June Armstrong’s songbook The Girona Suite – Eight Evocations For Piano features eight original and challenging compositions for grades five to seven standard, all inspired by the shipwreck of the Spanish galleas, the Girona.
The pieces included in this songbook were all composed specifically for this collection by revered pianist and teacher June Armstrong. Her many years of experience in teaching have allowed her to craft compositions both subtle and powerful that stretch the ability of students while giving them an engaging story on which to base their expression and feeling when playing. Armstrong is an advocate of focusing learning on atmosphere and tonal awareness, which, when combined with the necessary techniques and theory, makes this songbook a learning tool that is theoretically sound and musically enticing.
From the first page, the composer has shown her commitment to creating pieces specifically for students learning the Piano, as she writes of how many people, including former students, have inspired her. She then writes in detail about the historical context of the theme of the work, before giving more practical advice on the music itself and how to go about playing it. The friendly and warm approach that Armstrong brings to presenting her suite makes it more than a simple songbook, it becomes a personal journey, where the composer herself guides you through the characters and settings that the music has been composed to evoke. As well as presenting challenging and entertaining pieces, Armstrong’s work serves as a fantastic introduction into how major and minor keys can be manipulated to different ends, and how motifs can be used together with a theme. Armstrong writes:
”The final piece, Sarabande for the Lost Souls returns to the desolation of Eb minor, closing with a final statement of the No Tengo theme.”
The songs in The Girona Suite are designed to cultivate a student’s ability to play in keys containing more than three flats or sharps, as well as a number of different time signatures and with varying degrees of expression. This songbook would be ideal for a student of any age who is unafraid to experiment with evoking feeling and emotion in their playing, while also learning and practicing numerous techniques in an appealing and informative context. If you would like to listen to any of the songs that are listed below, these can be heard free of charge on the composer’s website.