I am going to be volunteering at the hospital with my local orchestra and I need something to play (solo piece). Preferably, something easy and slow like a movement of a violin sonata, for instance. There isn't a length on limit, but I would prefer something that doesn't really need piano accompaniment and something I can put together in a few days.
More info would be useful. Community orchestra, high school orchestra? what is your level of playing since that will make a difference in how fast you can learn a given piece.
You could do something like Dvorak 4 Romantic Pieces (Just do one movement), but in a hospital, they will probably just want to hear something they recognize. You can't go wrong with something by the Beatles or Elvis.
If you're playing just by yourself, I would go with show tunes or other really light classical. Things like Salut d'Amour or Thais sound okay unaccompanied. Solo Bach is okay but not in quantity, probably.
I play at my mother's assisted living center several times a year, usually unaccompanied. I often play Thais and Czardas; both sound OK unaccompanied. I also play show tunes, patriotic songs, and hymns. I don't play anything heavy or too long. The key is to play recognizable pieces that they will enjoy and maybe even start singing along to.
Swan by Saint-Saens would be nice. Fiddle tunes are a good choice too.
I have done many gigs as a pianist accompanying singers at a large retirement community / assisted-care facility. Nothing ... and I mean NOTHING ... puts tears in their eyes more than patriotic songs. America the Beautiful, Battle Hymn of the Republic, etc. They also like hymns and things like Ashokan Farewell. A medley of show tunes would go over very well too. Definitely NOT Bach.
Bach beaten by America the beautiful! That’s interesting.
The Bach E-major Preludio is something that I think casual listeners can enjoy, and possibly some of the other lighter dance movements, but otherwise I agree with Paul.
"Bach beaten by America the beautiful! That’s interesting."
Rachel Barton Pine has said that Bach is always correct. I would recommend something short and melodic, such as the themes from Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring or something from Anna Magdalena Book. I would also recommend the same things that others here have recommended, including patriotic songs, show tunes (age appropriate), hymns, folk tunes, and fiddle tunes.
To add (and NOT stating lighter pieces are "wrong"): my classical music-ignorant grandmother loved the G minor Sonata Adagio-complex and "alien" as you think it may be. Bach was an amazing composer, to achieve such a feat.
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