Most solo handbell music uses piano accompaniment. Using other instruments can add variety to a program, but there are disadvantages as well. When buying or arranging music, check whether the other instrument is optional or an integral part of the piece. The more instrumentalists required to perform a piece, the more difficult it will be to schedule not only performances, but rehearsals. Moreover, some venues (like retirement homes) limit the honorarium they’ll pay for a performance to two musicians. So unless you’re going to play the entire program with, say, an organist or harpist, or your accompanist can play multiple instruments at different points in the program, you’ll have limited opportunities to perform pieces requiring other instruments. Continue reading Accompanists: other instruments
If you work with an accompanist only occasionally, you don’t need advice about how to conduct your rehearsal: you scheduled the appointment for a reason, so there you are. But if you’re considering a set schedule, like a weekly or biweekly rehearsal, you may wonder how best to use the time. Though this depends on your own priorities, here’s some insight into my experience. When performing regularly with the same accompanist, there’s always something to work on. Pieces are in various stages of development: selection, learning, interpreting, polishing, rehearsing for performance, and reviewing after performance for needed improvement. Like any interesting “job,” no two days are exactly the same, but I’ll recap this week’s rehearsal to give you an idea of how my accompanist and I work together. Continue reading Accompanists: rehearsal
In general, it’s the soloist’s responsibility to set the tempo. Your accompanist will expect that, and it’s hard to stay together if each of you waits for a cue that never comes. You want to develop the confidence to lead and trust that the accompanist will follow. A major exception is when the piano has the moving part. For example, if you’re playing whole notes while the piano plays 8th notes, the pianist can’t conform to your tempo; you have to listen and follow her. You have the option to ask the accompanist to lead the whole piece while you follow. That’s especially helpful if you’re inexperienced, and need to develop the skill of keeping a steady tempo. Continue reading Accompanists: tempo setting
You can expect your accompanist to:
Accept only engagements she can fulfill, both technically and from a scheduling standpoint.
Tell you if the music you’ve selected is too difficult for her.
Pay attention when you demonstrate how you plan to play a piece – I once worked with an accompanist who failed to do this, and the rehearsal went downhill from there. Continue reading Accompanists: mutual expectations
This article assumes your accompanist already understands accompaniment fundamentals, but may not be familiar with handbells. I’ll write another article for beginning soloists learning to work with an accompanist. Continue reading Accompanists: handbell-specific issues
Every Friday, the Wall Street Journal features a one-of-a-kind property for sale, which could be anywhere in the world. These morning, I saw the photo and the headline “A Frank Lloyd Wright House,” and I immediately recognized Mr. Berger’s house. Robert Berger was my geometry teacher at Novato High School (north of San Francisco) in 1972. Like all good teachers, he had a profound influence on my life, and that house (though I visited only once) in a way changed the trajectory of my life. Continue reading Believe in yourself
This article assumes you’ve progressed to a point where you need someone to work with you on a regular basis, and that you’ve achieved a certain level of proficiency. A beginner, or someone looking for an accompanist for casual, low-paying gigs, isn’t in a position to make many demands on a potential performing partner. Continue reading Accompanists: finding a regular accompanist
Audiences seldom realize it, but a significant part of what they perceive as the quality of your solo ringing is the caliber of the accompanist and strength of the ensemble created by the two of you. I often think of the sailboat we owned, a very traditional boat with a lot of beautiful varnished wood (brightwork). When we bought the boat, part of it had a clumsy paint job in an awkward color. We had it professionally painted in brilliant white. Immediately, we started getting more compliments on the brightwork. The new paint provided a foil for the beauty of the wood to shine. Continue reading Accompanists: assessing your needs
I like to have lots of lead time for planning concerts, and checklists help ensure nothing is missed. It can be challenging to juggle multiple engagements at different stages: concerts under discussion, concerts happening this week, and concerts coming up that need publicity. Continue reading Concert planning and logistics: at booking
While I’m grappling with the next choreography topic, I’d like to share something I recently learned about: rehearsal marks in handbell works. Rehearsal marks (typically letters) are used in orchestral works, so the conductor doesn’t have to wait while everyone finds, say, measure 213. S/he would refer to “Section G, 4 measures in” or “the pickup to section L.” They’re useful landmarks for working with others, like an accompanist or quartet partners, or someone learning new music. Continue reading Rehearsal marks