My Journey to Easy Listening Music
I didn’t come from a musical family background, although growing up my parents certainly played a lot of different music. Mantovani, Percy Faith, Henry Mancini, Enrico Morricone, & Peter Nero to name a few; and singers like Eartha Kitt, Perry Como, & Frank Sinatra.
As a typical “baby boomer” I was really spoiled for choice & exposure. In the 60’s & 70’s there was a musical explosion – Beatlemania, The Rolling Stones, & that whole Mersey Sound phenomenon. On the other side of the Atlantic there was the Beach Boys, Burt Bacharach, James Taylor & Carole King, Soul Music, James Brown & that whole Mowtown thing, then came Disco.
At 16 I started to listen to classical and easy listening music seriously. The lights came on for me & I can vividly remember the effect the first time I listened to Glen Gould’s interpretation of Book 1&2 of Bach’s “The Well Tempered Klavier.” The music of Eric Satie had equally the same effect. Other profound influences in those early years were the Symphony’s of Brahms, Tchaikovsky & Bruckner; & the piano concertos of Rachmaninov, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Grieg, & Maurice Ravel. Since then my classical listening horizons have expanded enormously.
In my 20’s it was the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Sergio Mendes, Santana, & that whole Bossa Nova / Latin Jazz thing.
Easy Listening Music
I am not saying that my compositions are like any of the above, but like a sponge I certainly have absorbed their influences. It would be impossible for me to list all the musical influences here. There is so much more like Jimmy Web, Kenny Rogers, & Jackson Browne, who in my humble opinion was the true founder of “Country Rock.”
My journey to easy listening music began when I started studying the piano at 37. Although I have had piano lessons previously in my early 20’s along with lessons in clarinet, flute & trumpet. Regrettably these efforts fell by the wayside. At about this time I worked in the music business as a label manager for EMI Records. Firstly in Australia then in Sweden.
Then in my mid 30’s I returned to the kitchen. By training I am a chef and although I got serious about piano lessons at 37, my efforts were seriously hampered by the demands of my cooking duties. Upon retiring from cooking at 50 I was at last able to put in a better effort at my musical endeavours.
Helen Kennedy, who is the pianist performing my pieces on this CD, has been my piano teacher off & on since 1999. I have commissioned Helen to record all 4 intended volumes in this piano series under the banner of “Reflections & Recollections”. The other volumes will be available on CD in time as they are ready. At this point I would like to acknowledge two of my earliest teachers who played an important role in my musical journey, Will Scarlet & Valerie Fawcett.
I picked up clarinet again, but the real dark horse started to emerge at this time – a drive to compose music – which had never previously been a part of my thinking. This “composition monster” has completely taken over and has affected my ability to practice piano & clarinet consistently enough.
In 2003 I began studying music theory & composition privately with Margaret Brandman. I must admit I don’t have a great enthusiasm for music theory & I certainly aren’t breaking any world records to get through it. Margaret’s help has been indispensible in working through my compositions. We have become a real team. We work pretty much in the way that a new writer works with an editor & publisher. In all honesty her stamp is all over my work. As a chef I appreciated the value of team work. I have so many musical ideas. I’m learning that the art of composition is the ability to express those ideas with clarity & attention to musical form & harmony. I want to break all the rules before I master them. However, I’m getting there.
STAY TUNED – Mark John McEncroe
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