Tuesday, September 10, 2013

For the sake of inclusiveness

Given that the purpose of this blog is to describe my musical experiences, I thought I should mention one I had this past weekend.

I've been a member of the Adult Music Student Forum (see link in the sidebar on this page) for some years now. I think I joined sometime around 2005 or 2006. It was founded in 1988 with the purpose of providing opportunities for adult amateurs to perform, and it certainly does that very well. The founder of the group, Matthew Harre (you can check out his website, Musical Fossils, in the sidebar as well), is a fine piano teacher; though I have obviously known about him for a long time, a series of fortuitous events led me to finally get it together and begin taking lessons from him about a year and a half ago. As I've documented a bit here, I've learned a tremendous amount from him, about the piano and music in general. His level of teaching would not be out of place in a great music conservatory.

After I'd been studying with him for about six months, he surprised me by asking me to join the board of directors of the AMSF (though he is no longer on the board, he is closely involved in a number of ways), and then I was further surprised to be appointed treasurer. So I was suddenly forced to become more involved with the group. I also suggested that my adult cello student join, so that makes me both a teacher (as a cellist) and a regular member (as a pianist). When we started planning this year's annual meeting, which is a milestone as the 25th year of the group's existence, someone made the suggestion that we organize a performance of AMSF teachers for the entertainment part of the meeting. I volunteered to play, and that is how I found myself bringing my cello to this AMSF event.

I had chosen the Largo movement of the Chopin sonata because it's both beautiful and simple to put together -- neither part is difficult. In fact, it's one of the few romantic cello sonata movements that is both high art and requires only modest ability from both players. My duo partner for this occasion was the excellent pianist Frank Conlon, who has been present on the D.C. music scene for as long as I can remember and who also has a long connection with AMSF.

I was really pretty nervous for this because it was the first time any of these people (including my piano teacher) would hear me play the cello, and also, because we were last on the program, I had to play without warming up at all. When Frank and I rehearsed the piece last week, I recorded it and was dismayed at how bad I sounded: it was pushed and forced the entire time. But what I love about performing (as opposed to endlessly spinning one's wheels in solitude) is that this forced me to figure out what was bothering me and how to fix it. So I sat down with the music and analyzed where it needed to be gentle, where it should ebb and flow, and where the climax was.

At the event itself, there was some initial awkwardness with getting set up and putting my endpin holder on the floor (necessary because it was slippery wood), and then someone took a picture of me just before I started (I am always so insecure about how I look), but I carried on and felt good about how it went. Unfortunately, there is no recording, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

ETA: This is the picture that was taken of me as I got ready to play:

Here's a video of Daniel Gaisford, looking a little like Franz Liszt, in a tasteful performance of this piece:

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