I have to confess, I wasn’t sure what to expect from My Quirky Notebook, the latest volume of piano music from Angeline Bell. I had so enjoyed reviewing her last book, My Lyrical Notebook, I wasn’t quite sure what this ‘quirkiness’ might hold. But, I was not disappointed, for this book is another triumph. Often when I sit down to review a book, I put post-it notes in the pages of the pieces I enjoyed most. Out of 20 pieces, I marked 10 favourites which is pretty impressive. That’s not to say the other 10 were no good, just that half were favourites!
This book has a real holiday feel to it, representing lots of different quirky styles, from jazz to classical, ballads to blues, and some pieces which are just downright plain daft! The website doesn’t give much away:
“Each piece is useful for improving technical skills and yet, musically pleasing at the same time.”
I can understand why this book is perhaps hard to describe. How do you put such a melting pot of styles and ideas into words? Well, what I can say is it was great fun! They really brought a smile to my face, and each piece was full of boundless character.
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So, onto the favourites…
If I was forced to pick just one, then that award would have to go to the ‘Sloth Ballet’, a pretty, melodic waltz in A major, with just the occasional jazz-flavoured chord. I can just imagine the sloth sliding around the dance floor with a degree of gracefulness we might not first imagine possible. There was a strong animal theme throughout with ‘Squeezy the Squirrel’ great fun with its ‘sneaky swing’ and mischievous quality. It comes hot on the heels of ‘Fox Club Trot’ which likewise, had a delightful lightness to it.
If we’re going to give an award to the most daft piece in the book, it might go to ‘Chicken Fajita’. I confess I’ve never eaten one, so I can’t possibly comment how this translates to music, but I just loved the quirkiness of this one. ‘First-time Skiing’ comes in a similar vein, and if I ever dare attempt skiing, I think this will be me, especially the big flop at the end! Another real favourite was ‘The Spider’ with its slightly mysterious, echoing semiquaver patterns, but a real depth of colour. If there are two pieces I’m going to enjoy playing over and over again, they would be ‘Bossa Nova Baby’ and ‘Jazz Hiccups’. They’re both fun, and sometimes we just need fun pieces to play!
I think that sometimes, pianists in particular can get a bit po-faced about music which is perceived to be ‘fun’. I can’t think why, but I teach a lot of adults who had lessons as children where their teacher let them play only ‘serious’ music (whatever that is). I’m glad that in most quarters, we’ve now moved on.
As always, the music is beautifully presented, clear, and full of useful fingering suggestions. Angeline always pays much attention to the detail in her music. The dynamics and articulation markings are all carefully placed. If you enjoyed My Lyrical Notebook, then although My Quirky Notebook is completely different, it’s still full of character and will bring much enjoyment. There are useful notes for each piece, and the beautiful cover artwork by Rebecca Harrie is a real bonus.
Go and have some fun with this book, you won’t regret it. I promise the pieces will all bring a smile to your face!
You can find links to listen to the pieces here.
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My Quirky Notebook by Angeline Bell, is published by Editions Musica Ferrum, ISMN 9790708147855, RRP £12.00.
I was sent a review copy of this book free of charge; however, this review is my honest opinion as a teacher. You can find my Reviews Policy here.
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