Friday, January 26, 2007

Miss Potter

We have just returned from seeing Miss Potter. Some of the professional critics were not particularly enthusiastic, but I loved it. I'm a sucker for terrific scenery [especially in Great Britain] and loved the story. I thought Renee Zellweger was brilliant and completely disagree that someone else would have done a better job.

I'm intrigued that the film has 2 composers and am wondering why: did Nigel Westlake feel he needed Rachel Portman for certain styles, or did the producers think he wasn't up to it?

I love Nigel's music, including his arrangements of Saint-Saens for Babe (also directed by Christ Noonan)and his own music, used so effectively in the IMAX Antarctica film. In fact, a couple of days ago, I purchased a score of his percussion ensemble that features in the part of the film called Penguin Circus.

I haven't found a student yet who is not captivated by this short, fun piece.

Rachel Portman's music in Chocolat is perfect. I'm still wondering if Satie's Gnossienne is really in the film, or if rather Ms Portman has captured the style of that work.

Friday, January 19, 2007

How to get your child to practise ... without resorting to violence!

I read most of this book at my sister-in-law's place: she is also a piano teacher. The author, Cynthia Richards, has several children of her own, and managed to help most of them to learn to play various instruments, as well as conducting a busy piano studio.

Ken Foster has excerpts from this great book here. Now I'm wishing I had my own copy!

She makes some great points in her book, and while I will give you a few of her hints here, you will find it well worth your while to read the whole shebang. And it's as cheap as chips!

Mrs Richards alerts her readers to these stumbling blocks:
1 Indifferent home environment
2 Faulty teacher-child relationship
3 Lack of maturity and commitment in the child
4 The wrong instrument
5 Unfavourable practice conditions
6 Bad memories
7 Peer pressure not to practise
8 Not proficient enough to be competitive
9 Too many conflicting interests
10 Sibling rivalry
11 Competitive feelings with a parent
12 Communications

She also suggests some ways to overcome these problems:
1 Start early
2 Practise with your child every day
3 Set up family rules for practising
4 Use incentives when needed
5 Handle conflicts by
a avoiding emotional involvement
b being friendly
c being matter of fact
d not giving in
6 Enjoy your children's music
7 Praise them for their successes
8 Look for stumbling blocks and do your best to remove them
9 Focus your efforts on getting your child hooked on music

I highly recommend this book. If you follow the advice of a successful mother and music teacher, your child may not become a little Mozart; but you will be a better parent, your child will be a happier child and together you will enjoy some great musical experiences.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Stephen Fisher-King

My wife, Joan rarely buys CDs, but when she does she always buys beauties. Several years ago, Joan bought 2 CDs in the one day at 2 different stores. I don't think this has happened before or since, but when she got home, we discovered that the 2 CDs were both recorded in the same studio: now I wonder how often that happens!

What was the studio? It was Shandar Media Studio, which I think is in the Southern Highlands.

What were the CDs?
Stephen Fisher-King's Where Do I Begin? and
Valerie Forbes-Mavridis
' Piano Gold.

I'm sorry that I can't find out anything about Ms Mavridis, and don't think it would be easy to track down her CD. But, if you do, you will enjoy terrific performances of
Rachmaninov's famous Prelude in C# Minor
Debussy's Clair de Lune
Zez Confrey's delightful Dizzy Fingers
Fats Waller's Alligator Crawl
Grieg's Wedding Day at Troldhaugen
Gershwin's set of 3 jazz preludes.

But Stephen's CD is equally wonderful and includes great performances of songs such as
Night and Day
They Call The Wind Mariah
and The Rhythm of Life

Stephen has won many national awards for his performances, and it was a great privilege to accompany him at church one Sunday, and in a concert he gave. Stephen is a great singer, and demanding on his accompanist: he won't let up until he gets the performance he wants, which is the sign of a professional performer.

We used to live around the corner from Stephen and it is good to see he is still winning awards and performing a lot.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Musical Banquet

We are enjoying Marshall McGuire's delightful Musical Banquet CD. It is terrific that the ABC has reissued some of the superb recordings from Andrew McKeich's sadly-defunct Artworks label.

This recording has just the right combination of very well known pieces, such as the Pezold Minuets [formerly attributed to J S Bach], Purcell's Fairest Isle and Handel's Largo, and lesser known but beautiful works.

And, at the moment, the CD is on special for $19.95.

We were pleased to be able to say a brief Hello to Marshall a few years ago, when our son, Daniel's band, Guitar Trek, played at the Sydney Art Gallery at a concert Marshall had organised. Of course, we think he has great taste in choosing to feature such a great band in that short concert series.