Fairyland in Treble
However, Nikolas Sideris’ new volume of teacher-student duets (one piano, four hands), Fairyland in Treble, has stopped me dead in my electronic tracks. The score arrived IN THE MAIL about ten days ago and I found myself giggly with nostalgia as I opened its brown envelope.
A few days after its arrival, I read through most of the pieces with one of my advanced students and we found ourselves enthusiastically discussing the way the collection could be played and used. And we repeated most pieces once or twice.
Likewise, the ostinato oompah rhythm of the secondo in A Playful Countess allows the student (primo) to slot a common syncopated rhythm into the texture without concern. In fact, when I need to teach this rhythm in the future, I will use the “Sideris oompah approach” because it is simply brilliant. This piece is three pages, which might seem long for a young student, but he peppers the piece with thematic repetitions starting on the tonic (C), the subdominant (F), the supermediant (for a delightful A Minor version), the supertonic (D), etc.
Nola and Ayla in the Jungle might be a good introduction to the feel of swing time, even though the piece is written in 12/8. Mr. Sideris toys with various keys, including a long stretch in the least-scary C# Major (seven-sharp key signature) music every written.
The Duke and the Cook supplies a challenge to teachers unfamiliar with jazz rhythms. Once conquered, though, the relatively uncomplicated writing in the primo part gives the student a chance to find the cadence grooves within the jiggy rhythmic scaffolding below.
The Chopin-meets-Samuel-Barber quality of The Two Violins lends much to helping a student understand how to voice a slow-moving melody over the busy traffic of an accompaniment. It is one of my favorite pieces of the collection with its beautifully haunting tune and rhythmic stability punctuated by harmonic surprises.
Because the set is so varied in difficulty, an entire studio could gang up to perform it in its entirety. This would be perfect for a children’s program, perhaps on a library series, where the fairy tales might be read aloud in between pieces. The collection - sure to appeal to children, their parents, and their teachers - is destined to make its way into the mainstream music studio faster than two can play Fifi in the Moon.
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3e2AEfDCsfo