Fort McMurray is in for a classical delight!
The Fort McMurray Music Teachers’ Association is pleased to present a weekend of classical music, October 17th and 18th at the Casman Centre Amphitheatre.
On Saturday, October 17, 1 pm-5:15pm, there will be a Master Classes recital featuring local piano students. On Sunday, October 18, 7 pm, master pianist Elizabeth Clarke will perform. Both performance are free of charge.
Last week, Community Strategies Coordinator, Alanna Bottrell chatted with Fort McMurray’s own Elizabeth Clarke about her passion for piano.
Alanna Bottrell: Tell us about yourself
Elizabeth Clarke: I was born and raised in Fort McMurray, where I lived with my family until I finished high school. Then I did my undergraduate degree in music at the University of Alberta, Augustana Campus in Camrose and now I am finishing my Masters degree at the University of Victoria.
AB: I assume you took piano lessons as a child. Was it a chore or did you love it?
EC: Yes, I started when I was six. As with any kind of learning, sometimes I loved it and sometimes it was hard work and I wished I could be off playing with my friends instead. That probably still applies!
AB: What made you stick with it?
EC: Initially I think I liked the challenge, and I wanted to play because my older sister did. After that it was just something I always did. From the beginning I saw that the more I practiced the better I got, so I wanted to stick with it and see how far I could go.
AB: Who's the best piano teacher you ever had?
EC: That's a hard question, as I have had a lot of piano teachers and I have learned different things from each of them. Some have focused more on technique, some on musicality, and some on performance skills and I am grateful for what I have learned from all of them. I think the best teacher is one who understands the individuality of each student and is able to work in a way that inspires them.
AB: What advice do you have for a child/youth struggling with piano lessons?
EC: I think it's incredibly important for students to listen to advanced piano repertoire performed by professionals from an early age. That's what inspires us to work harder and get better. If your only concept of piano playing is rudimentary finger exercises or struggling to read notes, of course you won't want to stick with it. But if you know how exciting and beautiful piano playing can be, then you have something to work towards.
I think it should be required for all young students to go to Classical music concerts where possible or at the very least listen to a lot of recordings. Symphonies, chamber music, opera, solo repertoire- it really doesn't matter as long as their musical curiosity is piqued. I think another key is showing children how creative they can be at the piano. So many piano methods are very restrictive, teaching children "right" and "wrong" finger technique without encouraging them to listen to the sound they are actually making. So it becomes more like typing class than music making. Students can be much more inspired when they learn to listen and realize that they can make artistic choices that affect the music.
AB: What are your career aspirations?
EC: I'm hoping to start my doctoral degree next year, and eventually have a career that blends teaching and performing.
AB: What are some things that people don't know about piano players?
EC: I think a lot of people don't realize how much intellectual thought and hard work goes into preparing a piece. Just learning the notes is the equivalent of a sculptor ordering a block of marble. It's the basis that everything starts from, but the real art comes from what you do with your block. Pianists have to make so many choices about nuances in the music and these can really make the difference between a moving performance and something that falls flat. The only way to figure all these things out is careful practice and experimentation. We don't just sit down and magically make music happen!
AB: What will you be playing at the concert in Fort McMurray?
EC: I will be playing pieces by Benjamin Britten, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Robert Schumann, and Ludwig van Beethoven. The first piece, Britten's "Holiday Diary" suite was written in 1934 while he was still a student at the Royal Conservatory in London, England, and is dedicated to his piano teacher at the time, Arthur Benjamin. It is meant to evoke scenes from a seaside holiday and is a lot of fun to play. The Rachmaninoff was written only three years before, in 1931, but it is stylistically very different and more closely related to the traditions of the 19th century. It is very beautiful but has a dark, gloomy mood throughout. Things get more hopeful with my Schumann piece, whose German title translates to "Songs of Dawn".
It's a set of five short pieces that are meant to evoke the feelings one would have at the approach and growth of the morning. The final piece is Beethoven's Piano Sonata in A Major, Op. 101. It's one of his last piano sonatas and has a deeper, more spiritual mood than some of his earlier works. Many of these pieces are not often performed, so I am excited to share them with people who may not have heard them before.
AB: What's your favourite music to play? Why?
EC: Some of my favourite composers are Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms. I love how their music is both emotionally moving and intellectually well put together. Careful thought went into every note that was composed, and the focus is usually on the beauty of the music itself and not on the virtuosity of the performer. It's a real challenge to think through this music and come up with a convincing interpretation, but it's always.
For more information about the concert please contact: Janey at 780-792-8928.