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One of the best things about my slightly artsy life is that I get to witness some pretty amazing artistic collaborations. Today, my daughter participated in one that is especially cool.

Some years ago, the Kanata Children's Chorus commissioned a local composer, James Wright (who also happens to be one of the rehearsal pianists at my daughter's dance school), to write music for them. He selected nine paintings by The Group of Seven, some young people wrote poems inspired by the paintings, and he wrote music for the poems. The poems were then sung by the choir. A few years after that, another layer was added on as students from my daughter's dance school performed to each of those songs, with projections of the appropriate paintings above the stage. The first time, S danced to Tangled Garden, but last June she danced in Snow. Here's a link with a bit more of the history, and some of the pictures: https://carleton.ca/fass/2014/carleton-composer-pays-tribute-group-seven-nac-performance/. Today, Mr. Wright and the dance students performed again at Carleton University, this time with the junior choir from the vocal performance program at S's high school.

I have heard the music in rehearsal countless times, and I have two copies of the CD. It still gives me goosebumps. I wish more of it were available to share with you, especially with the dance pieces. Excerpts of A Tangled Garden and Scorned as Timber, beloved of the Sky can be found here: http://www.ottawachildrenschoir.ca/media.html. If you click on either of the bottom two links, you will find Snow: http://jameskwright.com/media/

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It appears one never forgets how. I kind of burned out on playing the piano at university. Though I have puttered around with other instruments, I rarely play the piano except at Christmas - for some reason I feel compelled to brush up on the Christmas carols every year, just in case the family goes insane and decides a rousing chorus is just what we need to bring us together in a holiday sprit. This disappointed my Mom a lot,; not only does she love piano music, but my family sacrificed a fair bit so I could have lessons for many years.

For the past two years, I have been trying to get myself to play at least once a week. It has been a dismal failure most of the time. This week, though, I found the Moonlight Sonata and played it through. It's nowhere near as smooth as when I was in high school, but it's not too shabby. Then I found a favourite old Haydn sonata; more challenging, but recognizable and with some lovely scales and arpeggios. Tonight it was a very pretty CPE Bach piece that I recognize but have never played and To a Wild Rose (McDowell), an emotive little song that looks easy but demands tons of expression.

Three nights this week I have had a happy endorphin rush from working my way through all these old friends. This may be my new favourite thing to do when I have the house to myself. Mom will be pleased.
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At my ballet school, we are blessed with having live music to accompany our classes, even in the leisure programs. This is the ultimate luxury, to me, because we don't have to find the right spot on the CD player, and exercises are not dependent on how long the music is. What this means, of course, is that the musician has to have incredible adaptive skills.

Teachers will set an exercise that isn't square (ie a tidy set of things done in multiples of four or eight bars that match standard classical music phrasing). Teachers won't know the exercise before-hand, so they figure it out as they go along and then have to suddenly invent additional bits or cut the music suddenly. Teachers will ask mid-way for music to speed up or slow down. They will set the exercise one way, counting it in fours and then suddenly realize it works better as a waltz or 6/8 and start over, with the musician expected to find new music in about 5 seconds - no exaggeration! On better days, we get through the exercise once but aren't bouncy enoughm, so the musician has to find something that will encourage us to jump, instead of slogging through to the old music.

Beyond the mechanical challenges, musicians need to know an incredible amount of repertoire. They seem to know all the important pieces from the standard ballets, plus an endless supply of classical, some folkloric, popular and even Disney. Last week, we did an exercise to "I Feel Pretty". Two weeks before, it was the incredibly sensuous tango from Scent of a Woman. I have danced to Chopin, Delibes, Tchaikovsiky, and the theme music from The Friendly Giant (Early One Morning, an English Folk Song). On top of this, our musicians write a lot of their own music. This week, our substitute pianist, Elena, played something quite lovely at the end of class. It turned out to be something she had written herself.

When I was a young music student, I thought I would like to be a professional accompanist for dance classes. I had seen pictures of such creatures, but had never met any. I'm not sure I believed they were real. Having gotten to know quite a few of them over the past eight years, I am convinced they are quite magical.


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