February 29, 2012

Piano Students Say the Darnedest Things

I love my piano students. They come up with the craziest things. I have a habit of writing down some of their most amazing revelations. Epiphanies!

Some recent examples:
"The key to success is to go slowly."
"My new approach is to go slowly and not make any mistakes."
"My God! If you get the fingering right, it helps!"

It is fascinating to watch the human brain in the learning process; this is one of my favourite aspects of teaching. Learning can only happen when one is ready for the learning...you can bet I point out the benefits of both practicing slowly and with correct fingering WEEKLY. But it would appear those ideas can only "take" when the student is ready.

And just to share with you a couple of lovely visual examples of a student really responding to my teaching about the memorization process and really running with it, thereby conquering a big chunk of nervousness about performing - I absolutely love moments like these.
Pretty beautiful, eh?

February 27, 2012

Live Music in Intimate Spaces

Last night I had the great fortune to be present for the Inner Chamber performance of Schubert's Octet here in Stratford at Factory 163. There was so much to recommend about the experience, starting of course with the genius and beauty of Schubert. The performers were all top-notch musicians who all happen to live locally. Artistic Director and violinist Andrew Chung's vision for this series of concerts includes a meal for the audience before the concert begins, which provides a lovely "gateway" into the musical portion of the event, providing an opportunity for a tangible feeling of community, anticipation and celebration.

For me, with my passion for interesting spaces, the element that contributed a heightened "magic" to the overall experience was the venue itself. Factory 163 is as the name suggests a reclaimed building, originally used as a furniture factory and a few years ago transformed to now be home to many creative and artistic pursuits. The performance space is not fixed, which allows every event the possibility of setting up in a way that uniquely suits the experience.

Last night's performance was set up "in the round", with audience seating on all four sides of the performers who were seated in a circle with their backs to the audience. At intermission the performers changed seats so that the audience had a different perspective for the last three movements of the piece. The intimacy that was created through the use of the space contributed to a great sense of connection between the musicians and the listeners. As well, I found myself pondering the juxtaposition of the somewhat rough and functional structure and its original usage with the heightened beauty of the music that was being presented. Somehow this juxtaposition served to heighten the musical experience even further. I think of the people who worked in that space building furniture years ago and imagine that they would not likely have fathomed that Schubert would be filling the space decades later. Yet somehow their energy was with us here and now.

The fact that last night's performance was sold out and was indeed the largest audience yet for an Inner Chamber concert was great cause to celebrate, and yet the feeling of connection and community was evident among the audience members, and was no doubt felt as well by the performers. That reciprocal flow of energy between audience and performers is what it's all about, if you ask me.

I am now preparing to host my own version of "music in an intimate space" with my "4 @4" series of house concerts. When I purchased the home I currently live in, it was partly because it offers a space in which concerts are possible. I will be sharing the music that I recently recorded for my Volume 3 CD of Edvard Grieg's music, and my listeners will hopefully enjoy the "up close and personal" aspect with glass in hand.  Every Sunday afternoon in March at 4pm at my home. Please contact me for info re cost and location and to reserve your seat.

(contact email is sandra at sandra mogensen dot com...although of course you wouldn't type it that way, right? You can also reach me through https://www.facebook.com/mogenpianist or https://twitter.com/sandramogensen )

February 16, 2012

Mogenpianist does a newsletter

If you have trouble reading this on your screen, I'd be happy to email you a pdf.  Just let me know.

February 11, 2012


A few of the pieces on Volume 3 of SANDRA MOGENSEN: Piano Music of Edvard Grieg were unknown to me until very recently. One in particular that caught my interest had a very interesting "folk-y" sound, emulating the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle. Its English title evokes kind of a fun concept: Wedding March of the Goblins...of course goblins would need their own special wedding music! When I looked at the original Norwegian title though, I really thought it might present some interesting possibilities: Tussebrurefæra på Vossevangen.  Armed with my treasured iPhone I set out to enlist the help of my community. 

Many thanks to my students and friends (and total strangers!) for being willing to give the pronunciation a go for my little video project. Watching the video, you will see many valiant attempts - and then finally the most authentic renditions of these three words come from the Scandinavians. Of course. Judy has Norwegian background and it shows! The lovely Swedes that I accosted at the TIFF Lightbox also had no trouble with it. I had hoped to visit the Norwegian Consulate for another definitive version, but so far I have not had a chance to make it there.

I look forward to releasing the CD so that you all can hear this piece of music...it's very fun and quite beautiful. As well, we have filmed me performing the piece at the Glenn Gould Studio, so stay tuned for the OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO...

In case you haven't yet seen the Tussebrura video, click here to watch it.
Many thanks to Siobhan Stroobandt for doing an amazing job of video-editing!

February 10, 2012

The Team

I am so grateful to be supported in this latest recording project by a team of incredibly talented, capable, and wonderful people.  I urge you to read up on each of them at the links you'll find by clicking on each of their names:

Producer, Earl McCluskie
Recording Engineer, Dennis Patterson
(assisted by Chris Small)
Piano Tuner and Technician, Wayne Chen
Production Assistant, Holly Shephard

The other very important members of the team are you, my supporters and listeners.  Many thanks to all who are donating to this project and to those who have enough faith in me to "pre-buy" this recording. I think you will be pleased with the outcome.

February 9, 2012

My Blind Speed-date with Oliver and Bertha

Prior to the recording sessions, I was given the opportunity to try out both of the Glenn Gould Studio pianos: Bertha and Oliver.  Things change, especially regarding pianos that are so well-loved and often-used, so I wanted to be sure I was making the right choice for this Volume 3 recording of Grieg piano music, and not just assuming that since Volume 1 was recorded on Bertha, that I should stick with her.

I asked that the pianos' identities be kept secret from me while I tried them out so that my opinion would not be swayed by any pre-conceived notions.  So, I began with a few preliminary arpeggios for just a minute or two on each piano.  There was no immediate "Aha!" so I continued by playing the same piece on each piano, alternating back and forth between the two instruments.

The one piano ("Piano Number One") seemed to have a more lively personality and a fairly strong bottom end, yet I couldn't quite coax it to sing in the treble the way I had hoped. I know that I usually take about an hour and a half to crack the code of any Steinway I am presented with, so I would not rule out this instrument yet.  It seemed to have plenty of colours available.

The other piano seemed a little reticent at first, but all of a sudden it gave me back an arpeggio that was so exquisite, controlled, and beautiful...at that moment, I started to fall in love.

Then back to the first piano to see where we would go next, and I noticed that I was tensing up in response to some "barking" back at me. Back and forth, back and forth, and still I found my love for "Piano Number Two" growing. It was able to draw me into a more intimate sound, and seemed to be more of a calming personality.

By now quite smitten, I continued to play the entire recording program on Piano Number Two and increasingly felt as though we were becoming friends and that all would be well.  I still had no idea of whether this Piano Number Two was Bertha or Oliver. As I was leaving the GGS when there was no one around to clarify, I actually did not know until I arrived in the morning to start recording that I had in fact chosen Bertha! Again.