For the next many weeks we will be utilizing Facetime, Skype, Zoom, and other fabulous Apps so that we can continue our musical journey despite our quarantine and battle with Covid 19.
Internet lessons are not new to us as I periodically like to check in on bench height and home practice studios but, now, they are our lifeline! I look forward to resuming lessons after this coming week’s spring break at which point we will also begin utilizing Hangouts and Zoom for additional group piano performance and theory classes (a new version of our piano pizza parties) as well as our spring recital. I’ll be judging the AMTA precollege auditions online, and preparing an online piano camp (no extra charge) to help us all combat the lonely blues. In the meantime, stay safe and prayers for your health and strength.
Following the studio calendar set last August, the studio is closed next week for spring break and, rather than heading to Paris for a music tour as planned, I'll be staying home and cleaning house and regrouping for our next adventures.
In reflecting upon the changes ... at mind boggling speed ... over the past days and weeks, things literally change so drastically every 24 hours. In an effort to wrap my head around everything including fear, frenzy, panic, solitude .... insert emotion here ... I spent some time trying to put some of these thoughts, feelings, and images into music and ended up with a couple of compositions for solo piano. The first one doesn’t have a title so, let’s call it “Covid 19”. If one were to listen carefully, this might be how the virus sounded. A music personification (virusification?) of covid. Appropriately, the repeated notes in the LH =19, with a division of 5+4+5+3+2, subtly drive this seemingly mellow, microscopic, maniacal menace across our planet.
The 2nd composition is titled "24 Hours" and is a 4 movement work.
Based upon Psalm 91, this work is a reflection on the 24-hour protection that God gives us. There is no threat, whether seen or unseen, anticipated or unexpected, which can catch God unaware and unable to protect us.
The Hebrew day had four equal parts, and this verse reveals that each one is under God’s protection. “Night” represents the time between 6 p.m. and midnight. “Day” represents the time from 6 a.m. to noon. “Darkness” represents the time between midnight and 6 a.m. “Noonday” represents the time from noon to 6 p.m. God provides constant protection, twenty-four hours a day (Isa. 43:2).
I. Movement - Darkness (Midnight – 6AM)
This movement describes the “noisome pestilence that walketh in darkness”. (Psalm 91:6). Yet no matter what evil threatens, or appears to threaten us, we are safe in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:5-6 (21st C King James) “Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flieth by day, nor of the pestilence that walketh in darkness, nor of the destruction that layeth waste at noonday.” (NIV) “You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.” (Living Bible) “Now you don’t need to be afraid of the dark anymore, nor fear the dangers of the day; nor dead the plagues or darkness, nor disasters in the morning.’ (Good News) “You need not fear any dangers at night or sudden attacks during the day or the plagues that strike in the dark or the evils that kill in daylight.”
II. Movement - Day (6AM – Noon)
The focus for this movement is on Psalm 91:4, inspired by the image of God’s protection as portrayed by a mother bird, who safely tucks her young under her wings where they are secure.
Psalm 91:4 (21st C King James) “He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust; His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” (Living Bible) “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. “ (NIV) “He will shield you with his wings! They will shelter you. His faithful promises are your armor.” (Good News) “He will cover you with his wings; you will be safe in his care; his faithfulness will protect and defend you.”
Psalm 91:5 (21st C King James) “Thou shalt not be afraid . . . of the arrow that flieth by day.” (Living Bible) “Now you don’t need to . . . fear the dangers of the day.” (NIV) “You will not fear . . . the arrow that flies by day.” (Good News) “You need not fear . . . sudden attacks during the day.”
God is our delivery. From the perspective of the protected, God is warm and tender (mother bird). From the perspective of the attacker, God is as strong as steel (metal armor).
III. Movement - Noonday (Noon – 6PM)
Moving onto “the destruction that layeth waste at noonday” (Psalm 91:6)
The best stories of plagues? Why Exodus of course!
Looking at Exodus 7-12, we find the plagues poured out upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians. In every case, the Egyptians suffered, but not the Israelites who trusted in God. Hail destroyed the crops, the cattle, and the servants of the unbelieving Egyptians, but the Israelites were not harmed (Exodus 9:18-26). The first-born of the unbelieving were all killed by the angel of death, but those who believed God, applying the blood of a lamb to the doorposts and the lintel of their house were not touched. (Exodus 12)
In Exodus 12, I’m reminded of the discipline and self-control required of us all to help combat Covid 19. From social distancing, to hand-washing, self and mandated quarantine, to controlling our fears and doubts, remaining faithful and calm despite wading through these deep waters of the unknown.
Obeying God and remaining faithful is not only an abstract faith … a faith with pastel feathers and the delicate scent of vanilla … but also a concrete discipline and diligence. At the risk of sounding like Kant, I believe God will protect us and supply us with the wisdom and strength, guidance, science, and tools during this challenging time ...... however, it is up to us to use these gifts wisely, consistently, and knowledgeably.
We all have to do our part. We all share this planet. We are all accountable to one another. We are all accountable for God’s creation.
Reminded of what can often times feel like laborious work when heeding God’s call to action, (i.e. read Exodus 12, below), the 3rd movement opens with a familiar tune we have probably all been singing as we wash our hands, albeit with a minor twist. This is followed by a reference to a popular club song, (Havana) which gradually unravels and liquifies, just as our familiar routines of life (restaurants, bars, social interaction, parties) dissipate into a new norm of …. well, we don’t truly know this new norm yet.
So, before truly savoring the movement, and accepting our challenge ahead, perhaps enjoy this light read of Exodus 12, and how the Israelites were saved over the non-believing Egyptians. (King James of course).
12 And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying,
2 This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.
3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:
4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.
5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.
8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.
9 Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.
10 And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.
11 And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord's passover.
12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.
13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
15 Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
16 And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.
17 And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.
18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.
19 Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.
20 Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread.
21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover.
22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.
23 For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.
24 And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.
25 And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the Lord will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service.
26 And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service?
27 That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord's passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped.
28 And the children of Israel went away, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.
29 And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.
30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.
31 And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said.
32 Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.
33 And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.
34 And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.
35 And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment:
36 And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.
37 And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.
38 And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.
39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual.
40 Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.
41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.
42 It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations.
43 And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof:
44 But every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.
45 A foreigner and a hired servant shall not eat thereof.
46 In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.
47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it.
48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
49 One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.
50 Thus did all the children of Israel; as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.
51 And it came to pass the selfsame day, that the Lord did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies.
IV Movement - Night (6PM – Midnight)
Dangers can be obvious (a Tsunami, or a fierce tiger) or subtle and seemingly hidden (Covid 19, a seduction of a deadly sin, or a net trap camouflaged under the leaves.)
This movement depicts both the obvious “terrors of the night” as well as the hidden “snares of fowler.”
Psalm 91:5 (21st C King James) “Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror by night . . .” (NIV) “You will not fear the terror of the night …” (Living Bible) “Now you don’t need to be afraid of the dark anymore …” (Good News) “You need not fear any dangers at night.”
Psalm 91:3 (21st C King James) “Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler and from the noisome pestilence.” (NIV) “Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.” (Living Bible) “For he rescues you from every trap and protects you from the fatal plague.” (Good News) “He will keep you safe from all hidden dangers and from all deadly diseases.”
A fowler is a professional bird catcher. In biblical times, fowlers supplied the demand for doves and other birds used for caged pets, wild pigeons and doves for sacrifice and food. Before hunters had firearms, birds were captured with nets spread on the ground, in traps and snares. They would take young birds from a nest and raise them by hand and, once they became very tame, the birds were confined in hidden cages so their voices would call others of their kind to the spot so they could be killed by arrows of concealed bowmen or the use of the throw-stick (Ecclesiasticus 11:30). This was a stick 1.5 feet in length and ½ inch in diameter, which was hurled with a rotary motion at the legs of the birds and was very effective when thrown into flocks of ground birds like partridge or quail, especially if the birds were running up hill. Another practice was to sew a captured bird’s eyelids together and confine it so the bird would cry and call large numbers of birds through curiosity at which point they could be killed.
In this Psalm, perhaps the fowler is to represent Satan. Perhaps the fowler is an evil person who entices you into a sinful act, or ‘trap’. (Psalm 119:110) “The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from Your precepts.” (Psalm 141:9 “Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me and from the snares of the evildoers.” (Psalm 124:7) “We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers.”
And, in the 2nd half of Psalm 91:3, God delivers us from “the noisome pestilence”. Pestilence can be any virulent or fatal contagious disease, or anything that endangers morals and welfare of society. Some interpretations use the word “plague” which, of course, is anything that afflicts or causes troubles or calamity, which could be a contagious or deadly pandemic virus like Covid 19, locusts, or perhaps poverty, or crippling fear and worry.
(John 10:10) “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” (2 Timothy 2:26) “That they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”
So, in addition to the more obvious “terrors of the night”, this piece also depicts perhaps the more subtle schemes of the devil …. Snares which are meant to destroy or enslave us. “The trapper” knows the habits of his prey and what will lure it into his trap. (Proverbs 18:7) “A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.” (Judges 2:3) “ . . . their gods shall be a snare to you.” (Proverbs 21:6) “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.” (Proverbs 29:25) “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” (1 Timothy 6:9) “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people.”
Yet, (2 Corinthians 2:11), “we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs (schemes).” (Luke 4:18, John 8:36) Jesus sets us free from all the snares of sin when we believe in Him and invite Him into our hearts.
And, with the closing of this movement, we reflect upon Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV) “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (21stKing James) “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him will I trust.” (Living Bible) “We live within the shadow of the Almighty, sheltered by the God who is above all gods. This I declare, that he alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I am trusting him.” (Good News) “Whoever goes to the Lord for safety, whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty. Can say to him, “You are my defender and protector. You are my God; in you I trust.”
And Psalm 91:9-11 (NIV) “If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” (21st C King James) “Because thou hast made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High thy habitation, there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For He shall give His angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways.” (Living Bible) “For Jehovah is my refuge! I choose the God above all gods to shelter me. How then can evil overtake me or any plague come near? For he orders his angels to protect you wherever you go.” (Good News) “You have made the Lord your defender, the Most High your protector, and so no disaster will strike you, no violence will come near your home. God will put his angels in charge of you to protect you wherever you go.”
What an honor to receive the 2019 Best of Hoover Award in Educational Services!
There is only one award per category per year so this is a tremendous honor and such a great tribute to the start of the 20th year of McLelland Piano Studio in Hoover, and the 30-year celebration of McLelland Piano Studio. (When you add the 2 years of "Aberg Piano Studio" prior to marrying Dr. Jeff McLelland in 1990, and the 6 years of teaching privately during college and graduate school through the Gordon College Community Music Program and University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa Community Music School, the years of private teaching actually add up to 38 years!)
"The Hoover Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Hoover area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.
Each year, the Hoover Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Hoover area a great place to live, work and play.
The Hoover Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community's contributions to the U.S. economy."
The emphasis is quality over quantity. This agrees with my philosophy in teaching and running the studio as well. Thank you Hoover!
Congratulations to my wonderful pre-college students on their fine performances in this year's annual spring recital. Many thanks to Independent Presbyterian Church for allowing us to use their amazing facilities, Kirk Alford for tuning the beautiful Steinway, Edgar's Bakery for the beautiful cake and cookies, and the generous audience of friends and family who showed such support. Kudos to you all!
A huge congratulations to my student of 10 years, Evelyn, for her musical and inspired Senior recital. She has always been such a brilliant student and I have loved watching her learn and grow, from that very first lesson when we learned middle C :) to her high school graduation. Kudos to Evelyn also for her amazing scholarship, full ride, to University of Miami, where she will be majoring in music. We will miss you Evelyn!
Our 1st camp on June 20, 2017 was such great fun! The focus for this "Song-Writing Camp" was on theory, composition, song-writing, and a tribute to the composer Robert Vandall.
What FUN we had yesterday caroling door-to-door! A handful of my students and their parents joined me at the studio for some hot cocoa and cake. We played our carols for each other then bundled up and headed to a nearby neighborhood.
I was surprised how welcoming people were opening their doors and joining in our Christmas cheer as we sang "Jingle Bells". Being a piano studio and all, we carried along a keyboard for accompaniment (thanks, Blue, for carring this!). I haven't been door-to-door caroling since H.S. (over 30 years ago) so it was awkward knocking on that first door. I mean, folks just don't knock on doors anymore, so at first we felt a bit like criminals.
At each house a student volunteered to hand the homeowner a candy cane after we sang. Every single house (except for one .... the "Grinch" sign in the yard should have been a clue) welcomed us so graciously. To be honest, I probably wouldn't have even answered the door in the first place, so I was quite impressed with their generosity! Perhaps it's because such cute youngsters with gigantic smiles welcomed them when they opened their doors? (I highly recommend bringing along some 6-7-8 year olds on your next caroling adventure!)
We generally tend to perform in assisted living facilities or hospitals. However, this year's adventure was so fun I think we might need to repeat it in future years!
Thanks to all those amazing music-loving students who were able to attend this year's party and make it such a memorable event. Happy holidays to all those friendly neighbors, too!
Fall Quarter started this week and the schedule seems to be working out well for everyone! Yeah :)! Scheduling can be tricky so I was very thankful for this.
Over the 2 week break in August I was able to make a lot of progress on my new piano method, "88 Keys to Mastering the Piano". It is unique in its inclusion of important "Taubman" principles of piano technic. Many of the popular piano methods currently published include information regarding technic which we now know can cause tension which leads to technical limitation and eventually possible pain and injury. In the year 2016 -- with all of the information we now know regarding ergonomic motion -- it is time for the field of piano technic to get an upgrade.
The field of piano pedagogy needs to (once and for all) let go of out-dated principles from the 1800 and 1900's. Inefficient (and unhealthy) principles such as "curling the fingers" (as if holding an imaginary ball), or "isolating" the finger motion from the hand and forearm (causing extreme tension/co-contraction and limitation), or "shaping" with the wrist collapsing too low or raising too high NEED TO BECOME A THING OF THE PAST. These outdated principles of technic encourage motions and misalignment of the body which cause us to use the wrong muscles, or use muscles which we don't need to use. Moving a limb part to the extreme range puts too much stress on our tendons and ligaments. And, most importantly, it makes piano playing difficult and limits our speed and facility. With some studies indicating that over 88% of pianists suffer from pain or injury, it is important that healthy, effortless principles of coordinate motion be applied from the 1st lesson on.
Though daunting and all-consuming, this project is so important. My students need this resource so I will continue to work on future books in my spare time in the years to come. Many thanks to my amazing students past and present for their help in this project. Your photos, videos, and input are invaluable!
Pianist, Teacher, Clinician, Adjudicator