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  • Writer's pictureDarren Thornton

Performance Comparisons | Billie's Song by Valerie Capers | Grade 4 piano - Piece B:1

Updated: Feb 12

Four contrasting performances of 'Billie's Song' by Valerie Capers. This piece is currently on the ABRSM Grade 4 Piano Syllabus - 2023/24.


Anyone who is working on this piece, either for an exam performance or simply for personal enjoyment will find this handpicked selection of 4 performances useful. Actively incorporating expressive elements from other performances into your interpretation of ‘Billie’s Song’ can add depth and nuance to your playing. Pay attention to the dynamics, phrasing, tempo fluctuations, and articulation used by different pianists. Experiment with incorporating these techniques into your own playing style to create a more compelling and personalised interpretation.


The first performance of 'Billie's Song' is by Clark Bryan. He plays at a slower tempo than suggested in the ABRSM publication, as well as taking a more flexible approach to the phrasing when repeating the first section.


By contrast, in the second performance Julian Lambert plays at the suggested tempo but uses rubato to punctuate the phrasing. This avoids it sounding too rushed and allows the piece to breath.


Performance three of 'Billie's Song' is by the composer herself, who accompanies the vocals of LaDoris Cordell. Although this isn't the solo piano version from the ABRSM grade 4 booklet, listen carefully to the freedom LaDoris Cordell takes with the vocal line whilst the other players keep in stricter time. Also, take note of Valerie's piano playing, with occasional spread chords and grace note ornamentations.


Being a similar tempo to performance 1, Elizabeth Zablocki Zawadowski McCanne uses subtle dislocations between the left and right hand parts which adds a sense of freedom to the phrasing.


Listening to a variety of performances of the pieces you’re playing can expose you to different musical interpretations and perspectives. Take note of what resonates with you in each performance and consider how you can integrate those elements into your own playing. This process of exploration, emulation and adaptation not only enhances your technical skills but also encourages creativity and musical growth.

Ultimately, the goal is to develop your own unique musical voice while drawing inspiration from the rich tapestry of interpretations available to you. So, embrace the opportunity to learn from others, but also trust in your own creativity as you shape your interpretation of ‘Billie’s Song’ and other pieces in your repertoire.

Enjoy the journey of musical discovery!


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