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August 2013

Climate of Change

August 31, 2013 04:45

There was a lot going on this spring and summer. My career change into science education was finally getting underway and I had interviews to prepare for. My kids were both leaving their old schools. With my younger child moving up to middle school, we are officially done with the elementary school for good, which is the end of an era. It was also unusually hot this year. In the past I wouldn't have minded the heat or even thought about it that much, I would have just gotten another popsicle out of the freezer, kicked off my flip-flops, and celebrated summer. But record temperatures combined with radio news of melting polar ice caps and reminiscences about the dust bowl seemed to portend something more ominous. Kids, this isn't your parents' summer anymore.

At the same time, there was something in the air, musically, something I didn't like much either. In orchestra, our conductor of 33 years conducted his last POPS concert, and our oldest living member, Phyllis, couldn't be there. Some news was announced, sadly, at a rehearsal. At 96, Phyllis was failing. Her heart was having trouble pumping, no one knew how much longer she had. She called our quartet cellist (also the longtime principal cellist, with whom she used to play quartets) to her bedside and requested Mozart and Schubert, played by a string quartet, at her memorial service.

I was invited to play with this quartet, and to make suggestions for music. Unfamiliar with too many Mozart or Schubert quartets, I asked the adult student group on Facebook, and a former member of the orchestra, now living in another state, wrote back and suggested Schubert's Rosamunde, 2nd movement. Paging through some fragile, dog-eared quartet parts that I inherited a few years ago, I found the first violin part, copied it, started to work through it and mark it up, in preparation for the day it would be needed, the day that I didn't want to arrive. We also found an easy, early Mozart: fun, and kind of rousing, even celebratory (but in a dignified way), with a fiddle-ish melody line in 6/8 and lots of major scales, up and down and back up again, in the 3rd movement. A celebration of life.

Incredibly, Phyllis made a remarkable recovery. She stopped taking some heart medication that it turned out had been making her sicker instead of better, and her heart's pumping improved. She moved to assisted living. Instead of playing at her memorial service, we set up the chairs and stands in the common room at the nursing home and played there for the residents.

Then, on the heels of these performances, my my violin teacher decided to have a recital. Longy always had a nice adult student recital, but that stopped after we left the school a few years ago. I commend my teacher, in theory, of course, for getting a recital going again, but really, ack, do I have to participate in this too? Honestly, I really don't like recitals. They're like lima beans, or beets: good for you and all, but not very tasty. And I have baggage . . . lots of baggage . . . But it's an informal thing, partnered with her daughter who also has a violin studio, and there are all ages there. I can play "Violinists Don't Stop Believin'." I met a couple of my teacher's other adult students for the first time, who didn't seem as nervous as I was, but maybe they were just better at hiding it. We were all talking and laughing a lot, that's a sign. Yep. I do, I play rock violin--and I'm not even the oldest one performing.

Not only did I have the nursing home concert, the POPS concert, and the recital, but I decided to play in a summer orchestra led by one of the new conductor candidates for the orchestra. This required an audition, and no, I could not play rock violin. An excerpt from one slow lyrical piece, and one fast technical piece. Okay. First page-and-a-half of Bloch Simchat Torah, first page-and-a-half of Bach Preludio. I love both these pieces, but geez they are hard. I didn't exactly forget how hard they are, but I didn't exactly remember, either. I tried a few times to play the Preludio at the editor's metronome marking of quarter note=120. It was fun. The first page was mostly in tune. My new bow made it easer, but it was still more of a workout than those resistance bands I have in my basement. The wheels came off the cart sometime between the two bariolage sections, and I decided that 100 is a more realistic goal. A friend pointed out that Bach didn't write that 120 marking, since metronomes hadn't even been invented yet when Bach lived. I have no idea if this is true or not but decided to believe it anyway (and put it in my blog). Despite rushing around to the audition, which was held on campus practically in the middle of graduation week, being all sweaty, parking in a 30-minute zone, and blowing more than one shift in the first violin part of Tchaikovsky 4 during the sight-reading part, I made the group. And even made it back to my car in time to not get a parking ticket.

By the end of this concert, which was a lot of fun and a lot of work at the same time, I was feeling pretty tired. This was more violin music than I'm used to playing and I needed a break. It was time to go on vacation, which I did for 3 weeks, and left my violin blissfully at home.

The fall promises to be a little slower. I'm only playing in one orchestra piece for the fall concert, Dvorak symphony #8. I have a little solo, which will make a nice project to work on. Three conductor candidates will be interviewing, each conducting one rehearsal, before our current conductor conducts his final concert in November. I'm also looking forward to playing a little viola, and a little fiddle, with friends. And sometime I will need to play Rosamunde again. But not yet. Not yet.

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