Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fifty years

Today is the 50th anniversary of my first piano lesson.

I was very excited to learn piano and am still enthralled by this amazing instrument. And I'm still learning.

I love the sound of many instruments, but I do think the piano wins on versatility.

And it is a wonderful instructor because it is a great visual aid to learning about how music works. You can see musical intervals and chords on a piano in a way that you can't on a flute or even a harp or guitar.

When I was growing up, it was fun to listen to songs on the radio and then try to play them on the piano. I remember attempting The Beatles' Penny Lane and being frustrated by the chord that comes at the capitalised word in the first line of the chorus:
Penny Lane is in my EARS

I could not find a suitable chord and bought the sheet music for 35 cents and discovered that the chord is the tonic chord, the same as the preceding one, but is in first inversion [the bass note is the original middle note of the chord]. THAT was a revelation to me, much the same as the odd bass notes in The Beach Boys' God Only Knows were to Paul McCartney.

I think Rachmaninov was onto something when he said
Music is enough for a lifetime
But a lifetime is not enough for Music

Ten years ago I was lucky enough to be able to quit crowd control [which some people call high school music teaching] and get a job teaching piano at the Mitchell Conservatorium in Bathurst and Kinross-Wolaroi School in Orange.

There's so many things I am useless at, and I know I am only a very average piano player and teacher, but I'm an average one who enjoys plugging along with what God has given me. I pray that I may be able to praise him by using what I have and maybe even by improving a bit, even after 50 years.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ross Hamilton's music analyses

I find Ross Hamilton's analyses of pieces very useful. He has analysed about 1000 pieces from the standard repertoire. The pieces all come from Australian music exam syllabuses, but the vast majority of these would be in British exam systems as well.

I have used his analyses of Musicianship set works and have found them very helpful, though he has provided much more information than I have needed.

The only caveat is that they are not cheap, though he does provide some affordable specials.

See http://www.rosshamilton.com.au/index.cfm for more information.

Thursday, September 03, 2009


I have been subscribed to Praise! which is a British hymnbook that has an online website, which gives you the words and sometimes the music of about 900 hymns, as well as interesting stories about the hymn-writers and adapters.

My hard copy of the book arrived today. The web is great, but there is something about having the book. I was prompted to order a copy at last because the Aussie dollar is about 50 p at the moment, whereas it is often about 30 p or so.

Subscribing costs 25 pounds per year, which sounds expensive, but you do get access to 3 books and updates for this price. And a CCLI licence also gives you permission to use the hymns in your church, provided that you follow the correct procedure for doing so.

I notice that the hymn book also has a notice that gives permission for a one time use of any hymn in the book, provided that you give proper acknowledgement to the source of the hymn you are using.

I hope to post interesting hymns I've found in the book from time to time. The hymn for today is a setting of Psalm 125 by Christopher Idle. The words are terrific and sound great when sung to the old hymn Sanctissimus, which is the one we always used for singing Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness:
Those who rely on the LORD are unshakeable,
firm as Mount Zion, supremely assured;
just as the mountains encircle Jerusalem,
round us forever is standing the LORD.

Evil shall not always trample on righteousness:
God's time will come when oppression shall cease.
LORD, bless the righteous, restrain the impenitent;
grant to your people the gift of your peace.