Monthly Archives: August 2015

Today !

Today I heard Two birds singing,

 They reminded me of a flute and Piccolo,

    Today I heard the sound of a Lorry screaming to a halt,

         It sounded like some Atonal music from Scheonberg,

             Today I heard Two friends in happy conversation at the coffee house,

                      It reminded me of a Bach Fugue with subject,counsubject and stretto,

                             Today I heard so many things that reminded me of music,

                                      So I thought that I would write them out to further remind,

                                              Yes,I’m Weird,but lovably weird.

                                                    Happy listening all.

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“Every cloud has a silver lining”.

My private pupils for today have all tried their very best to play their pieces that they have worked on over this last week.With music from the Baroque period to music from the 20th century.

With a performance of the Bach Two part invention in F,I loved the life and movement of this piece.Even though I was about 8 when I first made tentative steps to play this piece,I still feel that it has an important place in the Bach Keyboard Corpus.

Moving on to the Mozart Piano Sonata in A K331.My pupil,who is now in her sixties,has always wanted to tackle this work.It has a delicate opening theme and variations,then and Minuet and Trion,concluding with the famous Rondo Alla Turka.As the piece is a favourite with so many people,it especially has that jest for life,and is a wonderful classical piece.My pupil lights up when she plays the Rondo Alla Turka.

This afternoon,I loved the performance from one of my teenage pupils of Brahms Intermezzo in D Minor.This,to me,is probably a desert island piece to me,I truly think that it is beautiful.My young pupil plays it will a personal voice that I find very attractive.

Finally,my last pupil today played me Debusseys La Mer.Although she is at the sketch end of the work,it is still music of the highest order,with lush voices that sing to me.

So,my day enriched me,as it always does.Yes,I am very lucky to do what I do,however,like most people,other aspects of life presents a challenge to me.Because we have a son with a heart/Lung condition,he needs constant support to do his work as Doctor of medical computer science.

Since my son was born,he has probably spent about a whole year of his life in hospital.So,yes,in my professional life,I get so much fullfillment,but obviously in my family life,there has been profound heartache.

However,every cloud has a Silver lining.That is something that I really feel.

“My Pupil surprised me today”.

Today,I was teaching a man who really surprised me in a good way.Mormally,I kind if struggle with the concept that you can  do anythng if you just try hard enough.You know,there is a novel in all of us routine.

Anyway,this man,and I will call him Steve,expressed an interest to play this piece by Beethoven a few weeks ago.Yes,it’s a wonderful composition,but no,I thought that it was beyond him at present.Anyway,he worked at it,and today,he produced a performance of the first movement of this Sonata that most people would have been proud of.Not only that,but he played it with his voice,rather then a copy of his favourite Pianist that he worships.

So,what did I learn  from this?

Well,that at times,I can pre-judge a pupil based on past achievements.

What did he learn?

That when he really applies himself to a composition,then the results speak for themselves.
Many times in my professional life,I find myself having to re-evaluate how I communicate.As I’m not the most ebullient speaker,I know that I still have room for improvement here.

Now,it’s true,I’ve been teaching for a longtime,and I’m still learning,but that,to me,makes what I do even more interesting.If we can master Somethng quickly,then we might give it less gravitas.

It was a good session with Steve,and I wanted to share this on my blog.

Many,I know,feel that to admit to making a mistake might mean that we are respected less as teachers,however,I feel that if our pupils see a human side to us,then they are more likely to be drawn to our methods than if we are Pedants.

Yes,many teachers of 35 years standing leave me for dead,but I’m just putting my life out here in written form.As Sadie Smith famously said”I write to stop me sleepwalking through Life”.Thats what I feel too.

“Our Peculiar August Weather”.

From Sun drenched beaches,to torrential rain,

          From clear blue skies,to dark clouds personified,

                 From baking dating temperatures to falling night chills,

                        That’s the British weather for you,that’s the British weather.

                               But recently,our weather rains have made sinister gains,

                                         Posting flash floods from plane to plane ,

                                                So us British people  are talking about the weather,the weather,the weather.

“This has been the best dream of my Life”.

I’m hearing the sound of the vibraphone in my mind,with soft pianissimo diminished chords on the piano.Its my very own crystal silence massaging me with soft tones.As the harmonies develop,a muted trumpet takes on the soprano line,like Miles Davis in “Kinda Blue”.As it was said that Miles had such a seductive sound that aroused Women with his tones,these musical collages affect me,drawing me into their world of total submission.

My Bass player tonight in my mind is non other than Charlie Mingas,and my vocalist is Joni Mitchell.Why,now I’ve died and gone to heaven.Their textures and vibrato imprints on my mind and heart the stamp of true artistry.Never have I heard such a collection of greats at any given time.They all seem happy on the one hand,but they are earnest on the other with their almost missionary zeal to communicate their tunes.

My pianist tonight the American is Keith Jarrett,without whom Jazz music wouldn’t have been the same.Keith is 100% authentic musician.Keith is real,totally dedicated to the piano.I can hear the lush chords weaving their way into my core as he transcribes the Anerican songbook for me.

Just then,in the wings,I thought I saw Sarah Vaughan Withher pianist Bon James,ready to play a few choice numbers.Pinching myself as if to realise that this has been the best dream that I have ever had,the tunes still linger in my mind.

As I awake to my reality,the tunes of the dream are still lingering in my mental fog.Wow,I. Am a lucky guy,just so lucky to have had music in my life.

Maybe,this has been the best dream of my life.

“I’m still loving the sound of Fistral beach in Newquay”.

My Facebook posts are a glut with scenes of my favourite beaches in Newquay,Cornwall.Many of these groups,as there all for so many other places up and down the UK want to show a community spirit.As my attraction for this group is probably nostalgic-having move away from Cornwall over 25 years ago-I realise that the pretty small town that I grew up near is really a big hitter as the surfing capital of Britain.

Growing up there,going to school there,having my piano lessons and organ lessons there has given me these firm roots.Back then,in the 60s and 70s,surfing was really the domain of a few locals,normally young men and boys,who braved the Atlantic with very large boards.To say that they were local heroes was probably an exaggeration to be fair.My brother in law was very keen,although not a great rider,on surfing.As a member of my sixth form,there was a guy there who really was good,and would go out really in the morning if the waves were up.

Newquay then,as I remembered it was a small seaside town where coach parties of mature people would come for say 2 weeks to soak up the atmosphere in one of its many beaches.Yes,as a biased Cornisman,I would say that the beaches are the best in the country,but anyone who has visited,or seen photographs will bear me out.Unlike Bournemouth,with its Long south Coast beach stretching for miles towards Poole and the other end to X-Church,Newquay has a number of smaller beaches along its North coast that is extremely tidal,and ,at times tempermental.

Because I’m a musician,and,at times,I tend to be a solitary person,I have spent hundreds of hours Listenning to the sea,usually to unwind after a long session of music tuition at the church in the town.

Those times,as a boy I can truly say,were some of the happiest moments of my life.To me,there is no sound quite like Fistral on a winters day on a Saturady afternoon-yes,I did say I liked to be solitary.Yes,I the winter,when the waves are up,and the wind is blowing,you can sometimes struggle to stand up,especially around Porthole and Lusty Glaze.Those moments are etched on my soul.They helped me to have a profound regard for the dangers of the sea.

Life back then in Newqauy was really quite simple.However,times really do change don’t they?Back then,Fat Willeys,to my knowledge at least,didn’t exist,let alone the plethora of other surf shacks,shops,and the sheer cornucopia of retailers designed for the surf industry.

When I return to Newquay,although the the essence of the coastline remains largely the same,I detect the change in the sheer numbers,and their expectation of what Newquay should be now.Stag weekend parties are so prevalent,with Year 11 students having almost ordained the place as their party centr of choice now.Yes,we can’t go back in time,no-one can,but I wonder if those guys with their enormous boards who graced Fistral,Tolcarne,Crantock,Watergate,Constantine bay to name but a few,would think of Fistral now?

For someone who was brought up filling by boots with the North Coast,I do worry that many who visit the county are so ill equipped to deal with the North Coast.Sometimes,I wonder if they understand what a rip -tide is,let along how dangerous it is.I despair when I hear of deaths on the Newquay Coast and the sheer ignorance of those who get themselves into such difficulties.

Yes, as a 57 year old man living near Bournemouth now,I love my home town,but I don’t view it with rose tinted glasses.

As the Stag parties proliferate and the Year 11 parties look set to continue,I wonder if the legacy is becoming tarnished a little.I hope not,as I will have my ashes scattered around Fistral when I pass on.

There is no sound like the sound of Fistral,and I would say that,wouldn’t I.

“Big day tomorrow for GCSE students,parents,carers,and Teachers”.

As the sun goes down on another day,I am reminded of how many of my GCSE pupils will probably have a sleepless night.Also,I am aware of all the parents of these young ones equally nervous for the future of their children.

   So,does all this anxiety have any real foundation?

Well,if you had asked me that question 25 years ago,I would have said that it’s not that important to have loads of what were then O-levels,let alone A-Levels.Life then was different,as it was still possible to enter the work place at 16 and get a reasonable job with prospects.

Now we are in the days of mandated learning up to the age of 18 years of age.Thats means that youngsters will be in Year 13 when they leave school.Now,that,to many,isn’t a good idea,but to many,16 wasn’t a mature age to have to get and hold down a job.

So we could say that our young people who get their results tomorrow have only just begun on their education journey.Nut,and it’s an enormous but,these young people will not get these results without hard work.Although the media will make a big deal about the ones who get A Stars tomorrow,but there will be many who don’t pass,or whose results aren’t as good as they hoped.

To me,being young today isn’t as easy as many would like us to think of.There are pressures on our young people that I didn’t have as a youngster.Now,many youngsters don’t go home to one of their parents being there,one or both of their parents have no choice but to work because it’s expensive to keep a roof over their heads.

Yes,educational choice has,in many ways been good,but what about those who don’t get into the school of their choice?At times,good parents are left going to a school that they didn’t want for their child.In many areas,people will move home in order to make sure that their child gets into the best schools.

Many of the parents that I know care deeply about their child’s education.With this in mind,I hope that this years results are better than ever,and that the hard working children and their parents and teachers receive all the encouragement possible.

Good luck to them all.

“If music be the food of love,then play on”.

Teaching adults the piano is a special privilege and although it can be tough to balance teaching with being a life coach at the same time,I wouldn’t ever change what I do.

Today,I taught a pupil who is now in her eighties.Her early life was spent as a civil servant in Whitehall.She had risen in the ranks and was an excellent assistant in a government department.Long hours and high powered cabinet meetings meant that there was little time for her first love,music.Her memories of concert going,from Covent Garden to the Barbican,Festival Hall,and the Royal Albert hall.When she talks about music,there is genuine love there.

Sadly,about a year ago,I started to notice that her memory for things was showing signs of concern.Her grasp of the basic stave notation showed that she was getting confused with the pitching notes in the treble and bass clef.

I could see that this was becoming frustrating for my pupil,and although I always try to show understanding with my pupils,I could see that this was difficult for her.My initial thoughts following a review of my teaching notes was to do a root and branch change to the structure of my lessons with Jayne.

However,I resisted the temptation to make any drastic changes in the itinerary of Jaynes lesson until I had thought about how I could help her.Then,I had a eureka moment,if I could tap into all those concerts that Jayne had heard as a young woman,then maybe I could use that intimate knowledge that she has got of classical themes to re-calibrate her lessons.

When Jayne reeled off her memories of truly great concerts that she had attended.It became clear to me that I might be able to transcribe many of these themes for piano.Yes,it would take hours to do this,but so much of our work as teachers is of good will,and not for monetary advantage.

Sometimes,stuff happens to us all?Jaynes early life and profession was one of public service at the ministry of health,but her love was music.To me,it seemed like basic human kindness to help my pupil with her love for the Piano,and her love of music.

Our profession at times has,quite rightly been accused of being obsessed with the perpetuation of excellence,but really,our job as teachers is really about little steps of progress that we can help our pupils with.We are all different,we all have stuff to contend with.

I end this blog post with a quote from Twefth night;”If music be the food of love,then play on”.

Appreciation from an unusual source.

So today my car broke down .O-Kay,I normally use my car journeys to catch up on new music,I call Monday Muse,but as I was late for my first piano lesson,I had to take the bus.

Living as I do,in a semi-rural environment,buses are sporadic to say the least.Arriving at the bus shelter,I realised that I would have a long wait for the service that I required.

As mornings aren’t my best time to be honest,I sort of stood up j the corner of the shelter minding my own business.If I could have gotten away without engaging in a conversation I would have done.As there were 3 or 4 people already there,it seemed that I would be able to keep a low profile.Then,out of no-where,one of the ladies asked if I played the Pianomto which I responded yes.There after,a conversation ensued about her love of Jazz and Rock n roll.To be honest,I did feel that these gigs at nursing homes were never that well received.Well,how wrong I was.It was quite humbling.It made me realise that at times I don’t fully get how much pleasure a hours music can give people.

We talked about her love for Jazz,who she’d seen in the pre-war and post war era in London.Her knowledge,and appreciation was impressive.

So,what am I saying?I am saying that at times I underestimate people and their appreciation for music.

When I go to the nursing home next month,I will be looking for her,and hoping that they will enjoy my “Tribute to the swing masters” set.

From having a bad start to my day,things got a whole lot better for my working life today.

Sunday Silence

Now that the cars don’t race past my house,

Now that the runners and riders of human activity have rested,

Now that the folk are in bed,reading their Sunday great,hugging their tablets,

Now that the ticking of the clock is my metronome for the days pulse,.

Sunday’s my favourite day,it is,it is,it is you know.

Tomorrow the cars will race again past my dwelling,

Tomorrow the runners and riders will resume their race for life,