Clavier Companion - May/June 2017 - 67
The faster solos often use themes built exclusively from
rhythmic ostinato patterns. These pieces challenge students
to develop finely paced coordination and encourage them to
try out burgeoning virtuoso skills. In Book 1, for example, the
Ballade eschews melody and features driving rhythms in an uptempo, quarter-note pattern. Root-position chords make this a
quick piece to learn, rewarding early-intermediate students with
a solo that will impress audiences and provide a well-deserved
feeling of accomplishment. In typical style, Vandall achieves
considerable excitement with very simple structures-chords in
root position, moving by step, along with strong open left-hand
fifths that punctuate the right-hand chords.
In general, the slower pieces are lyrical solos that provide
expressive contrast to the more energetic selections. Most
feature flowing left-hand accompaniment patterns and legato
melodies. In Book 3, written for late-intermediate students,
two pieces are standouts. The first, "Missing You," moves from
F Major to D minor to D Major, making for interesting harmonic
color shifts. Throughout, Vandall spins out a wistful melody
above a left-hand accompaniment of broken-chords that span
a tenth. Another outstanding solo is "Empty Stage Rag." This
piece has a suave, subtle character, reminiscent of Bolcolm's
"Graceful Ghost Rag." It is in ABA form, with a nicely contrasted
key structure: D minor to G major to D minor. The B section is
significantly different from the A section, with a walking bass
line in octaves. For a finely nuanced performance, students will
need a good ear and a keen awareness of harmony.
It's always a pleasure to review music written by Robert
Vandall, and these new books deliver the musical satisfaction
and enjoyment that we've come to expect in his pedagogical
music. Because of the composer's death in February, that
pleasure is tinged with the regret that I won't be reviewing
more new Vandall compositions. He will be greatly missed, but
the rich and diverse musical legacy he has left us in his many
wonderful student solos-vibrant echoes of his endearing
personality-are a testament to his dedication to the art of
teaching, and will remain with us for many years to come.
(Alfred, Books 1 and 2, $7.99 each; Book 3, $8.99)
(S5) Favorite Mormon Hymns: 12
Contemporary Arrangements, arranged
by David Glen Hatch.
The LDS Pianist series, recently launched
by Alfred Music Publishing, is a welcome
sight for piano teachers who work with
students that belong to the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which, with nearly
seven million American members, is historically one of
the faster-growing denominations in the United States.
David Glen Hatch, long known as an accomplished
arranger of both LDS and other sacred hymns, has
released a new collection of hymns that will be familiar
to members of the LDS church and to the Christian
community at large.
Hatch's Favorite Mormon Hymns: 12 Contemporary
Arrangements is an early-advanced collection of hymns
that spans the histories of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints and other Christian denominations,
including early pioneer songs ("Come, Come, Ye Saints"
and "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief") along with
traditional Christian hymns ("Amazing Grace" and "Be
Still My Soul").
The arrangements display an impressive variety of
textures, harmonies, and voicings. While many sacred
arrangers revert to a predictable single-line melody over
an arpeggiated accompaniment pattern, Hatch explores
bass-clef melody as well as a variety of homophonic
and contrapuntal textures. The harmonic language is
contemporary and fresh, and will appeal to pianists of
The early-advanced level of this collection requires
students to be fluent in techniques including left-hand
arpeggios (sometimes over a span of three or four
octaves), multivoiced textures in the right hand, and
thick chord patterns of up to eight notes between the
two hands. Students playing literature such as Chopin's
"Revolutionary" Etude or Beethoven's "Pathétique"
Sonata will feel at home with the requirements of this
music, but more intermediate-level students may
struggle in some of the sections.
The only other minor concern I would have with
some of the arrangements would be that the virtuosic
elements may feel too showy and excessive for the
conservative musical atmosphere in an LDS sacrament
service. Students may certainly enjoy playing those
arrangements on a piano recital featuring sacred music.
As a piano teacher of many LDS and other Christian
students, I am always on the lookout for well-arranged
hymns that will challenge students technically and
musically, while providing opportunities for them to
play publicly. I hope Alfred's LDS Pianist series is just the
beginning of many high-quality publications to come, in
a variety of levels and styles. (Alfred, $12.99)