Uplifting Piano Solos

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

I recently reviewed a series of seven books of arrangements of popular religious songs by Glenda Austin, an esteemed pedagogue, composer and arranger from Missouri USA. As I mentioned in my conclusion to that review, Solos for the Sanctuary offer their own masterclass in how to take a simple melody and create an engaging piano solo, rich in musical substance.

Now Austin is back with a brand new secular collection from The Willis Music Company. Uplifting Piano Solos offers “ten inspiring arrangements” suitable for intermediate to early advanced players, and I would suggest that the collection would suit players at around UK Grades 5-7 level.

I am thrilled to welcome this, a collection that showcases Austin’s brilliant skill to a potentially broader audience. So let’s take a quick look…

Ten Inspiring Arrangements

Introducing her latest collection, Austin tells us,

“The collection is eclectic. it includes popular songs, folk melodies, and even a holiday tune. Some are intentionally unique to the style of the song as you might know it.
In giving suggestions of how to play, instead of being excessively wordy with detailed instructions, remember ‘less is more’. I would like you to think of your own style and do what makes it come alive! That might include slowing, speeding, adding fermatas, slight pauses between phrases or sections; you get the idea. More than anything, I want these solos to live up to the title and to uplift and inspire YOU to make your own music!”

The ten titles included are as follows:

  • April Showers
  • Are You Lonesome Tonight?
  • Danny Boy
  • I Love a Piano
  • It Had to Be You
  • The Missouri Waltz
  • Ode to Scotland (Loch Lomond / The Skye Boat Song)
  • Scarborough Fair
  • Shenandoah
  • Ukrainian Bell Carol Fantasy

The arrangements are all two-to-four pages long, with the exception of the far more ambitious Ukrainian Bell Carol Fantasy, which is eight. As usual, Austin has made video recordings of all the pieces, which you can watch here:

What you will no doubt glean from watching these films is that Austin has a superb gift for bringing pieces alive with vibrant, colourful arrangements that make wonderful use of the instrument and are well-matched to the physical and musical capabilities of the developing pianist.

Another particular strength here is the range of musical influence and style, from Romantic music reminiscent of Amy Beach through to jazz and other contemporary inspirations. As Austin mentions in her introduction, you will probably recognise all or most of the melodies here; but how rarely are they given such superb treatment!

The Publication

The Willis Music Company present Uplifting Piano Solos with a stiff card cover, vividly illustrated and with a matt finish; the pages within are printed on a good quality white paper. As quoted from above, there is an introductory note from the arranger herself, followed by a contents page, and then the scores themselves.

As expected from this publisher, the notation is given a clean music font with pristine black ink printing that is easy to read, all nicely sized and spaced.

Austin notes in her introduction that the project was put together at haste, all ten arrangements written within one week, but this doesn’t show. There is no shortage in musical detail, and while fingering suggestions are few, they usefully appear in trickier passages.

To summarise, the book is sturdily presented to last, and I found it comfortable to play from.

Closing Thoughts

For the advanced player, many worthy publications call for our attention, and the repertoire opens up to reveal a panoramic vista of artistic excellence and depth. But sometimes what the player wants is simpler music to savour, perhaps with the added ambition of bringing pleasure to listeners less immersed in classical music.

For those who are looking for some lighter relief between wrestling with Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and Hindemith , Uplifting Piano Solos more than fulfils the brief, while equally living up to its title, delivering consummately crafted and enjoyable arrangements of famous melodies that will uplift pianist and impress audience alike.

And as with Solos for the Sanctuary, Glenda Austin presents a masterclass in how to arrange for the solo pianist: the example of this collection will undoubtedly reward advancing players who want to learn how to make their own adaptations of music, incorporating brilliantly pianistic figurations, enjoyably unexpected key changes, and delicious harmonic twists.

This is a book which can be recommended without any reservations.

Pianodao earns a small commission on qualifying purchases made using retail links.
Pianodao Music Club members receive discounts on sheet music from select partners.

Notifications use an automated WordPress service managed by Automattic.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, writer and composer based on Milton Keynes UK. His book HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC is published by Hal Leonard.