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Sharon Bill Author & Music Tutor

Music for the Moment

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In a past article for our quarterly village magazine I comment upon how music makes a soundtrack for our lives…

We’ve always used music to mark changing times and seasons. The style of the music may change but the purpose never really does. We choose to listen to or play certain pieces of music to evoke an atmosphere or to stamp something of our own individuality on particular times and occasions. Christmas time is a perfect example of this. When putting up our decorations I listen to a certain CD (with a glass of sherry in hand). On Christmas Day we sing Carols around the piano, if we can or I play duets with my family.

In 1749 Handel wrote the Music for the Royal Fireworks for the display in London’s Green Park. This September the occasion was recreated at Hampton Court to celebrate the Hanoverian succession to the Throne. On a more modern, domestic scale we might put on some CDs for a bonfire bbq and choose a playlist of our favourite tracks. Nevertheless, we usually choose to add music into the party atmosphere somehow or other. Often we choose tracks which remind us of special times, or to create a certain ambience to suit the occasion. Over the summer we hosted another of our Garden Parties, which we hold regardless of the weather (it’s quite usual for us to end up in cocktail dresses and wellies!) In the run-up to the day I’d got two iPod playlists so that I could quickly swap them over to suit the mood. For the most of the day I’d got a long list of favourite classical pieces to shuffle through. These included my favourites, such as the “Overture” to the Marriage of Figaro (which I studied years ago for my A Level and had to learn quotes of the music from memory), Allegri’s “Miserere” which is part of a Latin sung Mass - very yummy, and a favourite Bach Cello Suite. As the day waned and the party lights came out the tracks changed to the ‘Cheesy Tunes” iPod and the mood was soon altered by music ranging from ‘T Rex’ to The ‘Everley Brothers’. Whenever I hear certain songs I always remember previous parties and guests.

In a similar way music reminds us of special days in the past. On our Wedding day my friend and her husband performed an arrangement of the “Romance” from Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nacht Music” and when that played on the CD during our 20th Wedding Anniversary Garden Party it was a very special moment. The recessional march on the day was “War March of the Priests” from Aida, but thankfully it wasn’t prophetic for the years that lay ahead of us! A friend of mine went to a family wedding (years ago) which was held just a few days before Christmas and the Bride walked down the aisle to the theme from “The Snowman” which must have been very emotional. She is now learning to play it on the piano herself.

Playing music adds an even deeper element to the role that music plays in our life. Even the youngest beginner pupils are learning to play some Christmas carols and songs to perform for their family on Christmas day and I know that some of the more advanced pupils have made it a tradition to play certain songs each Christmas. It’s an extra special way to mark the times and seasons of our life. My sister used to play the piano and can still just about knock out a bit of a tune and we still make a rusty rendition of “The Snowman” together. When we were younger our dog used to sing along, the dog no longer adds his own voice but we still laugh and remember the neighbours staring through the window as we played and the dog howled!
Is learning to play an instrument a discipline of the arts or the sciences. It's surprising how history and culture shapes how we view learning. As a music tutor I write for a quarterly parish magazine. In this article from last year I grapple with the way society now approaches the arts…

It’s interesting to note that something of a Renaissance in classical and traditional music is occurring once again. I’m noticing that many younger students are choosing Baroque composers in their exam repertoire and less are choosing the jazzier pieces. In previous years I’ve been disappointed that many younger students simply did not know any carols or traditional Christmas songs whereas there seems a definite increase in knowledge and inclination to choose such songs - although Jingle Bells and Frosty The Snowman still prove popular. This term we’re busy designing home concert programmes ready for Christmas performances, as well as a colouring competition of a picture which is alongside the music of “We Three Kings”. Even those who have exams for the first part of the term have copies of an arrangement of “The Snowman” and “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” that I’ve written ready for them, for when exams are done. Carol books are gradually replacing exam books as term progresses so that everybody can be ready for their Christmas repertoire. We’ll learn some new pieces but we’ll make sure that we leave time to blow the dust off our old favourites again.