October 20 ~ This Day in Music History

today

 

OCMS 1874 ~ Charles Ives, American composer
More information on Ives

• 1913 ~ Grandpa (Louis Marshall) Jones, Country Music Hall of Famer, Grand Ole Opry, singer

• 1923 ~ Robert Craft, American conductor and writer

• 1935 ~ Jerry Orbach, American singer and actor for the musical theater

• 1937 ~ Wanda Jackson, Singer, songwriter

• 1939 ~ Jay Siegel, Singer with The Tokens

• 1939 ~ All the Things You Are was recorded by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra on the Victor label. Jack Leonard was the featured vocalist.

• 1945 ~ Ric Lee, Drummer with Ten Years After

• 1950 ~ Tom Petty, Singer with The Traveling Wilburys

• 1951 ~ Al Greenwood, Keyboards with Foreigner

• 1955 ~ “Day-O. Day-ay-ay-ay-o!” One of the most popular of the Harry Belafonte hits was recorded for RCA Victor. Day-O didn’t make it to the pop charts for over a year, until January of 1957, after its name had been changed to The Banana Boat Song (Day-O).

• 1958 ~ Mark King, Bass, singer with Level 42

• 1962 ~ With Halloween just around the corner, we remember that Bobby “Boris” Picket and the Crypt Kickers reached the top of the charts this day (for two weeks) with The Monster Mash. And someone, somewhere, has resurrected it every Halloween since.

This piece is now in Piano Maestro in the Halloween section and there is sheet music, if you are interested.

• 1962 ~ The musical, Mr. President, written by Irving Berlin, opened on Broadway. Mr. President ran for 265 performances.

• 1965 ~ The Beatles received a gold record for the single, Yesterday. This song marked the first time a cello was used in a pop hit.

• 2000 ~ Li Yundi, an 18-year-old virtuoso from China, has won Poland’s Frederic Chopin piano competition, becoming one of the youngest players to capture the prestigious international prize. Read the whole story

Piano Puzzlers!

puzzlers

 

The Piano Puzzlers book is available in the O’Connor Music Studio library if you’d like to give any a try.  Piano Puzzlers as heard on American Public Media’s “Performance Today.” Includes 32 tunes with songs by Gershwin, Berlin, Arlen, Porter, Rodgers, Fats Waller, Lennon & McCartney, and others disguised in the styles of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Janacek, Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Bartok, and Copland.

Includes an introduction by Fred Child, host of “Performance Today” as well as background info by Bruce Adolphe. “Bruce Adolphe has taken a common musician’s party game and elevated it to high art and truly funny musical slapsticks. The Piano Puzzlers are a unique combination of extraordinary insight into the styles of many composers subtle, expert workmanship and great, great fun!”

From http://jasonmorris.blogsome.com/2008/08/08/piano-puzzlers/

If you’re a music geek (like me), I have a program for you. Now, let me be clear, to fully qualify as a music geek…you must have a fond appreciation for classical music (no, Poison, Quiet Riot, and Zepplin do not count as classical music). So, if you’re a “music geek” without an appreciation for classical music…well, I hate to burst your bubble…but, you’re not truly a music geek. Instead, you’re a music appreciator, but not a geek. So, if you just listen to indie music and scowl at anything on a label larger than Matador…don’t bother following the link I’ll provide…the fun will be lost on you…And, you probably won’t have a chance.

Every Wednesday night, on my way home from WNL, I turn on my local NPR station to listen to Piano Puzzlers on Performance Today. It’s absolutely incredible. A pianist/composer (Bruce Adolphe) takes a familiar folk or pop tune and sets it inside a classical masterpiece (or in the style of a particular composer). Sometimes it’s easy…sometimes it’s ridiculously difficult. There are days when I say, “got it” on the first pass. Then there are days when I say, “what the heck?” And, more often than not, I’m able to get either the popular/folk tune or the composer.

This is sad to admit, but there are nights when I’ll slow down on the drive home or sit in the car in the driveway to finish an episode. In fact, I get a little worked up if someone stops me after WNL…as I might miss the beginning of Piano Puzzlers (it usually hits around 8:20pm on our local station).

Take a listen to some of the archives and see if you can figure it out! It’s really cool…but probably only appreciated by music geeks (the kind of people that listen to NPR for their musical programs and not just the snipets of cool indie rock between segments on All Things Considered…which is a great show too).

Play Piano Puzzlers HERE!

Chopsticks!

Chopsticks

Stephen Powers first thought of his grand piano as an impressive piece of furniture.

But he enjoyed listening to music so much when friends played at parties at his home in North Wilmington that he began taking lessons.

“I enjoy having a couple of songs under my belt,” says Powers, a 52-year-old banker. “I play Happy Birthday. I play Getting to Know You for my mom.”

Powers is part of a boomlet of adults who are studying piano. Many took lessons briefly as children and regret giving it up. Some simply enjoy music. Others gravitated toward the keyboard because studies suggest piano improves mental acuity while reducing the odds of dementia.

A Swedish study published in 2014 in the International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that when a twin played a musical instrument later in life, he or she was 64 percent less likely to develop dementia than the twin who did not play.

A study published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2013 evaluated the impact of piano lessons on cognitive function, mood and quality of life in adults age 60 to 84.

The group that studied piano showed significant improvement in tests that measure executive function, controlling inhibitions and divided attention, as well as enhanced visual scanning and motor ability. Piano students also reported a better quality of life.

Some grownups simply relish a challenge.

In the United Kingdom, Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, took to the keyboard at age 56. He chronicled the year he spent learning Chopin’s demanding No. Ballade 1 in G Minor in the book Play It Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible.

Richard Swarmer, 57, of Lewes, played the trumpet from grade school through college. He has sung in several choirs. This year, he began piano lessons.

Learning the piano isn’t easy even for someone with a musical background. Still, Swarmer appreciates that the creative thought process is different from the focus required by his job for a medical benefits company.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed taking piano lessons as an adult,” he says. “It provides a welcome respite from the demands of my job.”

Ethel Thirtel of North Wilmington is 71 and a student at the Music School of Delaware. She is also taking French lessons to help keep her intellect sharp.

“Both pursuits involve active studying and practice to master new skills,” she says.

To meet rising demand, the Music School of Delaware offers adults-only evening group classes to accommodate working people, says Matthew Smith, student and alumni relations officer. The school also provides instruction for adults 50 and older through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at University of Delaware.

“In addition to professionals, we are getting a lot more inquiries from older adults who are retired and have time on their hands,” he says.

Geri Smith, a Julliard-trained singer, musician and composer, has taught piano to children in public schools as well as private arts centers. Her adult students include a 59-year-old writer who took up piano after the death of her husband, a gifted musician.

“Teaching children is a different experience than teaching adults,” says Smith, of Unionville. “Kids pretty much do what you ask them to do but adults ask lots of questions. They want to know why things have to be done a certain way.”

An important part of learning piano is creating new pathways in the brain. A Harvard Medical School study examined the impact of practicing the piano on synapses, the connections between neurons that encode memories and learning.

Volunteers practiced two hours a day for five days, playing a five-finger exercise to the beat of a metronome. To learn how that impacted the neurons scientists used transcranial-magnetic-stimulation (TMS), in which a wire coil sends magnetic impulses to the brain.

They discovered that after a week of practice, the stretch of motor cortex devoted to the finger exercises had expanded like crabgrass.

“Playing the piano creates new synapses,” Smith says. “Think of it as creating a conduit so your right hand can talk to your left hand.”

Meldene Gruber of Rehoboth Beach, who has taught piano for more than 40 years, has seen a surge in adult students in the past two years. Now, half her students are adults.

“A number of my adults say they think playing the piano will help with mental acuity,” she says. “Playing the piano forces you to use both sides of the brain, which is great for neuron firing.”

Most adults have specific goals in mind, such as learning to play Christmas carols or a few favorite pieces.

“You don’t get adults who are focused on becoming concert pianists,” Gruber says. “They come for the joy of playing, not because their mothers made them.”

via Chopstick therapy: how piano lessons could help us age better — NewsWorks.

Daily Listening Assignment ~ June 10

 

It’s wedding season!  Today and tomorrow, we’ll be looking at, and listening to, the music most associated with weddings.

The “Bridal Chorus” from the 1850 opera Lohengrin by German composer Richard Wagner is a march played for the bride’s entrance at many formal weddings throughout the Western world.

The piece was made popular when it was used as the processional at the wedding of Victoria the Princess Royal to Prince Frederick William of Prussia in 1858.

This piece is available in Keyboard Kickoff, Movement 2 and Piano Maestro.

The original from the opera

A piano version (this book is available for loan, if interested)

Handbells (rehearsal)

On accordion

And pipe organ

A very different wedding entrance in Denmark

 

 

Daily Listening Assignment ~ June 9

 

This is a more advanced piece but I really like it.  Some students may have heard this since it’s an alarm tone on my phone. My dog, Mimi, recognizes this music as her signal to go out for a walk!

 

confrey-you

I just love Zez Confrey’s music.  It’s not overplayed like some of Scott Joplin’s works but it’s just as much fun.

This is a piece I have often played in recitals and just for fun.

If any of my students are interested in tackling this piece, just let me know and we’ll start learning!

In 1921 Confrey wrote his novelty piano solo “Kitten on the Keys”, inspired by hearing his grandmother’s cat walk on the keyboard of her piano. It became a hit, and he went on to compose many other pieces in the genre.

Considered to be one of the fastest and most challenging of all “novelty” piano solos, “Dizzy Fingers” was composed in 1923. and was Confrey’s other biggest seller.

He left behind more than a hundred piano works, songs and miniature operas, and numerous piano rolls, music publications and sound recordings.

Not surprisingly, this piece is not available on Piano Maestro!

One of the books in my studio is Zez Confrey at the Piano: Piano Solos.

confrey-book“This collection represents a cross-section of Confrey’s works and encompasses the broad range of his styles. Besides his famous 1920s novelty works (including Kitten on the Keys), there are many wonderful, lesser-known gems of remarkable quality included here from later in his career. Appearing for the first time in print are transcriptions of one of his disc recordings (Poor Buttermilk) and two of his player piano roll arrangements (My Pet and Humorestless). Many of Confrey’s later works have long been out of print and are included here for the first time in decades.”

Don’t Give Up Because You Miss a Note!

FaeriesAireandDeathWaltz1

I have a copy of this music (Faerie’s Aire and Death Waltz) if anyone is interested in playing it!

The music above has been played:

The drive you need to accomplish whatever you’re attempting—big or small—needs fuel. Instead of letting slip-ups set you back, psychologist and author John Norcross recommends you make them the fuel:

If you are learning to play the piano, you don’t give up because you miss a note. It’s not whether you slip, it’s how you respond to the slip.

Cut yourself some slack and remember that things take time and hard work. Listen to the sound of your “missed note” and let that push you forward. You missed that note yesterday, but that doesn’t mean you’ll miss it today.

via “If You’re Learning Piano, You Don’t Give Up Because You Miss a Note”.