Summer 2019: New Music and Materials
(S2) Bastien New Traditions All In One Piano Course, 2B, 3A, 3B, by Lisa, Lori, and Jane Bastien.
In a grand family tradition, these materials continue the recently published Bastien New Traditions All In One Piano Course by Lisa, Lori, and Jane Bastien. As with the first five levels in the new series (Primer A through 2A), Lessons, Theory, Technique, and Performance are combined in one easyto-use book for each level. The books are very well organized, and at every level, they provide ample opportunities for review and reinforcement of concepts. Students have access to the online Interactive Piano Studio, where they can listen to recordings of the pieces, make and store their own recordings, practice flashcards, and other enriching activities. The artwork continues to be beautiful in the continuation of the series, providing the student rich visual opportunities for imaginative interpretation.
The teacher who is familiar with the original Bastien Piano Basics will find similarities to the older series; the method uses a gradual multi-key approach, and places some emphasis on the primary triads and five-finger patterns within each key. Students are introduced to many American folk songs, and there are a variety of both up-tempo and more lyrical selections.
The authors do an excellent job of expanding students' harmonic vocabulary in levels 2B-3B. Folk songs from China, Japan, England, and Germany are included, and pieces incorporate the whole tone and chromatic scales, as well as various types of seventh chords. In addition, the authors are careful to incorporate linear as well as homophonic textures, pieces that span a broad range of the keyboard, and music with detailed articulations and rhythmic syncopations. The very clear introduction of syncopated pedal in level 2B is worthy of special note.
Along with simplified arrangements of classical tunes such as Leopold Mozart's "Minuet" and Jeremiah Clark's "Trumpet Tune," students will play traditional classical pieces by Czerny, Diabelli, Bartók, and others. In addition, several well-loved pieces by James Bastien are included such as Sea Mist, and Earth, Air, Fire, Water.
Teachers familiar with the original Bastien Piano Basics will enjoy this contemporary take on a classic piano method. Teachers and students unfamiliar with the original series will enjoy this lively, harmonious, and well-organized approach to learning to play the piano! (Kjos, $9.99 each) — Meg Gray
(S2-3) The Beatles for Kids: 14 Favorites Arranged for Easy Piano with Practice Tips for Learning Each Song, published by Hal Leonard.
I am always looking for fun music for my piano students. I like to find music that is just a little bit easier than what they are currently playing. It needs to sound good and offer up a style and/or sound that is different for them. The recent publication of The Beatles for Kids: 14 Favorites Arranged for Easy Piano with Practice Tips for Learning Each Song fits my requirements perfectly. Some of the betterknown featured hits by the Beatles included in this collection are "Hey Jude," "Let it Be," "Yellow Submarine," "Yesterday," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and "Here Comes the Sun." This collection features a worthy preface that shares not only a historical overview of who the Beatles were, but also provides helpful practice tips for each piece included in this collection. For example, the tips may include a little bit of history regarding when the piece was written, released, and/or debuted. The practice suggestions often include practicing hands alone, noticing rhythms and repeated passages, counting carefully, and how to swing the rhythms. The instructions are easy to read, thus the student can take ownership of and investment in the learning of each piece.
The pieces in this collection are written for the intermediate pianist; there is minimal chord work in the left hand (sometimes even just single notes), and the melodies are written within a limited range. The rhythms of many of these pieces are not difficult, with the most complex rhythmic pattern being a dotted eighth–sixteenth note. Some of the simpler selections, such as "Octopus's Garden" and "All My Loving" feature single notes in the left hand with minimal shifts in the right hand. The more challenging pieces in this collection are "Hey Jude," featuring more shifts in the left hand and chord work, "Here Comes the Sun," with syncopated patterns in the right hand, and "Good Day Sunshine," which features more chord work in the right hand, syncopated patterns, and swing rhythms. Despite this, what is really cool is that THEY SOUND AWESOME! The pieces sound like the real thing and students sound good playing them. What a valuable collection for piano teachers and their students! (Hal Leonard, $12.99) — Adrienne E. Wiley
(S5) The Beatles Recital Suites for Pianoforte, arranged by Phillip Keveren.
I have had the opportunity to play several pieces arranged by Keveren for use in the church setting, so I was really tickled to see his new collection The Beatles Recital Suites for Pianoforte. This collection is written for the advanced pianist and its selections are meant to be concert showpieces. Keveren states that "they were designed both to honor the integrity of the original songs and to provide accomplished pianists with serious material worth rehearsing and presenting." Featured in this collection are four albums: A Hard Day's Night (1964), Help! (1965), Meet the Beatles (1964), and Rubber Soul (1965). Each album contains four songs. For example, A Hard Day's Night includes these songs: "And I Love Her," "Can't Buy Me Love," "A Hard Day's Night," and "I'll Be Back."
All of the pieces in this collection require proficient facility and a solid grounding in technique, rhythmic precision, and a love of and flair for this genre of music. Overall, they are very pianistic and showcase not only technique but musicality as well. All of these pieces exploit the range of the piano. In general, I discovered that the melody is not always featured in the right hand: often it is embedded or part of a chord, or featured in the left hand. Sometimes the melody appears as a fragment, only to tease the player and listener. Because the pieces are sectional, there are often multiple key changes to be aware of, and often the coda will recap a main theme with much grandeur. While these pieces are not "easy reads" and do require practice, they are extremely rewarding to prepare and ultimately perform. While I just stated they are not easy reads, I decided to do a "rough read" of the collection. Each album presented is really a medley of songs: after one song is presented, there is a transition to the next song. As I read through each album, I became aware that one of the genius aspects of Keveren's writing is how the transitions seem to morph out of nowhere, and they are so very interesting! All of these transition moments are highly unique, well crafted, and most creative. I found the bravura passagework to be very musical and a good challenge. This collection is definitely worthy of anyone's time and talent, and is very motivating. I highly recommend teachers check out The Beatles Recital Suites for Pianoforte. (Hal Leonard, $19.99) — Adrienne E. Wiley
(S3) Meaningful Moments, by Eugénie Rocherolle.
Prolific composer and New Orleans native Eugénie Rocherolle has written music for solo voice, musical theater, chamber groups, choir, and band. In addition, she has been an eminent composer of piano repertoire for over forty years. The six original intermediate piano solos in her book Meaningful Moments were written for her friends and family for their celebratory and solemn events. In the preface, Rocherolle explains what event in her life inspired each composition. This collection also includes arrangements of Schubert's "Ave Maria" and the ever-popular "Amazing Grace."
The pieces are one to four pages long, but can easily be extended or shortened as needed. A span of a tenth is common in the left hand broken chord patterns. Octaves and four-note chords add to the majesty of "Bridal March" and the versatile "Recessional." There are two more wedding pieces, and any of these can be used in place of, or in addition to, more traditional pieces. They would also be perfect for any event that requires entrance and exit music.
The expressive "Adagio" in D-flat major with a melody reminiscent of Bach, or "Elegy" in A-major, originally scored for piano and cello, would be equally effective at a recital, a church service, memorial, or any special occasion where a short, yet thoughtful piece is needed. "Amazing Grace" gets spruced up with two key changes and a flowing left hand accompaniment, but could readily accommodate a singer.
Rocherolle writes in her introduction, "It is my hope that this collection will prove to be suitable for any number of occasions and help to bring smiles, or comfort." Meaningful Moments is perfect for a student who is asked to play at a special event And for the seasoned pianist or church musician, it's a welcome addition to the standard literature and a chance to freshen up one's repertoire. (Hal Leonard, $9.99) — Carmen Doubrava
This Issue's Contributors:
Suzanne Schons, PhD, NCTM, is Music Editor at The Piano Magazine. She teaches music courses at the University of St. Thomas and piano lessons at K&S Conservatory of Music in Minnesota.
Carmen Doubrava, MM, is on the fine arts faculty at The Hockaday School in Dallas, where she teaches piano and accompanies several choirs, orchestras, and various school concerts. She is also the choir accompanist at Horizon Unitarian Universalist Church in Carrollton.
Meg Gray, PhD, is on the faculty at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Conservatory of Music and Dance where she teaches piano pedagogy and musicianship, and coordinates the undergraduate keyboard skills program.
Adrienne E. Wiley is Professor of Piano, Pedagogy, and Class Piano at Central Michigan University. She loves teaching both college- and precollege-aged students and discovering new gems of teaching literature.