Pianistic Dimensions- the triple pianists

3 pianists performing together.

Unique repertoire of specially composed music and arrangements.

Rich sonic palette - sounds of strings, winds and percussion!

Varied programmes from Baroque to Romantic.

No problems with instruments. We bring them with us.

Fee is negotiable.

The Art of Improvisation - Staffan Biörklund-Jullander

How about a recital that's completely different? An evening of music in a variety styles presented in words and tones.
I improvise at the piano using well-known music as the theme. And I explain how different styles actually function.

Art and music evenings. I also perform improvisations at art showings - with an art historian discussing the paintings.


My day job is as cantor and organist of the Gustav Adolf Church in Borås which is in the west of Sweden. I was admitted to the piano class at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm when I was 16. My principal teacher was Professor Gunnar Hallhagen. I studied for five years in the piano class and then for two more years to get my teaching diploma. In 1978 I won a scholarship to the Lizst Academy in Budapest. After that I performed for several years in a wide variety of musical contexts - chamber music, Lied accompanist, ballet pianist - as well as teaching. I even got to perform on tour in China back in 1978 when I travelled with a choir from Stockholm Cathedral as their pianist.

Besides my duties as cantor in Borås I also compose music and have written and arranged music for choir, organ, piano and various solo instruments. There is a list of my published pieces on the site. My most extended work so far is a concerto for piano and orchestra that I finished in 1986. Improvisation has always been one of my central interests both on piano and organ. You can hear an excerpt from an improvisation on the famous Swedish hymn "Härlig är jorden" (Glorious is the World) on one of my links.



Missing Pianists and the Borås Synth Orchestra

Among my musical activities – I am now a church musician in the Gustav Adolf Parish in Borås – teaching the piano has always had an important place. Indeed I taught piano at the music school in Stockholm for 17 years before coming to Borås. What has troubled me throughout is the fact that so many people start to learn the piano as children but are not heard playing the piano as adults. There are queues of youngsters wanting to learn the piano. Yet there are relatively few amateur pianists in the adult world. Piano teachers actually spend a lot of time thinking about “what went wrong” while their former pupils are frustrated at never having quite mastered the piano. They still know the rudiments of reading music and they can probably pick out a tune on the piano with one hand. But the skills they have acquired do not give them any real satisfaction. Indeed when faced with a piano they probably feel a sense of failure. Music is a wonderful gift. Why couldn’t I ever really enjoy making music?

Give a child a clarinet or a trombone and after a term or two of lessons they are ready to take a seat in a band or orchestra. If they can recognize the notes and have mastered an octave or so of their instrument they can be fitted into the ensemble. A school band can basically make room for everyone. There are always harmonies to be filled in for the beginners. Fun on five notes, so to speak! And at the end of the concert our beginner can take her bow and feel just as important as the principals of the band. Everyone’s contribution has a real value.

But pianos are not like that. They stand there alone, challenging the beginner to master their keys. And nobody wants to be heard playing the piano unless they can manage a melody in the right hand and some accompanying chords in the left hand. That is without seeming to hesitate all the time, desperately searching for the right keys to press! A few pupils take to the piano immediately and seem to have no problems in doing one thing with the left hand and another with the right. But many students of the piano find progress too slow and are tempted to give up and devote their time to pursuits that give easier rewards. It is not only the pupil who feels frustrated. Teachers, too, either wonder what they are doing wrong or begin to ask whether today’s children lack perseverance! But, however one looks at the matter, the fact is that the huge investment of time and effort that goes into teaching children to play the piano seems often to have borne little fruit. And this is sad because making music is one of the great joys of human existence. Almost everyone feels that music makes the world a better place.

Sweden, like Lutheran countries in general, has a great tradition of choral singing, much of it organized by the parishes. Sweden is famous for its elite choirs – both professional and amateur performing at the highest level. But there is scarcely a village in the entire country that does not boast several choirs – from children to pensioners. Thanks to the excellence of the training in choral direction offered by the music colleges in Sweden, these village choirs often achieve remarkable musical standards with choristers who often have no formal musical training. But the choirs also have a vastly important social role to fill. They bring people together, teaching them to contribute the gifts they may have and to be supportive, rather than critical, of other people in the choir. Everyone makes their contribution and, at the end of the day, it is the choir in its entirety that receives the credit. There is room for all, beginners and experts alike.

The Synth Orchestra
The Borås Synth Orchestra is the answer to the riddle of the missing pianists. Like an amateur choir, it is not interested in who is best or who can play loudest! It welcomes anyone who has ever taken some piano lessons and who still dreams of making music. Together! Because the Synth Orchestra enables any number of keyboard players to perform together. It exploits the new keyboard technology that can cram any number of different sounds or “voices” into an electronic keyboard instrument that you can carry around with you. Music can readily be arranged to suit the skills of the members of the Synth Orchestra. All those lonely, missing pianists suddenly realize that they actually can make music. Together. And suddenly making music is no longer about frustration but about positive energies.

The Borås Synth Orchestra started out as an attempt to salvage some pianistic know-how from the many adults who abandoned their piano studies before they had mastered their instrument. I was convinced that even the most limited skills could bring joy to the performer if only she or he was able to use them together with other musicians. Music should be about the joy of collaboration and communication; not a tear-filled journey of frustration with a single piano in an empty room!

Beyond imagining!
Initially I was not so much interested in the results of the orchestra but in the process of music making. It would be interesting to see what might come out but that did not matter so much. Getting the missing pianists to discover the delight of making music collaboratively was a goal in itself. To maintain focus a goal is necessary and, with music, this means concerts – at least for family and friends! “Practice makes perfect” and though perfection is not our immediate goal, the Borås Synth Orchestra sounds remarkably professional in concert. Audiences now have difficulty in believing that the players are basically “missing pianists” with remarkably little formal training.

We intend to carry on being an orchestra for “missing pianists”. So if you happen to have heard the orchestra and have decided that “they’re far too good for me”, please think again! In the Borås Synth Orchestra there is room for everyone who ever took a piano lesson. Why not give us a try?

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to know more about the Borås Synth Orchestra.

Staffan Biörklund-Jullander

 

 
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 Copyright: © Staffan Biörklund-Jullander
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