Friday, July 03, 2015

Simon Lepper Talks About the Accompanying Program at The Royal College of Music

Over the last few months, I've been in correspondence with Simon Lepper, one of Britain's top accompanists. He was recently featured on a CPB article on what it takes to be an accompanist and why the British are so awesome at it, and reached out regarding a possible profile of the accompanying program at London's Royal College of Music, which he coordinates. Simon is a recipient of the Gerald Moore and Geoffrey Parsons Awards, and has an incredibly active musical career, including serving as official accompanist of the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. If you would like to contact Simon regarding the RCM's accompanying program, you can find a contact link on his website. (A note for all you Torontophiles: the "RCM" moniker in this article refers to the Royal College of Music in London, not the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.)  --CF

The Royal College of Music in London is uniquely situated opposite the Royal Albert Hall in the heart of Kensington’s museum district. The 2-year Masters piano accompaniment course at the RCM equips our students with the skills to give them the best possible chance of a long and fulfilling career as a musician after graduation.

There is a great tradition of British accompanists stretching back to Gerald Moore and beyond. At the RCM, we are proud to have had many of the internationally famous collaborative pianists train and teach here including Geoffrey Parsons, Julius Drake, Malcolm Martineau and, more recently, Gary Matthewman.

The course balances teaching in the art of song accompaniment with lessons in instrumental accompaniment. These two areas are taught in group-lessons by internationally renowned song pianist, Roger Vignoles, and in one-to-one lessons with a professor of your choice. We offer additional classes in “accompaniment skills”. These include the “art of vocal coaching” through to continuo and orchestral piano playing, quick learning and an “introduction to conducting”. A close relationship with the vocal department allows our postgraduate accompanists to play for language classes and opera scenes. This provides invaluable training should a student want to develop a career as a repetiteur or opera conductor. For those students with a greater interest in chamber music the RCM provides extra tuition from any professor chosen by a registered chamber music group.

Each year we take only a small number of accompanists on to the course. This allows for our piano accompaniment students to have a greater choice of instrumentalists and singers with whom to collaborate at the RCM. Many of these musical relationships forged whilst at the RCM will continue on into a professional working life. The students are encouraged to play for singers and instrumentalist’s lessons as well as the many internal and external competitions. Recent student successes have included those in the Maggie Teyte Prize, Royal Overseas League Prize and Kathleen Ferrier Award.

I would encourage those interested in studying piano accompaniment at the RCM to take a look at the website. Please do write to any professor you might be interested in studying with and, if you have time, arrange a consultation lesson. The RCM experience is a rich and fulfilling one but don’t just take my word for it - feel free to get in touch with a former piano accompaniment student, Ian Tindale (ian [at] iantindale dot com). He’ll tell you exactly what it’s like from a student’s perspective.

Hope to see you at the auditions in December!

Simon Lepper
Professor of piano accompaniment and co-ordinator for the RCM piano accompaniment course.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Photo of the Day: Telemann Fantasia in D minor

Sometimes you need to explain things to students in the most visual way possible. This is from the middle section of the Telemann Fantasia in D minor:

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Vote Now: What Are the Greatest Art Songs of All Time?

Art song, the distressed poorer cousin of opera, hiding within its forgotten leaves some of the most beautiful and fleeting moments of poetry for singers, pianists and audiences to partake of....

La Scena Musicale is conducing a survey of people in the musical field to determine the 10 greatest art songs of all time. This is part of a larger initiative to promote both classical music and the art song genre(!) through its upcoming Next Great Art Song contest.

The first part of the initiative is to compile a list of the 10 greatest art songs of all time, to be mentioned in upcoming print editions of La Scena, beginning in September with the announcement of the Next Great Art Song's call for compositions, and culminating in the announcement of the winner in 2016.

Voting is open now, with submissions closing on July 31st. You can vote online here or email your submission to greatartsong [at] lascena dot org. For the emailed submission, you'll need to list your name, profession, top three song choices, and a reason for your top choice.

In the interest of transparency, here is my complete submission:

Song #1: Franz Schubert - Die Erlkönig
In 1815, an 18-year-old student of Antonio Salieri named Franz Schubert was making a meagre living teaching children in the outskirts of Vienna. Although still a teenager, Schubert's setting of Die Erlkönig was revolutionary in every way, from the virtuoso-like relationship of voice to the keyboard to the portrayal of multiple narrators in Goethe's text, setting the course for an entire genre that took piano, voice, and text-setting to a higher level of artistry than ever before.

Song #2: Gustav Mahler - Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
Song #3: Samuel Barber - Knoxville: Summer of 1915

You have until July 31, 2015 to submit your choices. After submitting officially, feel free to leave your submissions in the comments below or on the CPB Facebook page.

More information about the Next Great Art Song contest will be upcoming in the next few months.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Simon Lepper Talks About What It Takes To Be An Accompanist And Why the British Are So Awesome At It

I'm very glad to have recently made the acquaintance of Simon Lepper, the Head of Piano Accompaniment at the Royal College of Music in London. In an interview from a recent Vrije Geluiden episode, Simon talks about the British tradition of accompanying and how collaboration works so well with the British psyche. What particularly resonated with me was the way Simon explained how poetry informs his approach to the keyboard.

Kudos go to Vrije Geluiden for how they are able to bring to life the immediacy of classical music with such a contemporary and genuine context. If only this approach could be found more often in North American television and radio commentary...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Wendy Hatala Foley and I Will Be Performing This Saturday at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts

When Wendy and I lived in Vancouver, we performed together all the time. Astonishingly, since we moved to the Toronto area in 2002, we have never yet shared the stage for a concert. Wendy quickly got work in the opera, symphony, and described video fields, while I've been mostly busy with the worlds of contemporary opera and piano pedagogy.

Each year, the Oakville Symphony holds several outreach events to introduce younger audiences to the instruments and voices that they will hear throughout the symphony's season. On Saturday, March 28, Wendy and I will be performing two free concerts at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts. If you're interested in hearing our varied program of opera, musical theatre, and art song selections, call (905) 844-6920 or send an email to osochildrenprogram [at] gmail dot com to reserve your seats. From what I hear there will only be seating for around 100, so reserve your seats as soon as possible. This will be the first time that Wendy and I have performed together in many years!

Monday, March 23, 2015

The 2015 Edition of the Royal Conservatory Piano Syllabus is Now Online

After several years of preparation, writing, performing, producing, finalizing, proofreading, editing, and amending, the 2015 Edition of the Royal Conservatory Piano Syllabus is finally available in pdf form, with the print edition soon to follow in music retail stores across North America.

This Piano Syllabus will form the foundation of piano studies in the United States and Canada for thousands of students, teachers, adjudicators, and examiners over the next 7-8 years.

It was an honor to have collaborated with so many brilliant individuals in the preparation of this syllabus, and my contributions have included the following:
  • With Dr. Thomas Green and Anne-Marie Page, playing through well over 600 works in order to choose new selections for repertoire lists at all levels
  • With Dr. Janet Lopinski, co-writing the technique revisions that went into both the Technical Requirements of the Syllabus and the revised technique books.
  • As Artistic Advisor for the recordings, working in the studio with the legendary Anton Kwiatkowski through the process of recording the repertoire and etudes. The many fine pianists featured on the set include Peter Longworth, Robert Kortgaard, Lang Ning Liu, Li Wang, Janet Lopinski, Dianne Werner-Simon, Ben Smith, and Michael Esch. I also played a few of the repertoire and etude selections in the latter stages of the recording process. 
  • Playing all of the intervals, chords, chord progressions, and playbacks for inclusion on the recorded online content for the Four Star books. The online content for the sight reading and ear training is perhaps the most ground-breaking portion of the entire publication series, as it is an online musicianship training course on a scale that has not been attempted before, all utilizing acoustically recorded samples on a grand piano (not MIDI!). 
  • Writing the Helpful Hints section of the dropdown menu content on the online portion of the Four Star books. 
The new syllabus takes effect on September 1, 2015. If you have any questions about the content and/or implementation of the 2015 Edition of the RCM Piano Syllabus, please leave a comment below and I would be glad to respond. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Huge List of Famous Music Students, Organized by Teacher

via Wikimedia Commons.
Musicians are like Zen masters: it's all about the lineage. Wikipedia's List of music students by teacher is a useful way to understand the delicate strands that are interwoven between the bonds of teacher and pupil throughout the centuries.

It's also a great way to settle late-night bets about who studied where and with whom.