I had a second lesson with Cathy Cho up in NY at Juilliard yesterday, and it went really well. Because of it being Thanksgiving weekend and all, and we knew there would be tons of traffic, we left three hours early for a 90 minute trip. There were some unforseen delays including a speeding ticket and an incredibly long gas line, but we made it there in one piece. The room the lesson was in was incredibly hot, which was kind of worrisome because I do really badly in high temperatures most of the time. It didn't bother me, though. And my strings were agreeable enough. She said a lot of interesting things about hand position, including that my hand, when just resting in first position, should be moved a little higher up the neck. That would not only help the stretches but also the intonation. She also talked about the right arm, and what I'm supposed to do is, on up-bows, first bend the arm then the wrist, but for down-bows push out keeping the shoulder down. I felt this was really helpful and I understood it completely.
Miraculously I stayed awake the whole ride home! Then had trouble sleeping, and could not get up this morning. School was good, and I have loads of homework to do now.
Like a comet pulled from orbit
Today was certainly more interesting than most Saturdays. My contemporary music piano quartet had a make-up rehearsal at the coach's house, somewhere in the middle of (a very beautiful) nowhere. Because of gas prices being so high, and the cellist and I living so close together, my mom drove him and me. However, due to faulty directions from Map Quest, we spent an extra hour driving in circles, and missing the exits. I, however, missed all of this excitement, because I was unconscious in the back seat. I awoke to the sounds of my mom and Eric, the cellist, saying "There! Turn there! No, that's wrong...I swear I've seen this Home Depot twice before...."
Eventually we got there. To my amazement and joy, my coach has three sheep living in her yard! I only got to admire them for a moment because we were an hour late. We ended up only having an hour long rehearsal (the pianist, who lives twice as long in the opposite directions, couldn't make it) but it was fun and we performed the piece (a quartet by Thomas Whitman) for our parents. Then we stayed for a few cookies, and we got to feed the sheep! They really are amazing animals. My coach Linda went "OHHHHHsheepsheepsheepsheep," and they would reply, "BAAAAHH!" They ate out of our hands and they had this little pen they slept in. All I have to do is convince my parents to get us some sheep for the back yard.
We're still eating Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner, but the end is in sight....
I warmed up in the hall while the guests arrived for the surprise party. Unfortunately, I missed my grandfather's entrance to the building, but I was told he looked "very surprised". It's actually a funny story about how my grandmother, Susan, got him into the building. She told him we were all going out for dinner that night.
"Where are we going?" he asked.
Then she got a cell phone call from my Mom (who was sitting right next to me.) Supposedly we were stuck in the Unity Temple after some kind of rehearsal. That was kind of suspicious-sounding. So, when they got to the Unity Temple, he said he was going to stay outside and smoke a cigarette.
"Oh no, you should come in," Susan said.
So there were appetizers and things, and then the recital. I think Ain't and Oranges were the best I'd ever played them but, to my extreme sadness, the tape got mangled somehow, and the only pieces we got out were the Romance from the Wieniawski, Syncopation, and one of the Piazzolla pieces. Oh well. So that went well, and there was a delicious dinner afterwards. That was our last night in the motel.
The next morning, we went over to Ted & Susan's for breakfast. Then Madeline, Calla, and my dad left for the airport. A few hours later, Susan drove my mom and I through a different part of Chicago, to the (nice!) hotel the FTT staff and we were staying at. We bid farewells, and Susan said she and Ted would come to see the performance the next day. So we settled into the hotel room and hung around for a while. Then, around 5:30ish we met the FTT staff in the lobby of the hotel, and walked over a mile in the pouring, freezing rain to the hall where the show was going to be the next day. (This was only because the only two men in our little entourage were the ones leading the group!) Everyone else was all for getting a cab. We made it to the pizza party in one piece, though. There were no child soloists on this show, it was the Chicago Children's Choir and the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Rachel Barton Pine. They all collaborated with each other. But of course, they couldn’t fit an entire choir and an entire orchestra into the pizza party, so it was just three or four representatives from each. I was introduced to Rachel B.P. by Tim Banker, one of the writers for the show, and I told her that Whitney Osterud had made my violin (they are good friends, and he is her personal luthier. He called her in advance to ask if she wanted to see the violin). So she said I could show it to her later.
Usually there are rehearsals the night before the show, but because nobody was playing with Chris O'Riley, it was just the pizza party where everyone got to know each other and practice scripts and such. I went over the script for the two skits I had with the people I was doing them with and the writers. Then, because it was pouring out and I felt like going back to the hotel and practicing my script, we declined the invitation from the staff to go out.
The next day was Tuesday, and mid morning we found our way to the Harris Theater. (It's a new building in Millennium Park, and it's seven stories underground, and VERY hard to find your way around in! You have to take several different elevators and go into what seems to be several different buildings before you can find where you actually want to be.) I watched the music rehearsal. The choir was FANTASTIC. I really wish we had an SATB children's choir like that in Philadelphia. I'd definitely want to be in it. And the orchestra, of course, was marvelous. Immediately following was the dress rehearsal, and then we went back to the hotel to check our email and change. This time we brought the violin with us, and we showed it to Rachel. She played it, and then asked me to play.
The show went really well. I had a little bit of time between my two skits, so I hung out backstage and read through the scripts in my mind. It was a pretty big audience. It's always so much fun to do the skits, because I feel like the audience really likes them and is appreciative. Rachel B.P. played spectacularly. I won't give away the program, but I'll say that one of the pieces she performed is on her new album.
After the show, some of the staff went out to an Italian restaurant with Rachel and her husband. We went with them, and it was really nice since we won't be seeing them until February. Next morning, we woke up bright and early (not exactly "bright" for me – my mom only had to call me about seven times) and got our flight on time. Then, home sweet home.
Now time for dinner. We have soooo much food left over from yesterday! Oh, by the way, Happy Thanksgiving y'all.
We were picked up at the airport by Ted, our grandfather. He grew a beard and now looks a lot like Santa Claus. We were greeted outside by Larry, our step-grandmother Susan's brother. A few minutes later Susan pulled up in the arrival/departure area. I really wanted to go to their house (the Coonley Playhouse, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) but us kids we all pretty tired so we just wanted to get to the hotel. Mads and I were in a car with Ted and Larry, but both of us fell asleep rather promptly. We arrived at the motel. My sisters and I went to settle in, and the adults drove to the Playhouse to get things like water bottles.
Although it was nice of Ted and Susan to put us up for three days, I must say the motel was the very worst place I'd ever stayed. The rooms were horribly smoky (nobody in our family smokes). It was the kind of place where you didn't want to take off your shoes, let alone sleep in the sheets. It was overall a rather dreary experience.
The next morning my mom and I had to get up really early and drive to Evanston, where the accompanist we had hired for the recital was. Dad, Mads and Calla slept in, then headed over to Ted and Susan's for breakfast. We found Evanston a lot easier than was expected, and being early, we stopped for breakfast at a little coffee house muffiny place. I was expecting to just get one of the afore mentioned pastries, but we saw as soon as we got in there this BEAUTIFUL gelato in a glass case. It doesn't look like ice cream, it's fluffier. It was so pretty that we couldn't NOT get it, and besides, everyone has to have ice cream for breakfast once in a while. I got belgian chocolate and pumpkin spice flavored. But they also had flavors like pink grapefruit and nutella.
Okay, moving on. We had no trouble locating the right apartment. We got there on time, and were met by Timothy Mah, the accompanist. He was very nice and accommodating, and turned what was supposed to be a one hour session into two. Not only was he very willing to learn all the music (my rehearsal accompanist wasn't exactly in love with the Piazzolla), he was a WONDERFUL pianist and also had some really good artistic ideas he shared with me. Also on the plus side was that he is a violinist, so he knew the repertoire too.
After the rehearsal we went to the Playhouse, which I was finally seeing for the first time. Both Mads and Lauren had gone there by themselves for a week when they were younger, but Calla and I hadn't gotten to. Let me just say that when you walk into the house it's like a museum. (Well, it is actually. People show up there every day for unscheduled tours, and then, as Susan told us, ask where the gift shop is! But this is really their house that they live in.) There is Nakashima furniture everywhere, and all this art glass that made me feel like a bull in a china shop. The house used to be a schoolhouse for kids, and they still have this charming little thing in the kitchen that the good kids got to use (sort of like a soda machine. There are two levers, one says Coke or something, and the other says Water or Ice. Then there are little buttons with labels like Lemon, Root Beer, Chocolate.)
So we had lunch there, and then we got a tour from Ted of the neighborhood, and saw a few more Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. Then we got a tour of his home and studio, which was REALLY cool and included things like a piano which Frank Lloyd Wright supposedly loved to play, but because he hated clutter, he built it INTO the wall, so that all you saw was the keyboard front. Upon leaving the room and going down a flight of stairs, if you looked up you saw half a piano hanging over your head.
(During the course of the day, Ted also toured us through the Unity Temple, which was where the recital was going to be the next day, although of course he didn't know that because it was planned as a surprise for him. We went to a Thai restaurant for dinner, then back to the motel.
Next morning we went to the Playhouse for a big, delicious breakfast cooked by Ted. Then everyone kind of hung out there for a few hours, while I practiced. The acoustics in the Playhouse are great. Sometimes Ted and Susan have concerts there-- there is a real stage, which is now part of the living room.
Then headed back to the motel to change into our fancy clothes, then to the Unity Temple. The hall (well, it's a Unitarian church, not really a hall) is really nice, and has great acoustics. High ceiling, lots of stone. So I warm up for a while, meet Timothy Mah and run some things.
Because this is turning into such a long post and I have to get off of the computer for a while, I'll finish this up later.
And last but not least (although I guess it will look like it's first because it will turn out on top!), "Syncopation" by Kreisler, which we did as an encore.
Well, looks like I have to post them one at a time. Here's "Francanapa" by Astor Piazzolla. I also did Tango en La, but the recording was ruined.
In other news, we're leaving for Chicago this Friday, for my third From The Top job, and for my grandfather's birthday, which I'm giving a recital for. On the recital I'm playing:
March from Love for Three Oranges
in that order.
Have to pack up to leave now.
A couple of weeks ago, I was planning on going to a Halloween/birthday party one of my friends from school was having. But then we realized that the Johannes Quartet (Catherine Cho, who I had a lesson in New York with a few weeks earlier, two very important violinist/violist figures in Philadelphia, Soovin Kim and C.J. Chang, and Peter Stumpf) was performing at the Kimmel Center. We couldn't not go. Despite my being fairly grumpy about missing the party, it was an excellent concert. They played a Mozart quartet on the first half, and Death and the Maiden on the second. Considering they only get together occasionally to rehearse, they were REALLY together and precise. It was amazing! Afterwards we went backstage to talk to them. So that was fun.
My mom bought this really cool little thing online that I can use to practice. It's a mini-disc recorder with a microphone and earphones but it is SO GOOD, and sounds SOO real. So if I need to tape something and play it back, it won't be distorted. (It's such good quality sound that when I was trying to work it, and the phone rang while I was recording, when I played it back I thought, "Now who's calling!")
Next Sunday I'm doing a recital at the Unity Temple in Chicago for my grandfather's surprise 75th birthday party. We're going to be in Chicago anyway for the next From The Top show. I'm going to meet Rachel Barton Pine. Yay. Except I'm having trouble practicing for my recital because I feel so lousy.
Enter to win Leonidas Kavakos' recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto.
Alice Smith is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Biography
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