Week 25-28

Week 28:

 A very warm hello to you all!  Hope this finds you all having a good week and enjoying the change of seasons (says the woman who adores all things Fall!).  As the Piano Class participants know from the recent focus of the ‘Listening’ segments of our email correspondence classes, we have been exploring the works of George Gershwin via Jim Brickman’s latest piano album that was just released.  I will provide the youtube link for the entire album, which we have been walking through slowly these past weeks in the Piano Class, below for all to enjoy.  Since we have been listening to and learning trivia of some of George Gershwin’s best known songs, I thought it high time we turn the focus to the life of the man himself:  George Gershwin.

George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist who lived from 1895-1937 and while he only lived a mere 38 years, he made a large and lasting impact on the American music scene!  His compositions ranged from popular music of the time to the classical music of the early 20th Century.  While he is perhaps best known and referenced for his contributions to the Popular Music/Broadway theater world, his Classical works shouldn’t be ignored or forgotten!  His standout orchestral works include the popular orchestral jazz work “Rhapsody in Blue”, as well as the orchestral work “An American in Paris”- yes, used in the famous (and a personal favorite of mine!) film with the same title starring Gene Kelly during the elaborate dance sequence!  Other classical works of his include one Concerto, 3 solo Piano Preludes and two Operas– one of which is the famous “Porgy and Bess”, which is widely considered one of the most important American Operas of the 20th Century!  George is also well known for his compositions and music scores for Broadway musicals the most well known including “Oh, Kay” (1926), “Funny Face” (1927), “Girl Crazy” (1930) and his music also included in the more recent “Crazy for You” (1992) and “An American in Paris” (2015-2016).  Additionally, he composed film scores for a small handful of films in the 1930s- one of which being the film “Shall We Dance”- starring the famous duo Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers!  Speaking of duos, George and his brother Ira worked together to write many songs used for Broadway theater of that day, with Ira functioning as the lyricist and George the musical composer!  George’s life however was cut short in 1937 at age 38 from a malignant brain tumor.

 Let’s check out a couple video links to explore more about the life of George Gershwin.  First a brief additional biographical video:  https://youtu.be/ceirENoehRY.   I also found this video of interesting facts from the life of George Gershwin to be worth the watch:  https://youtu.be/QtXx8nmPMnc.   As promised, here is the link to the recently released album from pianist Jim Brickman which prompted our focus on the life of George Gershwin- “Jim Brickman’s Songbook Collection: The Music of George Gershwin” that was just released at the end of last month (August).  Enjoy:  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nAdyW_dMfEOmeyTEctY1beFfEVIqXYqvk.    

BONUS VIDEOAs always, here is your weekly virtual gig from the amazing centenarian, Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro- from his Facebook live gig from September 12th:  https://youtu.be/67nQd0pZcn8


Week 27:

Greetings SRC participants and friends!  Hope this email finds you all doing well.  This week, I’d love to start us on a new topic/focus that we will come back to from time to time.  A while back, I ran across this Piano Podcast (my Piano Class participants may remember my affinity for podcasts!) that focuses quite a few episodes on the adult learner.  This podcast is called ‘ The Piano Superhuman Podcast’ and the host is a huge advocate for adult learning, believing that adults CAN learn piano successfully at any age!  He mentions in several of his podcast episodes about how frequently adults come up to him, as a pianist/piano teacher himself, and comment to him how they’ve always wished they could play piano but feel that they’ve ‘missed the boat’ having not had piano lessons as a child.  Not so, friends!  In my book, curiosity, persistence and desire go a long, long way.  Piano Class Students will recognize many of his philosophies and encouragements as hopefully similar to my own from our classes!  Let’s occasionally explore some of his episodes here on our webpage!  I am particularly fond of his interview episodes- especially where he interviews beginner students who are older adults just starting out on their Piano Journeys.  For this week:  let’s take a listen to his interview with Sharon- a 67 year old beginner Piano student who, like so many of you, decided to take up Piano lessons shortly after retirement.  They discuss her mindset/motivation when it comes to learning piano, the benefit of playing scales, piano fingering (finger numbers), and exercises she uses to limber up her hands/fingers.  I love how she also talks about Chords a bit- Primary Chords especially (1, 4, 5!) and chord spelling– just like we have! Piano Class friends: towards the end of the episode she discusses how she faces the problem of putting her hands together in a piece and what practice strategy she uses to help- as we know the ‘hands together’ struggle is a common issue for many!

Podcast episode:  https://pianosuperhuman.libsyn.com/67-year-old-woman-learns-piano-her-progress-and-lessons-learned Give this episode a listen, especially my Piano Class friends!  Although you could also find this episode in your Podcast App if you have an iPhone/ipad (like I showed some of you after our Lizst podcast Class months ago), for ease of access I will share with you the podcast website –not the direct link that wants to take you to the Podcast App, which may get confusing to open.  Once you click the link above, you can listen to this, roughly half hour, podcast episode by clicking the black Play button to the right of the little picture, below the blue episode title.  Let’s give this podcast a listen on occasion and may it encourage you that there are many, many older adults who are beginner piano students who are with you on the journey to learning piano.  BONUS VIDEO:  As always, here is your weekly Hank Shapiro virtual gig from Saturday, August 29th:  https://youtu.be/2ZHRUJGSbx8


Week 26:

 A very warm greeting to all SRC participants & friends.  Hope this finds you all doing well!  This week, we are going to have a quick ‘crash course’ introduction to the field of organology.  No, not the study of pipe organs!  But don’t be intimidated by that fancy sounding word- organology is the study of musical instruments and their classifications.  As we have been exploring instruments in the Keyboard Family, I have slowly been introducing some musical classification terms to you- defining and explaining them as we have gone along.  Today, let’s contrast the Western Orchestral Classification of instruments with another instrument classification system called the Hornbostel-Sachs.

 The vast majority of us are probably the most familiar with the Western classification system that groups together the various instruments we can find in today’s orchestra into families- the String family, the Brass family, the Woodwinds family and the Percussion family.  This grouping and classification system is focused primarily on the material the instruments are made of and their physical attributes.  This system works well for the European instruments found in today’s modern orchestra- but leaves out Non-European world instruments.  Around the 1960s, two men created another system of classification that is able to include world instruments and that classifies instruments according  to the nature of how the sound is produced. This classification system (named after these two men) is called the Hornbostel-Sachs System and is widely used by ethnomusicologists and organologists to classify instruments from any culture worldwide.  The five broad categories in this classification system based on the science of how the sound is produced are:  Aerophones, Idiophones, Membranophones, Chordophones and Electrophones.  Respectively and according to their sound productions material, these instruments produce sound by: an air column (Aerophones; blowing air through or around instrument), the body of the instrument itself (Idiophones; most percussion instruments), by striking a membrane or skin (Membranophones; drums), vibrations produced through strings (Chordophones- includes the piano) and instruments where the sound is produced electronically (Electrophones; the digital keyboard and Therimins!).  Using this broad classification system better enables ethnomusicologists around the world to have a stronger ability to classify instruments discovered in indigenous cultures globally.  Since we have been studying instruments found in the Keyboard Family of instruments- it was only appropriate that we take a look at the Musical Instrument Classification system in general- especially the Hornbostel-Sachs System.

 For a good summation/introductory video on this classification system, please give this video a listen:  https://youtu.be/Cq8JDNiXQ84 (Next week: we’ll have another study/video related to College Music students – sure to be an interesting video!) Bonus Video: As always, here is another Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro virtual gig—as of Sept 13th he is now 100 years young! This video is from his Facebook live-streamed concert on August 22:  https://youtu.be/75TNqVYEbAk



Week 25:

A very warm hello to you all!  Hope this finds you doing well!  This week let’s continue our study of instruments that can be found in the broad category of Keyboard Instruments.  Remember, ‘keyboard instruments’ are defined as a musical instrument that is played using a row of levers which are pressed by the fingers.  This week’s new Keyboard Instrument also falls within the subcategory of a Chordophone instrument, as the sound is produced by the vibrating of a string(s).  The piano is also considered a Chordophone Instrument, as well as the harpsichord and clavichord.  This week let’s take a look and listen to an instrument that is closely related in structure and sound to a Hurdy-Gurdy, the Swedish bowed string instrument- the Nyckelharpa.  The Nyckelharpa is also termed the ‘key fiddle’ and is considered to be a Stringed Keyboard Instrument, as the often 3 rows of keys are attached to tangents which, when the key is pressed, serve as frets to change the pitch of the string.  This is quite an old traditional Swedish instrument- church paintings of the Nyckelharpa going back to the 14th and 15th century.  The Nyckelharpa was also first mentioned in a written musical score around the year 1620!  Changes to the instrument around the year 1930, made the instrument a chromatic instrument (able to play half steps) and made it playable with a straight bow -making the instrument more ‘violin-like’ and helping to re-popularize it in the mid-20th Century.  The Swedish Nyckelharpa is typically played with a strap around the neck and stabilized by the right arm. This unique and ‘old-world’ sounding instrument can be found in folk music scenes- namely the Folk Music scene in Sweden.  Let’s take a listen to a little demonstration video I was able to find:  https://youtu.be/LgbMVIYv57I.  What do you think?  Very haunting and a beautiful sound to it, right?  Let’s also now take a listen to a couple performances that include the Nyckelharpa ‘keyed fiddle’ – in the first video, accompanied by guitar:  1.  https://youtu.be/TSLMb0fYzxs  2.  An interesting interpretation of Bach’s famous Toccata & Fugue https://youtu.be/Od-fBowDaL0.     It is my hope that at this point in our survey of Instruments that can be considered Keyboard Instruments, that you are realizing just how broad and varied the instruments within this category can be!  

Bonus Video: As always, here is your weekly Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro virtual concert – Sidenote:  He turns 100 on September 13h! Here is his Facebook Live virtual gig from August 15th:  https://youtu.be/2QYU6b_rq-c

a concert of Sondheim ‘best of’ songs–it’s a good way to familiarize yourself with his works AND to hear from some of the great Broadway vocalists!  And yes, Bernadette Peters and Meryl Streep even make appearances!  Here is the concert. Piano students please take note especially to the opening Piano Prologue in the concert–played by another Musical Theater composer, Steve Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked)  Stephen Sondheim 90th Birthday Virtual Concert:  https://youtu.be/A92wZIvEUAw ….  Piano Students see your class emails for a short list of my favorite selections in this concert along with the ‘time stamp’ they occur).  ***BONUS VIDEO:  As always, here is another virtual gig from Hank Shapiro https://youtu.be/eLgoSMBiFUM–  from his live-streamed concert July 18th.


Beer-Making – June 6, 13, 20, 27

Beer-Making Workshop Catherine Segal, Senior Resource Center Board Member and beer aficionado, led us in a beer-making workshop last month! The class started with mashing, separating, boiling, stirring, and fermenting. Everyone was very busy planning the different...

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