shop talk on holy sat


Two down, two to go. Services, that is. The choir sounded very well last night on our motet. I’m not quite as tired this morning as I was yesterday morning, so it looks like I’m going to somehow manage to muster enough energy for the next two days. Unfortunately I have classes to play for on Monday and Wednesday of next week. But that should go okay. They are my last two days of classes for the semester.

One of the instructors I work with is given to purple passages of description of the music she would like me to play (improvise). Last week she wanted something like the “Arabian Nights” with some kind of mode. She kept making up mode names after first suggesting Mixolydian. I suspected that she didn’t have a clear idea of what it sounded like, just liked the sound of the word.

I improvised in phrygian mode.

She also went on and on about including rushing winds and night breezes or something like that (I said it was purple didn’t I?).

Neither she nor I was satisfied with my improvisation. This music was one of three pieces the class will be doing as their final in the class. When the teacher is prepping final combinations to be tested, I like to come up with something consistent for the students. I get nervous about facilitating testing. I want to make sure I’m helping and not distracting or godforbid hindering.

I came home and cast around for a composed piece for this combination. I landed on “Orientale” by Cui.

I have to play it slower than the performance below and I only play the first two pages. This is necessary because of the nature of the combination which called an “Adag” from Adagio.

The teacher was pleased with this choice. Due to its slow and restrained nature, an “Adag” is quite a workout for dancers.

I’m also playing two other prepared pieces for this test. They are both Schubert Waltzes. I am adapting one of them to sound more like a 6/8 dance.

In my other two classes (I play three classes which meet two or three times a week), I am also playing prepared pieces. In the pointe class, this is the theme from the Brandenberg 4, first movement. In the modern class, it is most of a piano piece by Gwyneth Walker called “Remembrance.”

Playing prepared pieces for class is a different experience than improvising. It makes a nice change.

I am hoping that after these classes are done I will be able to get some rest and find my groove once again.

I have accepted an invitation to perform for an ice cream social at the end of next month for my Mom’s nursing home. I invited my violinist friend to come and play with me. She was talking about seeking out some more performance experiences and I offered it to her.

We have been playing some very interesting early Mozart sonatas ¬†which would be good choices for this gig. Also a more mature Mozart we have been working on would be nice. I’ll also have her play melodies of the dance tunes and whatever else I come up with for this gig. It should be fun.

Tonight’s postlude and tomorrow’s postlude will both be the dreaded Widor Toccata (from Symphony 5).

I continue to refine my playing of this piece. When I learned it as an undergrad, my teacher, Ray Ferguson, had me play it legato and fast. Since then I have changed to play it staccato (as it is marked) and a bit slower. The closing pages have always been a bit more challenging to me. The left hand crosses the right and moves to a different keyboard. Preparing for these two performances I have concentrated on the last pages and I think I’m going to play them a bit better this year.

It’s always challenging at the end of Holy Week liturgy when I’m pretty exhausted to perform this kind of piece.

But it should go well this year at both of the next two liturgies.

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