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…
Following the success of my series of three Graded Gillock collections published by Willis Music last year, I was delighted to be asked to compile a companion collection showcasing the wonderful music of Japanese composer Naoko Ikeda. The collection, now available from Willis Music, can be purchased from the Musicroom website here.
Naoko Ikeda: The Graded Collection includes 24 of Ikeda’s best solo piano pieces, organised in approximate order of difficulty and appropriately grouped according to the UK Grade system from Grade 2 to Grade 5 level.
These stunning pieces would make wonderful selections as “own choices” in Performance Grades, and with six pieces for each of the four grades covered, they provide a rich feast to enhance the player’s development throughout their intermediate playing years.
The pieces have been chosen to offer a flavour of the musical range of this fine composer, ranging from jazz and pop ballads to emotive pieces infused with the musical language and imagery of Japanese culture.
In the introduction that follows I will offer background to the collection in greater depth, as well as including my own piano recordings of 8 of the 24 pieces, which give a varied, representative preview of the collection.
You will also hear from Naoko Ikeda herself, as she shares about her creative journey in her own words…
Piano players at early advanced level enthusiastic for a more jazzy take on evergreen Christmas favourites have never been better served, with several choices among my recent reviews to choose from.
Alongside these, they will likely lap up Eric Baumgartner’s brilliant Jazz It Up! Christmas, now in its second edition, and offering twelve ingenious solo arrangements in a variety of accessible grooves.
Twelve, you say? Well yes: the first edition of the book appeared in 2000 and included six pieces; that number doubled to twelve with the publication of the second edition in 2020, the subject of this mini review…
My review of 8 Great Piano Duet Books published back in 2016 has been a popular post with readers ever since, proving that there’s plenty of interest in piano duet books.
Since then I have reviewed a trickle of other duet books, but ground to a halt during the pandemic. Meanwhile, more duet books have been amassing in my review backlog, and in this new round up I’ve got my paws on another 8 Great Duet Books for 2022.
For ease, I will introduce them in approximate order of difficulty…
With autumn well upon us, and a new school year firmly underway, many teachers and players will no doubt be looking for repertoire to enjoy as we approach Halloween.
Each year I am asked to recommend suitable music for the annual spook-fest, and for elementary to early intermediate players, around UK Grades 1-3, a recent compilation of “10 Bewitching Piano Solos” from The Willis Music Company could be just the ticket.
Intrigued? Let’s tiptoe through the gate and investigate the secrets within…
I have long been an admirer of the brilliant piano music of William Lawson Gillock (1917-1993), so it is with huge pleasure and a sense of pride that I can announce that, in conjunction with the Willis Music Company, I have selected and edited a new series of ‘graded’ collections showcasing a varied range of his best pieces.
Graded Gillock appears in three volumes, now available:
There’s little doubt in my mind that Gillock was one of the most significant educational piano composers of the twentieth century, as adept at turning out distinctively memorable and colourful piano pieces in an accessible style as he was at engaging the imaginations and enthusiasm of young learners, in doing so paving the way for today’s educational composers.
Gillock is perhaps best known here in the UK for his evocatively bluesy New Orleans Nightfall, stomping Swinging Beat and Latin-infused Carnival in Rio, all of which have been popular graded exam pieces in recent years. But what of his other music?
For this new series, I have used these favourites as a starting point, working with the composer’s long-term publisher Willis Music to explore and select Gillock’s most enjoyable and pedagogically useful music.
“The consistency William Gillock achieved in writing music that is both interesting to learners and pedagogically valuable is unmatched, in my opinion, and although a few of his pieces have appeared on exam syllabuses it is puzzling that his music is not better known in this country. Andrew Eales has therefore done the UK market a great service by curating this series of graded books, which features 40-odd pieces altogether. The notation is enlarged in the first volume to facilitate reading, and reduces in size as you advance from book to book, a thoughtful touch… These books are a great introduction to the composer.”
Michael McMillan, Pianist magazine 128, October 2022
The Willis Music Company have long been a leading name in the publishing of educational and accessible piano pieces, best known for the Dozen A Day series, the John Thompson Piano Method, and their extensive catalogue of great music by William Gillock.
I recently reviewed their Accent on William Gillock compendium and Jason Sifford’s Keybop series, and in this review I turn to another of their leading names, the Japanese composer Naoko Ikeda, whose music has met with considerable popularity in the States already, and is now gaining long-overdue attention here in the UK.
Ikeda’s extensive back catalogue includes many individually published pieces as well as several collections, a couple of which I picked up last year. I will be looking at her back catalogue in a future article, but for now I am turning to the recently published Aya, “10 Introspective Pieces for Piano Solo”.
The book is suitable for intermediate players (I would suggest around UK Grade 4-5 level), and is a superbly rewarding discovery…
There’s little doubt in my mind that William Gillock (1917-1993) was one of the most significant educational piano composers of the twentieth century, and it’s a delight to be reviewing The Willis Music Company‘s new complete edition of the Accent on Gillock series. All of the original eight volumes (still available separately) also now appear in one newly edited and engraved volume.
Let’s therefore take a moment to consider Gillock’s seminal importance before reviewing this essential new compendium…