This month saw the 150th anniversary of the birth of Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. His music exists on the outskirts of the classical music mainstream, but his symphonies and symphonic poems are really wonderful. The opening of the 2nd symphony impacted me greatly when I first heard it as a teenager. It was part of ‘The Great Composers’ series that my dad collected. Finlandia, Sibelius’s best known work, contains this beautiful chorale melody that was used as a setting for the iambic pentameter of the hymn ‘Be still, my soul’. It occupies the rather risqué position of number 666 in the Church of Ireland hymnal, but it certainly contains some of the most poignant lyrics:
Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
and all is darkened in the vale of tears,
then shall thou better know his love, his heart,
who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
I played it on the organ at St Ann’s on Remembrance Sunday, 11 November, 2012. I took lessons that year from Charlie Marshall, the organist at St Ann’s. Finlandia is a good one for beginners, as it can be done effectively using just the manuals.
We also sang it at my dad’s funeral seventeen years ago this month. It was his favourite hymn.
(So I’ve missed a few – I’ll fill in the gaps next year!)
Today, I’ve made a tutorial video for a piece that you might recognise from Greg Lake’s moody Christmas hit, ‘I Believe In Father Christmas’. It’s called ‘Troika’ and was written by the Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev and is in his ballet ‘Lieutenant Kije’. This easy piano arrangement was done by the prolific composer and arranger Pauline Hall and is one of the 2016 Preliminary exam piano pieces set by the Royal Irish Academy of Music.
Troika is the Russian word for three-of-a-kind and here depicts a team of three horses pulling a sleigh.
I was out in Howth yesterday, visiting my sister and her family. I had great fun with my wee niece and was given the honour of reading her a bedtime story. We had ‘The Night Before Christmas’ and then ‘The Nutcracker’.
So, for today’s Advent calendar, here’s Clement Clarke Moore’s evocative telling of ‘A Visit From St. Nicholas’…
Click on ‘ADVENT 2015’ at the top of this post (above the title) to see the previous posts I’ve done.
Today I’ve got two great Christmas tunes for beginner piano players to enjoy — ‘Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!’ and ‘Frosty The Snowman’. This video will help you learn them by heart (there’s no music reading required). Have fun, and get everybody to join in and sing with you at Christmas time 🙂
Click here for more information on my music teaching.
Today’s creation is a version of Deck The Halls. I recorded a video of this song back in 2010, when we were living in Australia. I was looking for a good drum loop to use for this recording and stumbled on this interesting 12/8 flamenco pattern (3+3+2+2+2) called a Buleria, from Andalusia in Spain. I left out the ‘fa la la’ refrain (well, kind of…), and changed the chords a bit.
I’d been having some technical problems over the past few days, which had me down a bit, but I actually got myself Ableton Live earlier this year — a really powerful DAW (digital audio workstation). I had been thinking that I’d get round to learning its intricacies “one of these days”. Well, my other equipment stopping working forced me to just bite the bullet!
It’s so easy to use, and I had lots of fun putting down the harmony vocals and the guitar solo 🙂
I took the words from Cerys Matthews’ brilliant book, ‘Hook, Line & Singer’ (changing a couple). It’s a lovely volume of sing-a-long songs – a great Christmas present for a parent of small children. Click the picture below to view it on Amazon:
Enjoy! Please like and share, too ❄❄❄