Disney Goes Classical

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Disney Goes Classical is the latest hit album from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, comprising 15 favourite songs from Disney movies. You can stream it on all the usual platforms, and now you can also play the arrangements from the recently published 72-page accompanying music book…

The “Classical” of the title presumably refers to the fact that the album was recorded by seasoned classical artists (including cameo appearances from guitarist Kaori Muraji and singers Renée Fleming and Matteo Bocelli) rather than a studio orchestra; most of the songs seem to me little changed from the originals.

As such the new music book serves not only as a companion to the RPO recording but as a potentially useful and inspiring collection of some of the most iconic Disney songs.

There’s no shortage of Disney songbooks on the market of course, but this one has special appeal, so let me sprinkle you with fairy dust and we’ll take a tour of this magical publication….

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Piano Music of Amy Beach

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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American composer Amy Beach’s significant contribution to the solo piano repertoire is finally beginning to receive the recognition and popularity it rightly deserves.

Beach (1867-1944) remained a hugely committed and prolific composer, even though much of her output received little attention in the first half of her career.

Her music is avowedly conservative, doing little to advance on the language of the early Romantic era composers, Schumann, Chopin and Liszt. And yet there is certainly a timelessness to its appeal that continues to speak to audiences and connect with players.

Hal Leonard’s 2013 publication Piano Music of Amy Beach offers an enticing introduction to this important composer’s work, and has recently been reprinted (in part because it is a core text for America’s National Federation of Music Clubs Junior Festivals programme for 2020-24).

The collection offers ten intermediate to advanced solo pieces selected from across Beach’s long career by Gail Smith. Let’s take a look…

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Alma Deutscher: From My Book of Melodies

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Having just reviewed a music collection written FOR a young girl, I now turn to an album written BY one!

Based on her SONY Classical recording of the same name, From My Book of Melodies brings together the original compositions of Alma Deutscher, and includes 11 pieces based on melodies that she composed from the age of four to fourteen, one for each of those years.

The music book is published by G.Schirmer / Hal Leonard, and the pieces would suit advanced players (UK Grade 6-8).

In case your initial thought is to wonder why you would purchase a collection of compositions written by so young a child, it is worth knowing that the great conductor Zubin Mehta has called Deutscher “one of the greatest musical talents today”, while Sir Simon Rattle has declared that “Alma is a force of nature”.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that Deutscher’s YouTube channel has approaching 14 million views, while her 2019 Carnegie Hall debut, performing her own music, was a sell-out.

Hadn’t we better find out what the fuss is about?

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Jazz Piano for Kids

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES • Review by ANDREW EALES
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While there’s a growing number of good published resources for the keen jazz student these days, most are aimed at the serious adult player, and in many cases too-quickly get embroiled in complicated jazz theory. Meanwhile, for young players who enjoy “jazzy pieces” and want to explore the style, there’s long been a gap in the market.

Jazz Piano for Kids, new from ace jazz educator Richard Michael and published by Hal Leonard, aims to fill that gap.

Introducing the book, Michael writes,

“Welcome to Jazz Piano for Kids and your very first steps in making up your own solos. What do you need? Apart from a piano or keyboard, just two hands, two wide-open ears, and the ability to have a go without fear of making mistakes. This beginner’s course will give you the building blocks of playing jazz on the piano… Before you know it, you will be improvising your own solos and starting a lifetime’s discovery in the wonderful world of jazz.”

Let’s get started right away…

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Patrick Hamilton: Journey to the Unknown

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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According to Decca Publishing,

“Patrick Hamilton is a flag bearer for the next generation of producer, composer and arranger. A leading figure in classical crossover music, his ambitions include the verticals of artist production alongside film and TV score composition, which together bring his unique skill set to the adult contemporary classical space.”

Judging from Journey to the Unknown, Hamilton’s first solo piano CD, what this lofty statement actually means is that he is the latest to join the ever-growing pantheon of composers creating gentle, soothing piano music in the style popularised by Ludovico Einaudi.

Journey to the Unknown is also now available as a sheet music publication from Hal Leonard. I really like it, so let’s find out what makes it special…

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Alexis Ffrench: The Sheet Music Collection

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Chances are readers will have encountered the music of Alexis Ffrench; his albums Evolution and Dreamland have both topped the classical charts making him the UK’s biggest selling pianist of 2020, and his music has amassed over 200 million streams online.

Now, in conjunction with Universal Music and SONY, Hal Leonard bring us the official music book of Ffrench’s biggest piano hits to date, Alexis Ffrench: The Sheet Music Collection.

Here’s the Pianodao review….

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Gareth Malone: Music for Healing

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Gareth Malone became a household name with his TV series The Choir, and subsequent ratings juggernaut The Choir: Military Wives, which led to a Christmas Number 1 chart topper.

Malone’s many colourful and inspiring efforts to get the nation singing are surely one of the heartening success stories of British cultural life in recent years, and in 2012 he was awarded an OBE for his services to music.

Now Malone has turned back to the piano for a brand new recording entitled Music for Healing, with a supporting sheet music publication from Hal Leonard which is the subject of this review.

Let’s ascend the stairwell and take a look…

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Piano Calm Christmas

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Philip Keveren is one of my favourite arrangers and composers whose music has a contemporary popular vibe. He is also clearly industrious: this year alone has seen the release of his clever Circles: Character Etudes in 24 keys (reviewed here) and the hugely appealing Piano Calm (reviewed here), both of which are quickly establishing themselves as firm favourites with my students.

Now Keveren brings us the sequel to the latter collection, Piano Calm Christmas. And if it lives up to its recent predecessors, we can look forward to something very special indeed.

So let’s find out…

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Rachel Portman: Ask the River

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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English composer Rachel Portman is best known for her many gorgeous film scores, including the music for such blockbusters as Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, The Duchess and The Lake House.

Portman’s latest musical project is Ask the River, a self-contained CD of piano-led instrumental reflections on the natural world, with an accompanying book from Chester Music delivering solo piano versions of all 13 tracks, the subject of this review.

According to the composer,

“I wrote this collection of pieces throughout 2019. They are the fruit of many years spent being immersed in nature. What can be more inspiring than the green shoots of new beech leaves appearing in the woods with the dappling light reflected in the spring breeze?
These pieces are a personal reflection on the beauty of the earth around us – the trees, flora, rivers, birds, animals and all her gifts to us. I hope you enjoy exploring them as much as I loved being inspired by the natural world.”

Explore them we shall…

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Ola Gjeilo: Night

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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“I love nighttime. I love the mood of night, and feeling all of New York City light up from endless skyscrapers. There’s something very inspiring and even reassuring and calming about that to me. New York at night is very romantic, I think”

So writes Ola Gjeilo in the introduction to his new album Night, available on CD from Decca (purchase from Amazon UK here) and sheet music from Chester Music/Hal Leonard (the subject of this review).

Those who’ve not yet had the joy of discovering Gjeilo’s music are in for a treat with this album and will hopefully also explore his previous work, including the earlier piano albums Stone Rose (2007), Piano Improvisations (2012) and his immensely popular choral music.

So let’s take our time and journey towards the dizzying and inviting lights of Gjeilo’s Night

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