Anne Ku arranges Mozart’s famous Eine Kleine Nacht Musik for easy piano for four different levels, for solo or ensemble playing.
Mozart’s “Little Night Music” was originally written for string ensemble, consisting of string quartet plus an optional bass. I played the quatre-mains version with my classmate Jeff Beaudry one summer at New College, Oxford for a talent contest. We won a bottle of champagne which we shared with the other team at our next bridge game.
College students who attend classical music concerts for the first time give impressions of the concerts at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center (MACC).
Every semester I require all my music students to attend an approved concert and write a review. The review must demonstrate they actually attended the concert. They can write about the concert-going experience, their impressions, feelings, thoughts, and anything else that resonated with them and for which they wanted to share. I then select the most relevant passages from their written reviews and write a so-called “Review of reviews” on this blog.
The best quotes from student reviews of concerts on Maui from October to December 2013: Anderson & Roe, Dan Tepfer, Maui Holiday Pops. Ukelele Festival, and Harps and Horns.
One important assignment I require of my students is to attend an approved concert and write a review during the 16-week semester. It’s always refreshing to read their impressions afterwards. Below are some of the highlights from their reviews.
Promoting a concert involves more than announcing an event in one medium. It requires multiple media: television, radio, newspaper, and posters. View an example by photo, video, and audio of Ebb & Flow Arts Piano Synergy Concert on Maui, Hawaii.
Once upon a time, the concert was the talk of town. It’s the end result of all things. But nowadays there is too much competition for your attention — to0 many other things you can be doing, including staying at home and watching TV. To get people to come to a concert, you’d have to promote it.
Identify a concert’s unique selling points. Below is a photo of something quite rare: 4 pianists sitting at four grand pianos. It would catch anybody’s eye. This appeared in a free weekly paper that gets published on Thursdays — and just in time, too — the Thursday before the Saturday concert.
How to attract people to come to a concert? Mention the composers and repertoire, particularly if they are interesting and connects. In this case, there’s the premiere of a new piece written by a composer based in Honolulu, Thomas Osborne, who also teaches at University of Hawaii at Manoa. The date of the concert, 14th July 2012, also coincides with Bastille Day, celebrating French independence, hence a concert of music by French composers, including Darius Milhaud’s Paris.
Appeal to different audiences, including those who have access to television. The following 10 minute video clip was aired twice a day, every single day in the week of the concert on Channel 55, the 24/7 cable TV of University of Hawaii Maui College (UHMC).
Reach audiences via different avenues and media. On the Wednesday before the Piano Synergy concert, the following 25 minute clip was aired on local radio.
Besides local paper, TV, and radio promotions, there were also color posters, postcards, and local newspaper listings mentioning the forthcoming concerts.
What can we learn from this? While the musicians are busy practising, the concert organizer (producer) is busy letting as many people know about the concert as possible. These “previews” are important to help potential audience decide and anticipate. Here is a blog post anticipating the event.
It’s simply not enough to tell someone to come to a concert. It needs to reach all audiences in more than one way. Before doing so, one needs to think through what appeals, what attracts, what is relevant.
Maui College Choir prepares for spring concerts entitled Earth Songs.
First I met the conductor, Celia Canty. Then I saw the college choir perform. Next I wrote reviews.
Now I accompany the singers, arrange for them to perform, and blog about their upcoming performances.
I asked Celia about her choice of songs for the Spring 2012 concert. “They all have to do with the earth,” she replied in a recent interview. “The songs are from all over the world, and the choir sings them in original language. But ‘earth’ also has another meaning, too — as in planting trees, jasmine flower, etc.”
In the beginning, the choir was a collection of individuals with separate voices and universes. After weeks of rehearsing, they blend into one single sound. It requires hearing oneself and hearing others. Celia Canty, who has perfect pitch, can hear if someone sings out of tune. She says it’s both a blessing and a curse to have this ability to hear absolute pitch, as it’s sometimes called.
When we arranged to have the college cable TV crew film the singers, it was intended as a concert performance with no audience. I would have preferred a video of a rehearsal, for that’s far more interesting than a concert. At a rehearsal, one gets to learn. One gets to see how the raw material becomes refined into something beautiful. See the video below of a rehearsal of the popular Chinese folk song — Jasmine Flower, which Puccini used in the opera Turandot and which I once arranged for harp (PDF) because I loved it so much and wanted to play it.
Free concerts don’t always get full-house. Publicity is what it takes. And a lot of eager students on standby.
Search for “classical concert etiquette” and you will get guides like this one and numerous others. These articles are well-written. It would be superfluous to write more about this subject. In thinking about advice for first-time concert goers, I recall how I became an avid concert goer. It began with the word FREE.
Anne Ku’s new group piano class is more than piano playing.
I described what I’m doing in my evening piano class to the husband of a colleague, both music aficionados.
“I teach my students to play the chromatic scale one hand at a time. The right hand goes up using the thumb and third finger. The left hand goes down. At the next lecture, I demonstrate the application with Flight of the Bumble Bee.”
“I tell them about pentatonic scales and exotic scales. I give them the formula for major scales: whole step, whole step, half-step, whole, whole, whole, half-step. I also have them listen to major vs non-major scales as I play them on the piano. I play the last movement of Vivaldi’s Summer from the Four Seasons and I ask them to count the scales.”
“I plan to teach them the Circle of Fifths with respect to Pachelbel’s Canon in D. That’s also useful to demonstrate descending bass line. ”
My colleague’s husband responded with awe. “And you say this is a beginning piano class? Seems to me you are teaching them music!”
I replied, “Yes, I guess you are right. By the end of the semester, they will have not only learned how to play piano but how to look at music differently. I want them to overcome stage fright, build self-confidence, learn to conduct, learn to play and work with each other, appreciate different kinds of music, listen, analyse as in identifying patterns before they start to read the music to play, and so much more.”
Definition of piano orchestra = many players on many pianos making orchestral sound, a rare event.
What do you do with 22 students in a classroom of just 15 electric pianos (2 of which do not sound) and one portable synthesizer for 3 hours?
Let them take turns at the piano, one at a time. Give a lecture to the rest of the class. Swap.
Put two students on each keyboard and have them play duets.
Put two students on each keyboard and conduct them like an orchestra.
When I googled “piano orchestra” I found a variety of piano concertos and questions about the role of piano in the orchestra.
Truth is, it is rare to see so many pianos in one room, unless they are all for sale, in which case you can’t play on them as you wish.
On day one, I asked my students to play just the black keys. I split them into several section. One section played successive quarter notes. Another joined with half notes. The third joined with whole notes. I then improvised on high treble.
My father used to play Chinese songs just on black keys. Pentatonic music (using just the 5 notes of the 5 black keys) blend well in any order in any octave.
Now is my chance to deconstruct my favourite works, be they classical concertos or pop songs. Assign the parts to the various pianists. This way, everyone gets to play. Doubling up is fine. The string section does it all the time.
What I want to get across is simple:
Most students of piano learn to play solo piano works. They advance to become soloists.
Some learn to accompany choir or other instruments or voice.
Others move on to become organists.
Whether you’re an accompanist or organist, you serve the choir or congregation. You’re not equal.
But when you play in an orchestra, ensemble, or chamber music group, it’s totally different.