12 October 2008

piano at Frogs' Leap

The Togdens enjoy music – greatly. We appreciate a broad range of music – and we all both listen and play. Caroline is rather more classically oriented. She’s especially fond of Bach and Minimalist pieces for piano – and takes piano lessons along with Robert and Ræchel.

Doc also plays on the piano – that is to say, he ‘plays on it’ rather than playing it. Doc has always enjoyed bumbling around on piano and improvising in a faux Keith Jarrett style. He can sound impressive if you know nothing of piano or Keith Jarrett.

Caroline, Robert and Ræchel are learning to play properly.

Robert recently went to London with Doc to be part of a performance at the St Johns’ Church – Smith Square.

It was the National Graduation Concert for Level 1 Piano.

He wore his evening tails—procured from eBay—and really looked the part – as did his piano student friend Robin.

He got his first piano certificate last year.

Robert prepared for the concert in earnest for some weeks and gave us a final dress rehearsal the evening before the great day.

He enjoys wearing his evening tails and gets the chance to wear them whenever we have performances on the final evenings of our Buddhist Retreats.

We will tell you more about that when we write something about the ‘Strings at Frogs’ Leap’.

Doc moves in phases in relation to music. He’s been an aficionado of Blues since the age of eight and although he’s moved through many other areas – Blues is perennial. He’s also keen on ‘Classical’ – although he’s not keen on having to use the word. The ‘Classical’ period ran from the mid 1700s to the early 1800s – but the term ‘Classical Music’ is now often employed as an umbrella term which includes everything from Early Music to Minimalism. The Classical period lies between Baroque and Romantic. The best known Classical composers are Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn (also Boccherini, Emanuel Bach, Muzio Clementi, Johann Dussek, Carl Gluck, and Christoph Gluck). Beethoven is also sometimes regarded as a composer of the Romantic period because he straddles the divide between Classical and Romantic. Other transitional composers are Franz Schubert, Luigi Cherubini, Carl Maria von Weber, and Johann Hummel. We imagine our friends are really keen to know all that . . .

Our apologies – but hey, you all know we’re obsessed with this kind of thing. It’s worth looking these composers up – as they wrote amazing music. We often feel that if people spent more time listening to music and playing music – there would be fewer problems in the world. We encourage all our students to take up a musical instrument – or at least to appreciate music as part of their Buddhist practice.

Both Caroline and Doc love the Bach ’cello suites and his Well Tempered Clavier. Bach is a Baroque composer. Doc—in some respects—sees JS Bach as 18th century Jazz – and if you listen to Keith Jarrett’s solo concerts you might be surprised by the similarities.

There’s a programme on British Broadcasting Corporation Radio 4 (that’s been running for decades) called Desert Island Discs. Different celebrities are invited weekly to choose 10 pieces of music and explain why they are the pieces they chose. We’ll give you our ‘Desert Island Discs’ at the end of this . . . write-up. We still can’t quite bring ourselves to use the term ‘blog’.

JS Bach would figure prominently in Doc and Caroline’s Desert Island collection – although Doc would have to have Blues in the mix. It is of course almost possible to combine Bach and Blues by listening to Cream play ‘Spoonful’ – because Jack Bruce plays counterpoint to Eric Clapton. No one seems to have played Blues anything like it since.

Ræchel would choose the Beatles.

So would Robert – but he’d add Blues – chiefly Cream and Jimi Hendrix. His father’s influence is showing. It was a proud moment for Doc when both Robert and Ræchel hummed the bass line for ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’ for nearly 20 minutes in the car on the way back from a holiday in Cornwall. There can’t be many 12-year-old boys or 5-year-old girls outside Chicago who can sing that line perfectly. Robert also likes Chopin and Minimalist piano music, particularly Philip Glass, and Ræchel enjoys Mozart and Vivaldi.

Mozart is often the genius of choice – but we prefer Bach. Why Bach? Well Jack Bruce probably summed it up best when he remarked “Bach is my most important bass teacher.” Doc plays bass – a 1966 Gibson EB3 through a Marshall valve amplifier. He also plays National Resophonic guitars: Resolectric and Tricone – both 12-string models. Caroline chiefly plays piano at the moment – but has also played ’cello, and violin. We shall tell you about this at some point in the future when we tell you (more than you want to know) about our stringed instruments.

Caroline, Robert, and Ræchel all take piano lessons from Sue Bird who teaches piano according to the Suzuki method.

Dr Shinichi Suzuki, a Japanese violinist, believed that musical ability lies in all children. He did not believe he was imposing a skill upon a child; he was, rather, guiding them to manifest what they already possessed. Suzuki music teaching is not about breeding musicians or inculcating skills in children. It is about the amazing results that can be achieved when understanding, sensitivity and discipline are brought together in a single field of study. Caroline, Robert, and Ræchel practise every day and Doc enjoys listening to them practise. They—in turn—enjoy listening to Doc practise on bass which is why they all know the bass line to ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’. Robert joins Doc for his monthly bass lessons.

We all sing and often we sing together in the car – all kinds of songs. Ræchel’s favourite song at the moment is the old Musical Hall number ‘A Mother’s Lament’ which Doc sings in a Cockney accent (as Cream sang it). Other favourites with Robert and Ræchel in the ‘long distance drive requests of Dad’ are: Sitting On Top of the World, Sixteen Tons, In My Time of Dying, Dixie, and Oh Lord Wontcha Buy Me a Mercedes Benz.

So . . . here are our ‘Desert Island Discs’ – but we’re bumping the number up to 11, as that is one of the important numbers in the Aro gTér Tradition of Buddhism – and . . . because it’s almost impossible to select so few examples of music we love. We might all have to be castaways together in order to have 44 between us . . .

Ræchel’s ‘Desert Island Discs’: 1. Back in the USSR—Lennon-McCartney—Beatles—White Album; 2. Octopus’s Garden—Lennon-McCartney—Beatles—White Album; 3. Yellow Submarine—Lennon-McCartney—Beatles—Revolver; 4. Piggies—George Harrison—Beatles—White Album; 5. Rocky Racoon—Lennon-McCartney—Beatles—White Album; 6. Penney Lane—Lennon-McCartney—Beatles; 7. Fool on the Hill—Lennon-McCartney—Beatles—Magical Mystery Tour; 8. Hello Goodbye—Lennon-McCartney—Beatles; 9. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds—Lennon-McCartney—Beatles—Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; 10. Mozart: Piano Concerto 22 in E flat; 11. Mozart: Piano Concerto 16 in D.

Robert’sDesert Island Discs’: 1. American National Anthem—Jimi Hendrix—Isle of Wight Festival—1970; 2. The Funeral March—Frédéric Chopin—Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor—Opus 35—3rd Movement – Marche Funèbre—1839; 3. Tomorrow Never Knows—Lennon-McCartney—Beatles—Revolver—1968; 4. Purple Haze—Jimi Hendrix; 5. She Said, She Said—Lennon-McCartney—Beatles—Revolver—1968; 6. Taxman—Lennon-McCartney—Beatles—Revolver—1968; 7. Sitting On Top of the World—Traditional Blues—performed by Doc Togden; 8. Hey Jude—Lennon-McCartney—Beatles—Revolver—1968; 9. JS Bach—Minuet Number 2; 10. Born Under a Bad Sign—Cream—Wheels of Fire—1968; 11. Canon and Gigue in D major for three Violins and Basso Continuo —Johann Pachelbel.

Caroline’s ‘Desert Island Discs’: 1. Opening from ‘Glassworks’ by Philip Glass performed by Jeroen van Veen; 2. Gavotte from ‘Clavier suite in G minor’ by JS Bach performed by William Aide; 3. Variation 1 from the Goldberg variations by JS Bach performed by Angela Hewitt; 4. Prelude No 1 in C major by JS Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier performed by Angela Hewitt; 5. Big My Secret by Michael Nyman performed by Jeroen van Veen; 6. ’cello Concerto by Elgar performed by Jaqueline Du Prés; 7. Marche Pour la Cérémonie des Tures by JB Lully performed by Le Concert des Nations; 8. ‘The Picnic’ by Patrick Doyle composed for the film ‘Much Ado About Nothing’; 9. Weep You No More Sad Fountain’ (anonymous) performed by Jane Eaglen from the film ‘Sense and Sensibility’, music arranged by Patrick Doyle; 10. Ombre Mai Fu by Handel performed by Janet Baker; 11. Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra by Benjamin Britten.

Doc’s ‘Desert Island Discs’: 1. Bach—’cello Suite Number 1 in G—performed by Pierre Fournier; 2. Spoonful—by Willie Dixon—performed by Cream—Wheels of Fire; 3. Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier—Fugue Number 18 in G sharp minor—performed by Keith Jarrett; 4. Keith Jarrett—Tokyo 14th of November 1976—Sun Bear Concerts – Piano Solo; 5. Born Under a Bad Sign—by Willie Dixon—performed by Jimi Hendrix; 6. Hootchie Coochie Man—by Willie Dixon—performed by Muddy Waters; 7. I’m Only Sleeping—Lennon-McCartney—Revolver—Beatles—1968; 8. Crossroads—by Robert Johnson—performed by Robert Johnson; 9. Bob Dylan—Blind Willie McTell—Basement Tapes; 10. Emerald Tears— Emerald Tears—Dave Holland. 11. Elevation—Pharaoh Sanders.


Unknown said...

Sounds like you have quite a musical family. Nice to hear from you after all these years.

Jonathan said...

Wow! Very cool. A most well-rounded musical family. Your musical tastes are dear to my own heart. I hope someday we can play together. You are welcome to visit anytime here in California.

Kind Regards,

Anonymous said...


It is my first time here. I just wanted to say hi!

Nicholas Breeze Wood said...

Greetings and blessings to you both

from an 'ol crusty shamanic practitioner (with Ngakpa leanings) and dobro player, down the road in Pembrokeshire, who just happens to be passing by :)

om ah hung

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