Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wendy Hatala Foley's Upcoming Iolanthe With Toronto Operetta Theatre

The operatic schedules for Wendy and I couldn't have worked out better. As soon as I finished the run of Opera To Go, Wendy started rehearsals for Toronto Operetta Theatre's upcoming Iolanthe (she's playing the Fairy Queen) running from April 18-26 at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. My goodness, would it ever be nice to be the face of a production (see above).

More About Memorizing Music

My latest blog post for Music Teacher's Helper is up, entitled Some Thoughts on Memorizing Music. The article was heavily influenced by my experiences working with singers at Tapestry in the last month, and how they rose to the challenges of learning and memorizing such a huge amount of contemporary opera in an extremely short span of time. We instrumentalists can learn from their example...

Quote of the Day

From Stephen Sondheim to Dr. Kaiser:
I am not the composer of A Chorus Line.
Stephen Sondheim 
The original note is available for purchase from Roger Gross Ltd.

Happy Birthday Haydn!

Fondest birthday wishes to Franz Joseph Haydn, who was born on this day in 1732. Here is Lang Lang playing his Piano Sonata #60 Hob. XVI:50 (in two parts):

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lotte Lehmann Foundation's 2008 CyberSing Winners Announced

The Lotte Lehmann Foundation has announced the winners of its 2008 CyberSing Art Song Competition. Congratulations go out to Allen Perriello for winning the prize for best collaborative pianist. The singers who won awards are Joshua Quinn, John Brancy, Courtney Cacopardo, and Heidi Sauser in Division One (23 and under), and Laura Stuart, Marshall Dean, and Brooke Evers in Division Two (over 23). You can also check out a complete list of prizewinners on the Lotte Lehmann Foundation blog.

Allen Perriello has also been selected as a 2009 Adler Fellow at the San Francisco Opera Center. His bio from a SF Opera press release:
Coach and accompanist Allen Perriello, a first-year Adler fellow, is an alumnus of the 2008 Merola Opera Program. Professional engagements include Opera Cleveland, Rising Star Opera Theater, and Ash Lawn Opera. His other coaching credits include Hänsel und Gretel, Albert Herring, La Bohème, Dido and Aeneas, Miss Lonelyhearts, Amahl and the Night Visitors, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Werther, L'enfant et les Sortileges, L'Elisir d'Amore, The Merry Widow, West Side Story, and The Consul. Perriello served as chorus master for Cincinnati Conservatory of Music's productions of La Bohème and L'Elisir d'Amore. The Gibsonia, PA native holds a master's degree in collaborative piano from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and a bachelor's degree in piano performance and music education from Ithaca College.
Here is Allen with fellow prizewinner Marshall Dean performing Rachmaninoff's "I am Again Alone" Op. 26 No. 9:

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Quote of the Day

“Listening to finer music and attending concerts on a consistent basis makes your real age about four years younger,” Dr. Michael F. Roizen — the chief wellness officer of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, said recently. “Whether that’s due to stress relief or other properties, we see decreases in all-cause mortality, reflecting slower aging of arteries as well as cancer-related and environmental factors. Attending sports events like soccer or football offers none of these benefits.”

-from Matthew Gurewitsch's Composing Concertos in the Key of Rx

Opera To Go Reviews, and a Disclosure

After two weeks of workshops in January, three and a half weeks of rehearsal, and four shows, the 2009 running of Tapestry New Opera Works' Opera To Go is now finished after a successful run and some good reviews. 

Disclosure: I was less than truthful about the number of operas offered on the program. There were not four operas on the program, as previously mentioned, but five! The reason that the fifth opera (Ken Gass and Jack Perla's Betty Box Office) was not officially listed was that it was performed guerrilla-style in the box office area of the lobby 20 minutes before show time, featuring Sally Dibble as a disgruntled box office associate and a cameo appearance by Tapestry Managing Artistic Director Wayne Strongman, playing himself (with his lines sung by Peter McGillivray, embedded in the audience behind a newspaper). Although rumors of the mystery fifth opera circulated during the run of the show, it was nevertheless a pleasure to see the looks of wonder come across audience members watching an opera happen unannounced right before their eyes.

Anyway, here are the reviews of the show so far, which I'll add to as more are published in the next few days:

Tamara Bernstein in the Globe and Mail (who erroneously listed the name of the company as Tapestry Theatre)
Jon Terauds in the Toronto Star (who erroneously stated that the Opera To Go program was on hiatus last year--it most definitely was not)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tapestry's Opera To Go Opens Tonight at Harbourfront in Toronto

Tapestry New Opera Works' production of Opera To Go, an evening of 4 new operas, opens tonight at Harbourfront's EnWave Theatre and runs through March 29th. Here are the show times:

Thursday, March 26 8pm
Friday, March 27 8pm
Saturday, March 28 8pm
Sunday, March 29 3pm

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Recital Fee Question

Earlier this evening I received the following comment on a previous post:
I'm curious what to pay an accompanist for a classical voice recital I'm doing in another city. We did a concert together already and this upcoming program would be almost completely if not completely the same repertoire. We will probably have two rehearsals. The concert is a few hours drive from where we live which would involve spending the night out of town. I will also probably give a vocal master class and would like to pay the same accompanist to accompany that. Many thanks for any advice!
Thanks for the question, anonymous poster. I'm going to give a ballpark estimate and then my readers can weigh in regarding whether or not I'm on the mark.  Here are the services you've mentioned--let's assume an hourly rehearsal/master class rate of $50 per hour:

2 hours rehearsal @50 per hour=$100
1 recital @$300
2 hour master class @$50 per hour=$100
Total=$500 plus the cost of accomodating your pianist.

However, if the venue in the city you are travelling to is paying you to do the master class, they could pick up the tab for your pianist, perhaps monetized via an accompanist fee charged to the participating singers (this is standard practice for NATS events in my experience).

Again, these figures are ballpark only. The recital fee would depend on the length of the recital, level of the performers, (ie. student or pro), size of venue, the singer's stature, the pianist's stature, and whether or not it was a paid or free recital. Recently, many singers I work with pay their pianists half of their fee and share expenses if there is travel involved.

Are my figures close to what the standard practice is for these types of activities? Too high? Too low? Leave a comment and I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts on this subject.

Monday, March 23, 2009

7 Free Faber Piano Adventures Resources

In the last few years, one of the meethods that I keep coming back to for many different types of students is the Faber Piano Adventures series. With a huge number of lesson, technique, theory, note-speller, and performance books to choose from, the Piano Adventures series has numerous routes through it for different types of students and teachers. Here are only a few of the possible paths through the series:
  • classical piano
  • popular/rock piano
  • jazz piano
  • sacred piano
  • integration with the RCME/NMCP Prep A and B exams
  • exiting from the series into Royal Conservatory grade levels once students are ready
But unlike many other methods where there is only one pathway, Piano Adventures features an almost bewildering array of books for learners of all ages that require a certain amount of decision-making on the teacher's part to determine what elements of the entire series they wish to pursue.

Fortunately, the FJH Music Company now has a fair amount of free online resources available to teachers and students. Here are some of them:

1. Teaching Guide to the Piano Adventures Primer Level. Each concept and piece introduced in the Primer level has a description of how you might teach it, as well as an instructional video. In addition, there are articles on subjects such as rhythm, pre-reading, creativity, technique, steps vs. skips, and the book's philosophy. There's a massive amount of information here, and I hope that the Faber crew will be continuing the series with pedagogical guides beyond the primer level.

2. Piano Adventures Newsletter. Each issue deals with one level of the series (8 have been released so far, detailing matters related to teaching from Primer through Level 5). The articles in the newsletter are written by well-known teachers such as Marienne Uszler, Scott Price, Paul Johnson, Richard Weise, and Beth Gigante Klingenstein. You can read all the back issues on PDF files, as well as sign up for future issues of the newsletter.

3. The Piano Club Forums. This is a community devoted to discussions of issues such as teaching materials, teaching issues, motivation, teaching adults, and the business of teaching, to name only a few. Registration is required, but free.

4. My First Piano Tour. This recent method targeted towards teaching very young piano students (5-7) was introduced only recently (2006), and integrates with Level 1 of Piano Adventures at the end of the series. Topics covered include videos about young learners, a course guide, and a video lesson guide.

5. FAQ's for Teachers. Lots of valuable information here, including information on switching to Piano Adventures, motivating students, utilizing technology, theory, and supplementation.

6. FAQ's for Students. Again, lots of great information, including stuff on practice habits, finding a teacher, the importance of performing, and sibling issues.

7. Glossary of Musical Terms. There are more comprehensive glossaries on the internet, but the terms on the Faber glossary integrate nicely with the concepts you'll find in the Piano Adventures series.

Here are some quick links to various books in the Piano Adventures series:

Look inside this title
My First Piano Adventure, Lesson Book A - sheet music at www.sheetmusicplus.com
My First Piano Adventure, Lesson Book A (for the Young Beginner) Written by Nancy Faber, Randall Faber. Instructional book for piano. Written for ages 5 and 6, My First Piano Adventure captures the child's playful spirit. Fun-filled songs, rhythm games and technique activities develop beginning keyboard skills. 88 pages. Published by The FJH Music Company Inc. (FJ.FF1619)
See more info...

Look inside this title
Piano Adventures Lesson Book, Primer - sheet music at www.sheetmusicplus.com
Piano Adventures Lesson Book, Primer Written by Nancy Faber, Randall Faber. Instructional book for piano. Primer. 64 pages. Published by The FJH Music Company Inc. (FJ.FF1075)
See more info...
Look inside this title
Piano Adventures Technique & Artistry Book, Level 2B - sheet music at www.sheetmusicplus.com
Piano Adventures Technique & Artistry Book, Level 2B By Randall Faber, Nancy Faber. For Piano. Piano Adventures. Methods. Level: Grade 2B. Book. Published by The FJH Music Company Inc. (FF1099)
See more info...

Look inside this title
Accelerated Piano Adventures For The Older Beginner, Lesson Book 1 - sheet music at www.sheetmusicplus.com
Accelerated Piano Adventures For The Older Beginner, Lesson Book 1 By Randall Faber, Nancy Faber. For Piano. Piano Adventures. Methods. Level: Primer/Level 1. Book. Published by The FJH Music Company Inc. (FF1205)
See more info...

Look inside this title
Piano Adventures Flashcards In-A-Box - sheet music at www.sheetmusicplus.com
Piano Adventures Flashcards In-A-Box By Randall Faber, Nancy Faber. For Piano. Piano Adventures. Methods. Flashcards. Published by The FJH Music Company Inc. (FF1168)
See more info...

Look inside this title
Piano Adventures PracticeTime Assignment Book - sheet music at www.sheetmusicplus.com
Piano Adventures PracticeTime Assignment Book By Randall Faber, Nancy Faber. For Piano. Piano Adventures. Methods. Book. Published by The FJH Music Company Inc. (FF1167)
See more info...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Monster List of 100+ Resources on the Collaborative Piano Blog

Whether you're a long-time reader or a first-time visitor to the site, welcome! The Collaborative Piano Blog is a site that looks at the art of the piano in ensemble, various piano-related resources and events, the world of classical music, music education, and how to put it all together through technology. As this blog has matured, many readers have requested a way to navigate through all the articles (now well over 1200) in order to get to what they need. This guide will be an ongoing attempt to create as many pathways as possible through the enormity of content on the Collaborative Piano Blog.

Main Links

Home Page (or type www.collaborativepiano.com in your browser's address bar)
Subscribe via an RSS reader such as Google Reader, Bloglines, or NewsGator
Subscribe via email and get updates sent directly to your inbox
My Twitter Page, another way to be informed of new posts and connect with me online
Contact me: collaborative piano [at] gmail dot com

An Introduction to Collaborative Piano

Welcome to the world of collaborative piano, formerly called piano accompanying. This is the profession where fiercely dedicated, talented, hard-working, and successful pianists devote themselves to the art of playing, coaching, rehearsing, and performing with others for a living. Even though we still get omitted from concert programs from time to time.

Studying Collaborative Piano

So you're interested in entering the field. How do you get accreditation? What schools offer degrees and diplomas? What type of terminal degree do you seek? Here are some articles on the education of collaborative pianists and issues associated with the different types of programs.

The Collaborative Pianist's Skill Set

What are the skills that collaborative pianists need to develop? Here are some articles that take the mystery out of their wide range of sometimes superhuman abilities.

Jennifer Peterson on Subliminal Recit Technique

Collaborative Piano: The Career

Now you've got a degree...what happens next? What kind of work do collaborative pianists do in the field? What are the boundaries of the profession?  The articles below feature issues related to the world of work in the collaborative arts, with an emphasis on freelance skills and resources.

Practicing and Musical Development

In addition to being a performing pianist, I am also a teacher. Here are some articles I have compiled relating to how to improve the quality of your practice and maximize your time spent in the studio.

Highlights from 31 Days to Better Practicing

In October 2007, I set myself the goal of writing 31 posts in 31 days on the subject of practicing. Here are the highlights. You can also check out the complete series.

Piano Pedagogy

A few posts I've written about resources and ideas related to the art of teaching.

Bathroom Divas

In late 2005, I got a gig playing piano for a opera reality show on Bravo!Canada called Bathroom Divas. Six singers chosen from Canada-wide auditions came to a house in Toronto and learned the craft of singing with the cameras rolling. Little did we know that this humble show would become one of the sleeper hits of 2006 and eventually win a Gemini award for its second season. Alas, CTV decided to cancel the show after season 2. However, you can still see the episodes from time to time on both Bravo in Canada and Ovation in the United States. Below is a synopsis of each episode. Spoiler alerts galore!

Season 1

Season 2

Social Media

Yes, I admit it. I'm a social media junkie. Feel free to follow me on Facebook and Twitter to see some of the other stuff I'm up to.

More Stuff

Here are various and sundry other articles I've written including link lists, an account of an opera creation workshop, a review I did for Sony, and more...


The labels below are the most common ones on the blog. There are numerous other categories that you'll find following posts--click on them to read further on a subject.

Thanks for reading to the end! You can always keep abreast of new postings by subscribing to the Collaborative Piano Blog's feed either in a feed reader or via email.

Another Useful Recitative Coaching Resource

Those interested in the art of coaching operatic recitative should take a look at Jeremy Fisher's Five Quick and Easy Steps to Learning Recitative. I agree with his text-based approach:
Recitative can hold some terrors for the young (and even the experienced) singer, as its rhythmic and melodic structures often differ from the surrounding music. Singers are musicians at heart, and the temptation is to start with the melody and throw the words in somehow. But in reality, this takes longer to do, and you are more likely to make mistakes that are difficult to undo.
What stage directors need from singers in the rehearsal/staging process of recitative is a knowledge of meaning, intent, character, and the flow of language, so that they can direct interactions between characters and put them on the stage. And it all starts with the text.

Previously on the Collaborative Piano Blog:

Jennifer Peterson on Subliminal Recit Technique

Friday, March 20, 2009

Viola Fail

String players, make sure those tailpieces are properly maintained, otherwise this might happen:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pianist vs. Page Turner

Liz Parker has just assembled some useful page turning tips for both pianist and turner at The Megaphone. For example, here is her take on the importance of pre-checking exactly what the last encore will be:
I once turned for Julius Drake, who was performing with baritone Gerald Finley. Julius was flipping back and forth between books, and not stacking “done” music on a pile on the left stand (something my brother Jamie always does); so I wasn’t sure when the concert was actually done. I forgot to check what the last song was. Since we agreed for me to stay out in between numbers, I panicked: when was the concert done? Do I go off? Do I stay out??? I couldn’t tell by the applause, either. Feeling a bit panicky, I gambled and stayed out. I felt awfully small and alone on the stage of Roy Thomson Hall, the whole world watching. Thankfully, they came back out, and Gerald introduced the encore. I exhaled. And the applause was enthusiastic enough that the encore was definitely warranted - it’s not like my presence forced it. But still!! So don’t make that mistake.
Be sure to check out Liz's page turning bio at the bottom of her article, in which I figure prominently. And be sure to leave comments for Liz with your funniest page turning stories, which she'll be compiling for a future article.

Victor Borge certainly knows how to interact with a page turner:

Keith Kirchoff Plays the McConnell Toy Piano Concerto

Part of watching a toy piano concerto is the incongruity of watching a grown adult towering over a tiny instrument. Here is a video of Keith Kirchoff playing an excerpt of the Matthew McConnell Concerto for Toy Piano:

If you're interested in the works of Matthew McConnell, you can find the sheet music for several of his works available for purchase and download on his site. Keith Kirchoff's site features his recent CD DVD of the Piano Music of New England, also available for purchase.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Live and Recorded Concert Streaming on the Indiana University Website

My colleague Tom Diamond, director of the soon-to-open Opera To Go at Tapestry New Opera Works, just spent several weeks at Indiana University directing their production of Handel's Giulio Cesare earlier this year. Tom alerted me to the fact that the School of Music at IU streams a large number of their concerts and productions in high-definition video. A quick check shows that recent full-length productions of Giulio Cesare, Cendrillon, The Nutcracker, Love for Three Oranges, Merry Wives of Windsor, and La Boheme are currently online, as well as a recent performance of the IU Philarmonic with Leonard Slatkin conducting. The productions are filmed with several camera units, are edited quite well (with surtitles in the operas too!), feature an extremely crisp picture, and are available without charge or signup. What a great way to spend your evenings...

Media Day at Tapestry

Today various Toronto media outlets will be stopping by the rehearsal studio for interviews, photographs, and video footage to promote Tapestry's Opera To Go. If you want to see which TV stations will be running segments and which newspapers will be featuring articles, check my Twitter page throughout the day for updates.

Update: The media appointments for today have been cancelled. I'll update when I know of the next scheduled media times.

Update: The developing Natasha Richardson story was the reason that the outlets cancelled for today. However, CBC Radio 1's Here and Now did show up for background--they're planning a segment on Capgrass Syndrome and Taylor/Johnson's My Mother's Ring to air sometime next week.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Anna Netrebko and Roberto Alagna in Massenet's Manon

Regietheater at its sexiest - Anna Netrebko and Roberto Alagna in the second act of Andrei Serban's 2007 Wiener Staatsoper production of Massenet's Manon:

Quote of the Day

No matter if you're an artist, a desk jockey, or anything in between - give yourself permission to include regular (dare I say daily?) reinvigoration in your work ethic. Silence. Slowness. Clarity. The machine doesn't work so well without them.

--Kim Witman, from Living and Singing on Interest in the WTO Blog

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Creating Events to Remember

My latest article for Music Teacher's Helper is hot off the press:

In the second part of the Complete Musician on MTH series-in-progress, I look at ways of utilizing the title and description fields for events to add more information for both teacher and student prior to the event, as well as the possibility of adding Freelance events for performing musicians such as collaborative pianists. If you haven't yet tried Music Teacher's Helper, I highly recommend it as an extremely useful tool for both teachers and performers.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

World Builder

This short film by Bruce Branit took one day to film and two years of post-production to achieve its final form. As performing artists, what we do is not unlike what happens in this film--a huge amount of preparation for an all-too-short chance to touch someone on a deep level. But for those who have chosen the artist's life, there is no higher calling.

World Builder Facebook Page

Previously on the Collaborative Piano Blog:

Friday, March 13, 2009

Association Nationale des Metiers de l'Accompagnement Musicale

I've previously looked at ways that collaborative pianists have organized themselves regionally, including the Accompanists' Guild of South Australia and the Accompanists' Guild of New South Wales. Therefore, it was a very pleasant surprise indeed to learn of the Association National des metiers de l'Accompagnement Musicale, a French organization which translates literally as the "National Association of the Trade of Musical Accompaniment". 

ANMAM appears to be the largest of the professional collaborative organizations I've seen, covering a large number of companies, schools, and individuals operating in France. If you're looking into working or studying in France in the collaborative arts, the ANMAM site is your definitive resource, with news, history of the association, job listings, and programs on the site, to name only a few. If you're not too comfortable reading French, you can always use Google Language Tools or Babel Fish to translate a page into English.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Coaching Recitative: Subliminal Recit Technique

This useful method of both learning and coaching recitative was written by New York-based vocal coach and conductor Jennifer Peterson., who previously wrote an article here on 9 Categories of Excuses for Missed Rehearsals and Coachings. You also can also connect with Jennifer on Twitter.

Subliminal Recit Technique

It works.

It can apply to any recitative up through Donizetti, with a couple of exceptions, which I will include as we go.

Post-Donizetti (or 1830 is a good cutoff date), keep in mind that notation became more specific. Especially for anything French and for Verdi. You can still apply the technique, but the composer helps you through a good part the process.

The coach's job is quite involved, and the coach must be as familiar with the language as the singer.

It is assumed that the singer has already made their translation, and that the coach has a handle on this as well.

Step 1 - Remove Unnecessary Pauses
Both singer and coach: eliminate all rests in the vocal line when there is no punctuation in the text. This does not apply to French recitative. And some conductors may absolutely disagree with this basic principle. Nonetheless, the technique will work; your stage director will be happy; the singer can always put the rests (i.e. dramatic pauses) back in once they've got it in their mouth and voice. Connect the final pitch before a rest to the pitch after the rest. Be careful to never lengthen the note before the printed rest. If it's lengthened, it will sound like an accent. Coach: keep this in mind throughout the entire coaching process. Don't let the singer lengthen those final syllables, no matter how pretty it sounds!

The reason for killing rests: barlines were a convention that were somewhat arbitrarily imposed as notation developed. If you look at 15th-16th-17th century facsimiles of manuscripts, you will see that barlines crept in gradually. Once we hit 1600, 'common time' (aka 4/4) simply indicated 'Recitativo' -- thus there were four beats in the bar, but obviously not every line of poetry would fit into this pattern. The composer's job was to place the strong syllables on the strong beats, i.e. beat 1 as the most important syllable, then beat 3 the next most important one, then the other beats, and anything off the beat was unaccented. In order to line up the text with this rule, they added rests simply to fill in the rest of the spaces.

If you apply this rule to Monteverdi and other early Italian recitative, you will surely find plenty of musicians who will argue with you. Still, I recommend trying it. If your lute and gamba players can keep up, you are going to connect to the drama much more directly.

OK, the superfluous rests are gone. For the next several steps, it is recommended that the singer no longer look at the pitches. At all. They can look at the words, and they can glance at where the barlines fall, because the barlines tell us where the stress is. You will also notice that the harmonies land most often on the barlines, i.e. with the strong syllables. So yeah, the singer is also welcome to look at where the harmonies fall, especially if they are not fluent in the language. We're about to move to another part of the singer's brain now, so let's go....

Step 2 - Just Talk
Speaking only. Singer: read the words. Coach: read along silently, make corrections as they go. Be sure all consonants are pronounced correctly, all vowels are pure and inflected, and make sure the singer is stressing the correct syllable. You can tell because the strong syllables always fall on the strong beat. There are maybe two exceptions in all of opera, so trust the composer. The coach is looking at the singer's notated pitches, but the singer is not, at this point. NB -- If the recit is French, encourage legato, and no, in French the accents often don't fall on the beat. Keep things more even and smooth, and every word is stressed at the end of the word unless it's a mute syllable. La la la la LA.

Step 3 - Talk & Shape
Still speaking. Don't sing. Singer: read the words. Coach: read along silently and sneak in harmonies on the keyboard. (Yes, this is the first music making to happen up to this point.) Keep making corrections to the singer's pronunciation as needed. It's totally fine to repeat Step 3 until it feels like something is happening. The singer should feel like they are reciting dialogue, slightly heightened, and the harmonies will start to help them shape the direction of the phrases. Phrases of poetry, that is. Not musical phrases, because we're not making music yet. Yeah, it's fun to repeat this step, with the coach maybe giving a little extra *direction* as you feel it.

I often add a step early on for singers who don't have a great deal of experience singing in a foreign language:

Step 3a - Paraphrase & Shape
If you're interested in befriending the stage director, repeat Step 3 with the singer speaking their lines in English (or Russian or Japanese or Hebrew or whatever their first language is). A paraphrased translation works best. The coach should land the harmonies where they make sense in relation to the original. Note: With singers who have a strong acting background, it may be more effective to do Step 3a before Step 3.

Step 4 - Talk & Shadow
Still speaking. Don't sing! Singer: read the words. They're getting pretty good at it by now, right? Coach: this is where some serious skill is required, and you will get better at this the more you do it. Play the harmonies in the left hand, and lightly follow along the singer's spoken syllables with their notated pitches in your right hand. It's totally fine to skip notes in order to keep up to them. It's important that the singer still is not looking at the pitches, but using the exact same mental process they did in Steps 2 & 3, i.e. right brain. What the coach is doing is helping the singer (subliminally) shape the inflection of the text the way the composer set it. Your right hand is shadowing their line lightly, but the singer is guiding the rhythm in their vocal reading.

Step 5 - Talk & Cement
Still speaking. Don't sing. Singer: read the words. Coach: Repeat Step 4 but play their line a little more prominently, still keeping in their natural spoken rhythm. This time, do repeat notes if the composer repeated them. At this point you are cramming the notes into their brain (again, subliminally), but not into their voice. The singer can't help but look at the pitches, but don't let them sing, and make sure they don't pause for those rests where there are no punctuation. Keep giving them diction notes, like double consonants, and pure vowels. Their habits are now formed, so don't let anything go. You can repeat this step if you want, but if you made it through smoothly, it may just be time to let the singer sing.

Step 6 - "Are You Ready to Sing?"
Okay, the singer gets to sing now. But the singer still shouldn't need to look at the printed pitches. The coach won't have to tell them this, but if they totally change the way they're reading the words and slow way down and start hunting for pitches with their voice, stop them, and say, "don't look at the pitches, just read the same way you've been reading up to this point. Look at the words, not the pitches...." This is the important advantage of this subliminal technique. At no point in time does the singer have to jerk their voice around in an unnatural way trying to get all those random notes into their voice. The pitches will go in naturally if you've repeated the previous steps enough. If the singer isn't getting it, go back to Step 5 and be more emphatic with the 'shadowing.'

Coach: you're doing basically what you did in Step 5, i.e. playing the harmony in the left hand, and playing the singer's pitches in your right hand. So yeah, spoon-feeding, plunking pitches, training wheels, whatever you'd like to call it. For most singers, it's the best way to get music into their body. This is not a time for tough-love.Feed them the pitches. It's very fun to use all these repetitions to really help the singer shape the drama.

Note: 'Shadowing' and 'spoon-feeding' can be done an octave higher for male voices if it seems to work better. Try it both in his octave and an octave higher, and switch it up. See what feels good and flows into his brain the easiest. Every singer is different. For Step 6, I usually use their octave.

Play their line nice and musically so they can keep their inflections from the previous steps. Don't play wrong notes. If you do, stop, go back and do it again.

Repeat this if you think they're not secure. If they're totally going to town, then just finish up with...

Step 7 - Do It
Let 'em go. Singer: sing your recitative. Coach: Play continuo.

The singer probably has the recit memorized by now. Stage it; send them to their costume fitting.


It looks really complicated, but in my experience, it has proven to the most efficient way to get recits rolling. Now that the singer knows it, they'll never have to go back to fix things. Drilling can be done (and is recommended) at high speed up through closing night. I've fit entire Handel, Cimarosa, Mozart, and Rossini operas, the entire cast, into a 15 or 20-minute recit run call. Stick it before their makeup call if the administration of the opera company will cooperate. Some singers won't be into it, and some will love it. Either way, just do it. The audience will stay with the story, which kind of is their reason for going to the theater, no?


Big can of worms: appoggiaturas

It's a separate topic, but will come up. I won't open the can all the way. Just two points:

1. Coach: with the subliminal technique, you inherit the honor of manipulating the singer into doing whichever appoggiaturas you see fit. I'll stop there.

2. Many singers understand what an appoggiatura is, but have no clue as to why these composers didn't just write the notes they wanted sung. I won't bore you with my spiel, but if you can give them some kind of explanation which will probably involve some opera history and a brief explanation of figured bass, they will perform them with more meaning, rather than just doing something by rote because somebody told them to or because they heard it on a recording.


And a quick P.S. returning to the topic of rests in different styles of recit for a sec -- in accompagnato recitatives (while the orchestra is playing) it's usually best to observe the rests, but not always!

Have fun.

Jennifer Peterson

Open Duo Piano Rehearsal in Wilkes-Barre Tomorrow Afternoon

Tomorrow afternoon from 1pm to 3pm, duo pianists Wei Shang and Ellen Flint will be holding an open rehearsal for piano 4-hand music in the Gies Recital Hall of Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Works featured will be the Fauré Dolly Suite for Piano Duet and the Mozart Sonata for Two Pianos. Those in attendance can both watch their rehearsal process and ask questions about repertoire and rehearsal techniques.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Free MP3 Download of Karl Paulnack's How Music Works

For those of you who enjoyed Karl Paulnack's 2004 speech to the incoming freshmen of Boston Conservatory, Melodie Hewer (a fabulous Oakville piano teacher who lives only a few blocks from me) sends along the following link for a speech given by Karl Paulnack at Boston's Arlington Street Church:

How Music Works by Karl Paulnack (MP3 download)

Tapestry's Opera To Go Runs March 26-29 at Harbourfront in Toronto

Many readers have expressed confusion at the meaning of the takeout-container-shaped ad on the sidebar that's been running for the last few weeks. Yes, it's once again time for this year's version of Tapestry New Opera Works' Opera To Go, which opens on March 26 and runs through the 29th at the EnWave Theatre.

Why go to one contemporary opera when you can catch four of them in one night? Here are the four operas on the program:

The Virgin Charlie by librettist Taylor Graham and composer William Rowson - A drag queen has an unexpected encouter and discovers his unique mission.

One Lump or Two by librettist Sandy Pool and composer Glenn James - A Victorian farce with a web of entanglements and some rather unsavory tea.

My Mother's Ring by librettist Marcia Johnson and composer Stephen Taylor - A mental health professional attempts to discover the truth about a young man who insists that his parents have been replaced.

The Perfect Screw by librettist Alexis Diamond and composer Abigail Richardson - Both Henry Ford and a newly single woman must make the difficult decision on whether to use a Robertson or Phillips screwdriver. 


Sally Dibblee, soprano
Krisztina Szabo, mezzo soprano
Scott Belluz, countertenor

Directed by Tom Diamond with Musical Director Wayne Strongman


Christopher Foley, piano
Robert W. Stevenson, clarinet
Rebecca Vanderpost, violin
Amber Ghent, cello
Ryan Scott, percussion

Performances are at the EnWave Theatre, Harbourfront from March 26-28 at 8pm, and March 29 at 3pm. March 26 is Press Opening and Community night, with all seats selling for $20. March 27 is the world premiere, with all seats selling for $99. For ticket info, go to the Harbourfront box office or call (416) 537-6066 ext. 221.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Living the Music, Saving Lives

In addition to looking at the world of the piano in ensemble, one of the missions of this blog has always been to celebrate the core experiences that create meaning in a life spent in the pursuit of music. And no other article or essay in my recent memory has come close to the power of the words of Karl Paulnack's now-legendary address to the incoming freshman class of the Boston Conservatory, in which he speaks about the importance of music in the inner lives of individuals. 

To put it bluntly, if you are a musician, you must read Karl's address. It may very well save your sanity in the difficult and often demoralizing life of the professional musician. And among the many places you can read Karl's article online, I would recommend that you visit its home on the website of the Columbus Symphony Musicians, a group of individuals who have weathered much difficulty in the last while in their pursuit of the continued presence of orchestral music in Columbus, Ohio.

The parting words of Karl's speech:

You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevies. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.

(Via Rachel Velarde (@rachelvelarde on Twitter))

[Update: The speech was originally given in 2004, although its text only went viral in the last few months. (Thanks, Melodie!)]

Previously on the Collaborative Piano Blog:

Sandra Mogensen Plays the Grieg Nocturne

From her recently released CD of piano music by Edvard Grieg, here is Sandra Mogensen playing the Nocturne Op. 54 No. 4:

Beautifully played, with some well thought-out image mashups on the video. If you liked Sandra's playing, you can buy her CD on indiepool. Also be sure to check out Sandra's home page, blog (in which she is chronicling the lead-up to recording the sequel to her Grieg CD), and Twitter page.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Condoleezza Rice Plays the Dvorak Piano Quintet at Aspen

Say what you will about the recently departed Bush administration, but what few people know is that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was one of the most talented musicians ever to serve on the Executive Branch of government in the United States. Here she is in early August 2008 at the Aspen Music Festival playing the first movement of the Dvorak Piano Quintet with violinists Eric Wong and Ken Hamao, violist Lydia Bunn, and cellist Aleisha Verner. It's important to realize that Condy was still serving as Secretary of State when this was filmed--how on earth did she have time to practice?

Part 1:

Part 2:

(Via @twitkarl7777, @davidrhodes, @jamescombs)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

20th Century Art Song Recital at Carnegie Hall on March 14

If you're in New York City next weekend, a concert to definitely check out is the March 14 Distinguished Concert Artists recital in Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall featuring tenor Todd Randall Miller, soprano Marion Russell Dickson, and pianists Jay Whatley and Shannon Hesse.

The program features art songs of Richard Faith, Carlisle Floyd, Lucy Simon, Claude-Michel Schonberg, Lori Laitman, Randolph Partain, Benton Hess, Ned Rorem, and Leonard Bernstein, starting at 8:30pm on March 14. You can find ticket info here.

(Thanks, Shannon!)

Join the Musicians Group on Twitter

If you're part of the recent stampede of musicians into Twitter, you might be interested in joining the Musicians Twitter Group. Twitter Groups are informal groups of users on the platform that share common interests. Once you've joined you can simply add the #musicians hashtag to your posts so that others in the group can see what you're writing about.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Piano-playing Dog

Observe the confidence with which this dog leaps upon the piano and confidently sings and plays. Any idea on what rep this dog might be preparing? 

(Via Dr. B)

Previously on the Collaborative Piano Blog:

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Thursday, In Detail

There are some weeks when I hardly have time to think of interesting post ideas - this is one of them. So here is a quick rundown of my day thus far:

6:15am - Wake up, shave, shower.
6:30 - Make coffee (last of the Sumatra Blue Batak--must replenish supply), check email, blog comments, Twitter and Facebook.
7:05 - Make breakfast for the girls and myself, make sure the sippy cup situation is satisfactory, empty the dishwasher.
8:00 - Get lunch and snacks ready for the girls, clean up kitchen, say bye to Wendy and the girls.
8:30 - Leave for work via the QEW. Listen to CBC Radio 1, as well as Foxxhole and Area on Sirius.
9:17 - Take quick detour to Loblaw's on Lakeshore to buy coffee & snacks, as wel as deposit cheques. Damn. No BMO machine at Loblaw's.
9:50 - Park at Distillery District. Pay metre. Arrive at Tapestry's Ernest Balmer Studio for 10am rehearsal. Coffee brewing courtesy of excellent stage management. Grand piano has been temporarily replaced by upright so Dancemakers next door can use the instrument for their show this weekend.
10:00 - Second staging rehearsal of One Lump or Two? by Glenn James and Sandy Pool. Present: Peter McGillivray, Krisztina Szabo, Sally Dibblee, Keith Klassen, Scott Balluz, Wayne Strongman conducting, Tom Diamond directing, myself at the piano, all presided over by Isolde Pleasants-Faulkner (stage manager) and Kieran Keller (ASM).
11:30 or thereabouts - Oh no! The leftover cake from Artistic Administrator Susan Worthington's birthday party is brought in for the break. Much consumption of said cake, with a small amount still remaining unconsumed when staging resumes.
2:00pm - Lunch! Brisk walk to St. Lawrence Market, where I devour legendary veal and eggplant sandwich from Mustachio's while reading latest issue of Eye. Brisk walk back to Distillery District.
3:00 - Initial staging rehearsal of Sally's scenes from The Perfect Screw by Abigail Richardson and Alexis Diamond. (The Perfect Screw looks at the cross-border competition between the inventors of the Robertson and Philips screwdrivers)
4:00 - Initial staging rehearsal of William Rowson and Taylor Graham's The Virgin Charlie with Krisztina and Scott on stage. (The Virgin Charlie is about a drag queen that discovers he is pregnant, with holy child...)
7:00 - Released. Light traffic on QEW heading home. Listen to CBC Radio 1.
7:35 - In Oakville, deposit cheques at BMO location near home.
7:45 - Arrive home, say hello to Wendy and the girls, have a quick dinner, say goodnight to girls.
8:15 - Frantic but productive emailing/phoning session to organize studio for the next few days, as well as confirm repertoire with substitute at the RCM for Saturday.
8:30 - At a loss for blog posting, then have idea..

Those of you familiar with traffic in the GTA might be slightly amazed at the respectable time it took to drive from the Distllery in downtown Toronto to north Oakville. Such a feat does not happen regularly, but is welcome nonetheless. For more information on Opera To Go, just click on the mysterious red takeaway container on the sidebar...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

YouTube Symphony Winners Announced

Congratulations to the winners of the YouTube Symphony competition, who will now travel to New York to perform in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra on April 15 (ticket info here). And a special congratulations to Tino Balsamello, who was chosen as the orchestra's pianist. Here is his winning video of Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata:

Sunday, March 01, 2009

9 Categories of Excuses for Missed Rehearsals and Coachings

This post on the complexities of lesson, rehearsal, and coaching cancellation situations was written by New York-based vocal coach and conductor Jennifer Peterson. You also can also connect with Jennifer on Twitter.

When a singer doesn't show up, assign it a number. It makes it easier to roll with the punches.


1. Health
a) illness
b) injury
c) allergies
d) acid reflux
e) swollen cords
f) fatigue
g) sunburn
h) animal/insect bite(s) or other dermatological issues
j) hangover
k) feminine issues
l) doctor appointment
m) hospitalized

2. Public Transportation
a) subway
b) taxi
c) airplane
d) train/bus/streetcar

3. Automobile
a) wouldn't start
b) broke down
c) flat tire
d) ran out of gas
e) locked keys in car
f) couldn't find parking
g) moving violation
h) collision

4. Weather
a) rain
b) snow
c) ice
d) excessive heat
e) fair weather/went to beach/park, etc.

5. Miscommunication
a) wrong place
b) wrong time
c) wrong day
d) wrong week/month/year
e) phone or other technological malfunction
f) double-hire/double-booking
g) oblivion
h) "didn't you get my message?"
j) miscellaneous other

6. Relative Emergency
a) family
b) friend
c) pet
d) neighbor/work colleague

7. Running Late
a) stuck in traffic
b) work ran over
c) gig ran over
d) lost
e) parking
f) at the gym
g) dressing or grooming, hair, or make-up
h) shopping/eating

8. Act of God
a) natural disaster
b) state of emergency
c) power outage

9. General Delinquency
a) "I forgot"
b) "I overslept"
c) "I was eating"
d) "I got confused"
e) "I don't care"
f) personal/relationship issues
g) peer pressure/mass hysteria

CF: I counted 60 excuses in all. If you have any to add, leave them in the comments.