Regular readers of this blog will know that I enjoy publishing guest posts. Today’s writer is composer and piano teacher Angeline Bell. Angeline has recently published two new volumes of piano music with Editions Musica Ferrum, and, in this article, she takes us on her journey as a composer. Scroll to the end of the post, and you’ll find a free download of one of Angeline’s pieces. We hope you enjoy playing it.
My name is Angeline Bell, a Malaysian piano teacher living in Crawley (West Sussex, UK). In March 2022, my family and I contracted the coronavirus, and I was unable to teach for three weeks. During that time, I started composing piano pieces and then uploading my home recordings onto SoundCloud, YouTube and Facebook. My friends were very impressed and encouraged me to try and get them published. Amie Webster of Motif Music Studios also made a YouTube video of one of my jazzy pieces, Squeezy the Squirrel.
As I was a fan of Ben Crosland’s music, I thought it would be good idea to contact his publisher, Nikolas Sideris of Editions Musica Ferrum, who specialises in contemporary music. Nikolas received my manuscripts with enthusiasm and agreed to publish them, which was a dream come true for me.
Encouraged by this sudden turn of events, I started composing furiously, sometimes at a pace of one composition a day until I had a collection of 40 pieces. These were inspired by nature (Bluebell, Tempest), my travels (Dubrovnik, Somerset Clouds) or a memory (First-Time Skiing, Oh No! I’m Late Again!). Nikolas observed that some of my pieces were romantic in style while others were jazzy or based on dances or had an animal theme. We came up with the titles My Lyrical Notebook for the romantic pieces and My Quirky Notebook for the fun pieces. The scores were published in November 2022. The PDF version and the studio licence can be purchased on the Edition Musica Ferrum website as well as on the Musicroom site. The beautiful book covers were designed by Rebecca Harrie.
I wanted anyone learning the pieces to be able to listen to the music on their favourite streaming platform like Spotify or Amazon Music, so Nikolas, who had the recording and mastering software, performed all 40 pieces and the two albums have now been released. My Lyrical Notebook can be heard by clicking here and My Quirky Notebook can be accessed here. Nikolas’ rendition of Pink Sunset, an impressionistic piece, moved me to tears when I heard it for the first time, as it was played so sensitively and passionately.
My intention was for each piece to be useful for improving a technical or pianistic skill but at the same time, a pleasure to perform and listen to. For example, Dragon Dance from My Quirky Notebook is based on Chinese New Year celebrations that I observed as a child from the balcony of my grandmother’s house. I remember the noisy fireworks and the incessant drumming that accompanied the acrobatic dancers as they swayed the dragon along the street. For this composition, I used only black keys as they make up the pentatonic scale employed in traditional Chinese music. The bass line consists of a repeated dotted-rhythm pattern to imitate the sounds of the drum. The middle section is floaty, ethereal, and magical as I imagine the dragon flying up into the air and swooping down again. The piece ends with a descending glissando of all the black keys to a final octave chord in sforzando.
Tivoli Gardens from My Lyrical Notebook is named after an amusement park in Copenhagen that we visited on a family holiday. It has one of the oldest wooden rollercoasters in the world which is operated by hand. The broken chords in triplets rise and fall to depict the ups and downs of the rollercoaster and the three-note sequences mimic the spinning movement of the merry-go-round.
The performance notes in the book contain more details of the back story of each piece. I have enjoyed composing these pieces for players of Intermediate level (Grades 3-6 ABRSM), my students have loved learning them and I really hope you will too!
The following piece is a free download. Entitled ‘Elizabeth’, I wrote it as a ‘thank you’ to the late Queen in honour of her service to the country. You can listen to the piece by clicking on the link below:
Download the score here:
Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.
For more information, please visit the publications page, here.