Welney’s Swans

For those of you who follow my wild adventures, you might remember that back in December I got engaged in the magic of the (large, comfy and centrally heated) bird hide while watching the whooper swans and other birds swim on the washes lit up by the floodlights.  (Not ringing any bells?  Go ahead, go read this post on Stephanelli’s Wild Adventures, I’ll still be here when you get back!…Go on…read it…its important to the rest of this blog post.)

The other day, I was sitting at the piano and while playing some random bits and pieces I was thinking about our wedding plans and thinking back to our engagement when it hit me.  An almost fully formed waltz that flowed out onto the piano with a little bit of encouragement here and there.  The inspiration?  Why these beautiful creatures – the swans of Welney!  The inspiration came several months after seeing the swans, but I think that’s ok – shows that nature can be inspiring no matter the season!

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This little waltz is therefore called Welney’s Swans.  It works beautifully on a recorder as well, but today, I’ve made it into a simple little piano arrangement for your pleasure.

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Kyrie Eleison

Today I would like to share with you a piano piece that I  composed after a very inspiring walk yesterday afternoon.

I visited Doghouse Grove.  This is the site of some old monastic fish ponds in Wilburton, Cambridgeshire.  If you want to have a look at some photos I recommend visiting my nature blog.  As I was wondering around the little site I could imagine monks coming here for peace, quiet, relaxation and, of course, to fish.  I imagine they would have fished for food rather than exclusively for pleasure, but I don’t know enough about monastic ways of life to really comment on that aspect.  The high twinkling melody lines in parts of this composition hint at the peace and quiet, the sound of birds, what I imagine the rays of sunlight would sound like as they falls through the trees, the bright colour of flowers and the joys of nature.

The piece starts in a chordal homophony.  It imitates the sound of a cathedral choir singing.  In this little motif I can hear the words Kyrie Eleison, pronounced ‘kyr-ree-uh eh-ley-son’.  This means ‘Lord have mercy’ and is a common section in a mass but more importantly to this piece I can imagine the monks walking, relaxing, fishing and singing this.  The little eight bar theme comes back in differing forms throughout the piece, as if various monks were singing slightly differing versions quietly to themselves as they enjoyed their solitude.

There is not much more to tell you about the piece that you cannot listen to.  So without further words, please, take a listen:

Fluiditea

The post for today is very different from the pieces I’ve been telling you about in my last few posts.  The recording is called Fluiditea and it is a set of four tunes, each 32 bars long.  It features a traditional tune and three tunes that I composed for one of the ceilidh bands I play in – each piece characterises a band member perfectly!

Style

As its for a ceilidh, its light and bouncy.  Its reel set which means it’ll be played mostly for dances that are walked/marched.  Its in the style of an English reel which means its slower than say ones from Ireland or Scottish – although it definitely doesn’t feel slower when playing them!

The Tunes

1. Earl Grey

This is the traditional tune of set.  This is one of my favourite folk tunes.  I find this tune just lends itself to bouncing along happily yet is still very straight forward.  Elements of this tune were used as the inspiration for the other tunes – although it can be hard to work out which parts!

2. King’s Oolong

This tune is sensible yet bouncy – like the band member who’s found delight in this variety of tea (personally I’ve not had any, but I’ll let you know what I think if I do).  A straight forward tune with a mixture of minor and major tonality which helps give it a royal feel!

3. Mint Tea

This is by far my favourite tea and also the favourite of a fellow band member.  The best description of this tune is: “it’s complicated.”  I don’t think I can beat that for a description of it.  Its tonality is unsure whether its major or minor, and can’t decide what key it wants to be in for more than a few bars!  This is almost certainly the hardest tune of the set!

4. Coffee and Custard

The title of this tune is a longstanding joke that this member will drink anything you give him so long as its warm, wet and looks a little like tea.  This is an incredibly happy and bouncy tune – its great fun to play and makes a wonderfully happy end to the set!

The Recording

I recorded this set (multitrack style!) on my trusty, full-toned Mollenhauer recorder – my favourite recorder.  It has a wide bore (rather than the modern tapering style) and a different mouthpiece to most recorders and it suits my playing style perfectly – my recorder and I get on very well!  The chord instrument is my lovely Stephanelli accordion – she’s a beautiful instrument that I hired for a while when I decided to teach myself accordion and finally brought her because I couldn’t bear to part with her!

I hope you enjoy it!

Melancholy

Apologies for it being a while since my last post – I have so many things I want to blog on this site and seemingly not enough time to get everything done!  This will be a short post today

Today I wanted to share a little waltz I wrote a while back.  It was born out of a feeling that I needed to compose but I didn’t know what I was composing so it just sort of came about after a period of improvisation on accordion.  While I composed this on the accordion, I’ve recorded it today on the piano because I felt it brought the mood of the piece better – you can guess this from its title!

Melancholy is an odd feeling.  My dictionary (Collins Concise Dictionary, third edition) describes in two ways that are relevant:

  1. (noun) a tendency to gloominess or depression
  2. (noun) a sad, thoughtful state of mind – I think this is most relevant to the feel of the music

(In case you’re interested, the other definitions are:

  1. (archaic) a: a gloomy character; b: one of the four bodily humours – black bile
  2. (adjective) characterised by causing or expressing sadness, dejection etc.)

The piece is written in F minor which is a key that always feels sad and thoughtful to me – but particularly so here.  It does however have a few major inflections which brings out the thoughtful side of the feeling rather than just one of sadness and depression.

That’s all there really is to say about this piece, I hope you enjoy it!

Sea Of Dreams

The piece I’d like to share with you today is one that I composed only yesterday.  I was playing the piano from a book of music by Ludovico Einaudi – one of my favourite composers.  For some reason yesterday, the music wasn’t holding my attention as it normally does so I put the book down and just started playing to see what came out.

The rhythm of this piece, at least at the start, is loosely related to that of a Strathspey – a slow style of Scottish dance (often traditionally followed by a reel).  To see a strathspey danced well is a treat – it looks so beautiful, elegant and effortless – like the dancers are simply gliding over the floor.  We don’t play strathspeys very often in the ceilidh bands I play in – sometimes as a show set (for people to listen to and dance without being given instructions) but very rarely for dancing.

This composition is the product of improvising based on what I was feeling at the time and continuing until I found I liked the tune and the feel of the piece.  The title came from the fact that it feels dreamlike to me, yet the tune is changeable – like the sea.  I hope you enjoy listening to it!

 

A Waltz by Schubert

Recently my fiancé and I moved to a beautiful house and this has meant that for the first time in a number of years my music collection has been dusted off and sorted and I seem to be constantly discovering new music!

This is combined with deciding to bring my piano skills back up to the standard they were before I left for uni!  As a result, I’ve been playing through some music and have discovered a beautiful waltz by Franz Schubert.  It’s fairly simple, although I’m still having a little trouble with it because my hands keep dropping into piano accordion mode.

Continue reading “A Waltz by Schubert”