Anna and Elizabeth, 9th of May 2017

7.30pm
New Beaconsfield Hall
Shipton-under-Wychwood

Book tickets here

I’m alerting you to a gig in the Cotswolds, organised by a friend of mine which will be an exceptional evening of music making. I can’t wait, and I hope a lot of you will be able to come and join me.

If you’ve not heard of them before, Anna and Elizabeth are a duo from the States who specialise in American roots music. They find hidden gems in the folk music archives and bring them to life with fiddle, guitar, banjo and wonderful vocals. They tell stories with music and artwork, including captivating moving scrolls called “crankies“.

Scroll down for videos of Anna and Elizabeth in action.

Anna.Elizabeth_0012 (2).jpg

Elizabeth Laprelle is one of the most sought-after ballad singers of her generation and Anna Gevalt-Roberts a mesmerizing, talented multi-instrumentalist and singer, both sharing a desire to inspire people with the beautiful soul of Appalachian roots music.

Creating a huge buzz of excitement on their UK tour earlier this year, they plan to return in May 2017 with their captivating mix of ballads, foot-stomping dance tunes, stories and visual art. Reviving the lost art of ‘crankies’: cloth and cut-paper scrolls depicting scenes from ballads, their show (and workshops) are also ideal for educational settings as well as concert and festival venues.” Alan Bearman Music

 “They came to NPR and brought many of us to tears with some of the most yearning harmonies I’ve heard at the Tiny Desk. These songs are given few embellishments — sometimes a fiddle is added to a single voice, sometimes a banjo or guitar chimes in — but always the power is in the sparseness. If you’ve never thought your tastes would lean to mountain music, take a deep breath and soak it all in.” Bob Boilen, NPR Music

Visit their website

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The Holly and the Ivy – Two Versions

We had another lovely Big Fat Christmas Music Party on Monday. We finished with everyone singing ‘The Holly and the Ivy’, in which each verse was sung as a solo by a different student. Five in all. I’m so glad have so many enthusiastic singers in my ranks!

Here is the sheet with tuneline and chords.

The Holly and the Ivy in C

The Holly and the Ivy in D

For the solos though, I didn’t play the chords, I just used bare 5ths (C and G) as a long drone underneath. It complemented their young voices well, and was a contrast from the full-chorded and raucous chorus, where everyone piled in and sang. The verse and chorus have exactly the same chords and tune so a bit of variation is good, and it sounded lovely. I would definitely recommend playing it this way.

This tune was noted down by Cecil Sharpe in 1909, from a folk singer in the Cotswolds. Another tune for the same carol was recorded from a folk singer in Herefordshire in the 1950s. Steeleye Span recorded it and made it well known in the 70s. It’s a beautifully lyrical alternative. Here are the dots-

The Holly and the Ivy – Herefordshire Tune

Here’s a ukulele tutorial if you would like to hear how it sounds, or indeed learn it on the ukulele!

Thanks to A Folk Song a Week blog and Wikipedia for information.

 

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Conrad’s Christmas Catalogue

Loads of Carols and Christmas Songs to Download

carollersIt’s that time of year again, and Christmas carols are so great to use with music students. They are a whole group of tunes that are already familiar and, most of the time, people of all ages love playing them.
They are also fantastic for teaching people to harmonise. Consequently I have a large amount that I have arranged for this purpose. They are clear to read, mostly with the tune line notated and the chords written above. They are in many different keys, which comes from teaching different instruments. What’s easiest for beginner piano or ukulele is not the easiest for guitar or violin.

Here are links to PDFs of them all, hope they prove useful!

Please feel free to request any others, or different keys.

Adeste Fideles in G
Adeste Fideles in F

Away in a Manger in C
Away in a Manger in G with simple left hand part
Away in a Manger in D

The First noel in C
The First Noel in A

Good King Wenceslas in C
Good King Wenceslas in G

the Holly and the Ivy in C
the Holly and the Ivy in D
the Holly and the Ivy, Herefordshire tune

In the Bleak Midwinter in C
In the Bleak Midwinter with left hand

Jingle Bells
Jingle Bells: very simple
Jingle Bells: even simpler
Jingle Bells in D
Jingle Bells: simple guitar
Jingle Bells: simplest guitar

Mele Kalikimaka

O Come All Ye Faithful in F
O Come All Ye Faithful in G

O Little Town of Bethlehem in F: full chords
O Little Town of Bethlehem in F: simpler chords
O Little Town of Bethlehem in C: simpler chords

Oh Christmas Tree

Once in Royal David’s City in C
Once in Royal David’s City in F
Once in Royal David’s City in D

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in C


Silent Night in C

Silent Night in G
Silent Night in A

We  Three Kings in Am

We Three Kings in Dm
We Three Kings in Em
We Three Kings with simple left hand part

We Wish You a Merry Christmas in C
We Wish You a Merry Christmas in F

While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night in C

While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night in D

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Andantino

Back to showcasing the duets in my books. Here is Andantino, the third duet in Delightfully Easy Piano Duets: Book 1. It’s a good one for practice at reading the bass clef. It starts off with both players just playing with their left hands, then  you get a swell of volume and texture as the right hands are added.

The beginner’s melody is slow over the Diabelli bass figure of the intermediate part. If a beginner needs encouragement with feeling the rhythm here, I often play their part with them to begin with, in my free right hand.

The question and answer phrases exchanged by beginner and Intermediate near the end of the piece are fun and encourage each part to listen to each other.

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Scarborough Fair

Chords, modes, feisty lyrics and endless variations

Downloadable PDFs of Scarborough Fair: Tune line, chords and full lyrics.

Scarborough Fair in Dm (the key in the LCM book)

Scarborough Fair Am (our key)

Scarborough Fair Em (Simon and Garfunkel’s key)

One of the highlights of my summer Big Fat Music Party was the family of four who sang and played Scarborough Fair.

LCM1Our interest in this song was sparked by an arrangement of it by Wild in the son’s LCM grade 1 piano book. It’s a nice arrangement which sounds lovely as a solo piano piece, but we soon found we wanted to get to know the bones of the music and understand it, so we were quickly off the printed page, looking at the chord structure underneath the melody, singing the words and making our own arrangements.

As with a lot of folksongs, the key isn’t really minor or major, it is modal; it’s in the dorian mode. The scale has a minor 3rd, a major 6th and a minor 7th, which when you’re starting on D, works out as all the white notes.

Dorian D

Dorian mode is a great scale to encourage students to play around. I usually play a jazz waltz like accompaniment – and they can freely play any white notes on top of that.

Dorian Accompaniment

It’s great because they can’t hit a wrong note, so they are free to experiment and let their ears guide them. We do a bit of trading phrases too, and I just keep the accompaniment going in the left hand.

We explored how you can harmonise the melody with block or broken chords in the left hand.

The daughter of the family who has developed a love of singing lately got in on the act and we transposed it from D to A Dorian, which is a little more palatable to sing.

Now we could experiment with A Dorian, which has one black note, F#, on the major 6th.

Dorian A

Because this is Dorian rather than minor, you have a D major chord in the harmony rather than D minor, because of this sharpened 6th (F#) in the scale. It gives it that wonderful old-world feel, as these folk songs are from a time before major and minor modality took off.

The dad is learning guitar, so he accompanied with a nice um cha cha strum.

Scarborough fair chordsNotice the irregular bar structure. Folk songs often have this fluidity about them, as they would likely be sung by an unaccompanied singer.

This isn’t the only way to harmonise this, by the way. It’s the one that suited us best at the time. There are so many variations you could choose, just experiment and find which chords you like best.

So at the party, on the piano we had the mum on broken chords in the bass and son on the tune, dad accompanying on guitar and daughter singing.

I loved the way the son kept something which he liked from that initial arrangement; an echo of the last phrase which softly plays out, beginning on the singer’s last word. I got all the other players to stop on this last word, so the echoing phrase meandered on its own, over the ringing out of the final chord. He milked it well too. Nothing like a playful ending to captivate an audience, and leave them with a good memory of the piece!

Lyrics

Now this was really interesting. I had grown up with the Simon and Garfunkel version which is beautifully ethereal, has an anti-war poem of Simon’s woven in as a counter melody, five verses and doesn’t appear to make a whole lot of sense.

A quick trip to Wikipedia showed me older versions with a lot more verses, and the song being a dialog between a male and female singer, where basically he says she can be his lover if she performs a series of impossible tasks, and she returns with a pretty neat comeback!

Male part:

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Remember me to the one who lives there,
For once she was a true love of mine.

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Without any seam or needlework,
Then she shall be a true love of mine.

Tell her to wash it in yonder well,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Where never sprung water or rain ever fell,
And she shall be a true lover of mine.

Tell her to dry it on yonder thorn,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Which never bore blossom since Adam was born,
Then she shall be a true lover of mine.

Female part:

Now he has asked me questions three,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
I hope he’ll answer as many for me,
Before he shall be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to buy me an acre of land,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Between the salt water and the sea sand,
Then he shall be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to plough it with a ram’s horn,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
And sow it all over with one peppercorn,
And he shall be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to sheer’t with a sickle of leather,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
And bind it up with a peacock’s feather,
And he shall be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to thrash it on yonder wall,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme,
And never let one corn of it fall,
Then he shall be a true lover of mine.

When he has done and finished his work.
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme:
Oh, tell him to come and he’ll have his shirt,
And he shall be a true lover of mine.

And finally, as a Dylan fan of old, I can’t mention Scarborough Fair without mentioning the equally if not more beautiful, ‘Girl from the North Country’, one of the songs Bob Dylan wrote which was directly inspired by a folk song, using some of the form and the lyrics to create something with a feel that is new and old all at the same time.

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Pentatonic in 3

This duet is a firm favourite, and one of the first I wrote. Although it is the only one to venture out of the five-finger position, it is actually one of the easiest. I generally introduce it second after Breeze. It’s great to get them reading and feeling three-in-a-bar this early on.

The two pianists get to swap around with each other, taking turns to play the tune, and a high drone on A (the 5th note to complete the pentatonic scale).

The Intermediate part is swung; play it nice and lazily. It may initially seem like a lot of notes, but it consists of the same pattern repeating, so once you get your head around the pattern, it’s all yours.

The beginner part repeats a very simple pattern, but sounds different when it comes round again, because it is harmonised differently by the intermediate part. The harmonisations are quite jazzy and sometimes a bit adventurous, I suspect a bit too adventurous for one particular Amazon reviewer, but stick with it, you will be rewarded when it all comes together!

Enjoy.

This video was taken at the Music Education Expo 2015. This lovely music teacher I had just met is sight reading the beginner’s part. I rather like the ambient sounds in this one!

And now sans ambience.

 

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Allegro

Now that I have recorded all of my Delightfully Easy Duets with the unstoppable Rei Kozaki, I have been meaning to feature a different duet each week.

So here is Allegro, duet 1 from book 1. It has an upbeat, sunny feel, with a bit of an echo game going on between the two parts.

These duets were written specifically for maximum ease, and this one is particularly easy for the intermediate secondo part.

The beginner’s part is always in unison throughout the two books, so that the beginner can experience coordination between the two hands without having to think of two different ideas at once. In Allegro, the intermediate part gets to play with both hands in unison too, so they can relax and enjoy the interplay between the two parts.

There is a faster rhythmic figure which gets passed between the players, which always has a crescendo and diminuendo. I would advise players to see if they can outdo each other on these swells of dynamic. And don’t pause at the end of the lines. Think ahead and keep going!

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Mixing it Up: Two Tunes in One

Happy New Year everyone!

I thought I’d kick off 2016 with two tunes: a really old tune and a brand new one that fit together perfectly. I’m lucky enough to attend a folk music workshop with Laurel Swift one evening a week. We learn a new tune every time. One of the tunes I love for its simplicity is the Welsh tune, Pwt Ar y Bys, or Buttered Peas. Someone at the workshop mentioned they’d like the group to play two tunes simultaneously which fit together. I thought I would have a go at writing a tune that would fit with one we already play, and chose Pwt Ar y Bys. So here is my tune, Buttered Scones.

These two tunes are great to play together in a group instrumental lesson, or just between friends for fun. They are easy and enjoyable in their own right, and create a great ensemble piece when put together. Laurel added a third part; a drone (just one note, D in quavers all the way) which sounds great. Here are the unstoppable West London Folk Band (our weekly workshop group) playing this, then launching into a new time signature for a third tune, Barney Bralligan’s. Spot our illustrious leader break into a clog dance for the grand finale of the concert!

Magic can happen when you look beyond the dots and treat music like ingredients. Mix things up, try things out, see what delights you can cook up!

If you’re interested in folk tunes, the blog for Laurel’s workshops is a great one to follow. All the tunes, old and new which we learn each week are put up in the form of notation and a video so you can hear it.

Also well worth a visit is Jenny Glover’s Fiddletails where Jenny delves into her considerable knowledge of folk tunes, especially American old time, and comes up with some real gems.

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Workshop Day! Using Harmony Right fom the Start

The infinite benefits of Um Cha and Um Cha Cha

A few Sundays ago I attended the event, Casio workshop for Piano Teachers in Waterloo. It was great to share some of my teaching ideas and techniques with the group and demonstrate how I use these with my book, ‘Fun, Games and Party Pieces‘.

I was demonstrating how to teach chords right from the beginning, and using ‘um cha’ and ‘um cha cha’ to accompany all the pieces they are learning. This is fun and rewarding for the student, as they are making a big sound and they are on a level musically with the teacher. They are also internalising the harmonic structure and pulse of the pieces they are playing. This is happening naturally through the practical experience of playing rather than an intellectual exercise. The handout I made for the workshop detailing the steps I use to teach chords to beginners can be downloaded here.

Casio Piano Teacher workshop handout – Using harmony right from the start

I had fun showing the teachers how to do this with the chord diagrams for the tunes in Fun, Games and Party Pieces. Here’s a volunteer playing Um Cha using the chord diagram to ‘Mix it Up’, and me with two volunteers playing a trio version of ‘Three Tunes in Three’.

I played through some of my duets with the piano teachers which is always good fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed being in the audience for the rest of the day. Highlights for me were as follows:-

  • Composer Heather Hammond demonstrating the circle of 5ths in a minor key and then breaking out into a rousing rendition of ‘I will Survive’.
  • Hearing the sound of a grand piano being played in Notre Dame cathedral from a small digital piano.
  • Physiotherapist Drusilla Redman asking the audience to describe the feeling of performance nerves, and then getting us to recall how it feels when you fall in love. Light-headedness, sweaty palms, racing heart… ‘Did you like the feeling?’ She asked. The response was a definite ‘Yes’. So what happens to you when you fall in love is the same stuff that’s going on when you have performance anxiety. The difference is how we view it. What a useful and liberating comparison!
rosa and naomi

Sitting among Heather’s and my books with the lovely Naomi from Solemate.

A big thanks to Lorraine Liyanage from SE22 Piano School for organising this great day.

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Casio Workshop for Piano Teachers

Come and see me and get in for cheap!

Fun-Games-Front-CoverSince Launching Fun, Games and Party pieces I have been really pleased with how versatile it has proved to be in my own teaching. I added chord diagrams to each tune for family members to play along on different instruments, or teachers who like to work with chords like me.

The book functions well enough as a collection of fun pieces for beginners, but also has real scope for opening up the world of harmony for teacher and pupil alike, starting a journey that will ensure a deeper understanding of all the music the student will encounter in their future.

There are so many things you can do with these chord diagrams, giving students the ability to use chords, harmonise and understand harmony right from the beginning.

Excitingly, I’m going to get a chance to demonstrate these techniques in the Casio workshop for Piano Teachers this coming September.

I am looking forward for this chance to show other teachers how I use my own music in my own lessons, but also I’m really looking forward to being a part of this all-day workshop.

I’ll get the chance to learn about using digital technology in lessons to great effect, try out the latest digital pianos, hear straight from the composer of ‘All That Jazz’ about teaching Jazz and other modern styles, get help with how to promote the best posture for my students, find out how to run a ‘practice-a-thon’ and try out the new elegant and versatile footstool for young pianists.

Come and join me! The organiser has very kindly allowed me to offer a discount to my friends. Click the link below to enjoy a discounted rate of £24.99 for the whole day.

piano workshop discount

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