My best friend is a medical resident who lives two hours away from me in Modesto, so on the rare occasions when she has time off, I make arrangements with my (wonderful) husband to spend the night at her place. It's a much-needed respite from the soundtrack of "Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy" that plays constantly in my own home, and I just spent a very satisfying practice session in the relative quiet of her house. Unfortunately I don't have the stamina to take full advantage of this environment, but I plan to get in another half hour before I return home tomorrow morning.
The Unitarian Universalist church I attend had a service dedicated to the Old Testament this morning, and the worship leader asked me to play the Kol Nidrei (in the arrangement by Max Bruch). I'd played this about three years ago, before I started taking private lessons again, and it was really rewarding to realize how far I've come since then. I still had my old simplifying markings in the music, eliminating some double stops and taking some phrases down an octave, only to find this time around that I didn't need to use them. The high stuff on the E string was a breeze, and the double stops, while not perfectly in tune, were not impossible as they'd been then. I was quite satisfied with my performance, and my husband, whom I trust always to give me an honest opinion of my playing, said he thought I did very well. Yes, progress is good!
I'm worried about a recent change in my 3-year-old Kiera's enthusiasm for the violin. I thought I was following her lead by starting her on violin at this age because she wanted to---even though I'd originally planned to wait a few more years---and for about the first five months she did wonderfully. In the last several weeks, though, she's become extremely resistant to practicing, and it's like pulling teeth to get her to do anything; she complains that she's tired and doesn't want to play. I think it would be premature to let her quit, and I don't want her to keep giving up on things that are difficult for her. At the same time, I don't want it to be such an ordeal that she ends up hating the instrument. My husband thinks it's because she's now being asked to do far more than she did in the past; instead of just holding the instrument, she's got to do that and focus on bowing straight on just one string (no easy task on a 1/32 violin, even for me) and put her finger down in the right place. We're going to talk to her teacher about what's going on, but I'd appreciate any comments from parents with older children who have been in my situation.
I am now older than my friends Sydney and Colleen combined. And I now need SIX bits for my age. Waaah!!!
On a happy note, however, my husband bought me a 30 GB iPod Video, and---this is the real gift---loaded a whole bunch of photos and my favorite albums onto it for me. When I saw it, I immediately said, "So THAT'S why I haven't been able to find my Glazunov CD for the last two days!" :) It was apparently a painful process for him, which makes me all the more grateful. (Warning: iTunes does not play well with Windows operating systems.)
I also got the soundtrack to "Pride and Prejudice", which I had not realized was played by Jean-Yves Thibaudet. In the liner notes, composer Dario Marinanelli writes, "We were fortunate enough that Jean-Yves Thibaudet was interested in performing on the sountrack of the film, and at that point I just knew I could really let the piano be the heart of the score." I remember thinking that it must be wonderful for composers like John Corigliano (who wrote the soundtrack to "The Red Violin") and Nigel Hess ("Ladies in Lavender") to have someone like Joshua Bell on board, someone who is capable of playing whatever they might wish to write. I believe Hess compared having Bell play his score to stepping into a Rolls-Royce. I suspect this is a trend we will see more of in the future, having top-rated classical musicians play film scores.
In non-music-related gifts, my husband and three-year-old daughter planted me an herb garden in the backyard, which is wonderful since I've never been able to maintain an indoor herb garden. I think that one was actually supposed to be a Mother's Day gift for tomorrow, but Kiera blew the surprise early.
I've been quite inspired lately by several V.com members, particularly Laurie, whose attitude in the wake of disappointing auditions is an example for us all. I have no dramatic stories about trying out for major orchestras, but I did just come off a weekend of pretty miserable performances for which I was woefully unprepared. Thanks to the people here, though, I'm not obsessing over it; I'm just going to pick up the pieces and do what I need to do to get back on track. Violin is my hobby, after all, and there's no point in doing it unless it makes me happy, which it does! Even if I don't always play as well as I want to.
On Saturday afternoon, my teacher Virginia had one of her "group sessions", which are essentially very informal recitals. She intersperses solo performances with group pieces that people of all levels can play, and it's a lot of fun. My 3-year-old, Kiera, was with me, and she enjoyed singing along with the Twinkle variations and clapping with the fiddle tunes. I played excerpts from the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso. Unfortunately, between the two different viral infections I've had recently and the dual responsibilities of jury duty and keeping up with my day job, I haven't practiced much in the last three weeks, and it showed. I was glad I'd decided the previous evening to swap out the Eudoxas (which both sounded and felt horrible to me) for Infeld Blues. Even so, my intonation was much worse than it should have been and I got the impression that Virginia was a little disappointed since I'm one of her more advanced students. Needless to say, I'll be spending this week trying to get the work back up to where it was a month ago.
Yesterday, my husband and Kiera were in the car with the radio on, when she suddenly said, "That's the piece Mommy played at Virginia's house yesterday!" Cade listened carefully---it was background music underneath one of the "From the Top" informational spots---and sure enough, it was! Proof positive that even a three-year-old is capable of listening to and remembering music.
My community orchestra had its last concert of the season yesterday as well, and I've decided for certain that I won't be continuing with the group next year. Although the conductor, music selections, and my fellow first violinists are great, it's just too frustrating for me to play in a group with such little professionalism. Rehearsal attendance is spotty, all seating behind the first stand is random, and bowings aren't properly synchronized. I want to play in an ensemble I'm proud of, and this isn't it. Perhaps I'll audition for another group in the fall, but for now I'm happy just focusing on solo work.
It is incredibly difficult to sit in a courtroom all day, spend time with my two little girls in the evening, catch up on my "day" job at night, and still manage to find time for practicing. It's a good thing I don't mind jury duty, since this is my third trial (eighth summons, and I've only lived in California for 11 years!), but I don't know how much longer I can keep up this routine. With the trial expected to last several more weeks, something's going to have to go, and I fear it may just have to be the violin.
At least my last orchestra concert of the season is this coming weekend, and I've decided for sure that this is the end of my participation with the group. It certainly made the decision easier when my friend (whom I recruited for the second violin section) informed me that the director had given everyone a lecture on attendance. I've NEVER missed a rehearsal---I've even scheduled my vacations around them---until last week when I was so sick I couldn't even get out of bed, and to be chastised for that is more than I feel like putting up with in a life that is already too stressful right now. I want to focus on solo work for a while, and if I do join a group again, it will be one that is more professionally run.
On a happier note, I saw Joshua Bell in concert leading the San Francisco Symphony orchestra last Thursday, and it was MAGNIFICENT. I'm now familiarizing myself with the Glazunov concerto in preparation for hearing him play it in July at the Festival del Sole in Napa. I've just acquired Maxim Vengerov's recording of this beautiful work, and am thoroughly enjoying both it and his rendition of the Tchaikovsky that's on the same CD.
I did finally get rid of my aging Dominants and try the first set of new strings, the Pirastro Eudoxas. I've decided for sure that I don't like them; they do have a warmer tone which one expects, but I think my instrument does better with something more brilliant. Now I've got to decide whether to leave these on long enough to break them in and experience them fully, or just toss them and go on to the Infeld Blues.
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