Battling through Storm Eric we arrived, somewhat bedraggled, at Finchcocks – a Grade 1 listed Georgian Manor house, now known for its weekend piano courses.
After a warm (champagne fuelled) welcome, we explore the impressive collection of grand pianos, and then crack on with some duets- a real ice-breaker to begin the course, with lots of laughs along the way.
A bright start
With the arrival of Saturday morning, the sun makes an unexpected re-appearance, (some participants even venture out for an early jog…!).
Our first performance class of the weekend, led by our course tutor Andrew Dunlop, is an engaging and immersive experience with everyone experiencing the ‘hotseat’- working on a piece in front of the group for 20-25 mins. There is an emphasis on maintaining a healthy, correct posture and relaxed playing, keeping the hands as close as possible to their natural state. Andrew also led the group through different practice techniques, building strength in the weaker fingers.
After the session, we scuttle off to pick a grand piano to practice on, and eagerly to try out the techniques & studies…
The afternoon provides us with two different mini workshops, on sight-reading and on studies:
The ‘dreaded’ sight reading
Andrew’s approach focused on a fundamental understanding of the harmony – recognising the chords and how they fit in the progression- instead of having to dissect the piece and read individual notes. This saves time and improves our overall musicianship.
Scales. The age-old chore…
We learn our scales and practice and practice them on repeat. But, is this truly beneficial to our technique? As a more diverse alternative, Andrew introduced us to a range of different technical studies, each focusing on a separate aspect of agility and flexibility. Many of these were a combination of broken chords, scalic patterns, and arpeggios.
Songs by the fire
As the evening draws in we move to the main hall where we are treated to an atmospheric recital of song transcriptions, performed by our course tutor, Andrew Dunlop. We were amazed by the challenging transcriptions from the Nutcracker and Siloti’s transcription of Bach’s Prelude in B Minor, which Andrew performed with ease and fluency, and also recognised Schumann’s well known song; Widmung. Gerschwin’s Embraceable You concluded a superb performance – to which we all agreed was lovely way to finish a busy day.
Ending on a high note
Our last performance class of the weekend, and as participants perform their final piece, it is evident that everyone is considerably more comfortable with performing in front of each other. With a comprehensive tool-kit of ideas to take away for future practice, the mood to round-off the course is an inspired and energised one.
Andrew’s next course is on the 7th June, at advanced level.
Please click here for details of future piano courses.