An iPad at the Ordway

My piano student Lisa and I attended a Schubert Club concert at the Ordway in January featuring cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan. The concert was a delight on every level. Weilerstein brought well-deserved star status but the performance was not a soloist + accompanist affair; it was a true partnership and a great evening of music making.

There was another ‘player’ on the stage that evening, an iPad in place of the music desk; a silent partner which, by being nearly invisible, avoided the usual page-turning sideshow. From our perch facing straight on in the upper balcony we couldn’t see the iPad at first and we questioned the wisdom of playing such a demanding duo program without music. But then I saw it and thought, “Well, there you have it, the iPad has arrived!” This wasn’t a first by any means but it was the first time I’d seen an iPad in a recital of classical music. The little miracle remained invisible and out of our thoughts during the superb performance but, of course, my interest was piqued and I was glad for the Scubert Club’s ‘meet & greet the artists’ tradition.

My first question to Barnatan was, “Aren’t the notes very small on the iPad?” The Israeli-born New Yorker waved his hands in the air and said, “Not so bad, not so bad.” He was both gracious and full of humor. He told me he used a program called forScore, which I have sinced loaded onto my iPad. It’s a great app – check it out! My next question for Inon (my new best friend) was, “How do you turn pages?” The answer, of course, was “With a bluetooth foot pedal.” A little research led me to the most-recommended device, the Pageflip Cicada (the link takes you to Sweetwater, my own preferred online music gear resource).

The Cicada foot pedal works with a number of different apps including MakeMusic’s Finale SongBook (free!) which enables us to open, play back and print Finale® files on the iPad. It looks great and it works great!

I’m sure Inon has much betters eyes than I do. Single-staff scores are great in portrait view but a page from a four-voice Bach fugue in portrait reduced to the iPad screen is a severe ocular challenge. I’ve begun to experiment with landscape view with larger staves and fewer systems per page; the tradeoff is obvious but I can easily read the music. The iPad mini is the wrong direction for our purposes. A ‘maxi’ is what we need (but with a different name, please).