Our plan is to move the church service outdoors this Sunday.
When choosing music earlier in the week, the first thing I did was to look at the weather forecast. As it turns out, we have deferred to Mother Nature twice already this summer.
For August 4th, AccuWeather.com predicts that it will be “partly sunny with a t-storm.” With that in mind, I chose music that can move easily from a Clavinova outdoors to an acoustic piano inside if necessary. (I’ll play piano this time so as to eliminate the possibility of last-minute pedal and registration changes.)
The Clavinova has only one sound. The volume can be raised or lowered with a toggle wheel, but there are no alternative sounds available (such as harpsichord, flute, etc.). So the music needs to being written for one manual, and the ability to employ voicing to differentiate various parts (melody/accompaniment; fugue lines) will be quite limited.
I prefer playing sacred music for services, not piano preludes by Chopin and
The music needs to have an organ pedal part that can be played along with the manual parts (i.e. close to the left hand in range). Another possibility would be to choose music with no organ pedal part at all.
Pieces that are 2 pages in length would eliminate page turns. That way, when clothes pins are keeping the printed music steady, they can stay there for the entire piece. (It’s safer! Picture removing clothespins, turning the page, and re-clipping the clothespins, while playing the entire time.)
Although I have played services outdoors under the roof of a picnic shelter, the setting on Sunday will be completely in the open. I will need hair clips and sunglasses.
West Nile Virus has come to the area, so bug spray is a necessity.
And may I please borrow your dog to fetch the things I drop?
Repertoire for August 4th
Come, Thou Almighty King Martin Stellhorn
The organ pedal part can be played an octave higher. This will allow the piece to move without arpeggiating the bass and tenor lines (to accommodate reaches wider than the span of the left hand).
Praise God the Lord, Ye Sons of Men Johann Gottfried Walther
This piece is contrapuntal, but is not a fugue. The tune is clearly in the top voice, so it will be easily heard when played on a Clavinova.
I Come, O Savior, to Thy Table Paul Kretzschmar
The embellished tune is a right-hand solo. Played on the organ, a solo stop on a separate manual would be the way to go for clarity. With the embellishments, the tune stands out from the slower left-hand rhythm, so I think it will be OK played on a Clavinova.
Now Thank We All Our God Georg Friedrich Kaufmann
This is a toccata with the tune in the top voice.
As it happened
This is a follow-up, added on Monday.
We had a beautiful day! During the outdoor service, the breeze kicked up 2 or 3 times, but I was reduced to holding the music with one hand and playing with the other only once. That was during a hymn. With the congregation singing at the time, it was fine.
The Clavinova has more variety available in volume by touch than I had recalled from a year ago. That was a welcome surprise.
In the offertory, the editor indicates in the score that the melody is to be played an octave higher when all parts are heard on the same manual. I actually forgot during the service until the B section. When moving up an octave, though, the sound was unsatisfactory for a melody. So I went back to playing the score as notated.
Around 11:30 a.m., we had a few raindrops. I was in Amherst by then.
Later on, we had light rain. But the “t-storm” forecast never materialized.
Have I forgotten anything?
Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!
In choosing music for Sunday, I decided on two Bach Preludes and excerpts from a Fugue (keeping the postlude short). The service had been scheduled to be outdoors, which meant I would be playing a digital piano.
All three works are pieces I have not played before. So note-learning commenced immediately.
After reading through everything, I went back to look for clues about the construction and articulation of each piece.
In one Prelude, especially, a seemingly insignificant detail turned out to be crucial to most interpretive decisions throughout the piece.
There are two compositional elements that must be clearly differentiated:
- quarter-note chords; and
- thematic material.
At first, I honored the length of the quarter notes. That plan worked for 7 measures! Time to find another plan.
Now look at bar 8. How can the quarter note “G” be held while continuing with the thematic upper part (B-flat and A-flat, etc.)? Even if I were able to stretch from G to B-flat, the tone quality would suffer on the 16th notes. (My left hand is unable to play E-flat and G at the same time, too.)
Using pedal to sustain the “G” is out of the question. The next two 16th notes would be blurred.
So I tried playing an 8th-note “G”! And it worked. But consistency in articulation is so important when voicing Bach’s music. Establishing longer quarter notes over 7 bars and then playing a single 8th note instead just wouldn’t make it. So I jumped from one quarter-note section to the next, checking them all out in the shorter version against the opposite hand.
Bach’s intentions are best expressed in the clarity between his compositional ideas. I hear the piece as if orchestrated, with a group of instruments playing the quarters and strings (in their appropriate range) playing the thematic portions.
Seeing quarter notes notated in opposition to the eighths and sixteenths of the thematic portions makes the difference in parts visually clear. I don’t see the notation as an error. Imagine all the ink on the page if 8th notes and 8th-note rests were used instead.
This afternoon (Thursday), the plans for the outdoor service were changed. We will be having an indoor service, and I will be playing an acoustic piano.
Friday update: I tried something new today with the quarter note in question. If the moving part is played with an appropriate break to accommodate the ascending interval from D-flat to B-flat, it is possible to make the “G” sound a little longer. I like the way that sounds, so now I’ve added a breath in the moving part.
Immediately after the breath, the piece continues in tempo.
This piece is still evolving for me. I have decided to postpone playing it until I feel comfortable.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the Comment Section below!
* When I was a staff accompanist at Smith College, one of the voice teachers often referred to Bach as "Johnny Rivers."
Yesterday was Palm Sunday!
Our service began with the Proclamation of the Entrance into Jerusalem, delivered outdoors by the minister, followed by a spoken congregational response, also outdoors.
And then everyone, including the choir, the congregation, and the pastor, processed into the sanctuary and down the aisle to the front, placing palm branches at the altar as they sang All Glory, Laud, and Honor. The choir proceeded to their seats in front, and the congregation to their pews.
Playing for a procession involving so many people was something completely new to me! So there were many things to keep in mind while practicing:
The organ had to be heard outdoors.
8′, 4′, and 2′ stops were needed for clarity at that distance.
Everyone needed to sing together if possible.
Finding a comfortable walking tempo was crucial.
Any variations in tempo could cause a breakdown.
When was the best time for the choir to start singing in parts rather than unison?
I have to say, I practiced the first hymn a lot, more than anything else in the service.
The pastor’s ideas
- A copy of the hymn was included in the bulletin. Without a heavy hymnal in their hands, the congregation was free to focus on singing.
At first, he had toyed with moving the digital piano outdoors so everyone could hear me. But then I would have been stuck outside for the entire hymn!
Plan B was to mic the organ and have speakers outdoors.
Plan C was to leave it alone. I happened to be practicing the processional when the pastor arrived on Sunday morning. He could hear me outdoors just fine.
So we opened all the doors and went for it!
Finding a tempo
While practicing on my own, my main concern was finding the most appropriate tempo. Even though no one was asked to walk in rhythm, that meant:
Ensuring that there was always forward motion in the music.
Giving people time to breathe so they could sing well.
Feeling the walking tempo in my body.
Listening to the 8th notes. I was a little too fast at first. Everything needed to be clear.
Perhaps choosing a slightly slower tempo than if there had been no processional.
The choir’s leadership role
The choir would enter the sanctuary first.
I demonstrated how to feel the hymn in 2/2 rather than 4/4, especially since people would be walking in 2, not marching in 4.
We agreed that the choir would lead the congregation most effectively by singing in unison at least until they reached the choir pews. At that point, they would be facing the congregation, so hearing them would be easier.
I relied on the choir to make the decision about when to sing in parts. They based their decision on listening to the congregation. If the congregation was singing well and together, then parts could work.
I made sure that the choir would listen to the organ and stay with me. If the congregation had started dragging and the choir went with them, the whole thing could have fallen apart.
The wonderful result
The processional went very well! Not only was everyone together at all times, 5 verses provided exactly enough music! It could not have gone better or been any more exciting even if we had rehearsed with the entire congregation.
Have you played or conducted a large processional? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below!
It’s Spring Break! Not only that, it’s Spring!
Can’t get better than that.
Today there are birds singing, warm temperatures, lots and lots of sunshine, daffodils, forsythia, and little blue flowers. Practicing with all the windows and the back door open feels great! But of course I’d rather be able to practice outside. Maybe it’s time to take up the piccolo. Or bagpipes.
★ ☆.•*´¨`*•.¸¸.• ヅ★
Two reviews caught my interest recently.
Support for programming music outside the norm:
Testimony to why the vibrancy of performances is crucial:
★ ☆.•*´¨`*•.¸¸.• ヅ★
OK, back to Spring Break mode.
Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!
★ ☆.•*´¨`*•.¸¸.• ヅ★
Spring Break is the perfect time to improve your practice skills! My book will save you hours of time and a ton of frustration. Also available in print.
Fall is one of my favorite times of year. The clear air, the changing light, the breeze, the foliage, people feeling energized…
On Monday, October 3rd, I took a bus to Hampshire College and back. There are many wooded areas, low mountains, and rolling hills to see along the way.
En route in mid-afternoon, the trees were back-lit by the sun. Right now, the leaves are mostly green, but the light brought out the variations in color.
Just before we arrived at Hampshire, I spotted an enormous cloud that looked like a tree!
The walkways have benches along them every so often. I chose one to occupy for 20 minutes, enjoy my surroundings, and read the paper.
Chorus rehearsal ended a few minutes before 6:00. The walk to the bus stop, a few minutes away, was gorgeous in the late-afternoon light.
A chipmunk raced across the walkway in front of me. He was playing in the leaves, so I stopped to watch for a minute or two. He scooted around so quickly, I wondered whether he ever stayed still.
Trees that still stood in the sunlight were backlit, with light playing off their trunks. The light made interesting patterns on the floor of the woods.
Students were outdoors, enjoying the experience while they could. Places to sit included benches, a platform, low walls, a picnic table, and the walkways themselves. Three pup tents had been set up on the lawn.
Watching the chipmunk meant that I missed a bus. So I found a bench and enjoyed my surroundings during the ½ hour wait for the next.
The mountains in the distance looked gorgeous in the sun. One of my favorite trees, a giant elm, was in shadow already. Two other trees just across the main entrance road were sunlit for several minutes, their trunks stately and strong, demanding attention at the edge of a field.
The colors most visible from my spot on the bench were the green of the expansive lawn, the reddish hues of the fields beyond, and the dark blue of the mountains in the distance.
And then the light disappeared. I felt disappointed, and then happened to look up. The sky was a light blue with white clouds, with a lighter blue appearing in the clouds’ gaps.
During the ride back to town, the light was elusive and had to be sought out. Soon that ride will be in darkness.
One week later
A few more leaves have changed, but not that many. There is more yellow than red. When twice as many yellow leaves appear among the green, they will look like lemons from a block away.
The sun is bright and people are out. Some are enjoying lunch outdoors. There are tourists wandering around. Two female college students walked through town together. Both were dressed in shorts and tank tops. One wore ankle boots with sherpa lining, the other wore flip flops. That tells you how crazy it is. When the days are so warm, it seems strange that the leaves are changing.
Just 2 days later
Some of the trees in back of my building are about 30% yellow. It was breezy today. I stood at the back door while having lunch. Leaves were falling every which way: some fell straight down; others blew diagonally to the left; still others caught the breeze about 8 feet above the ground, made an upward arc, then wafted down; and some of the smaller ones turned somersaults in the air.
Later this afternoon, I went to Hampshire College again. The trees on campus are incredibly colorful! Students say it happened all at once.
The road along the way is colorful in places, but completely green in others.
And in my neighborhood, the leaves have hardly changed at all.
One unusual tree at Hampshire is red and green. Nearly every leaf is 1/2 and 1/2. Gazing at it made me think of wrapping paper!
More foliage on the way!
When a tree has turned completely gold or red, the light changes color when you pass or walk beneath it. Since that is one of my favorite experiences in the Fall, I am waiting rather impatiently for total color immersion.
Once or twice around 4:00, when it’s not raining, I’ll take the bus to Mt. Holyoke College and back. The trees on the wooded, hilly route will be backlit. It is impossible to take one’s eyes off them.
What do you enjoy most about Fall? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!
We had snow again last night! There must be at least 3 feet on the ground by now, and it’s gorgeous.
The appearance of everything has changed, even since the last storm.
After one more storm, picnic tables and mailboxes will have disappeared.
Bushes and posts already covered now have dunce caps with rounded tops.
There are wonderfully deep snowdrifts in my backyard. Kitchen doors have snow all the way up to the windows.
Piles made by snow plows are as tall as I am. In large parking lots, no one can see over them.
As globs of snow fall from the trees, the wind makes white fog, too.
I had never noticed the eaves of a building with ornamental patterns. Snow covers the patterns, making its own.
The snow sits atop branching limbs of trees, piling up in the crooks. I gaze in wonder. Some trees seem so unusually and randomly shaped. The first one I notice is a white birch.
Many houses have snow up to the ground floor windows. Their front steps are completely covered. Snow has begun to pile up on the porches.
A student tosses snowballs at a street sign. He misses twice. We both laugh. It doesn’t matter.
Shadows cast by telephone wires appear on the snow’s smooth surface in wide parallel lines.
A canopy is partially covered by ellipses of varying heights, making a diagonal across the bottom.
Solid walls of icicles hang from rooves.
Small pine trees, trunks visible, look like toadstools.
A trash can sits on the sidewalk with snow sinking into its center.
The Connecticut River has snowy places on top of the ice.
Bushes, their branches hanging near the ground, now have hidden tendrils under the snow.
It’s afternoon now. Trees, out in the open, are made free of snow by the wind. They seem to be planted in snow, oblivious.
Names have disappeared on signs in front of businesses.
A handrail peeks out above a pile made by a snow plow, still useable for now.
Posts erected between the street and a parking lot, tops barely showing, have caps on top.
A black metal silhouette of Emily Dickinson is seated on a large rock. Yesterday she had snow past her waist. Now it’s up to her shoulders. She looks a little cold!
I’ve been waiting for it to snow like this for a long time. Please don’t be tired of it yet. Can’t we wait a while?
Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!
“Goal-oriented Practice” has gained many satisfied readers!
From Twitter today: “@GretchensPianos is able to turn actions some of us (incl me) take for granted into words to help teach others.”
This afternoon I saw a small boy, around age 3, walking with his parents. He was wearing a floor-length cape! Oh, no! Not your regular Superman cape. His was a very bright, shiny red.
Clearly, he’s already outside the box. And his parents are fine with that, which makes me smile.
He also wore a Red Sox cap. So I don’t know what was in his head, given the mixed attired, but he obviously has a future in the theater.
I also spotted a black squirrel, rare for this area.
And there was a little bunny in the backyard eating grass. It looked like someone slurping spaghetti. He barely had a tail at all. Very cute.
What did you see today?