Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ghosts of music past

Thanks to my new accompanist job, this is what my piano looked like yesterday and today. Turns out, six- and nine-year-old daughters are good at helping collate, color-code, and plastic-sleeve-ify (thanks for the tip, Janice!) pages and pages of sheet music. I have four pieces to learn for choir, but there was a master class tonight and I accompanied four soloists there. It was quite a stretch to see the music for the first time yesterday, and perform it tonight, but it was also exhilarating. A crazy straw kind of day, for sure.

I realized tonight as I played for an audience of musicians that I have been living on fumes of the ghosts of music past for years now. I was in a youth choir in the late 1990s and the director was one of the most gifted musicians I have ever met, and likely will ever meet - Paula Reeve. She had such a way with conducting, and I can still remember the general methods she taught me as a singer and an accompanist, as well as specific phrasings for certain songs.

I have used that knowledge for years and years as I've played the piano at church. But it's hard, since I know that most of my precious, heartfelt musical nuance is lost like so many pearls before swine (why is there not a more beautiful metaphor than that one? Sorry!). A hymn is a hymn and there's something inherently perfunctory about it, no matter how much of my soul I put into it.

So tonight, as I played, I reveled in the feeling of being understood, of conversing in a language with fellow native speakers who can respond in the same tongue.

Of course, I also made mistakes, because these pieces were dang hard, and that took away a little from the magic of it all. But oh, it was still magic, you guys!

Here are the four pieces I played tonight. It was so helpful to listen to the accompaniments to get an ear for the the overall oomph of it before attempting it myself. I know YouTube is true, amen.

The Daisies.
Geduld. So lovely, so sad, so angry, almost.
Il mio bel foco.
The Vagabond. Punchy and pirate-y - super fun! I made the most mistakes on this one, though :(.


Glenda The Good said...

So who is singing these ? Are these woman/men/all students from the university? Are they arab? Do the woman wear fancy ball gowns with their hair covered? I know I sound like a total illiterate here but it seems so contrary to the culture I'm just curious. I'm going to have to show E the Vagabond. In generally he prefers his classical music on the slightly scary melancholy side but who doesn't love a pirate sound :)

Kitty Crazy! said...

Great job, Bridget! Sight reading has always been my forte, and you must be able to do it too, to have handled the master class. I feel the same way about playing hymns. They have to be done the same exact tempo throughout and can have no feeling added to them. I used to be able to play hymn arrangements on the organ at the temple, to which I could add expression and feeling, but as of the last several years, they require that we play hymns straight from the hymnbook. Enjoy the freedom and feelings of joy! Janice

Susanne said...

I was curious about the things Glenda mentioned, too.

Glad you are enjoying playing so well!

Bridget said...

Yes, these are voice students at the university. The four singers were, in order of the songs I listed, Emirati female (shayla/abaya nat'l dress), Egyptian female, ? female (veiled), and Indian male. It was just a master class so nobody dressed up, though they all looked nice. I am obviously new to the job, but from being friends with music faculty here in the past, I know that it is sometimes a challenge to come here and teach in the Western music tradition since that is not part of the culture here. Many of the music professors here have talked about having to really start from scratch in the choir and music classes here - what is a note? Can you match a note you hear on the piano? Etc. It's not like in the US where if you grow up there, you absorb a lot of cultural musical norms by osmosis. Interesting...and perhaps another post, judging from the length of this comment.

Bridget said...

Oh, and three of them are engineering majors and the other is an environmental science major. :)

Liz Johnson said...

What! That's amazing. I had no idea that your piano skillz were so impressive.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

It's so neat that you have the skills to do this job, and now you'll progress even more in your ability by doing it.


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