Vidas: Let’s start Episode 106 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And this question was sent by Collins, and he writes that he needs the Hallelujah Chorus by Handel, with sheet music and fingering... for piano. Ausra, do we have something for him?
Ausra: Well, actually, we have the organ version of the Hallelujah Chorus, with fingering.
Vidas: That’s right. Some time ago, I edited the old edition from the John Ebenezer West (from the 19th century, beginning of the 20th century) arrangement from the Messiah Hallelujah Chorus, and it is for organ with pedals. Can Collins play something from this collection on the piano, too?
Vidas: Definitely. I think he can do it perfectly on the piano; he just has to omit the pedal part.
Ausra: But basically, as I’m looking at the score, the pedal part sort of doubles the LH’s part.
Vidas: That’s right.
Ausra: Or at least some of it.
Vidas: Sometimes it doubles, and sometimes it plays one octave lower.
Ausra: Yes. So basically, you could play that on the piano easily, I think.
Vidas: And it has my fingerings written in, right?
Ausra: Yes, yes.
Vidas: Is it a good help for people, do you think?
Ausra: I think it is, especially because in this chorus, the texture is so thick; so fingering really helps.
Vidas: Mhm. So, if you were at the beginning stages, maybe early intermediate stages, and you wanted to play something for your church, let’s say on Christmas, right?
Vidas: Or on Easter, whatever the case is--would you be able to learn it by yourself? This piece?
Ausra: Well, it’s not an easy piece to play, for a beginner. You have to have some sort of technique.
Vidas: It’s like an early intermediate level piece.
Ausra: Yes; yes, yes. But I know that this chorus is so popular that you might find various arrangements, even for beginners, where maybe some voices are just omitted to make it playable.
Vidas: What are the 2 most important voices in any choir piece, let’s say?
Ausra: I think the soprano and the bass.
Vidas: And the bass.
Vidas: So guys, if you want to play something from the choir repertoire, and you are only able to play just one voice in each hand, you can do this by simply playing soprano and bass. It’s like playing hymns, right?
Ausra: Yes, that’s right. Sometimes it’s enough to just have soprano and bass; and later, when your technique will improve, you will add other voices.
Vidas: Have you heard anybody playing hymns like this?
Ausra: Yes, I have heard it.
Vidas: Did you like it?
Ausra: Well, I wouldn’t like it if they played like that forever, all the time; but sometimes, yes, it’s very nice.
Vidas: Some verses, right? Not every verse.
Ausra: Yes, yes.
Vidas: Some verses. And of course, you can play the tune in the soprano, but you can also play the tune in the bass.
Ausra: That’s right, yes.
Vidas: Reverse the order of voices--use the changeable counterpoint.
Ausra: Yes, that’s right.
Vidas: We’re looking at the score now, of Hallelujah Chorus. What would be the first step for you, Ausra, when you would try to learn this piece? Would you play RH only? Or both hands together?
Ausra: If I were a beginner?
Vidas: Intermediate--early intermediate.
Ausra: Okay. I would learn RH first and then LH.
Vidas: We have experience with children, right? With children at the National Čiurlionis School of Art. And a lot of children also play a similar type of texture, right? Do you think--omitting the pedals, now, let’s just take a look at this as if it’s a piano piece--what kind of level, what kind of grade would it be,for pianists? 7th grade?
Ausra: Well, you know, if you would take piano majors…
Vidas: They could easily play it earlier, right?
Ausra: Yes, definitely.
Vidas: But let’s say choir conductors, who have just a couple of lessons a week.
Ausra: I would say maybe 6th grade.
Vidas: 6th grade, yeah. So...they have been playing piano for 6 years.
Vidas: Every week. Right. And let’s say, you were a 6th grader, and you would play at first, just RH, right?
Ausra: Yes, if I were an intelligent 6th grader. Because usually kids just want to play both hands together.
Vidas: Right away?
Ausra: Right away, yes.
Vidas: Mhm. Alright, so would you learn this piece from the beginning until the end, or just, let’s say, one line at a time?
Ausra: It would depend on how much time I would have; but I would not suggest to play the entire piece from beginning to end.
Vidas: It seems like in every line, there are 3 or 4 measures, right?
Vidas: So it’s a nice fragment to work on without stopping.
Ausra: Yes, it is, yes. Maybe at the beginning I would sight-read it with both hands from the beginning to the end, and then I would just learn it in tinier pieces.
Vidas: Why is it important at the beginning to sight-read the piece?
Ausra: In order to get the feeling of it.
Vidas: You have to get familiar with how it sounds…
Ausra: Yes, yes, that’s right, yes.
Vidas: Both hands, even if it’s an organ piece with pedals--play everything at once, right? With pedals as well. And see how far you have to go.
Ausra: Yes, because usually after sight-reading the piece, you might get an idea of how long it will take for you to learn it, and if you are able to learn it yet.
Vidas: Mhm. Because a lot of people like difficult music, but they’re not ready for it yet.
Ausra: Yes, yes.
Vidas: If people like Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, but they’re not ready for it yet, what would you recommend they do? Maybe choose a different piece or play just soprano and the bass?
Ausra: Maybe just play those 2 voices.
Vidas: I’m looking at the first page now, and it sounds like it would work, right? Because the bass is active…
Vidas: Foundational harmony; and the soprano is the melody.
Ausra: That’s right. I think it would work just fine.
Ausra: And later on, you could add other voices, too.
Ausra: And pedals.
Vidas: For that, you would need a very loud registration, in order to feel complete and solemn.
Vidas: With Principal Chorus?
Ausra: That’s right, yes.
Vidas: Okay. Do you think people could memorize this piece, or not?
Ausra: I think so yes. Because I think the melody--everybody knows it by heart already, so it wouldn’t be so hard to memorize it.
Vidas: Is it helpful to memorize a piece if you are going to play it in public?
Ausra: I think it’s a big help.
Vidas: Especially if you don’t have much experience playing in public.
Ausra: Sure. Anyway, you will feel much safer, you know, if you have it memorized in your head.
Vidas: Because playing in public--it’s sort of like an emergency.
Ausra: Yes, it is.
Vidas: Everybody is looking at you, and thinking some weird things about what you are doing…
Ausra: Well, don’t scare people!
Vidas: You know, only the best survives, though!
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: You see, maybe not everyone is able to play in public; but I think that everyone should try to play in public.
Vidas: Do you think that people should get scared of playing in public after they make a mistake or two?
Ausra: Oh, no. But usually that’s what happens.
Ausra: But, you know, nobody cares so much about those mistakes except you, who are playing at that moment.
Vidas: Exactly. So don’t say, “Oh, I will NEVER play in public again!” after you played badly.
Vidas: Learn from your mistakes, and move on.
Ausra: That’s right. You know, mistakes are always scary; but if you will survive them, the next performance will better.
Vidas: Yes. Anything that doesn’t kill me makes me stronger!
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: Excellent. So guys, this was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: Please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
By Vidas Pinkevicius (get free updates of new posts here)
Today I recorded a video for David from Florida who asked my help in playing Handel's Largo.
He is 71 years old and still trying to improve. Good for him!
It's not too late. We never stop improving. Only when we stop living we can relax a bit.
I noticed right away that he struggled with knowing what kind of fingers and pedals to use so I prepared a score for him with fingering and pedaling.
Now he can progress much faster.
Here are the rules I used if you want to do it for your own piece (created until 1800's):
1. For pedals, don't use heels.
2. For pedals primarily aim for alternate toes.
3. Do not cross your feet. Move them both together at the same time as one unit.
4. Same toes for long notes, extreme edges of the pedalboard and when the melody changes direction.
5. For hands, don't use finger substitution.
6. Use 2, 3, or 4 whenever possible.
7. Don't use finger glissandos.
8. The same fingers for the same intervals.
Try this system when you're working on the early music piece.
It helps you achieve singing articulate legato touch automatically, almost without thinking.
If you need help with anything or feel stuck, let me know.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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