Friday, July 26, 2013

Accompanying and pianos

Due to a fellow-accompanist having a serious problem with one of his eyes, and needing to rest for a few weeks, I've inherited a bunch of accompaniments for the upcoming Cleveland Awards on Sunday week, and the junior singing competitions a couple of weeks later.  On top of that I'm going to be rehearsing with a clarinettist (not the same one as last year) whose usual accompanist is away for several weeks.

Suddenly having to learn a bunch of pieces, some of which are actually making me work.  It's very good for me, but it's a serious intrusion into my otherwise quiet and moderately-paced life as a retired person.

One thing about accompanying singers in these situations is that it's all acoustic: we don't have any of the difficulties of dealing with amplifiers (one of our major bugbears at church) or M-Audio microphones or the like.  Acoustic is good.  You come to appreciate it more and more when you have to deal with a battery of techno gear, much of which refuses to work as it should because it's been plugged in where it doesn't want to be.  And so on.

On the other hand, in favour of something technical: during the winter I tend to practice on the electronic piano we bought for the musical last year.  I can do that in a warmer part of the house: the baby grand is on the cold side of the house, in a room that only gets sun in the later part of the afternoon (which means, in winter, not a long patch of sun at all).  The only tricky thing about this is that I've felt for some time that there was perhaps a slight difference in width of the keys on the electronic piano as compared to the baby grand.  It turns out to be fractional, but I'm sure it makes a difference!  As a pianist I should be used to pianos in all shapes and sizes, and I've certainly played some doozies in my time: ones with missing notes, or notes that stick, or ivory broken or gone completely; ones that are plainly out of tune, or haven't been tuned in many moons, ones that have no 'give', or no depth, or no volume, or no guts.

And then of course there have been some beauties.  While in New Plymouth for the Brass Band solo competitions last week, I played on three very nice pianos.  One was the grand in the hall where the Slow Melody contest was held.  It was a delight. and unfortunately I didn't get another opportunity to use it.  The other two pianos, both uprights, one that we practised on and one that was the performance piano, were both good quality with no flaws.  It makes a huge difference when you're playing for a competition; nothing is more off-putting than having to deal with a piano's 'issues' while trying to do your best for a soloist!
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