What an experience I had earlier this summer. Before June 2010, I had never been to sleep away camp. Before June 2010, I had never played in a piano master class (voluntarily yet!). Before June 2010, I had never played chamber music. This past June, I experienced all three events.
Summertrios is a music camp for adults, held at Wilson College in Chambersburg, PA. I drove up in the Miata, with the top down, and just a little shirt -- I wanted to work on my tan. 2 hours later, I was hot, my hair was unkempt, and my shoulders sunburned. When I pulled into Campus, I had no idea I looked as disheveled as I did. I checked in, got my room assignment, and immediately headed for the shower. Oh, I was hot, and the water wasn't. At all. In fact, it was very cold. Nevertheless, I jumped in and out quickly, enough time to cool off and wash my hair. Once I felt more presentable, I ambled across campus to the main building for dinner. I was in a room full of strangers (to me, at least.) For the rest of the campers, it was like old home week. They gather at this venue annually. Devotees, every one of them. And all musical geeks, so I fit right in. Everyone wanted to know what I was playing. I don't know, some Schubert piece, and something by Mendolssohn? I had never heard of these particular compositions before preparing myself for this week, but they knew exactly what I was learning. Most of them had played them in earlier years. Good, they can help me!
Day One was Getting to Know You. Day Two was Forget about Life for a While, and get in that practice room and PRACTICE! I had a reading session with one accomplished 'cello player and a novice violinist. What a wake-up experience that was. They have a score for their instrument only. I have the full score, and in addition to playing my own part, I was supposed to follow them as well. Needless to say, that first session did not produce good music, but we had fun trying, and vowed to get together again before the week was over.
My second session was not nearly as fun as the first. I was assigned to a professional 'cellist and an experienced violinist. The 'cellist kept stopping (me), saying "This is NOT a piano solo. LISTEN to your co-players, follow along." Now, mind you, I hadn't had a piano lesson in 26 years. And this was my very first exposure to chamber music. I was on the verge of tears, being corrected like that. I wanted to hide my face, run away, quit. But I thought better of it, I spent an awful lot money to get here. Let's just see how tomorrow plays out. I knew I was in way over my head, but if I could just tread water a little bit longer. And besides, there will be wine at the party tonight.
Later that day, I sat in the practice room, playing the Mendolssohn piano solo I had learned for the master class. Yes, I volunteered for this honor. How totally unlike me. From the Mendolssohn Songs without Words, I chose Confidence, one page, not too too demanding, and I was working on confidence from every angle, so it just seemed appropriate. The 4 other pianists chose much longer pieces, but they were also returning campers, more experienced at this than I. I played second, the master coach listening intently. When I finished, she asked me to describe the piece. ABA form, a sort of introduction, followed by a hymn-like section, and the opening section repeated at the close. Then she had me go back to the beginning. She critiqued my performance ever so gently: "Try it this way." "No pedal here." "Listen to the voices 'talking' to each other". I got it! I played it again, with the audience applauding more the second go 'round. They could hear a difference! Okay, I'm glad I stayed for this. Let's see what tomorrow brings. I'm learning to tread.
[Now I'm off to the beach. I'll come back to camp in my next post.]