Chills in the Summer
This sweet review of "Phantom Ship" just came out. I've always been fond of this piece I wrote, and it was lovely to hear that others were finding joy in it as well.
I hope you'll enjoy reading about it as much as I did. And remember: Halloween is just around the corner.
From the Clavier Companion May/June 2015 issue:
Pupil Saver Repertoire
Chills in the Summer
"I love finding pieces that inspire students to practice while expanding their technical, reading, and interpretive skills.
Many students are highly motivated by holiday-themed music, even in the summer. In particular, Halloween music can boost the student's eagerness to exploit changes of dynamics and articulation to spooky, haunting effect.
My students have enjoyed the Keith Snell and Diane Hidy's Piano Town Halloween series (Kjos) for years, but Phantom Ship in the Level 3 Halloween is truly mesmerizing. Late-elementary students tell me that it is the scariest piece they have ever heard, and they cannot wait to perform it for their friends.
Eerie bass parallel fifths comprise most of "Phantom Ship"; even reluctant readers will happily focus on learning those notes. A large dynamic range equals more spine-chilling moments, so students should use a good hand position and focus on arm weight for dynamic control and deep tone quality. The opening is marked forte, but I strongly encourage shaping the four-measure phrases with small amounts of crescendo and diminuendo. This not only heightens the overall interpretation, but shows musical maturity.
The moderate tempo and slow harmonic rhythm add to the ominous atmosphere. Though the piece is in A minor, a fragment of B-flat minor scale creeps in for a ghoulish unexpected twist. Why not teach the entire B-flat minor scale at this point?
In the next section, a slow crescendo of half-note triads magnifies the dramatic tension, and careful syncopated pedaling is important through-out. Using ascending major and minor triads and menacing 2-1 suspensions, "Phantom Ship" briefly ventures into higher registers. This is the perfect opportunity to tie in theory and ear training.
The piece ends with a series of mournful whole-note chords moving from piano to fortissimo. Students learn to control long note values at a slow pace, since the piece loses its edge if taken too fast. Overall, "Phantom Ship" is impressive. It works well year-round, and is a favorite at festivals, recitals, and of course, Halloween parties."
Reviewed by Carmen Doubrava
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