Fun Rhythm Game!

Rhythm Chart
We just finished up a 5-week session focusing on rhythm and sight-reading in my studio, so at our group event last Thursday I decided to play a game related to rhythm. I grabbed my rhythm chart, cut slips of paper into squares with numbers 1-9 written on each card (I wrote each number on four different slips so that there were four complete sets of numbers), and packed up three dry erase boards and markers.

Here’s how the game worked:
1. Students were divided into three teams.
2. The first team selected a representative to go to the piano and play the rhythm patterns.
3. The team representative selected the slips of paper from a bag (the team determined together how many slips they wanted the representative to draw).
4. As they drew the slips, they lined them up in order on the music rack.
5. The representative could take a few minutes to look over the chart and prepare, then he/she counted in and played the rhythm patterns in succession while their team listened and tried to determine which blocks they played and in which order. (I held the chart up so that it was visible to both the representative playing the rhythm at the piano and the rest of the team trying to determine what was played.)
6. The team wrote the rhythm block numbers on the dry erase board in the order they thought each was played and was given three chances to listen to the rhythm before showing their final answer.
7. The other teams also listened and tried to determine the correct rhythm blocks.
8. After the third playing of the rhythm, the team displayed their answer. If they were correct, they received 10 points times the number of slips of paper drawn. If they were incorrect, the other teams could show their answers and receive 5 points times the number of slips of paper drawn if they were correct.

Rhythm Game

This proved to be a very engaging game that required students both to accurately play and identify rhythm patterns. It also proved to be more challenging for the students than they first expected. One team attempted a six block pattern, but missed one. Four blocks at a time ended up being the most popular choice. It turned out to be a lot of fun!

Glorious Christmas Music CD!

Glorious Christmas Music from Nelidova Records!
Wow! If you want to hear some of the most amazing Christmas music ever recorded, click on over to Nelidova Records and listen to the sample clips from the Christmas Fantastique CD! I love to have Christmas music playing around the house between Thanksgiving and the New Year, but sometimes I have a hard time finding recordings that I really like. I have never heard anything this good! You can either download the whole CD for $9.99 (9.75 CAD 6.82 EUR 4.88 GBP) or order it for $14.99 (14.63 CAD 10.23 EUR 7.33 GBP).

If you know of any other Christmas music recordings you would recommend, I’d love to know about them!

Composers Datebook Daily E-mail

Would you like to learn interesting tidbits about composers and the events surrounding their compositions? What if that info could be delivered to your e-mail inbox everyday and you could spend one minute of your time expanding your knowledge of composers and their works? If that sounds appealing, here is the perfect solution! A daily e-mail from Composers Datebook. Just sign up here.

I’ve been receiving these daily e-mails for close to a year now and thoroughly enjoy them. Just to give you an idea of what you’ll be receiving, here’s what came in today’s e-mail:

An important date for Copland and Bernstein

If ever there was a red-letter day in American music, November 14th must surely be it. For starters, it’s the birthday of Aaron Copland, who was born in New York City on today’s date in 1900 — and then there’s all that happened on November 14th in the life of Leonard Bernstein . . .

Here’s how Bernstein himself explained it: “I never forget a Copland birthday: two of the most important events of my life happened on November 14 — the first in 1937 when Aaron and I met for the first time . . . Now, I worried and complained terrifically back then and always took my troubles to Aaron, who would tell me to ‘stop whining.’ He seemed to have such complete confidence in me that he didn’t show a bit of surprise when on Sunday, November 14, 1943, I made a dramatic success by filling in for the ailing Bruno Walter and conducting the New York Philharmonic. All Aaron’s predications came true — And on his birthday!”

As if that weren’t enough, in 1954, again on Copland’s birthday, Leonard Bernstein appeared on a live “Omnibus” television broadcast, presenting Beethoven’s draft sketches for the opening of his Fifth Symphony.

Bernstein’s TV debut was a smash success — and led directly to his subsequent series of televised “Young Person’s Concerts” that brought classical music to millions of Americans coast to coast.

A quick, easy read – check it out and see what you think!

Review: Folksongs for Piano – A Classical Interpretation

Billed as “an alluring blend of folk and classical music that celebrate the wonderful melodies found in folk songs,” I enjoyed playing through this delightful collection of six folk songs. The book is arranged by Cheryl Shantz and the cover indicates that it includes “Graded Pieces at the Intermediate Level.” I must confess, though, it took me several times through the book to really begin to comprehend all the stylistic elements Ms. Shantz has artfully woven into these arrangements. The layout of the book is clean and well-marked for performance with specific fingerings, articulations, dynamics and pedal markings. Beneath the title of each piece are the words of the folk tune and a short paragraph with additional information for each tune is included at the end of the book. Following are my brief notes on each of the pieces.

1. Fair Sally
– A simple broken chord accompaniment opens this piece, but gives way to a slightly more complex structure with the left hand carrying the melody and the right hand adding bits of counterpoint. A rich, chordal texture in the bass register peeks in for a moment before giving way to a sweet, expressive section where both hands are played in the treble register. The bass section reappears with a sotto voce marking to bring the piece to a cohesive and beautiful close.

2. Oranges and Lemons – This piece conveyed a Baroque feel, albeit interspersed with pedaled chord progressions that added some color.

3. The Blacksmith – The dolente opening is almost foreboding, but for the B-natural consistently applied in this d-minor piece. An easy broken chord pattern in the left hand accompanies a right hand that grows more complex with some inner voices. A gradual build-up eventually gives way to a faster leggiero section with 16th notes in the right hand that “twinkle” above the left hand melody to the end.

4. Down By the Sally Gardens – Contrary motion arpeggiated chord patterns let the fingers and ear flow into this lovely tune. 16th note runs, sometimes accompanied by snippets of melody throughout most of this piece contribute to the tender mood.

5. Greensleeves – No doubt the most familiar of the folk tunes included in the book, this piece opens with rolled chords in the left hand accompanying a single melodic line. The melody slips into the inner voice played by the left hand for a short section and then gives way to a “running” line of 16th notes for the remainder of the piece while the right hand supplies the melody.

6. Scarborough Fair – A misterioso introduction sets the stage for this popular tune. Unexpected harmonies dot the landscape of this piece and it was sometimes difficult for me to follow the melody. The longest in the book, this piece eventually ends with a bang!

While some of the pieces are accessible to an average intermediate student, others are more appropriate for a later intermediate student. It’s a great fit for the student who enjoys Classical music, but would also enjoy some familiar folk tunes! The pieces are ones that I’ll even enjoy adding to my collection of music for receptions/background music, etc. You can order your own copy of this book by contacting Cheryl Shantz directly.