Rose Concert 2015: Father’s Day, the Brain, Alzheimer’s Disease


Two years ago, I gave my first Rose Concert at Roselani Place, a home named after the rose in central Maui for elderly residents. When I ran out of songs about the rose, I ventured into songs about other flowers like jasmine, cherry blossoms, etc.

This time, on Friday June 19th, I also paid tribute to Father’s Day (Sunday June 21st) and National Alzheimer’s Disease and Brain Awareness Month. Call it a concert to celebrate the beautiful minds of Aaron Copland, Maurice Ravel, and Scott Joplin.

I began with the German carol “Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming” and the more familiar theme from the movie “The Rose” released in 1979. I remember sneaking into the on-base cinema with my three girl friends to see the R-rated movie. In the darkened theater during the trailers, we giggled how lucky we were to get in, until the man behind us threatened to turn us in.

Music triggers nearly forgotten memories. When I play or hear Bette Midler sing “The Rose” I think of my teenage years.

For Alzheimer’s patients, familiar songs create “moments of joy” according to the executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association on Maui. Music is considered a non-pharmacological approach to helping patients with dementia to improve quality of life. Not only does music trigger memory but it also regulates mood.

I accompanied three songs for Anne Shapiro, who worked with me on a few occasions during her short stay on Maui.

  • Heidenröslein or Heideröslein from a poem by Goethe (1799), set to music by Schubert (1815).
  • En prière (a prayer) music by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924). Lyrics by Stéphane Bordèse
  • Memory – from the musical Cats.  Words from the poem by TS Eliot. Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber

The remainder of the concert included music from movies, composers who died of dementia, and world premiere of a piano solo work.

  • All Love Can Be: music by James Horner, theme from the movie “A Beautiful Mind”

One of the greatest American composers, Aaron Copland (1900 – 1990) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease ten years before he died.

  • Simple Gifts (Shaker Song), segment from Appalachian Springs (1944)
  • First (dedicated to Leo Smit) of Four Piano Blues (1947 – 49)
  • Fanfare for the Common Man, arranged for piano by Roger Brison

French composer Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937) suffered from a disease of the brain, possibly as early as 1927. However, a taxi accident in 1932 made his problems worse. He finished his second piano concerto in 1931. I love the slow and simply second movement from this Concerto in G major. The second movement is in E major.

The Notebook (2004) – based on the novel of the same title by Nicholas Sparks. Set in 1946 in coastal North Carolina, it’s a tender love story told by the husband to his wife, an Alzheimer patient. Although the story does not realistically portray what Alzheimer’s patients typically experience and with some parts plainly inaccurate, the music that accompanies the story is nevertheless illustrative of the moods and sentiments. In fact, there is hardly a moment during the movie that is without background music.

  • Main Title – theme by Aaron Zigman
  • Prelude in E minor, Opus 28 No. 4: Chopin wrote his first set of 24 preludes during the winter of 1838-1939 in Majorca while studying and editing JS Bach’s famous Well-Tempered Clavier. Each prelude captures a mood in one of the twelve major and twelve minor keys. Chopin requested this particular piece to be played at his funeral, together with Mozart’s Requiem. In “The Notebook” young Allie plays the first few measures on an old out-of-tune grand piano in the old house of the Windsor Plantation and again in the nursing home.
  • Sonate in G minor, Opus 49 No. 1: Beethoven wrote sonatas 19 and 20 in 1796, very likely for his friends and students. Published about ten years later, it’s considered his easy sonatas. In “The Notebook” you can hear it faintly in the background as the older Noah gets checked by his doctor. When it abruptly stops, he says, “I forgot to turn the page for her.” She then starts playing Chopin’s Prelude from memory.

Towards the end of the hour-long concert, I announced my premiere of British composer Emre Aki‘s new work for piano solo. He wrote “Little Angel” to remember his daughter who died of Edward’s Syndrome last November. The piece is programmatic and quotes Chopin’s Funeral March.

Toothpaste – piano solo by British composer Ilan Eshkeri, from the film “Still Alice” (2014). Not only did I write two reviews of this film, I also transcribed the music from playing the youtube video of it several times, used the piece in the mid-term exam for my two piano classes, and watched the movie twice.

To end the concert on a hopeful note, I played The Entertainer. Sadly, the King of Ragtime Scott Joplin succumbed to dementia from syphilis and died at the age of 49 in a mental institution.

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Filed under arrangement, audience, composer, concert, culture, piano, recording, research, review, sheet music

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