Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bach research, ongoing

I started collecting ‘classical literature for church services use’* from the Baroque era – first, Bach. As he is an outrageously prolific composer, I kept it simple for now and went with selections from his better-known composition groups. All of these are pieces I found appealing and can work up in a couple of days/weeks. The added bonus is a lot of this is transferable to the organ, also.  Here's what I've picked so far:

Two part inventions – #s 1, 3, 4, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14
Three part inventions (aka Sinfonia) – #s 2, 3, 5, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15
English Suites - No. 3 in g minor, BWV 808
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1 - (tbd)
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2 - (tbd)


*What else am I supposed to call it?  ‘Real’ music? 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Outdoor Pianos!

Are you bored?  Check out these outdoor pianos in Melbourne, Glasgow, Albany NY and others!

New Project

I have a project this semester – an Independent Study on church music.  It will have an emphasis on planning out solo organ/piano music for the entire church year.  Specifically, I’ll be pulling together appropriate music for services (prelude-offertory-communion-postlude), both hymn arrangements and accessible music from the ‘solo classical’ piano repertoire.  At the end of the semester, my goal is to have a selection of piano and organ literature that is appropriate for each major church holiday (Christmas, Easter, etc) and the rest of the year. 

Also, the project is to get a better grasp on the many aspects of being an effective church musician.  I’ve begun to see that the pianist can do more than provide pleasant music or lead congregational singing*.  It is similar to how a sensitive choral pianist knows what to listen for in choir rehearsals – they can diagnose the choir’s issues and respond as needed, while anticipating the director’s needs also.  A good choral pianist helps facilitate a pleasant and effective rehearsal for everyone involved.  

A good church musician can facilitate a meaningful experience for the congregation: and one of the ways is to complement the day’s message and tone with thoughtful musical selections.   

I’ll continue working on hymns, also – learning about registrations, varying the hymns to match the lyrics, etc etc etc.  I hope to blog this all out, both because it keeps me honest and working - but also, I haven't found much out there that quite addressed this they way I'm approaching it.  

*It’s the difference between the two compliments “you are a wonderful player” and “you play a wonderful service”.

2nd Time Around

Year 2, semester 2 of grad school degree #2:

What have I learned so far? 

Playing the Organ is mindbending.
            Organists are another breed.  They think as an orchestrator in order to register (choose voices for) their pieces.  They read 3 staves as a matter of course, and perform using hands and feet.  Their repertoire goes back further than piano repertoire.  They need a thorough grasp of musical history and organ history (development of the instrument) so they can both perform the piece (articulation/gestures) and register the piece correctly. 
And they have different shoes.

Performing from memory takes a unique focus
            Note the word ‘performing’ - it’s a different task than playing something from memory, alone within a practice space.  For a pianist, performance from memory involves a controlled energy fixed on the music that is being made in the present – as well as an ongoing mental anticipation of upcoming music.   This kind of musical focus is really hard to maintain when you are being stared at by a bunch of people. 
            It’s another level of concentration, different from performing with collaborators/with music, that I find fascinating*.
I have a lot to learn about practicing
            Or, in other words: it’s really easy to waste time in the practice room.  Mental self-discipline means you pay attention, listen to the sounds you are producing, and use critical awareness to evaluate what is correct and what needs to be adjusted.  This is hard.
            Practice makes permanent. 

*I did solo work as a part of my other degrees, but all my recitals were collaborative.   So now I’m learning the difference between playing 10-20 minutes memorized vs 60.