Archive of ‘piano’ category

The key is *calm*

After all those months of practising the same difficult passages over and over again, and probably driving my family crazy with the endless metronome ticking, and the whispered ‘One-e-and-a-two-e-and-a…’s, the piano recital was tonight. Usually, many people end up not being able to go, but it was a really full house. The end of year concert is in a peaceful church in Metchosen, which has a grand piano. Its got quite impressive sound, which reverberates nicely in the wood-floored room. The touch was very hard, which most people commented on. You can even see my arms trembling in the video, my legs struggling to push down on a very high pedal. Note to self, wear heels next time.

Its nice to hear such a sampling of works, and relief to be able to share the music that one has spent so long perfecting. Its like carrying around a secret you’re itching to tell someone. Music is another language I am lucky, I never get nervous before a concert, but I can tell from the look on some peoples’ faces that this is not the case for them. I can’t imagine all the ‘owls’ in their tummies right before they press the first key (My friend, Jess, termed serve nerves as ‘owls’, used when she is more nervous than just having ‘butterflies’ in her tummy haha).

This year, there seemed to be a lot of modern and romantic-era pieces. I added to that by playing Debussy’s “La fille aux cheveaux de lin’ and ‘Reverie’, two very popular and dreamy pieces. He paints with tonal imagery, the way Monet splashes a riot of color across one of his impressionist painting, vivid in color, yet indistinct enough to leave room for our imagination. Obviously these pieces aren’t perfect, but I adored them enough to hope people would overlook a few errors here and there. Those big darn octaves. Yikes! I can streeeettttcchhh a 9th quite comfortably, or without the burning in my tendons, but a 10th is nearly beyond me. Usually I can settle right into the octave position in my sleep. I know exactly what that stretch of 8 keys feels like…its the practicality of playing this that is more difficult haa.

Debussy broke all the rules, and followed his ear and heart, versus the static and formal rules of composition. Now its very clear why teachers are so obsessed with their students learning scales; how much of a nightmare would it be if the arpeggios didn’t come second nature? The notes seem to float off my fingers by themselves (it wasn’t like that in the beginning; it was more like a sticky mess than flowing music).

My lovely students Lisa and Emma came with their families. Lisa played on of my favourite pieces, “Song of Twilight” by Yoshinao Nakada. It is very apply named, because the fluent, enchanting nature of the music brings to mind visions of early evening, in a Japanese garden perhaps, cheery blossoms falling lightly onto a clear pool. I was so proud :).

Posing with one of my friends & former student, Andie

Piano Recital

I am so proud of my piano students!! I have always been so lucky…having students who not only love the piano and music, but as a side-affect of that love, practice! Playing because you want to and need too, versus because you should or your teachers insists that you do, means that you play the pieces with such lightness and happiness. There is nothing more soul-crushing than being tied to a piano for your strict practice time. I have seen it turn talented, but pushed friends over-board, to the point they don’t want to play and quit. This always makes me so sad and has also made me vow that I will never ever do that to a student of mine!

I know that I have the most wonderful, caring, energetic and dedicated piano teacher, Kristin, who is always there with a thoughtful suggestion and feedback. Kristin had her Holiday piano recital tonight, which is always so much fun and puts me in a cheery mood. I really need it too. I have been feeling so awful…my ribs are constricting my lungs in a white-hot embrace that makes me wish I had no need to breathe. But the music always puts those thoughts on the back-burner. All the pain becomes white noise once my hands hit the black-and-white bed.

I decided to play the classic “I’ll be home for Christmas”. I have a huge holiday music bible which is simple enough to allow me to expand on the melodies. This in the fixed-up Metchosin Community House, a beautiful, expansive room where we used to always have our piano parties. It is fully accessible too, so nice and easy for me to move around.

Kristin generously invited my students along to play, if they so desired. I am teaching Lisa, my EA (educational assistant) from SIDES and her daughter, Emma. It was their first recital, so I could tell there were a bit of butterflies floating around them, but Lisa decided to play a beautiful rendition of “Greensleeves”.

I was just so proud of Lisa for playing! There is another adult student of Kristin’s, which must have been nice. Usually its just a bunch of kids (the littlest ones are so sweet! I am impressed that their fingers can move with such dexterity!) I hope it encourages some of the older students to take on students as well, because it is the most rewarding job I have ever undertaken. I actually am shocked that I get paid to have so much fun, but I would like eventually to put myself though med school, so I have to save somehow.

After everyone has played their pieces, we all get to chow down on some of Kristins’ famous fruit ‘flan’, more a delicious spongy/flat cake with season fruit a top it. It is all-round a wonderful evening! Can’t wait for Christmas…just a few days. “Will it snow?”- that’s always the big question here. I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…just like the ones I used to know…hmmmm mhhmmhmm…

Vegan Cupcakes Invade My Oven…

…and it isn’t exactly a hostile take-over. 😉

Wowzer. I was flipping through the cupcake book this afternoon, drooling at every single picture, and imagining all the wonderful parings of frosting and cupcakes I could create, when I realized I could be baking them right then and there. So I carefully got up from my chair (so as not to arouse suspicion from my Mum), and began to curdle my soy and coconut milk in the kitchen. I usually make a big mess when I bake, but then am not so good at the cleaning up part- in my defense, the sink is really high and I can’t really reach into it very easily.

I decided to bake a simple Agave Vanilla Cupcake, but added a little coconut milk (oh, the decadence!), and maple syrup for extra yum yum factor. They came together beautifully; the batter was so thick and creamy that it reminded me of Belgium waffle dough. They were this lovely golden brown color, thanks to the maple syrup, agave and copious teaspoons of vanilla I added to them. And 18 minutes later, they magically reappeared from the oven looking golden-er and smelling vanilla-ier than before! I hate waiting for them to cool, but every darn cookbook mentions this. Soooo I am being very patient, but am itching to frost them. I am thinking of adding some melted chocolate to a coconut based icing that we have. These thoughts are rather torturous to one who is immersed in the sweet smell of a dozen fresh baked cupcakes, so I will regretfully move from this topic to an equally wonderful one.

I received a letter from my good friend, Jess, who has left the island for Georgia, USA, to do what she loves; play the viola. Any booyyyyy does she play…I am so happy for her that she gets to do that all day long!! Paradise, but hard work. I feel so very fortunate to know such amazing talented, kind, generous people. We have been such wonderful friends since I arrived at GNS! Cornrowing each others hair at sleepovers, making ‘menus’, playing outside, choir several times a week, lunchtimes on the field gossiping, helping each other in school and bemoaning IB work. I miss her like bread misses butter. Can’t wait til Christmas break! Love you, Jessi <3

The cupcakes are cooling… 

Kristin is so wonderful and caring, and I look forward to our piano lessons together so much! We always have so much fun -> no ruler-hitting.-work-to-the-bone,-and-never-right,-and-mean teacher here, but there is oodles and oodles of learning happen’. You train a dog with biscuits, not kicks. :D. I write down my questions for her as I am practicing during the week, that way when we meet I can remember what parts I had trouble with. Kristin gave me a wonderful gift for my birthday: a pashmina scarf with piano notes and symbols on it in pink and l(y)me green, a CD of all the out-of-print jazz “Fake Books”, and a wonderful book of Chopin pieces, including all my favorite mazurkas, waltzes and preludes. Because I can play all the tricky Debussy pieces (nearly!), Chopin can’t be far behind. I wish that I had a prehensile pinky finger…that would really help playing his pieces!

Today, I was grilled on this incredible beautiful Chopin Waltz (posth., from the Trio Valses #2). It is very depressing to admit that although I am working hard on it and think I am playing it very fast, I am barely beyond half-speed!! It is played at a break-necked pace that surely no dancer could keep to, and my fingers sorely object. I do have all the notes in generally the right places which is always promising, but now I have to add in all the fiddly bits which are most time consuming; the pedaling, trills and occasionally fix up the odd slowdown/speedup’s that happen when one is learning. The other piece is Schuberts’ “Herberge”, which means a country inn. It is a delightful work with all this majestic dotted rhythm that carry me away in their boom. It moves from the sweetest pianissimo staccato passages to these sweeping, swelling chords. There is much room to rubato (classical musics’ ‘swing’ or stretching, in a way) and add emotion, which I do anyways, regardless of the rules.

Ah, music. Imagine if the early peoples had not felt the urge for rhythm, to beat on drums and to sing, to create primitive flute-esque and stringed instruments. What if no one had thought to use strings from the stomach of a goat?, a horse tail brush?, mahogany body?, black and white keys?, brass curves? It would be just us, alone in a wave of rhythm crying out for sound, and noise begging to be sculpted. The cacophony of life and the music inside. 

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