Archives for category: Collaboration

A preview of our lunchtime concert on Wednesday 7th June 2017 at the Emmanuel United Reformed Church on Trumpington Street, Cambridge UK. Mifune Tsuji (violin)
and I (piano) will be performing memorable tunes from the films and beyond. Please stop by if you’re in the vicinity! It’s a free entry with a retiring collection for the church.

 

It’s unusual for me to share my practice session publicy and also to use a digital piano for it(!) but I thought some pianists/accompanists may find it useful.  Here it goes:

Pre-rehearsal stage
The main focus was to bring it up to the indicated tempo (138bpm) without loosing the intricacy of contrapuntal texture and the bouncy rhythmic nature of this piece.  What I found out through using drum beat patterns rather than a metronome was that it’s sharpened up my listening ear to be able to check how my 16th notes (semiquavers) are doing to greater details.  Truly useful exercise to go through before rehearsing with the clarinet players in a week’s time.  And it was fun too!

In the summer of 2013, my husband and I went to the finale concert of the Cambridge Summer Music Festival, held at the Long Barn on the ground of Childerley Hall. The performer was Kathryn Tickell and her new band “The Side” and it was their first ever concert. So, it was quite special. Although I didn’t know Kathryn Tickell, my husband, being a Geordie, did and told me about her and introduced me to her music. The whole experience at the concert was a very energetic, uplifting and moving one. Two tunes from the concert particularly stayed strongly in my mind, Yeavering and The Return. I remember I was captivated by hearing what inspired Kathryn to write these pieces. As we walked through the Childerley Hall ground to head home, I was humming this tune, and asked my husband ‘what’s the name of this song again that I’m humming now?’ – I’m very terrible with names; on first hearing, it usually doesn’t go in to my memory system, also true for the numbers… And he said, ‘The Return‘. I remember saying that this tune is so hauntingly beautiful, I’d like to arrange it for piano solo at some point. Well, it was three years ago and I finally managed to do something about it. It took me somewhat longer than I expected to complete it. Because as I explore where this tune took me, I find myself more and more going around in a circle… I had to stop for a while, then came back to it with a fresh approach.

According to Kathryn’s story, this tune was written “in anticipation of an eventual return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to the North England (for an exhibition).”

So, my main focus was to find a way of achieving a sense of long journey that the Lindisfarne Gospel took before it finally returned to where it was originated. And also to make a use of what piano can offer. By that, the obvious choices were to use wider ranges of pitches, various styles of accompanying bass part and to apply modulations to close and/or distant keys. After a meticulous editing over a long period, out came my piano solo version of The Return that I’m finally happy with. I’m now pleased to announce that my piano solo arrangement of The Return is ready to share in public after having managed to secure a permission from the Kathryn’s music publisher to arrange and publish it.

I write lots of piano solo arrangements, often by my students’ request, but sometimes I came across such music that prompts me to do so for my own pleasure and share with the public. Kathryn’s The Return was one of such. For this reason, I wanted to make it special, knowing that my husband being from the North, and it means something for me and him too. I’ve decide to create a music video. One visual artist came into my mind whom I worked with before once. I knew in my mind she’d understand what I was hoping to achieve. I’m very grateful for her visions and senses and I’m quite happy with the visuals that she created for this purpose. I hope you enjoy as much as we did in making it.  Finally, thank you Kathryn for giving us such beautiful music to share.


The sheet music is avalable from my web site.
The audio is available from my bandcamp page.

Everyone remembers the craze that went around (still going around, I suppose…) this particular song.  It was two years ago now. I thought I wouldn’t be surprised if my students would request this pop song at some point and they did.  But this girl wanted to sing whilst accompanying herself on piano.  She was 11 years old at the time and was about early intermediate level.  After a numerous testing, out came a version that she happily performed in the concert, dressed up just like Elsa.

After a while, I looked for way to share this in public legally.  I’d hoped be able to include it in my ongoing piano song book projects for youngsters, so I went through a legal way of requesting for a permission to arrange and publish.  It was turned down, of course.  But then I discovered SMP Press’ ArrangeMe scheme this year (for more details, please read my blog post explaining about it).  So now I’m happy to announce that it’s legally available to the public.  I hope there will be more youngsters singing and accompanying themselves this uplifting song!

Sheet music is available from SheetMusicPlus.

Happy self-accompanying!

In addition to writing many teaching materials for my pupils, I often write many piano solo arrangements of known songs by their request.  But I sometimes come across music myself that I deeply fall in love with and haunt me around long enough to urge me to write an arrangement for it, so that I can play it on my piano.  One of which is Joni Michell’s A Case of you.

There are many musicians who cover this deeply moving song and I’m not surprised… I am one of them. I have three favourite versions of this song; Joni’s original, her 2000 jazz version with this mesmerizing arrangement by Vince Mendoza and Prince’s cover version. I was deeply moved by all three. I spent every minute of writing (and laborious editing!) this arrangement with an outpouring of affection towards this song. I hope you too enjoy playing this arrangement as much as I enjoyed arranging it. As always, thank you Joni for giving us many, many beautiful songs.

Here’s the demo recording of this arrangement. I’d like to record it again to create an video to put on YouTube some time in the future, just I did with Both Sides Now (https://yukiestpiano.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/368/), but hopefully a better one. Until then…

The sheet music for this arrangement is available from the Joni Mitchell’s official web site for free download.

I assume many music teachers have their own favourite mnemonic device or landmark notes system to help the students to memorise the notes’ positions on the stave (staff). For piano players, it’s important to be able to read the notes up and down across the great stave (staff) seamlessly. Some years ago, I came up with my own landmark notes idea to introduce a couple of chosen line notes across the great stave (staff), so the learners can use these notes to find other notes around it on the piano by reading intervallically without necessarily knowing the letter name for all the notes on the staves. That means they can focus on learning to play melodic or harmonic patterns rather reading and seeing each individual note.

Here’re the landmark notes I’ve chosen and added the mnemonics to them:

landmark-notes

The order of introducing these notes that I often go for is:

  1. Middle C, G clef G and F clef F
  2. BirthDay notes (middle line note in the treble=B and middle line note in the bass=D)
  3. Ground G (as in the ground floor) and Fly away F (to emphasise the highest line in the great stave; you can fly away from the top line!)

Additional landmark note: Dangling D in the treble stave (this characteristic feature seems to stick in children’s mind well, so it’s a popular one to use)

Once the learners have gone through enough drills (or any helpful games!) to exercise reading these individual notes, they can exercise writing melodic patterns on a manuscript paper. For example, choose one landmark note, such as G clef G, then go step up twice (from line note to space note and then to line note again), throw in a couple of skips here and there (from line note to line note or from space note to space note), etc.

Having said that, depending the age, some learners need repetitive writing practice just going up stepwise and skipwise so that they can see clearly what stepwise/skipwise motion is on the stave.  Young aged children tend to take time in this.

When the learners get comfortable with various melodic shapes, here’re some extended ideas I often use; Word search.

  • BAG and FED are the first ones to introduce because they cover every single note on the piano except C (C on the piano seems to be everyone’s favourite, so is easy to spot!).  And also because it’s a stepwise motion, finding them on the piano is also simple and can be used as a reminder for the key names on the piano (I’m not in favour of using ABCDEFG to memorise the key names. You can guess why!)

The first position for BAG I’d use is starting on BirthDay B and then going descending stepwise.

For the first position for FED, I’d go for either starting on F clef F or ending on Dangling D. The decision is usually made depending on which landmark note is more in the learner’s memory and how well s/he understands how the melodic patterns work.

  • Then, usually progress to some other words, like EGG, DAD, BED, FACE, BAD, ACE (ACE is a useful one to introduce as a landmark chord because it covers skipwise intervals from the Middle C), etc.

Exercise form can be either reading the notes then playing them on the piano or playing first, then write the notes down or placing the notes on a notation board if teachers have one (very useful tool to have – I have a magnetic one of my own design).  For some words, finding the notes on the piano can be a little tricky, so I often leave that part of exercise out.  But generally children enjoy ‘spelling out’ the written notes to find the word.  They seem to  find it a good enough impetus not to dislike this game although it sometimes takes them time to find the word!

Although these type of exercises are useful and should be important part of the lessons, they’re more meaningful when they’re linked to what students are learning or going to learn. I often have them find a chosen landmark note(s) or a word (such as EGG, etc.) hidden in the music that they’re learning or are going to learn rather than starting from the first note in the music. Some of my students are very good at finding FED in the music because in their mind, it has got a characteristic shape. This sort of pattern search game always leads to finding repetitive patterns in the music; a very useful exercise to learn about a musical form eventually.

What I have shared in this post is just one part of various ideas that pop up as we work through reading exercises in the lessons. I hope you take something from the ideas here and expand them and turn them into your own.

Stay creative!

 

 

 

In prior to the piano duet concert I’ll be performing with Marie-Noëlle Kendall, the local TV came to film us.  To be honest, I was horrified by the idea that I had to speak to the TV.   But at the hands of this man, Frankie Lowe, made this experience tolerable for me and managed to make me feel like I was speaking to a friend.  I’m ever so grateful for his efforts.  He was in charge of camera & lighting set-up, sound check, interview, filming, editing; basically everything.  How he managed to take bits and pieces out of our 1-hour interview and turn them into something coherent as a whole.  I say, that’s a talent and dedication.

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Broadcast on Cambridge TV, 23rd June on The M.A.C. (Music, Arts and Culture) programme as part of Cambridge News.

 

Our piano duet programme will be a good mixture of old time classics (Schubert’s Rondo in A & Fantasie in Fm & Schumann’s Bilder aus Osten) and something modern & exciting (Debussy’s Six épigraphes antiques & Gorb’s Yiddish Dances).  Performing at the church venue is always a challenge because of the boomy acoustics.  Pedalling and tempi will have to be discussed and subtly adjusted on the day at the venue.  Having said that, one of the pieces we can take advantage of the church acoustics will probably be the Debussy piece. Irony is that this piece has the least number of notes between us, but yet causes the more hand clashes if we’re not careful.  Overcoming this slight problem, the sonority of this particular piece will surely sound magical in the church setting – to me, it’s an ultimate soundscape.  We hope that we’ll be able to give something to the audience that they can take home.  I look forward to having you with us on the day!

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Piano Duet Concert (Marie-Noëlle Kendall & Yukie Smith)
Saturday, 9th July at 7.30pm
Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge UK

For the concert details: New Europe Society Events