Internal Monologue: 04.08.11

4:45 pm – Home: My Music Room
What good fortune to have the opportunity to crawl inside music that teaches me about the world and about myself. On top of that, I get to do it with and for other people. Here, alone, the music flows clearly and effortlessly, and I promise myself that when I share it in a few hours, I won’t get in my own way.

5:40 pm – In the Car
The radio is full of reports on the impending government shutdown. Even though the biggest skirmishes in this particular battle aren’t about the arts, I begin to play out the tension that always lives inside me. Pragmatism and frugality are always right at the surface of my consciousness. But I know that undiluted hours spent with music and art and beautiful words make me so much stronger and clearer in my next battle with paperwork. It’s an investment, not an indulgence. Right?

6:35 pm – At the Theatre: Sound Check
I play so infrequently these days, and after the technical challenge of reminding my body how to play the piano, there’s the bigger mental challenge of how to get my head in the game. And yesterday’s “dress rehearsal” was a bloody battered mess on the keyboard, coming as it did in a work day full of left-brain spreadsheets, emails, and editing. But tonight, amazingly, my hands seem to be connected to my brain and my breath.

7:10 pm – Dressing Room
Vanity never seems to die, and getting ready to share the stage with a woman as beautiful as Kate is an impossible task. I shall do my best to chalk up the differential to the 25 years between our ages, and I will remember to add this frustration to my arsenal the next time I’m tempted to say that I can live with these extra 30 pounds.

7:50 pm – Green Room
Flipping through my score for the fourth time in 10 minutes, making sure all of the pages are there and haven’t walked away since I last looked. And trying to avoid getting involved in backstage government budget impasse discussions. Can’t go there right now.

8:07 pm – “Ouvre ton coeur”
And, we’re off!  Bizet, you are so familiar. And I seem to have no jitters at all tonight. Hmmm.

8:21 pm – “Oh quand je dors”
Happy 200th birthday, Liszt. I think I’m going to go back and dig up those Petrarch Sonnets as soon as I have time… Listen to those agonizingly beautiful long lines that woman is singing… Damn.

8:36 pm – “The Eternal Source”
Mohammed‘s beautiful new pieces are so different in my mind now that I’m reading from an engraved score instead of manuscript. (Thank you Peermusic.) But that bothers me somehow. Why should the visual clarity make that much of a difference in the way I perceive the music? Somehow it seems a cop-out. Once the music is inside my mind, why does it matter what it looks like?

8:57 pm – “Hymne”
What must it have been like for a woman like Alma Maria Schindler Mahler Gropius Werfel? All that talent that never had a chance to be refined. And had she not been beautiful or of a reasonably wealthy lineage, could she have made any contribution at all to our culture? How many other beautiful songs, paintings, and poems have gone wasted because of societal limitations? Even in our time, is the privilege of creating something that enriches so many lives still primarily a province of the middle and upper classes? Damn politics. Back to the music…

9:13 pm – Question-and-Answer
Kate speaks so eloquently about the artist’s life, and she is so free with her praise about what we do here at Wolf Trap. I shall put the latter in my back pocket for times when I wonder if we could possibly be doing as good a job as we should.

9:22 pm – Ives “Frühlingslied”
I am the boss of the pedal tones, thanks to savvy use of the sostenuto pedal. Technique WIN.

9:36 pm – “Miss Manners on Music”
The character voices Kate has assigned to the “Gentle Readers” are genius. And I can see the wheels of the vocal technique turning while she plies them. Listen and learn. (It was a pleasure sharing the stage with you, Adelaide, Shelby, and Mildred :))

9:50 pm – “I Can Give You the Starlight”
I was initially distracted by the quaint line drawings on the Ivor Novello printed music. They predisposed me to viewing these songs as maudlin and overly sentimental. But now, tonight, taken honestly and at face value, they are sincere and raw in the best way. No artifice, little self-consciousness, and no care for who might say they are too simple. We sing and play them altogether differently than we rehearsed, and it is good.

9:57 pm – Encore
Hello again, Harold Arlen. And welcome back, Walking Bass and Clustered Jazz Chords. I thought I had left you back in the piano bars I played in my 20’s, but here you are again. I knew you wouldn’t desert me. I know I’m slumming (I’m not really good at this, just passable…), but for once I don’t care.

10:09 pm – Stalling
I stall before going into the reception and donning my Administrator Persona. It was a good night. A stellar colleague. (And that’s not a cavalier use of that word. I mean it.) A warm audience. A beautiful space and a responsive piano. But the biggest realization is one that has been slowly taking shape and now sits starkly in front of me. All those years of not truly being able to get out of my own way while performing were tainted by fear. Fear of not being good enough, of letting colleagues down, of being exposed as a hack. Everything I did to minimize the interference was helpful, but it ultimately fell short. The only thing that works is time. It’s not that I can shake off caring what other people think (sadly, I think it’s in multiple strands of my DNA…), but increasingly, I can separate it from what matters. And in that beautiful new space that’s created between the two, I have found more music, more joy, and much more clarity. May it not take you as many decades to get there as it did for me.

Curious about the complete recital program? Go here.


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