Alejandra Ballon

Toronto Vocal (Singing) & Piano Teacher

Alejandra BallonABC Academy of Music2018-10-12T14:22:34-04:00

Project Description

B.Mus (University of Western Ontario)
Lieder and Poetry in Performance (Schubert Institut)

Alejandra Ballon is a freelance operatic singer successfully engaged throughout the city of Toronto. She has performed in such venues as the Toronto Centre for the Arts, Flato Markham Theatre, Heliconian Hall, Scarborough Civic Centre, Nathan Philips Square, St. Michael’s Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral and many churches throughout the city and in televised full-length solo concerts. She is also currently engaged as soprano soloist in the Toronto Oratory Ensemble, which focuses almost exclusively on renaissance polyphonic music. Her crystal clear light lyric voice has been consistently lauded for its emotional depth, textual clarity, and fluid ease throughout the entirety of her impressive range.

Alejandra graduated from the University of Western Ontario in Voice Performance (Opera) with Honours with Distinction and as a Western Scholar, in highest academic standing. She studied piano and pure mathematics concurrently with her operatic degree. She also studied at the renowned Hochschule für Musik Freiburg where she continued her operatic studies and focused on her much loved German Lieder. Alejandra was twice accepted into the renowned Schubert-Institut summer program for the Performance of German Lieder and Poetry.

In her earlier RCM studies, Alejandra gained top marks in her exams, on two separate occasions earning the Ontario Medal for the top examination mark in the province. Alejandra also competed successfully in the Toronto, London and GTA Kiwanis festivals, winning numerous awards and scholarships as well as being chosen to represent the Toronto and GTA Kiwanis Music Festivals at provincial finals.

While studying in Southwest Germany she met her husband. Outside her performance career she enjoys an active life with her four children in North Toronto.

Alejandra teaches with the same joy and passion with which she approaches her performances and enjoys passing along her years of experience, exacting standards for musicianship, and fun-loving attitude to each of her students.

For upcoming performances, join Alejandra’s notification list or visit her website at AlejandraBallon.com

Get to know Alejandra…Beyond the Bio!

Hobbies: hiking, dancing, praying, sports

Musical influences: My abuelita, the late romantics, especially Chopin and Rachmaninoff, church music, my favourite operatic singers (Leontyne Price, Placido Domingo)

Favourite food: Salads and smoothies and cake!

Least favourite food: pizza

Favourite music: classical music, especially from the romantic period

Favourite song: Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2

Favourite movie: too many!!

Favourite movie music: Lion King

Favourite musical theatre/opera: Rent

Best quote from your teacher: “durch die Nase!” Translation through the nose!!

Favourite quote: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt in the heart.”  -Helen Keller

Favourite book: The Tawny Scrawny Lion

Best thing about teaching at ABC: connection and community

Latest Homework from Alejandra

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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Madison

Good work this week Madison. Over the March break, simply keep up your technique by playing through your two handouts everyday, making sure you maintain lifted fingers! Apply pressure with each finger as you play so that you strengthen them! In other words, remind yourself to play louder all the time! And trim your nails! Do Not Practice with Long Nails!

We’ve gone over all parts of Lone Star Waltz, you have two weeks now to put it all together smoothly and confidently, preferably with no pause. This is not a difficult piece for you. You should be able to get it together rather quickly.

Besides the handouts, practice some scales here and there. Especially, practice any scale two octaves hands separately until you feel confident with the crossovers between the thumb and third and fourth fingers. You’ve gotten the hang of this a couple times before but you haven’t yet maintained your progress because you do not practice scales consistently :)

All in all, 15-30min of practice on most days should do.

If I don’t see you after the March Break, I wish you the very best of luck, it’s been a real pleasure to have you <3

Julia

Julia you have made tremendous progress vocally with me and I am very proud of you! I don’t think you even notice the progress you’ve made!

For our Phantom of the Opera songs, please make sure you have them memorized cold, if you haven’t already. These are almost performance ready, after memorization, we just need to run them regularly so that you get a deeper and deeper feeling for the song and pattern of your breath for each song.

RCM Level 1 song selections: Dites-moi, This Land is Our Land, Song of Summertime

Dites-moi- come cleanly off for those tests at the end of each verse, sing with you full voice, as if you will hold them for longer and then just close them off with your lips by ending the words on time. This song is charming and quaint and almost cliche, just enjoy it. This Land – we’ve all heard it before, and may have learned different versions of the melody but we need to make sure we sing precisely what is on the page, I’ve circled the trickiest notes, just be careful about those notes! And please sing the piece with feeling, thinking about the words and shaping (adding dynamics) accordingly. Well of course go over that more together. Song of Summertime is the only piece in the whole book that goes high enough. I will be looking into RCM levels 2 and 3 because I am feeling that very soon they will be more appropriate for your voice and ability.

Bohemian Rhapsody – I think this is such a cool song selection and would love to start you on it right after March Break.

Brazilian Song – I just wanted to again encourage you to reflect if there might a song in Brazilian which you would like to introduce me to. It would be lovely for you to have learned and memorized a couple Brazilian songs for performing whenever you like, they can be a valuable part of your repertoire since they express a big part of who you are!

Piano

After the March Break I will introduce you to scales.

Ride Down Hill and Little Tune are both easy for you, focus on the shaping and dynamics as spoke about and marked for you in your book. The bigger piece is Afternoon swing. Tackle this one over the break and we’ll go over it together when you return.

Have an amazing trip!!

Wednesday, January 9

Osten

Please practice your Hanon exercise every other day for 10 minutes. Remember to play ascending and descending. Also remember the whole point of the exercise is to strengthen your fingers while having fun! So  don’t play quickly, make sure your rhythm is really steady, play with the tips of your fingers (especially watch those ring fingers!), and play medium loud to loud, applying a fair bit of pressure. For fun, change up the rhythm pattern!

Entertainer: Have up to bar 16 comfortable under your fingers, hands together. Break your practicing into sections as we discussed, and be careful with you fingering. 10 minutes a day should suffice! Even just one section a day, putting it all together two days before the lesson will give you rewarding results. Have a good week!

Madison

Delightful to hear your Kumbayah, Lavender’s Blue and Nick Nack Paddy Wack. I support you wanting to learn London Bridge, which is an easy one for you, so if you can, have it memorized for next week! Please play through the Hanon exercise everyday to strengthen your fingers, see Osten’s note above. Nick Nack is a good piece for you, pay attention to where you need to play legato and remember it is a happy, upbeat song, so play loud, with lots of staccato at the beginning. Good work.

Miley

Let’s get more familiar with your breathas we explore the concepts and experiences of breath pressure and singing with relaxed strength. Singing out beautifully without becoming exhausted is the key here. Practice your candle blowing and ha ha exercises, change up the vowels as well, and stay withing the range of D above middle C to two F’s above middle C. I will bring even more music for you next week. Good work!

Wednesday December 12

For most students, today’s lesson was the last before the break! Please keep up your technique according to your individual recommendations below and have a wonder, WONDERFUL holiday surrounded by family, friends, peace and love. See you in the New Year 2019!

Madison

Madison, you can encourage your technique over the break by focusing on scales and Hanon exercise. Please practice the following scales in whichever order you prefer: C Major, G Major, D Major and a minor. Note you should always play hands together and two octaves, but if you find you are struggling with one particular scale, go ahead and practice hands separately first. Play each scale slow and steady and FORTE (LOUD), with lifted fingers. The same goes for the Hanon exercise. I wrote the pattern in your homework note, however you can also refer to Osten’s book if you have trouble remembering (I don’t think you will).

Please complete the two note recognition fun handouts I gave you. You have plenty of time!

Please also practice Knick Knack Paddy Wack here and there. The important point is just to make sure you play only 2 bars at a time when you do.

Above all else, play loud and strong in all you do. See you in the New Year my friend!

 

Osten

Here are my tips for you for the break:

Play scales or the Hanon exercise on most days, it should only take 10-15 min. Be sure not to play in a hurried way, use proper technique in order for practicing to be worth your while. This means NO pancake fingers! Please always play with tip, drawing your fingers up as you play, think of spider hands, or tiger paws, there should be strength building inherent in your hand position.

Please complete the two note recognition handouts I gave to you.

If you can, it would be great if you can continue making progress with The Entertainer. The ideal would be comfortably playing through the first page. If I had to choose one single thing to work on in this piece however, it would be LH bars 17-19.

Have a wonderful holiday, a beautiful Christmas, I’ll see you in 2019!

 

Julia

You’re doing a great job opening up into high register with a sense of freedom and ease! Continue bearing in mind that going up feels like those siren swoops we’ve been practicing, it should feel like a lot of breath flow and space without pushing, holding or stiffness in the body.

Memorize The Point of No Return over the break if you can! Then we can pick two new songs upon your return.

Give a thought with your parents whether you would be ok with transition to the repertoire from the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) The advantages are having age and level appropriate progressive repertoire and the option to take an exam IF you want to (gives you recognized status in your progress, concrete goals to motivate you, a certificate, encourages ear training and theory training, etc)

Have a wonderful break, Merry Christmas to you and yours, wishing you peace and love in this holiday season!

Wednesday December 5

Congratulations to all students who performed in the recital, I am so proud of all of you and I look forward to even more fabulous performances from even more brave and prepared students in the spring recital!!

Osten

Hey Osten, please remember to trim your nails! You know what? Put an alarm on your phone for the evening beforehand :)

Entertainer: Making good but slow progress with the Entertainer. This will be a great piece for you. Add LH to bars 5-6. At home, please practice at least every other day, just 10 minutes is enough! Practice only 1-2 bars at a time for mastery, or else your 10 minutes are wasted with inefficiency. If possible, please learn hands together to bar 15.

Hanon Exercise: Please practice this sincerely with your best effort 1x/day!

Please consider extending your lesson time to 45 minutes. A big chunk of our lessons is spent on warming up the fingers, encouraging good habits, and doing in-lesson practice to move us beyond last week’s goals to new goals for the week. There is hardly enough time in the half hour.

 

Madison

Madison, please also consider a 45 minute lesson, as I think it would be interesting and beneficial to try adding some dictation and composition instruction to your lessons, not to mention some theory work!

Please practice the Hanon Exercise (it is always hands together) 1x/day. Remember, play as LOUD as you can!

New Song: Nick Nack Paddy Wack! Please have the notes learned and a steady tempo for next week.

 

 

Wednesday November 21

Dear Students, our recital is just around the corner, please mark your calendar for Sunday December 2. The recital will be held at Root Down Studio, 225 Geary Ave (Dufferin and Dupont). ***Please Call the Office at your earliest convenience if you have a preferred time slot among 12pm, 1pm, and 2pm*** The phone number is 416 651 7529. If you have no preference, we will assign you a time slot and I will let you know at next week’s lesson. :)

Osten

Osten has chosen Kum-ba-yah! from his Alfred book for the coming recital. Osten, please ensure it memorized smoothly, without any pausing, and watch the rhythm in the second bar of each line! Also remember to play it through twice, quite loud the first time. Play with the tips of your fingers and please trim your nails! Never practice at home with long nails.

Madison

Explore shaping Lavender’s Blue as we discussed, following the brackets I drew for you which point out the three big phrases and the 3 or 4 micro phrases within each phrase. Be careful that you don’t add an extra staccato chord in the second last bar! And practice the transition into and out of bar 7 a few times BEFORE playing through the piece by memory. Practice shaping for just 5 minutes! 10 minutes a day should be enough.

Miley

It was wonderful to meet you Miley! You have a good ear and I look to exploring music and singing with you! Give a thought with your mom as to whether you would like to also take piano lessons. You won’t need to perform at this term’s recital, but please come and watch the performances of your colleagues.

Wednesday November 14

Recital is Sunday, December 2 around noon!

Madison

Madison still needs constant reminders about her hand position, especially, playing with strong fingertips at a louder dynamic, separating the fingers well so that each individual is hammering down to create the desired round tone on the piano. But she put in a strong effort today, good job Madison! She will do Lavender’s Blue for the recital and is expected to have it memorized in two weeks. She was given the explicit blueprint for how to practice most effectively this week so that she comes next week with a smooth piece without pauses. Summary is to play the second line 5-10 times more than the rest of piece, and to play the last two bars several times before playing the song through . This is also the first week I am assigning her initiative to isolating and practicing any trouble spots before going through the whole piece. 15 minutes a day only, plus another 5 minutes on warmups and scales.

She should look at D Major scale, two octaves, hands separately, focusing on proper hand position as described above, especially for the LH. Remember F# and C#.

 

Osten

Osten is working on a minor natural scale. Practice slowly and strongly until you get the fingering down confidently!

The Entertainer: Osten knows to practice the first four bars of the piece until he has them confidently under his fingers. He knows the tricks to achieving this, as we went over them in detail in the lesson. Then he can move on to learning the RH of the full first page. I broke it down for him in the lesson and we went over two sections. 15 minutes a day of practice should suffice.

Osten needs to bring his Alfred book with him next week for us to select a song from there for the recital.

I intend to bring some practice worksheets for Osten as well as Madison to help them practice note recognition. I will make copies from the Alfred Notespeller books. Please let me know if you would be interested in purchasing your own book for use at home :)

 

Nila

Nila is working on Singin’ in the Rain for the Dec 2 recital and it doing a great job. She needs to have it memorized for next week. I gave her her own copy of the song, and told her to watch it on youtube while singing along, to help her other strategies for memorization.

Nila is getting better at not covering her sound as we continue to practice singing with open natural vowels powered by deep chest breaths.

Nila needs to complete Unit 1 of her theory book for next week.

Please discuss about the possibility of extending her lesson time to 45 minutes in order to allow for more singing as well as theory and piano.

Julia

Julia will be singing My Favourite Things for the Dec 2 recital. Julia has expressed the very strong desire NOT to perform at the recital, but is clear that she is preparing her song for performance at the recital and knows that she can sit it out and watch if she feels too overwhelmed.

Julia needs to have My Favourite Things memorized for next week. I wrote a laundry list of items for her to bear in mind about the song and she is already making wonderful progress in every regard. Summary is to emphasize the first bet of every bar (most of the time), to overexaggerate her consonants (aggressively even), and sing with natural vowels, without any shaping or holding from the tongue and jaw.

 

Good work everyone!

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Thursday March 7, 2019

Alex

Alex your Pogo Stick and Dropping are polished and ready, good job! Let’s keep Reaching for one more week, you had occasional hiccups with the F sharps and are slowing down a little too dramatically and out of rhythm in the second last bar. :) Add dynamics as I marked for you as well, crescendoing through each mini phrase, it makes it sound like you’re reaching! I’d like to continue with the idea of black Dropping and Reaching one after the other thereafter!

Two new songs: March with Drums and Bugle Call and Echo – in March, make a big contrast between the two lines by playing the first very smoothly (legato) and don’t cheap out on the staccato in the second line, really enjoy that contrast! Remember, staccato is about how long you stay on a note, which is not the same as the rhythm, make sure you keep the rhythm exactly consistent with the first line. If it helps, play the whole piece legato to experience the proper rhythm all the way through before making the second line staccato.

:) wonderful work as usual Alex, please keep up with your theory homework :) and next week I’ll introduce you to scales.

Abirami

Wonderful work Abi, the next chapter of our learning is a lengthy and deep one where we address freeing up and finding the strength and support in your breath/sound by noticing how you tend to be too much “in your head” when it comes to singing and you need to shift to being more “in your body” and breaking through to the experience of “feeling exposed” while singing.

Throughout the week practice both swinging your arms and making your arms dead weights, as we did in class.

Please memorize June Magic *properly* and use the swooping we practiced to help you relax and feel at ease with your head voice singing.

Please always remember to bring all your books to your lessons with me :) work away at your theory book too, ideally 5-6 pages a week, or a minimum of 2-3 pages if need be.

You’re doing great, let’s keep going!

Ava

Wonderful work Ava, your My Bonnie is starting to sound so polished! There were only a couple last hiccups to with rhythm and how long you are holding certain notes (too long or not long enough). Sing along with your recording and next week we’ll focus on any left over quirks.

In My Favourite Things we need to focus on getting those jumps in pitches in your muscle memory as they repeat throughout the song and we want to find some confidence and consistency in our accuracy. Sing along with your recording especially those leaps of a fifth such as in “Raindrops” “Bright Co-” and “Cream co-” also have a close listen and sing along everyday to the “staircase” notes (it’s a scale) that I recorded for you, at “These are a few of my favourite things”. Lastly for that song, make sure your are not clipping your syllables, make the vowels long and add any consonants between syllables to the beginning of the next syllable. This is necessary countless times throughout the piece and is similar to what we’ve worked on in My Bonnie.

I’ll photocopy your new song Edelweiss for you :) and we need to purchase for you your first theory book!! I usually recommend RCM Celebrate Theory Prep Level book, however I am aware that Piano Adventures, the series you are currently learning from, have their own theory book, so I will look to see at what level they teach and recommend one to you for next week :)

Thursday December 13

For most students, today’s lesson was the last before the break! Please keep up your technique according to your individual recommendations have a wonderful, WONDERFUL holiday surrounded by family, friends, peace and love. See you in the New Year 2019!

Thursday December 6

Congratulations to my students who performed in the recital, you did a fabulous job and I am so proud of you! I look forward to even more spectacular performances from even more of my lovely students at the spring recital!!

Alex

Good job, you fixed the rhythm in Who’s on Third! Could you memorize it for next week? Could you also try out detaching the notes which are not slurred together?

New Pageants for Piano: I’m excited to work on this piano method book together, I think it is a great fit for you. Please practice pages 2 and 3, ‘And Also E’ and ‘And Do a March’

Back to the Alfred, be sure to play through the practice exercise on pg 24 before practicing Rock Song. Great job Alex!

Abirami

Abi, please remember to purchase your Theory Rudiments Level 6 book so we can get cracking at it :)

Review songs for intervals we went over in lesson :)

We’ll start working on arpeggios etc, to increase your agility and stamina.

Remember your books for next week :)

Please pick at least one new song for next week :)

Ava

Hello Ava! Wonderful work with the Ode to Joy! Play loud and strong every time!

We learned about intervals today, the unison and the second! Intervals measure the space between two notes aka how far away they are/sound from each other!

New Song: Sea Story :) Trying practicing this at home while singing!

New Song: My Bonnie. What a lovely song for you! I will make a copy for you next week. Listen to the recording we made often in the coming weeks

Recital note for Thursday Students

Dear Students, our recital is just around the corner, please mark your calendar for Sunday December 2. The recital will be held at Root Down Studio, 225 Geary Ave (Dufferin and Dupont). ***Please Call the Office at your earliest convenience if you have a preferred time slot among 12pm, 1pm, and 2pm*** The phone number is 416 651 7529. If you have no preference, we will assign you a time slot and I will let you know at next week’s lesson. :) I look forward to enjoying your fabulous performances! Feeling nervous is normal, but you must come and do your best!

Thursday November 22

Dear Students, another reminder that Sunday December 2 is the date of our upcoming recital!

Invite friends and family to cheer you on!!

Alex

Excellent work as usual! Please trim your nails for next week’s lesson.

Remember the types of notes there are and their values (eg. Half note = 2 beats, looks like the empty note with a stick)

Please memorize Wishing Well for next week, be very mindful of the correct rhythm!

Balloons – Excellent work on this! You really mastered it over the course of our lesson together, and *if you would be open to it,**We can add this to your recital performance.* It would be a nice contrast with “Happpy Song”, and both pieces have a cute duet with me! Please give this a thought.

New Song: Who’s on Third – this is a milestone piece because we are beginning now to learn about skips (intervals of a third) in our songs. Please give this song a good look over the week!

Remember the trick that Skips (3rds) are always line to line or space to space while steps (2nds) are always line to space or space to line.

 

Ava

Please help Ava to select her favourite piece from her adventures book to play at the upcoming recital :) Old MacDonald would be fine and the obvious choice, but perhaps there is another she likes better and is just as comfortable with? For singing let’s give Do-Re-Mi a go!

Please consider lengthening Avas time to 45 minutes :)

Ava should continue practicing Ode to Joy and have it comfortably by memory for next week. Then we can have some fun with the duet and dynamics (louds and softs).

Please also start the new song Sea Story, it is a relatively long piece so make it more accessible by breaking up the week into two halves, the first of which can be dedicated to the LH section and the second of which can be dedicated to the RH section . :)

In singing, I will record her lesson from now on, which will include all the reminders for her singing, all the warmup and other singing exercises, and the repertoire. :) Allow her to listen as often as she wants as long as she promises to sing along whole heartedly at least 80% of the time.

In listening to the recordings she will develop her ear. Eventually this will allow her to continue on to more formal sight singing, ear training and theory exercises.

Good work Ava! We always have a good laugh!

 

 

Thursday November 15

Please mark your calendars for Sunday December 2 recital at around noon :)

Alex

Alex needed a refresher this week after having some time off, so we went over the three rules to follow before we start playing (Which hand, which fingering, which note), proper hand position (no pancake hands, and trimmed nails for next week please!), and the C position.

Alex should review pages 16 and 17 (explaining C position) before he plays through pages 18 and 19, and then continue on to practice his two new pieces for this week, Wishing Well and Balloons.

If it helps, he should count aloud three beats to a bar for this week’s pieces.

I recommend playing Happy Song for the Dec 2 recital, since he has this learned and memorized, and I can play the duet with him. You can do it Alex, I believe in you!

 

Abi

Abi’s top priority in singing is to focus on revolutionizing the way she uses her breath for singing! We have gone over this extensively with written reminder notes given to her for her to reflect over the week. Practice taking breaths as we did in class throughout the week, 3-5 times a day (morning or evening or when you are trying to relax would be best) — big natural breath while you lift your arms above you head, exhale as you bend over to touch your toes, this will make your exhale more natural AND more complete (expelling all the breath), then take in a deep natural breath while still bent over — feel how your back expands — and breathe out as you slowly straighten back up.

Deep breaths before each verse of Papillon, remember to crescendo through the end of each of the three verses, honour each verse’s unique character, bring out the happiness, cheekiness and innocence of the piece so there is no question for the audience, despite the piece being in a minor key (f minor), sing out!

June Magic is a perfect piece to practice and strengthen your breath because of its walking melody. Keep the forward momentum going! My guidance is needed for this, and we will focus on breath as a priority over this term.

Please discuss about lengthening your lesson time to 60 minutes, it will allow us to be more thorough in our work with repertoire as well as give much needed time for sight singing, interval training, ear training, and theory.

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Preferred Books for Alejandra’s Students

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RCM Voice Repertoire

Prepratory Level

Cover of RCM Voice Preparatory Level

A Comprehensive Voice Series serves as the official resource for voice assessments of the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program. Featuring an outstanding selection of voice literature and supporting materials, this series offers a truly enriched learning experience to help ensure student success.  As in previous editions, Resonance encompasses a rich and varied selection of Repertoire, Vocalises and Recitatives that students of all ages and voice types will find appropriate to their musical interests and level of technical ability.

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Alfred's Basic Piano for the Later Beginner

Book 1

Cover of Alfred's Basic Piano for the Later Beginner, Book 1

Complete Level 1 is a faster-paced version of Levels 1A and 1B that gets to staff reading more quickly. Perfect for a student who is 8 or older, or for a younger beginner with great musical aptitude. This course is most effective when used under the direction of a piano teacher or experienced musician.

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Alfred's Basic Piano for the Later Beginner

POPULAR HITS

Alfred’s Basic Piano Library: Popular Hits answers the often expressed need for popular music to be used as supplementary music for students. Soon after beginning piano study, students can play attractive versions of the best-known melodies of today.

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Hanon

Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises - Complete

Cover of Hanon's The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises

Since the first release of this classic Schirmer edition over 100 years ago, almost anyone who has taken piano lessons for more than two years has played from The Virtuoso Pianist . Millions of copies have been sold of these progressive exercises which guide a player’s technique, building finger independence and strength. This was the first American edition released of this music, and remains a classic at a remarkably affordable price.

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