In tandem with arranging music for the Earth Day Jam, a free one-hour piano workshop to get people to experience making music together, I decided to end the week with a tribute to the earth. As in previous two concerts this year, my most advanced students opened the concert for me, this time with more confidence and conviction than ever before.
As I explained to the audience on Friday April 25th, 2014, I chose works that had titles or nicknames to do with the sun, moon, rain, fire, rainbows, meadows, etc. These words are also symbolic of moods and emotions.
As usual, I began with a simple piece to warm-up. The Theme from the movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” was such a short piece, relatively unknown, thus safe for my fingers to warm up as well as find the keys that don’t work on the piano.
Next, I played something I’ve played many times before – “Le Onde” by Ludivico Einaudi. “Le Onde” means “The Waves” in Italian. It is said that Einaudi was reading or thinking of the novel of the same title by Virginia Woolf when he composed it. It’s also the name of the album that shot him to international fame. When I first discovered it early last decade and played it for the international passengers transiting through Heathrow Airport at the hotel nearby, people would stop and ask what it was. The music is mesmerizing.
Another Italian composer, Dario Marianelli, wrote Dawn, the theme to Pride and Prejudice (2005) starring Kiera Knightly. It’s simple and soothing, with plenty of room for interpretation.
For an elderly audience, the first three pieces were probably foreign. It was time to introduce something familiar.
Chopin’s Prelude in Db Major, Opus 28 Number 15, is better known as the “Raindrop” a name given by his lover George Sand. Apparently Chopin didn’t like the name. But it’s said that he heard the rain in Majorca where he was recuperating from tuberculosis. The A-flat (or G-sharp) below the middle C is heard through out the piece, constant like the raindrop. This is the piece played in the movie “Margin Call.”
Rain isn’t always desirable as expressed in James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” and Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain.” The latter’s referral to fire and rain is particularly intense:
I set fire to the rain
Watched it pour as I touched your face
Let it burn while I cried
‘Cause I heard it screaming out your name, your name
I set fire to the rain
And I threw us into the flames
Where I felt something die
‘Cause I knew that that was the last time, the last time, ….
Sting’s “Deep in the Meadow” from the movie Hunger Games is not intense but quite the contrary. Here is a free version for easy piano.
I chose “Over the Rainbow” the pièce de résistance for the concert simply because there are so many interpretations of it. There’s the original, which is analyzed brilliantly in an NPR documentary. I explained to my audience that the initial octave leap from “Some” to “where” is not an accident. Dorothy wants to get from the low point of Kansas to the highpoint of Oz. Every time you hear the low note, it’s Kansas. Keith Jarrett’s piano transcription is no longer available on his website, but you can use web archives to back track it to mid-2007 or earlier and download the delightful PDF version. George Shearing’s arrangement is equally interesting. I didn’t have time to include Dan Coates’ version, however.
Another song that begins with an octave leap is “When You Wish Upon a Star” from the Disney movie Pinocchio. There are descending scale patterns similar to “Over the Rainbow.”
When I gave the assignment to my colleague’s design class to create a poster for the “Earth Day Jam” one of the students asked if we would be playing Beatle’s “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Although the song was not mentioned again in the subsequent Piano Ensemble Poster Exhibition, I had already mentally registered to play this piece. I improvised upon a jazz waltz arrangement of this popular piece of the flower children. Like “Penny Lane” the title “Strawberry Field” is the name of a place in Liverpool where the Beatles were formed.
It was just about eleven AM and time to conclude the concert with a favorite of my father’s — Barbara Streisand’s Evergreen from the movie “A Star is Born.”
Music for the Earth
Friday April 25, 2014
Roselani Place, Papa Avenue, Kahului, Maui
Theme from “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” music by Jon Brion
“Le Onde” by Ludivico Einaudi
Dawn from the movie “Pride and Prejudice” music by Dario Marianelli
Prelude in D-flat major, Opus 28 Number 15 by F. Chopin
“Fire and Rain” by James Taylor
“Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele
“Deep in the Meadow” from the movie “Hunger Games” music by Sting
“Over the Rainbow” from the movie “Wizard of Oz” music by Harold Arlen; transcribed by Keith Jarrett, George Shearing
“When You Wish Upon A Star” from the movie Pinocchio, music by Leigh Harline
“Strawberry Fields Forever” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
“Evergreen” from the movie “A Star is Born” by Barbara Streisand