Saturday, July 24, 2021

Summer Soiree

All of my students have now had the opportunity of a post-pandemic public performance, and what a joy last night's petite soiree was  This was an adult evening, wine and cheese and piano playing.  I think everyone involved enjoyed themselves.  I know I did!

My younger students presented their Spring Recital in June, to much acclaim.  Two of these young musicians chose the same piece to perform. Handel’s Passacaglia, arranged by Bobby Cyr.  It was interesting to hear their different interpretations of the same printed piece.  These are two young people, and tempo is everything to them.  The Passacaglia flew off the piano keys, much to the delight of my adult students in the audience.

A-ha moment, indeed.  You like this music?, I asked the adults.  How about you learn it too?  “Passacaglia” is an old Italian or Spanish dance tune, a theme and variations over a repeated bass line, and typically at a slow tempo.  In this particular case, it is a series of scales in the right hand, and a simple chord progression in the left hand.  I gave each of my adults 6 weeks to learn at least 2 lines, the opening theme.  Some chose to go on, learn more, while others were quite content with the 2-line challenge. 

We got together last evening to share our results.  The learning curve worked to our advantage.  Between us, we were able to cover the whole piece, all 8 iterations of the theme.  We talked about how Handel/Cyr worked out the left hand, the repeated interval patterns beginning on different notes in each measure, but the pattern was the same measure to measure.  We noticed the scale pattern in the right hand, how it turned itself upside down in the second iteration, how it disappeared in the third section.  We talked a bit about how each of us went about learning it, and about how we struggled to get our hands to play nicely together.  And of course, we fed our performance with wine and cheese.  We rounded out the evening with a sightreading session, playing through duets together.  My lesson coming out of that: introduce the duets in the next lesson, with the goal of a polished duet soiree in September! 

You may ask, why would I teach the same piece of music to multiple students for the same performance?  I had never done so before, even having the 2 girls play the same piece at the Spring Recital.  In the case of the girls, it was a piece I knew both girls would enjoy, and they both really wanted to include it in their recital repertoire.  For the adult soiree, my thinking was different.  I wanted them to compare their learning techniques, their insights along the way.  As an added bonus, I learned different learning techniques!  I was able to help each of them by applying what I learned from each of them.  And we all had compassion for the struggles of the others.  It was a fun experiment.


Sunday, July 4, 2021

It's Independence Day!

Today is so beautiful, so temperate, so atypical for July 4th.  It's hard to sit inside; I want to be out, soaking in the sun. Perhaps once I've finished this little missive. 

What are we doing in the musical world this Independence Day?  I started my day in church. The choir anthem this morning was Finlandia, music by Jan Sibelius, words by Lloyd Stone. 

This Is My Song, O God of all the nations, 
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.  
This is my home, the country where my heart is. 
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating, 
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

I am quite familiar with the music, but had never known the words. How lovely, how utterly apropos for Independence Day.  This day, of all the days of the year, we celebrate America's independence, but we need also acknowledge the interconnectedness of us all.  We all have hopes and dreams, and we share these hopes and dreams across borders.  The blue sky, the bright sun shines over all.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine. 

As I come to the end of my thoughts today, a small wren has perched outside my window.  Can you hear its song?  It too sings of peace throughout the land.  May your Independence Day be safe, and our nation be at peace.