Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Year After a Performance

I do enjoy looking forward to recordings of past performances. Some more than others. It's like getting a report card. Sure I felt good or even bad about a performance, and then I can listen to the recording and get a reality check. Was it as bad as I thought, or was it as good as I thought. Could my mistakes be perceived?

Another reason I like to get a recording is I get to relive the enjoyment I may have gotten out of performing a piece. I love playing, I really do. I love it more when I get to play with friends. It's like going on a roadtrip with your pals where there's a fabulous party at the end. The recording is the souvenir from that trip. You can look back and remember what a good ride that was, even if you broke down in the middle of nowhere. You can get something out of every trip for better or worse.

In May 2013, I performed a couple of works for the Terminus Ensemble recital at the end of an already packed month of gigs, commission deadlines, and performances. I was beat. In fact, the hubs and I were going on a long overdue vacation the next morning. I was performing two pieces that had their own emotional and technical demands. It was a challenge, but a challenge I knew I couldn't pass up on. In the end, I knew I was going to be a better musician because of these pieces. I just got the videos this morning.

The first piece I performed on the recital has been the most challenging piece I have had to work on in a long time, "Echolalia" by John Anthony Lennon. Parts of this piece scared me. There was a lot of room for interpretation on this piece and I only had one recording to go by. Luckily, like in all Terminus Ensemble pieces, the composer lived in Atlanta and I had met him before. So when in doubt, call the composer. As a performer, I do enjoy meeting the composer and talking. At the very least, I'll get to know the composer a little better and verify what's on the page. I know not all performers like to do that, but I like to have that line of communication available.

John was kind enough to carve out some time out of his end of the school year obligations at Emory University to meet. When I arrived at his office, I assumed I would just play the piece in his office and I'd get some words of wisdom, but he grabbed a music stand and said "It will sound much better in the stairwell."  He was right. The swirling reverb of the stairwell added in a new factor I hadn't thought about. I knew the definition before meeting John was the often pathological repetition of what is said by other people as if echoing them. I felt there was some repetition in the figures of the music, but the reverb really brought it home. So what did we know about the performance venue? I knew it was a church, but that didn't mean it was a stone walled cathedral that would ring for days. So we had to go with a different plan, which I am glad we did. In the recording, it didn't come across as extreme as the stairwell. Looking back on the recording I wish we had ramped the reverb up electronically more. But I am happy with the performance. It came a long way from when I first got it. I hope I get to perform it again in the future. It's one of those few pieces I get to play where all the work is worth the effort. It is a beautiful piece.

After I had a sigh of relief from performing "Echolalia" and was able to get over the post performance jitters, I had to get my mind right to perform an emotional taxing piece, "Twenty-One" by Tim Jansa. In August of 2010, conductor Robert J. Ambrose and his wife, flutist Sarah Kruser Ambrose, lost their son Zachary after twenty-one weeks of pregnancy. In memory of their child, Robert and Sarah asked composer Tim Jansa to write a piece for flute and accompaniment – originally for piano – which Sarah herself would be able to perform in memory of her son. Sarah had already premiered the piece, and there had been another flutist who had performed the piece as well. Sarah is a flutist in Atlanta, and someone who I know and admire. Naturally, I discussed the performance of the piece with Tim and Sarah. Performing a piece like this is always tricky. You want to be emotionally involved in the piece, but you have to keep from crossing that line into letting it break down the performance. (Soprano Anne Bird had a great blog post about this years ago -like a decade ago- and I always think about it while perform - I can't find it! UGH!)

The good thing about performing this piece, is that I had a pal who had my back on piano - Ipek Eginlioglu. There was a a moment when I was feeling, and not thinking. I nearly missed my entrance, but I got a reassuring look from Ipek that kept me from derailing.(You can catch that look at 4:43) Now that's a friend who knows when you're head isn't in it and can bring you back to the present! This girl had a lot to deal with that day. There were keys on the piano that were not quite working. She dealt with it like the pro she is.

So what is good about seeing a video of yourself performing and not just hearing an audio? Well I can find a lot of complaints, but what you never give much attention to is the pre and post performance action. Like that I am so floppy when I recognize my colleagues. It looks like I am not excited about working with them, but I'm just awkward, and not a touchy feely person. So I need to work on that. I need to channel my inner diva and look like I feel instead of just trying to get off the "stage" as fast as possible. My playing issues, I won't tear a part in public, but I'm not gonna like, I got some things to work on. I'll always have things to work on. That's part of the fun of it all. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

It was an incredibly rewarding experience. The crowd was small, but that was a good music making day. I'm looking forward to our concert on the 27th where I get to perform with my buddies again.

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