Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Fly on the Wall

I had the opportunity last weekend of attending a county-wide piano student holiday recital.  I think 35-40 kids participated.  Between the students, parents, and residents of the assisted living facility in attendance, I was lucky to get a seat at the back of the hall!  All in all, the young musicians did well.  Some were better prepared than others. 

One student in particular arrived late, and without his music.  More power to him: he sat down at the piano and attempted to play from memory.  I was touched by his determination.  He got stuck.  What to do to help him?  Really nothing.  He learned, as did the others in attendance, the importance of being prepared, and the grace of accepting defeat.  He was, even in his vulnerability, an inspiration. 

A few of my students sat in front of me.  I enjoyed watching them as they listened to the other students perform.  The older brother's hands were fingering the armchair as his younger sister played.  I do that!  I was especially humored when another student played an arrangement of something one of my kids was also playing.  Whispering to mom, nudging dad's arm.  They are learning to listen critically, to discern a fine performance.  It was as much a joy to watch the audience as it was to listen to the performance.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Christmas Miracles

Christmas miracles do happen!  I am still on Cloud 9 after a stunning performance by my students.  The Frederick Candlelight Tour of Historic Houses of Worship took place on Thursday, December 26.  It's a 33-year tradition to open the doors at 11 downtown churches, to invite the public in to enjoy the architecture and music.  This year 4 of my students were invited to perform at Centennial Memorial United Methodist Church.  Naomi, age 10, opened our segment with a simple arrangement of Silent Night.  Although I had prepped her as to the nature of the event, she was not expecting the number of spectators when she performed.  Her hesitant start was nevertheless well received; she needed to begin again, but did an admirable job.

Following Naomi, Josie, also age 10, thrilled her audience with 5 Christmas numbers.  I admit, I was a bit nervous; at her last lesson, she played too quickly.  She knew the notes, but had yet to add the nuances to pull me into the music.  In the 10 days between lesson and performance, Josie had perfected her art.  O Christmas Tree flowed from her fingers.  Deck the Hall, and Jingle Bells both combined staccato and legato beautifully. We Wish You a Merry Christmas was very merry indeed.  Josie saved her best for last.  Always a hit with bell choirs, Carol of the Bells was equally stunning on the piano

Josie's brother, Michael, age 12, followed with a stunning performance of Let It Snow!  His light touch, I could see the snowflakes, he was so convincing.  He then knocked my socks off with Vince Guaraldi's Christmastime Is Here.  This piece is complex, starts quietly enough, but the rhythms are tricky.  Moving down the page, it gets more technically complicated, but Michael handled the polyrhythms seemingly effortlessly.  I was beaming.  I think he was too.

Eleanor finished the program out.  To be honest, she is no longer my student.  She now attends the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts and has a teacher there to shepherd her through music selection and practice.  Eleanor played a lovely rendition of O Holy Night,  followed by Sleigh Ride.   That second piece is one of my favorites.  Not to be outdone by her brother, Eleanor whipped through another Vince Guaraldi piece, Linus and Lucy.  Visions of the whole Charlie Brown gang skating on the frozen pond danced in my head. 

All in all, this Centennial experience was joyful, and historic.  I can't speak for the other churches in the area, but this was the first time children were highlighted in performance at Centennial during this candlelight tour.  In the 5 hours that the church was open, over 1800 people entered to enjoy the sights and sounds, and I am thrilled that some of those sounds came from the fingers of my students!