Show 244: Listening Guide

From the Top’s broadcast for Show 244 was taped at the Dalton Center Recital Hall, Western University, in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Sunday, January 15, 2012. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Marissa Uchimura, Piano, 17
Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 28
By: Sergei Prokofiev

This piece takes you on a fairy-tale adventure. Prokofiev loved fairy-tales and his story lines are usually pretty clear – in this piece, I hear approaching horses as a prince rides to save his princess who is trapped in a nightmare. Parts of the piece are very dreamy – perhaps the two are falling in love? But other parts are completely demonic and spastic. Because of this, the piece is fun to play when I have a bit of pent-up aggression after a long day. It’s a good channel for excess energy. =)

This is the first twentieth-century piece I’ve played, and it was in an entirely different realm from any of the other pieces I’ve worked on. Learning it initially was a challenge because it must be played very quickly, rhythmically, and confidently. The notes were also confusing to learn at first, and getting the fingerings right seemed impossible at the beginning! It is definitely one of the hardest pieces I’ve learned but playing it is so much fun so the hard work was worth it. I want the audience to feel the adrenaline I feel when I perform it.

Post Show Reflection: I had tons of fun in the Green Room with the other performers goofing off on the piano before the show “Heart & Soul” (with Tom),” “4:33.” and “The Entertainer.” It was exhilarating to perform in front of all those people! I was nervous because I knew so many people would be there, but so cool to be able to share my passion with everyone.

Music has the power to develop a strong work ethic, a creative passion, and an inspiring change in the minds and souls of those involved with it. Unlike in athletics and some academic pursuits, art/music is not set in stone, because it is always evolving and being interpreted in unique ways – ways unique to the person performing or listening to it. There is really nothing else like it.

Johannes Gray, Cello, 14
By: Lukas Foss

This piece reminds me of an old Western town with cowboys in a desert with huge cactuses. In the beginning, the cello wakes the audience by a bugle-call, and then you hear an old steam engine starting up and slowly gaining speed. In the middle, you can hear horses galloping through open prairies. You can hear them chasing each other, and having fun. They get tired out, and then the train motif carries back, and the piece ends with a cowboy galloping into the sunset- a final chord marking the end in a joking way. This piece’s style reminds me a lot of Copland’s music.

This piece is a showpiece, but not in a technically dazzling way. It’s meant to make you have fun. This is definitely not an easy piece, but the point of it is not to be an exceedingly difficult piece. It wants to make people smile, which it does every time, and it is very capable of winning over any audience.

Post Show Reflection: It was great to be with other amazing kids, especially getting to meet a tubist and 2 marimbists. I’ve never met people who play those instruments. It was a lot of fun to play with Christopher O’Riley. We also played in a really nice hall, which was fun to play in. It was awesome to play on a sold-out concert! It was packed and the audience was really supportive.

Music has a lot of power to inspire people and to spark their emotions. Music changes people, and when people change the world can change.

Ben Darneille, Tuba, 17
II. Hornpipe & IV. Bourrée from Suite for Tuba
By: Gordon Jacob

All of the movements of this piece are dances. Whenever I’m playing it or listening to it, (especially movements II and IV), I envision a royal court dancing along as I play. If I’m really focused maybe we’re all in a castle! I hope I play well enough because I wouldn’t want the king upset with me!

The hardest thing to get across with this piece is definitely style. This is the only solo I’ve ever played that is based so strictly on dances. It’s sometimes hard to remember what each dances style is!

Post Show Reflection: Participating on From the Top has been one of the most amazing and inspiring experiences I’ve ever had. My favorite memory has certainly been just hanging out with everyone backstage. It has been such a pleasure meeting and performing with everyone. I will never forget the people I’ve met here. I was so nervous going into the show. I was sure that I would mess up. I was pacing back and forth before I went on stage to ease my nerves. When I went on stage all of my nerves went away. I saw the crowd and looked right at my mom and I was fine. I sat down, tuned, and played with no problems! It was so exhilarating.

Music is such a powerful medium. It has the power to inspire, create, motivate, and heal. Music has saved me. It is everything to me. It’s so nice to know how much it means to others as well as me.

Percussion Scholarship Duo
Udacrep Akubrad
By: Avner Dorman

Eric Goldberg, Marimba, 16

This piece is both the most interesting and most difficult piece I have ever played. The energy of this piece is what makes it the coolest, and the fact that we both play marimba AND drums (and at the same time!) in the piece makes it all the more unique. It has a real groove to it that comes from its Israeli roots, which Shuya and I strive to make as exposed as possible.

The hardest thing to nail in the piece is to play in perfect time with each other and with perfect balance. This piece is so rhythmically complex and has such great dynamic contrast, so it was a real challenge to get the several parts of this piece to fit together and to get us to stay in sync.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memory was watching the other performers play for the first time at the dress rehearsal on Saturday. I was so blown away by how advanced of musicians they all were. The performance was like no other feeling – an overwhelming excitement with a great feeling of pride and accomplishment.

Music has the power to change lives – to give people a way to express themselves in a way that no other outlet quite can.

Shuya Gong, Marimba, 17

I’m transported to a Middle Eastern market, with snake charmer in the side of the road, and a peddler with chains of garlic hung around his neck, and open bags of spices, such as turmeric and cumin, open in sacks, with the heat slightly blurring the horizon. It’s part of a bigger piece also known as Spices, Perfumes, and Toxins, with the indication that all of those things are tantalizing in small amounts and dangerous in large doses. The piece is actually “Percadu Darbuka” spelled backwards, a play on the names of the original performers of the piece and the drums used.

The boobams that we use instead of darbukas are played  with the marimba to make an entirely new instrument, capable of different sounds. This piece is all about rhythm and sneaky beats putting the listener’s sense of rhythm slightly off with specific duple rhythms they may not be used to, or seductively adding off-setting accents. This piece is more challenging than other pieces I have played and is certainly an intricate, duet. It seems walks a fine line between as elegant duet and a sweet brawl.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite moments were backstage right before and during the show, where all of us bonded and talked through our anxieties and hopes of becoming a musician, professionally/otherwise; as well as the Arts Leadership conference, where it was just very inspirational to see examples of what could happen starting from people just like us. The concert was exhilarating and exciting, and there was such warmth radiating from the audience that we pumped up the energy level and performance, it simply danced. There was a feeling of everything coming together the moment we started playing.

Music has the power to communicate to those who you may not share the same written and oral language. It has the power to provide emotions otherwise completely untapped. There are the inexplicable triggers that exist in music, sparking human responses that nobody can explain with an exact science. The power of music is one that bridges all races, ages, genders, socioeconomic status, and any type of discrimination. It can be a source of joy for some and for others a source from which they can bring joy. But all in all the power of music spreads with a chain effect, touching everyone it reaches from the inside out.

Jackie Tso, Violin, 15
Polonaise Brillante No.1 in D major, Op.4
By Henryk Wieniawski

This piece is a Polish dance, which means lively and energetic characteristics must be portrayed. My favorite part is around the second page end – when the fast section begins! My least favorite has got to be the END – it includes fingered octaves and tenths, which aren’t the funnest I gotta say! I played this for Tong Wel-Dong in a masterclass – it was funny because he doesn’t speak English! (I understand Chinese, but the audience was terribly confused).

I think the most important thing to get across to audience is the brilliance. The characteristics of the piece are extremely important! The hardest things are the tenths and fingered octaves at end. This piece is the most brilliant piece I’ve ever played – it shows extreme amounts of technique in just 5 short minutes!

Post Show Reflection:The last note of my performance was definitely the most exciting moment for me! Mr. O’Riley was so fun to play with, and it was amazing to see how excited the audience was! It was definitely a bit nerve wrecking! I mean after all it is From the Top!! But after all, it was extremely fun and I was just really excited and grateful to have had that opportunity.

I believe music has the power to change someone’s life in all ways. Whether it is emotionally, physically, mentally or just completely, it always has a way of changing one’s life.