Review – Graded Pieces for Piano by William Gillock, Edited by Andrew Eales

In the UK Gillock is especially loved for a handful of memorable miniatures that regularly appear on set repertoire lists for grade examinations. ‘New Orleans Nightfall’ in particular has proved to be an outstandingly popular choice for grade five candidates, though ‘Mister Trumpet Man’ and ‘Carnival in Rio’ are also firmly established as frequent choices for young players at festivals, concerts, and exams.

William Gillock

Missouri-born William Lawson Gillock (1917-93) is one of the outstanding figures in twentieth-century educational piano music. His astonishingly prolific oeuvre as a whole embraces a wide range of influences but is always sympathetic to pianistic concerns, displaying consummate craftsmanship and elegance.

This new, elegantly produced series of three volumes is invaluable for presenting many Gillock pieces which are unfortunately not so well known or frequently presented in concerts. It is really useful for UK teachers and players to have the repertoire presented in three clear graded categories. In America, the system does not embrace our exam system in quite the same way, so Gillock’s pieces would not necessarily have been written to fit into particular categories. Indeed, they would not have been composed with exams in mind specifically- and for me that is why they are so attractive!

Gillock’s work may embrace a very wide range of moods…but it always shows an awareness of what he communicates to an audience. His music is full of colour, display, contrasts, memorable tunes, exciting rhythms, and exotic touches to ‘wow’ the listener. This is apparent even in the most modest pieces from the Grade 1-2 album. Check out the exotic pedaling and crossed-hand arpeggio work in ‘The Harpist,’ the immediacy of ‘Summertime Blues’ or the quaint homage to the baroque that is ‘A stately Sarabande.’ This is music that literally jumps off the page and sticks in the musical memory with ease!

In grade 3-4 book Gillock’s wonderful evocations make the music highly appropriate for inspiration and further study- if a student warms to Gillock’s ‘Slumber Song’ then they could easily move on to slightly more challenging but equally reflective numbers from Grieg’s Lyric Pieces. Or if the exciting scale figurations in ‘Journey in the Night’ proves especially inspirational, then work on some of the minor key Czerny studies could prove a good move forward afterwards.

Volume three contains wonderful music which will provide excellent material for display in school concerts and festivals by intermediate players. In addition to the well-known and already mentioned ‘New Orleans Nightfall’ there are many other jewels awaiting discovery, such as the expansively beguiling ‘Dusk on the Bayou,’ the elegantly stylized ‘A memory of Vienna’ and the energized and immediate ‘Bourbon Street Saturday Night.’


All credit to Andrew Eales for arranging, selecting, and presenting this vibrant music in such a structured and inspiring manner. The programme notes are concentrated and to the point. Colourful, elegant, and user-friendly in terms of layout, these books seem destined for a long and successful lifespan. Certainly, teachers and students alike will be grateful for such an immediate and vibrant music collection.

Graded Gillock books are available to order on the Musicroom >
Published by The Willis Music Company/Hal Leonard

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