Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Few Months Ago

I experienced the overwhelming desire to kill a composer with a shovel*.

I was asked to accompany a high school choir concert, and the teacher offered to mail the music to me.  I commented, "I'm also comfortable with sightreading the material at the first rehearsal", to which he replied, "Oh, no, I want you to have this ahead of time."  Huh.

Upon arrival of the music, I flipped through the pieces, mentally gauging the difficulty.  Easy, easy, 20 minutes to work on tricky spots, etc.  Then I noticed the last piece - J'entends le Moulin arranged by Donald Patriquin . . . and I discovered it was not your average choral accompaniment. A key factor is the tempo, Quarter = 120+. The first page wasn't too bad:

 But then I looked ahead and saw this:

And this part I had to memorize:

The first two hours of practice on it I was absolutely livid - forgive my brutal emotionally transparent writing - but I had never been required to spend this amount of time practicing a choral accompaniment before.  For a high school.  For a flat fee that didn't seem to match the time investment.  

BUT - on the positive side, I began to like it after two hours of practice. Then I began to love it, and finally ended up getting the biggest kick out of its performance.  To pull off the piano parts' technical demands and dramatic dynamic changes, all while supporting and highlighting what the choir is doing, gives you that rare 'rock star' feel which you don't get often in choral accompanying.

I really do love the piece, and think it is fantastic, and do not really wish the composer any ill.  It was just an initial reaction**. 

Here's a youtube performance from another choir:

*This is hyperbole.  Homicide is bad.
**You know you've done it, too.  Leave a comment if you have a similar story.


Catherine said...

Played this for a high school choir four weeks ago. I love it too! And yes, the first time I had to really invest time in practicing a choral accompaniment. It was wonderful!

Billie Whittaker said...

Truly a great piece!! Glad you enjoyed it too :)

Anonymous said...

Love that arrangement!! I've only sung it, never played it. Looks kind of scary, but I just wish more of the popular choral rep were that good!

Billie Whittaker said...

Yep, its scary, but in a good way :)

Anonymous said...

Same commenter here. On further thought, what I mean is that I often DO want to kill a composer with a shovel, or whatever, but it's usually because the composer has written awful stupid music, which seems to happen a lot when I'm playing for choirs. (There's also a special homicidal part of my brain reserved for extremely un-pianistic or atonal-to-the-point-of-amusical music, but j'entends doesn't fit there!)

Billie Whittaker said...

Choral accompaniment can be pretty repetitive, among other issues. Not the problem in this case!!

Anonymous said...

I can empathize, but I spent two years not only as a University Choral Accompanist, but also as a Grad Student Conductor's accompanist, who also spoke little English, and had no etiquette filter at the podium.
I spent many nights in those two years slaving away at (you guessed it..) Patriquin (who, like me, is also Canadian), Boulanger, Halley, to name a few. I have been let go since, and my thankless job has been given to a fresh and young collaborative pianist student since then... I am happy for them. :)