Diary of a Song: Secrets

This is the tenth of a series of blog posts entitled “Diary of a Song“, where I share the stories behind each of the songs from my latest album “Illumination“.

At the end of each post, I also include a link to buy the sheet music, and the MP3 download.

Secrets

(From the artwork in the CD booklet)

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There really is no huge story behind this song and why I chose to arrange it for my album – other than the fact that I love the group OneRepublic and think that their music is utterly amazing. It is also very musical and classical in some respects.  For example, when I listened to the cello part on their recording of “Secrets”, in my head I heard influences from the Bach Cello Suite in G.  Hence the reason I decided to incorporate themes from the Suite into my rendition of “Secrets”.

I will say though – that when I was writing this arrangement, I really felt strongly that I wanted this song to stand alone great as a SOLO PIANO work, and not just a great song with orchestration (as on the CD).  I arranged the song with a very sweet, almost whimsical introduction to the song before it gets to the “meat” of it (where the cello comes in).  I’ve heard many people tell me that it sounded very Danny Elfman-ish.  Well, thank you.  I take that as a great compliment because I like his work very much.

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Here is a behind-the-scenes look at the recording session for “Secrets”, featuring the young talented cellist Stephanie Yose.  She was 16 years old at the time of this recording, and now she has gone on to play at BYU with a full ride cello scholarship.

The talented Glen Gabriel did the beats and effects on the recording.  All other piano and orchestration was yours truly.

I’ve always thought it would be neat for Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic to hear my version of his song, but so far I’m not sure that has happened. During Grammy voting season I did come into contact with the founding member of the band.  He had emailed me to talk about his latest album and we had some conversations over email – as we both had entries on the ballot last year.  I asked him if he wouldn’t mind passing the song along to the band to hear. But as we all were caught up in the onslaught of Grammy madness, I never did hear back. I’m sure my song got lost in the mad rush and it possibly never got forwarded on.  *sad face*.

But as promised – I have sheet music for you guys!  Better late than never right?  It took me a while to get the publishing license from Hal Leonard via Sony Music Publishing.  But I’ve got it now. I also had to transcribe the song a bit because my version that I play on stage is a cello + piano version and so there are chunks of the song where I sit there and have measures of rest while the cello plays.  And so I had to go back and rewrite the solo piano version to fill in those measures.  It’s finally all finished now and the sheet music is up on my website for only $3.95.  I hope you pianists enjoy it! It’s really one of my favorites to play.

Secrets

 

BUY SHEET MUSIC:

Link to Jennifer’s Store for the “Secrets” Sheet Music.

BUY THE ALBUM:

Buy the full Illumination MP3 album on Amazon, or the physical album with autograph from Jennifer’s Website.

Diary of a Song: Eventide

This is the ninth of a series of blog posts entitled “Diary of a Song“, where I share the stories behind each of the songs from my latest album “Illumination“.

At the end of each post, I also include a link to buy the sheet music, and the MP3 download.

Eventide

(From the artwork in the CD booklet)

eventide pic

Is it okay to have a favorite of my own compositions?  Well if so, this would be it. “Eventide” is by far, hands down, my favorite song on my Illumination album.   This was just one of those songs where the music flowed to my fingers and I really felt a spiritual connection to the music I was creating.

I composed this song while we were living in a rental home that had this big window and my piano sat in the nook of it.  Across the street there was an open field and so in the evenings, when it was dark, there were no trees to block a perfect view of the twinkling stars (if the sky was clear, that is).

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My two boys – Preston and Taylor – at the time were ages 2 and 6 months

“Eventide” is another word for “evening”.  And with the minor to major triad chords going on in the song (proven by science to create an emotional crying response from people), this song really pulls at my heart strings.

I originally just wrote it as a solo piano piece, but then later as I worked on the orchestration for Illumination, I added strings and a boys choir to the song  – which ended up having a sort of Danny Elfman-ish sound to it.  Or, I’ve also been told it sounds like something James Newton Howard would have composed for a film.

I had this piece completely finished and orchestrated, when one evening when I was driving in my car and listening to a rough mix of it, I started hearing and humming the theme from “Sheherazade” to it.  Sheherazade is an orchestral work composed by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov that I performed both in college with my university symphony, as well as the Oregon Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra a few years later.  The solo violin part of the symphony represents the character of Sheherazade, whom in the story of “1001 Arabian Nights” (aka “Aladdin”, etc.), is the Persian queen who saves herself from death by telling a story to her husband, the king, every night for 1,000 nights.  As the story goes, the king would take a new wife and then sentence them to beheading the following day.  Sheherazade volunteered to spend one night with the king – in which she ends up telling him an entrancing story which she does not finish. She only promises “I will tell you the rest of the story tomorrow night.”  She keeps herself alive for 1000 nights by telling story, after story, after story…in the end, leads the king to fall in love with her and spares her life forever.

The musical theme fit so well with the music, and also the night time essence of the song that I went back and wrote the solo violin part into the music.  On my album, you can hear violinist Kelley Marie Johnson give an emotional performance of the song with me.

You can BUY THE SHEET MUSIC from my website below:

Solo Piano version

or

Piano/Violin Duet version

eventide

You can BUY THE MP3 from any of the following retailers:

Jennifer’s Web Shop

Amazon

iTunes

Cdbaby

Loudr.fm (choose your price)

You can BUY THE PHYSICAL ALBUM from me directly, or from Amazon or CDbaby. I will even autograph it for you!

Diary of a Song: Illumination

This is the sixth of a series of blog posts entitled “Diary of a Song“, where I share the stories behind each of the songs from my new album “Illumination“.

At the end of each post, I also include a link to buy the sheet music, and the MP3 download.

Illumination

“Illumination” is track #3 and the title track on my new album.

The story behind this song is this…

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About two years ago, I saw an ad on one of the many TV/Film 3rd party company licensing websites where a European luxury car commercial was looking for music for a commercial.  I don’t normally compose from scratch for opportunities like these (usually just submit already finished works), but the payout on this one was quite substantial and therefore I made an effort.  Okay, it was VERY substantial.  This one licensing opportunity would have paid me more than my music made in one year. AND the description of music that they were looking for basically almost perfectly described my style of music.  I knew I had to try.

I spent a lot time imagining a fast sleek car winding down a highway with curves. A BMW perhaps? Mercedez?  Who knows.  In my mind, I pictured a sort of Bond car, or luxury sedan.  Aston Martin perhaps.  I imagined the wheels turning and turning and the rhythm it created with its movements.

And thus the opening 16th notes of Illumination were born:

Because I knew this has to be a 1 minute clip of music, my attack on the composition of this song was quite different than how I normally compose.  I was crunched for time and needed to get to the main melody of the song from the get-go, so right after that short intro I immediately went to the theme of the music. Again….imagining a fast car zooming by.

And then, the next portion of the song, is me imagining the car driving off into the distance, sparkling clean, shiny wheels and a nice logo and a man’s voice coming on (sexy English accent) to say something about the car or whatnot…

That was basically my entire composition for the car commercial, which I then added orchestra to.  I wanted it to be simple, yet powerful.

So I only added: Violins, French horns, Percussion (Glen Gabriel designed the percussion, which also includes some synth effects). And the final end result for the 1 minute commercial version of “Illumination” ended up like this:

I proudly submitted the song by the deadline and waited to hear back.

Waited…

Waited…

What Happened With the Car Commercial…

And finally, heard back. My song did NOT make the cut for the commercial and yes I was super sad.  Especially because I spent a lot of time and effort on tailoring (what I thought) was the perfect song for this car commercial.

So the funny part about this story, is several months later, I was online watching new movie trailers on Yahoo’s movie section.  Before one of the movie trailers, a car ad came on.   I immediately looked up and took notice, because the song sounded an awful LOT like my song “Illumination”.  It was even weirder that my husband came in from the other room to find out what it was, because his response was also “Hey, isn’t that you?”.

But it wasn’t me.  But it was so incredibly close to my song that I almost thought it was mine.

I was in such shock that I didn’t catch the name of the car.  I thought I had seen Land Rover on the commercial, but I wasn’t certain.  Will and I must have refreshed the browser a hundred times trying to find that commercial again, but it never popped up. We also searched YouTube and the Lexus/Landrover websites trying to find this commercial, and yet we could not find it. So annoying.  So I just forgot about it.

But as I was in LA last year and met with my sound engineer, Rob Beaton, who deals a lot with sound libraries and companies that scout music for commercial work – I told him about what had happened with my song and that car commercial.  He told me that often times these ad agencies that scout music for commercials will find the music that they DO want, but they won’t want to pay the fee for it, so they will actually hire composers to write something very similar to it.

I don’t want to start drama or whatever, because I have no proof and I’ve never been able to find the commercial since then, but I have this little inkling that my song was heard by the ad agency (that I submitted it to), and perhaps replicated by another composer and variated ever so slightly so they could not be accused of plagiarizing. I have no way of proving this since I used a 3rd party to submit my song – I don’t know the name of the ad agency, nor the name of the car company. 😦

BUT the story does not end badly.

The GOOD news in all of this was that I still owned the rights to the song. It was mine to do whatever I wanted with.

I let it sit for a long, long time until I finally came up with the inspiration to work on it again.  It was kind of hard – as I had the first version really stuck in my head.  But eventually I was able to go back to the drawing board, dissect it a bit, and start over.

What I ended up with was a 4 minute long extended version, a couple key changes, a major-keyed section, and a pretty dramatic ending.  You can hear a sample of how I changed the transition of the short clip to extend here:

My album “Illumination” was actually originally going to be called “Portraits”, but as I kept working on it – the title Illumination just seemed more fitting for the vibrant cinematic music evolving for it.  And as I was choosing photography to go with the song (as this was an art-based album with my Dad’s photography), I chose this photo as the perfect representation of Illumination.

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You can purchase that beautiful photo of Ruby Beach, Oregon Sunburst directly from my Dad at his website.

More Illumination Projects

As if the song hadn’t evolved enough, there was still more to come.

In the summer of 2012, I met with the conductor of the Evergreen Philharmonic Orchestra and arranged for me to perform with the orchestra in December of 2012.  It was a lot of hard work to transcribe the song for a full live symphony orchestra, but it got done.  I had the help of a couple transcriptionists (Travis Tagart, Daniel McBride).  While I did a lot of the notation myself, I wasn’t familiar enough with the various clefs of brass and woodwind instruments and wanted to be sure I got it exactly right.  I was so thankful for the help.

I should also note, that as I said, I originally only wrote the song for Violins, French Horns, Percussion and then later added Celli as well.  Transcribing it for a full symphony meant adding MANY more additional parts that were not in the original, and also dividing up the violin parts among the various string instruments. For example, in my recording, there are about EIGHT different violin sections playing various harmonies. But in a real orchestra, there are only TWO violin sections. So I transcribed some of the parts over to the violas, and then had each stand within the two sections playing different parts. Usually there are 2 violinists to one music stand and they play the same part, but instead I had them each split with different harmonies.

The end result was obviously NOT the same as the recording, but still very fun and surreal to hear my music performed LIVE with an entire symphony!  Here is the video if you care to watch.  I made a few blips here and there, but overall it was a really great concert and experience.

I’m still planning to shoot a music video for this song, but the plans for it have undergone many changes and I’m still waiting for the stars align for it to all work out how it’s supposed to.

Sheet Music

And now for the moment many of you have been waiting for, here is the link to BUY THE SHEET MUSIC for “Illumination”. I’ve noted in the music that there are a few measures where when I play it live, my part is minimal and the orchestra plays a lot.  But for the solo piano version, I have done some “orchestra reductions” into the part.

BUY THE SHEET MUSIC $3.95 – http://jenniferthomasmusic.com/store/productdetail.php?product=179

Illumination

BUY THE MP3http://www.amazon.com/Illumination/dp/B008O0NUSM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1357268285&sr=8-2&keywords=jennifer+thomas+illumination

BUY AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ILLUMINATION directly from Jennifer while copies are still in stock:  http://jenniferthomasmusic.com/store/illumination-audio-cd

Jennifer Thomas Receives Top Female Artist of the Year and The Indie Award from Classical Crossover UK

Late on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, I was coming home with my family from the mountains near our home outside of Seattle after just having family photos taken when I checked my phone to see what emails I had after being out of cell range most of the day.

My inbox was completely flooded with messages, facebook posts, and more.

“Wow, that’s a lot of Merry Christmas’s”, I thought.

ccukBut then I kept seeing “Congratulations!” everywhere, and soon I realized that the 2012 Classical Crossover UK Awards had been announced and I won TWO!  “Top Female Artist of the Year”, and “The Indie Award”.  Considering my recent disappointment in not getting the Grammy nomination, to get this news really made my day. My week. My month.

Here are some of the super nice things that the editor, Nicola Jarvis, wrote about me and the list of nominees as well.

BEST FEMALE ARTIST AWARD
Jennifer Thomas simply oozes talent, and she puts it to good use.  Primarily a pianist, Thomas is also a violinist, producer and composer and has featured in film soundtracks and commercials.  Her 2012 release, Illumination is an album that boasts integrity and incredible intricacy in its arrangements and composition, offering a balanced track list of old and new.  It’s absolutely ridiculous how musical Thomas is – she may not have major label backing (yet) but that doesn’t stop her from producing world class music. To buy Illumination, click here.

Jennifer Thomas – Winner

Jackie Evancho – Nominee

Katherine Jenkins – Nominee

Siobhan Owen – Nominee

Hayley Westenra – Nominee

THE INDIE AWARD
The internet is enabling independent artists to reach out to audiences in ways that were unfathomable two decades ago.  Unfortunately, an indie artist’s pathway is still blocked from major promotional appearances and accolades.  It’s too easy to give up and easy to fail, so when an indie artist earns achievement after achievement, it says much for their talent, but also their hard work and dedication.  Jennifer Thomas is an inspiring independent artist, constantly aiming higher and earning over 30 nominations or wins from various awarding bodies.  Thomas also produces top quality music; Illumination sounds like a soundtrack to a major Hollywood film – something that can only normally be achieved with the financial backing of a major record label.  It takes years to build up this kind of reputation and resources to get to where Thomas is today.  To buy Illumination, click here.

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Jennifer Thomas – Winner

Siobhan Owen – Nominee

Affiniti – Nominee

Phillippa Lusty– Nominee

Naria – Nominee

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Storybook Journey should be a staple in any classical crossover collection.  Whilst it’s not as technically brilliant as Jennifer Thomas‘s Illumination and not as lushly orchestrated as Jackie Evancho‘s Songs From the Silver Screen, it still shines brightest among the 2012 album releases.  The key lies in its prime idea and concept and the perfectly fitting way it is carried out.  It’s a wholesome, circular album, inspired by stories and fairytale and it’s confidently realised.  Siobhan Owen’s pure vocals, atmospheric harp playing and emotive delivery ensure its theme rings true.  The tracks have been carefully selected both thematically and commercially (a very rare feat) and the overall package of the album just puts the cherry on top.  Storybook Journey announces the arrival of Siobhan Owen as a serious artist as well as vocalist. To buy Storybook Journey, click here.

Siobhan Owen – Winner

Jennifer Thomas – Nominee

Il Volo – Nominee

Gregorian – Nominee

Jackie Evancho – Nominee

The Tenors – Nominee

David Garrett – Nominee

I came to the CCUK site late in the year. It is a website dedicated to helping the world be aware of those of us in the Classical Crossover genre.  It’s not a complete roster yet, and there is a long list of artists still waiting to be added to the site, but it is the most comprehensive site dedicated to this cause (and receives an enormous amount of hits).  I’m so honored to be among such talent, and am very excited about the awards! Thank you all for your continued support of my music. I’m not sure what 2013 will bring yet, but this was a great way to end 2012 and kick off the new year.

Diary of a Song: Across the Starlit Sky

This is the fifth of a series of blog posts entitled “Diary of a Song“, where I share the stories behind each of the songs from my new album “Illumination“.

At the end of each post, I also include a link to buy the sheet music, and the MP3 download.

Across the Starlit Sky

https://jenniferthomasmusic.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/13-across-the-starlit-sky.mp3

Across the Starlit Sky

This happens to be the only solo piano song on my new album.  It was among the last of the songs I was recording and preparing for the album, and as I listened to it over and over to try to get orchestration ideas for it (as well as listening to it in a mix with other songs), I decided this song was better by itself and the naked piano.

I wanted the listeners to create their own atmosphere for this song, and to feel like they were small beings amongst a huge universe.   Keeping the song piano-only was one way I felt that could be accomplished.

This song does not have any remarkable story behind it – other than I was just feeling very ponderous and melancholy while writing it.  I did write this song while my piano was positioned right in front of a rather large window in my living room – which at night I could see the starry sky (hence the name of the song).  I really enjoyed putting the major/minor transitions into the song.  It is a song that I really enjoying playing, because it helps me to connect to my feelings and whatever I might be thinking about at the time.

The photo that I chose to go with this song for the Cd booklet, is a picture my dad took of Mt. Rainier just before sunrise.  The funny story about this picture, is that he must have taken at least a half dozen trips to Mt. Rainier to get the perfect timelapse starry sky shot.  I really loved this particular one, but he was not happy with it – saying that it was not up to a professional photographer’s standards.  I won’t tell you all of the “flaws” he seemed to find in it, but I personally find it to be a beautiful photo and just perfect the way that it is.

A bigger view of the photo:

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Upon staking out a spot next to the mountain to capture this photo, I believe my dad said he met a hiker who said he had been stalked by a cougar that night and so every little noise my dad would hear, he was very nervous about it being a mountain lion.

This song has received a high number of requests for the sheet music, and so pianists here it is:

across the starlit sky

You can download the SHEET MUSIC HERE:
http://jenniferthomasmusic.com/store/productdetail.php?product=178
You can download the MP3 from Amazon HERE:
http://www.amazon.com/Illumination/dp/B008O0NUSM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1354842895&sr=8-2&keywords=jennifer+thomas+illumination

You can purchase the beautiful photography HERE:
http://www.ronsouthworth.com

Diary of a Song: After the Storm

This is the fourth of a series of blog posts entitled “Diary of a Song“, where I share the stories behind each of the songs from my new album “Illumination“.

At the end of each post, I also include a link to buy the sheet music, and the MP3 download.

After the Storm

IMAG2434As most of you know, last night they announced the Grammy nominations.  I was really hoping to see my name on the list of 5 nominees for Pop Instrumental, but alas I did not.  I had worked very hard for the nomination for the past several months – lots of hours were spent on trying to secure this nomination, and I was told by many that I had a real shot at this.

I know that having a Grammy nomination does not define who I am, and does not mean that I am any more or less talented.  Sometimes these awards are very political as they are peer-voted.  But as I tend to always try to have the best of faith in people, I had hoped that my album would simply wow everyone and they would just have to vote for it. 🙂  Even despite the tremendous support from my fellow Recording Academy friends, it didn’t happen, and yet I have received an outpouring of love in the past 24 hours from my fans who have told me over and over that I won in their books, and that my music has inspired them and that it means a great to them.

MacDowell Concerto 2002

Despite whatever accolades you may read in my bio, you also must know that I have had my share of trials and let-downs as well.

For every award I have won, there are many more that I have been turned down for.  For whatever film licensing or commercial work I’ve gotten, I have probably submitted my music to dozens more and not gotten a licensing deal.  I have performed as soloists with symphonies, but have also had many many auditions where I flopped and was turned away.

In the midst of all of this and the news of the Grammy NON-nomination, and with a promise I made earlier this week to release more new sheet music this week, it couldn’t be a more perfect moment to release AFTER THE STORM, track #2 on my album Illumination.

I tell you this, because it is a very appropriate intro to the story behind After the Storm.

How “AFTER THE STORM” CAME ABOUT…

On very special and rare occasions, I feel propelled by pure Divine inspiration to write a particular song.  This happened with The Red Aspens, Eventide, Will’s Song, and yes, After the Storm.

Composing does not come fast for me, but when Divine inspiration happens, the music usually always flows like an outpouring of love from my fingers to the keys. I just know how the song needs to be written.

I don’t often write much about my religious beliefs, but most know that I do have them and am very close to my Savior and have a very strong belief in God.  It is a central part of my life, and my family’s life.  I owe everything to Him, especially my talents and abilities.  And for some reason, even though I am not perfect and make oh-so-many mistakes in my day to day life, God still continues to bless me and watch out for me.

Last year was not an easy year for me.

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Sometime I will tell you more about it, but for now I’ll just say it was not an easy year.  Despite that, somehow I was able to write some very great songs out of that period in my life.  It’s true, that out of hardships come some of the history’s greatest art.  Not saying that my music is part of history’s greatest art, but for ME personally, some of my best music has come out of hard times (also great times too ).

As I started composing After the Storm (which I had not named yet), I imagined myself walking on the beach with my Savior, talking to Him, and telling Him about some of the things I was struggling with.  The ocean has always been a big part of my childhood and adult life, and brings a lot of inspiration for me.  And as I wrote the song, I thought about the poem about the footprints in the sand….and how the poet talked about going through some of the darkest times in his life and feeling so alone, seeing his lonely footprints in the sand.  Later God told him that it was not his footprints but God’s footprints and that He had carried the troubled man through his hardships.

I continued to work on the song more and more…

And in the midst of this, I kept thinking about my friend Dixie.  Some of you may know her, she comments on my Facebook posts quite often and has been a long time fan of my music.  But in recent years she has also become a close friend.  She is one of the most spunky personalities I know – just very feisty, honest, a real hoot.  And she has very good taste in music, if I do say 😉

Anyway, one day, I saw a Facebook post from her where she mentioned having to go to the hospital. I was surprised, and asked her what was wrong and what had happened.  She replied and told me that she had breast cancer, and she thought that I knew.  Well, no, I did not know.  I would have had no idea either, because she was always so positive and spunky and never complained about anything.

Dixie also loves the ocean, and I also happen to know that she loved lighthouses as well.

The more I continued to work on my song, the more I knew that this song was for her.  She was in my thoughts as I finished up the song, and as I worked with my dad on choosing a photograph that would go perfectly with this song, I ended up choosing this one:

Coquille Lighthouse

My dad (Ron Southworth, who took all the photos for Illumination), took this photo at Bandon Beach in Northern Oregon, at the Coquille Lighthouse right as a storm was passing over.  I think the colors are amazing in this photo, and to me the lighthouse represents safety and hope after and through the storm.

I named my song “After the Storm” and dedicated it to Dixie. I felt so amazed by her attitude through her struggles, as she made her way through her personal storms and conquered them.

MY OWN PERSONAL STORM…and OTHERS TOO

Even though I originally started writing this song by way of inspiration through a hard time in my life, I would say the majority of the song was written with Dixie in mind.   This was was always FOR her.

Shortly after releasing my album, I also received a very long email from a young woman who told me she had been going through a very difficult time in her life over the past couple of years, but after hearing “After the Storm” and “New Life” from my album, she felt hope for the first time.  She told me that she listened to the song several times every single day and it gave her the energy and peace to make it through each day.

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I can’t tell you how much hearing something like that effects me and makes me feel so fulfilled.  I am so happy to know that I was able to help someone else through my music.

This song also helped heal me through a hard time this past August when I had surgery…but instead of writing about it, I uploaded a video of a house concert that I did in Salt Lake City in September – where I told the story to the audience and then performed it.

You can view it below.

Here is a photo from me at my CD release concert, just a few weeks after that surgery that I had.

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Also, here is a photo with Dixie, her husband, and I at the house concert in Salt Lake City.

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So, to say the least, this song has a special place in my heart.

I’ve prepared the SHEET MUSIC for release, and feel that it is just as compelling as a piano solo (without the orchestration).

THE LINK FOR THE SHEET MUSIC IS HERE:
http://jenniferthomasmusic.com/store/productdetail.php?product=177

afterthestorm

THE LINK TO BUY THE MP3 on AMAZON IS HERE:
http://www.amazon.com/Illumination/dp/B008O0NUSM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1354842895&sr=8-2&keywords=jennifer+thomas+illumination

THE LINK TO PURCHASE THE LIGHTHOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY IS HERE:
http://ronsouthworth.com/fineartgallery.htm

Diary of a Song: Pachelbel’s Canon

This is the third of a series of blog posts entitled “Diary of a Song“, where I share the stories behind each of the songs from my new album “Illumination“.

At the end of each post, I also include a link to buy the sheet music, and the MP3 download.

Pachelbel’s Canon (A Duet)

This past year, as I was finishing up composing the music for my Illumination album, and figuring out the balance of the tracks (how many original songs vs. covers, fast vs. slow, etc.) I went to my fans to ask them for suggestions for one more Classical song to put on the album.  The song that had the most requests was Canon in D by Pachelbel.

I cringed.

Pachelbel’s Canon is probably one of THE most overdone songs, and as a classical musician I have had to perform this song countless times for concerts, weddings, Christmas, and church.  I know that people just absolutely LOVE this song, but usually for musicians we sort of groan when requested to play it.  And for me personally, I also sometimes cringe when I listen to others perform it as well.  I say that not because I don’t like the song – it’s just that for me it had become a broken record and I had grown super tired of hearing it over the years.  If were a non-musician and only listened to the song a select few times, then of course it would probably be one of my favorite songs too.

But to be honest, when I asked my fans what Classical song they wanted most, I actually did think in my head “Please don’t say Canon, please don’t say Canon…”

pachelbelAnd of course, they all wanted Canon.

One fan, though, mentioned doing Canon as a piano duet.

That got me thinking. If I were able to arrange Canon as a duet and make it different enough so that it was fresh and new, then I would totally do it.

So I started messing around on the piano and trying to figure out ways to arrange Canon in D so that it was a whole different approach to the run-of-the-mill versions that I always hear everyone doing.  I also wanted to keep it true to the original form of the song too though – so it was a bit tricky.  How do I make this song different, but still the same?  I learned the hard way with “O Mio Babbino Caro” from my first album, that taking very uber popular classical songs and making them strikingly different is not always loved by purist classical fans out there.

What I ended up with using most of the traditional Canon chords but adding some close 2nds to modernize the progression.  You can hear this here:

For those who want a quick lesson on what a “Canon” is, it’s a song where one instruments begins doing something and then another instrument comes in and repeats the same thing.  Kind of like when you would sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat as a round when you were a kid in school choir.  I didn’t really feel like spending an entire minute of the song expanding the traditional Canon rounds and so while keeping the chord progressions going, I skipped ahead to the resolve section (which normally doesn’t happen until quite a bit later in the song).

Right after the resolve section, I brought it back down to the simple chords and then after 4 bars, brought in some synth beats to bring an modernized feeling to the song.  I really wanted the song to still resonate emotionally with fans, but I wanted to also give it some “umph”.  I think I was able to accomplish through both the orchestration and piano part to keep an authentic “Canon in D” feel, yet have a freshness to it.

Listen here:

I might add, that it was a challenge trying to write a duet. I’d never done this before, and it took a lot of cross checking to be sure that I wasn’t writing one part that was stealing another part’s piano keys.  This would have been so much simpler to write for two separate pianos, however, most people do not have access to two pianos and I wanted to be sure my fans could download the sheet music and perform this as a duet. Thus, I wrote it for ONE piano, TWO hands, and TWO bums on the piano bench.

I just thought this part turned out really pretty 🙂

By this point we’re already 2 minutes into the song and we still haven’t heard the famous melody.

Ah, bam. There it is: 

It’s in a different key too, I might add. Which is why I ultimately decided against calling the song “Canon in D”, because it really was not in D.  So I called it “Pachelbel’s Canon”.

After the melodic section, I of course had to amp it up because it just wouldn’t be one of my songs if I didn’t have some sort of major climax in the middle of a song, and you can hear that here:

After the big to-do, the song goes back to the same chords from the beginning and really tones it all back down to un-hyper levels.  I think the song ends on a very traditional note, reminding the listener that they did just hear one of the great Classical pieces of music in all of history and so let’s show some respect. 😉

I would say, while my attitude towards the song at the beginning was not the best, I ended up actually having a LOT of fun composing this and orchestrating it as well.  The orchestration actually really turned out a lot differently than I had originally planned on too.  Definitely much bigger and fuller.

Anyway I hope you like my version of this popular classic.  I have actually received some really great comments from people saying things like how this is the best version of Canon they have ever heard, or that when they saw this track was on the album they pre-judged it but after listening to it they found that it was completely fresh and it has become one of their favorites.  I would say my goal of trying to make this song unique was accomplished. Thanks for all your awesome kind words everyone.

Pachelbel PrimoPiano students – if you would like to perform this song with a duet partner, you can go to the link below to get the SHEET MUSIC.  I purposely wrote this song so that it would be able to be performed 100% okay WITHOUT the orchestration. There are no lulls or blanks spots, it’s all filled with both piano parts.

SHEET MUSIC:  http://jenniferthomasmusic.com/store/productdetail.php?product=176

You can DOWNLOAD the MP3 from any of these links below, depending on your online store of choice. Personally, I recommend people to buy from Amazon or iTunes because it helps my rankings go up on those websites.

AMAZON MP3:  http://www.amazon.com/Illumination/dp/B008O0NUSM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1354582320&sr=8-2&keywords=jennifer+thomas+illumination

iTUNEShttps://itunes.apple.com/us/album/illumination/id545693307

JENNIFER’S WEB STORE:  http://jenniferthomasmusic.com/store/productdetail.php?product=167

You can listen to and download the FREE SOLO PIANO VERSION here:

Finally, here is a LIVE performance that I did of the song at my August CD release concert (8/24/2012), featuring my piano student Kristen Yose as my duet partner.