabaniss, President & CEO of Jubilate Music Group, as special guest Mary McDonald shares thoughts on her featured pieces plus the upcoming fall/Christmas singing season.

In this approximately hour-long express session, Mark previews new music from Jubilate Music Group for Thanksgiving, Advent & Christmas from Mary McDonald, Lloyd Larson, Mark Hayes, Hal Hopson, and more.

Here are just a few of the titles featured in StreamSing:

Emerging from Our Caves

Guest post by composer Robert Sterling

I’ve often said that if I were to compare myself to an animal it would be a bear. A Grizzly, to be more specific. Grizzlies eat half the year and sleep the remaining half. And they spend a lot of time in a cave. They are okay being alone. That describes the life of the composer/arranger in a lot of ways, actually.

I work in a cave – a very nice cave, mind you. I have high-speed internet, quality studio gear, central heat & air, and a bathroom and kitchen very nearby. But it’s still essentially a cave. And when I’m not working, all too often I am either eating or sleeping. Oh, and I growl a lot, but that’s more about my personality. All in all, I’m okay in my cave.

But for the past eighteen months or so, the whole world has been in a cave, isolated from our fellow bears (I mean human beings) except for Netflix, Prime Video, and Zoom. That is not normal for the vast majority of people. Now, we are slowly emerging to see if the world outside has changed much, and if so, how.

Continue reading ‘Emerging from Our Caves’

Great Editing: The Difference between Success & Frustration!

Guest post by Ingrid Jacobson Clarfield and Phyllis Alpert Lehrer, editors of Classics for the Developing Pianist and Study Guides for Preparation, Practice & Performance Books 1-5

Classics for the Developing Pianist and Study Guides for Preparation, Practice & Performance Books 1-5

Our 5 anthologies contain the 100 pieces that pianists should learn to play. In the 5 companion Study Guides for each piece. Problems are IDENTIFIED and problems are SOLVED.                                                             

Continue reading ‘Great Editing: The Difference between Success & Frustration!’

Vocal Warm-Up Cheat Sheet: An Easy Way to Improve the Sound of Your Choir

Composer Michael John Trotta has prepared a cheat sheet full of vocal warm-ups to help you get your choir back in the swing of things and sounding better than ever.

Download Michael John Trotta’s Vocal Warm-Up Cheat Sheet here:

Continue reading ‘Vocal Warm-Up Cheat Sheet: An Easy Way to Improve the Sound of Your Choir’

Restore Our Song: A Homecoming

Guest post by composers Lee & Susan Dengler introducing Restore Our Song: A Resource for Restarting Your Choir, which includes an opening “kick-off” fellowship and service, devotions on the themes of deliverance and renewal, easy anthem suggestions to get the choir back in shape quickly, service ideas including a hymn sing, recruitment tips, a simple chorus for choir and congregation titled “Restore Our Song,” and more.

Finally, they were on their way!  After years of exile in Babylon, God’s people were returning to Judah.  Though some had decided to remain in Babylon, a contingent, led by the priest and scribe, Ezra, began the journey home.  To them, Babylon was still a land where they simply could not sing the Lord’s song, even when coaxed by their captors.  All they had been able to do was to hang their harps, the instruments that had once accompanied their voices, on the willow trees that stood guard by the river.  The drooping branches of the trees had served as a visual reminder of their own weeping. 

And then, they were home in their beloved native land!  In the second chapter of the book of Ezra, we find the listing of folks who returned to Jerusalem and other Judean towns. There were the priests, the temple servants, the gatekeepers of the temple.  And, there were the singers!

As the foundations of the new temple were laid, the singers began their song, as they praised and gave thanks to the Lord.  For those who listened, there was a mixture of emotions.  While some shouted for joy, others, who had remembered the former temple and all they had endured, wept with a loud voice.  It was hard to distinguish the shouts of joy from the noise of their crying.  Nevertheless, the combined sound of joyous shouts, sorrowful weeping and glorious singing could be heard for miles around.

We have thought about these people many times during the months of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially after we learned that singing in groups had the ability to spread the virus more virulently than almost anything else.  How could we sing the Lord’s song in such a land?  But now, it seems that we too are on our way home.  Almost daily, we learn of positive indicators that tell us that choirs can safely return to in-person, close-up, full-choir singing.  Thanks be to God!  This is the news for which we have been waiting over these past, long months!

Continue reading ‘Restore Our Song: A Homecoming’

About Take Note:

Thought-provoking articles by musicians for musicians, music lovers or those that want to learn more about it!

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