The Baltimore AGO Chapter recently sponsored a concert and improvisation masterclass by Thierry Mechler. The program included works by Rameau, Fauré, Ravel, Debussy, and Poulenc. Virtually all the pieces were transcriptions of works for piano or harpsichord. Mr. Mechler did a brilliant job of adapting them to the organ. By using the full range of resources available to him at the Cathedral organ, he turned the pieces into orchestral works. He used a multitude of solo and ensemble colors and progressed smoothly from soft whispers to furious fortes. He concluded the program with improvisations on themes by Debussy in honor of the centenary of Debussy’s death.
The day after the concert, Mechler offered a masterclass on improvisation at Peabody. He worked with students at the beginning, intermediate, and advanced level. Because of my background, I was asked to serve as the advanced student:
For beginning improvisation, he stressed simplicity and freedom so that the student can be inspired and develop a positive attitude towards improvising. As a student acquires more skill, more specific tasks and more complicated forms can be tackled. Even as an improvisation teacher and the advanced student for the class, I came away with items to practice. You can hear his ideas and how I did as a student in the two YouTube videos of my time on the bench: Part 1 and Part 2
It was inspiring for me to be back on the bench as a student again. It is my belief that we are never too old to learn new things. After almost a year of silence here, I plan to resume sending out regular newsletters with helpful resources about improvisation. One of my dreams has been to organize a 3-4 day improvisation workshop. The time I spent with Thierry Mechler reminded me of how important it is to be a student. Perhaps I can finally make that dream a reality in 2019.
Hoping you are inspired to improvise more!