Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cellist Goes to Great Lenghts

This project all started one day last week while I was working in the yard when I received a call from my brother-in-law. Looking for just about any excuse to take a break from yard work, I answered the phone. He tells me that his daughter will shortly be celebrating her sixteenth birthday, and he has a special musical request for the occasion. It turns out that my brother-in-law is acting on behalf of a young man who is a good friend and classmate of his daughter, and it seems that this young man has feelings for his daughter that go a little beyond friendship. Sadly, these feelings are as yet not being reciprocated, and she views their relationship as "just friends". From this point forward, to protect privacy, and for the sake of clarity, I will refer to these two young people as Cyrano and Roxanne.

Mind you, I have never gone to great lengths to position myself as an expert in the nightmare that is teenage romance. I only remember the hideous awkwardness of the teenage crush and the nausea which accompanies the inevitable rejection. Nevertheless, I agreed to do what I could to aid in the young man's quest. It so happens that young Cyrano is a budding cellist, and his mission is to play a special piece of music dedicated to Roxanne at her upcoming birthday party. That special piece of music is from the recent film Twilight, which every teenage girl in the world has seen at least a dozen times.

The music in question is a piano piece called "A River Runs Through You", but is it really from the movie? Often confused with, and often erroneously referred to as "Bella's Lullaby" this tune was apparently not in the film and was not written by the composer of the film's score, Carter Burwell. Did we have the right piece of music? I would have to call Norbert, who is scholar and sage on all musical minutiae.

After hours of detective work, neither Norbert nor I could figure out exactly how this little piano piece got attached to the film. It is a bit of a mystery. It is, however, a reality that people are crazy for this music, and Norbert and I set out to somehow make a transcription for cello.

The music itself is not unlike the two part inventions of J.S. Bach in texture and form, but it is of course quite different in content and style. It is immediately obvious that the composer has conceived this music for a specific idiom (the piano). Difficulties can arise when one attempts to transcribe a piece written for an instrument that can accommodate many lines and notes of music at once to an instrument that essentially plays a single line. Fortunately, we discovered that young Cyrano has a buddy who plays guitar, and he could play the bass line (the left hand on the piano) while the cello takes the melody (piano right hand). This not only saved the project, but opened the door to several other possibilities as well!

To make a long story short (not really possible at this point, I realize) we have finished four versions of this piece of music. The first version is in the original key of A Major, which requires a fairly advanced technique as the register is moderately high with some tricky thumb position work. The second version is a much more accessible version in the key of D Major which requires no high register thumb position. Those are only two versions you say? Ah, but Norbert and I have made two more transcriptions of the piece, again one in A Major and one in D Major, for cello duo. I have added bowing and fingering suggestions for all of these versions of the piece. We think it turned out pretty well. There may be other arrangements for other instrumental combinations yet in the pipeline, so stay tuned for that.

In the of luck to young Cyrano! and happy 16th birthday to Roxanne!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Anne of Green Gables

New arrangement has been added in the sheet music section (Popular) on the Gyros String Quartet web site:

“Anne’s Theme” from the 1985 TV movie “Anne of Green Gables”

This was a special request for Christine and Stephen’s wedding ceremony on August 1st at Royal Lane Baptist Church.

It turned out to be a perfect processional for the bridesmaids - big, sweeping, romantic and just the right length at 2:30 minutes.

Listen to the live recording - mp3

Vesselin Demirev, violin
Gary Schnitzer, violin
Norbert Gerl, viola
Mitch Maxwell, violoncello

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