It's always difficult to decide whether or not to bring the violin to a week of stress-free vacation that comes around only once or twice a year. Usually, when I travel to Florida or Nashville, I opt out and leave the precious goods behind, but when I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to spend a month of the summer in the south of France- (the first time in my life it was a major vacation that did not involve musical reckonings) I was torn. Lately, with all the trouble musicians have been enduring with airports and their bows, I was especially nervous (on my way back to the States I had to catch three separate planes, and once again go through security). It was going to be the only time as of yet where I would feel like work was not my first priority.
My trip was spent on the breath-taking and incredible landscapes of Cassis, where we went kayaking and snorkeling in the lagoons. We spent a week in Paris, and then later a weekend in Barcelona, but aside from the time spent in Paris and Barcelona, I was able to miraculously set aside time to practice nearly every day.
I think every musician deserves at least one week of the year off, where they're not intensely performing in the orchestra pits, or practicing for countless hours a day. So, I let myself enjoy the beautiful sights that are Paris and Barcelona, but I was also able to nourish a different side of the music that sometimes busy musicians don't have time for: I was able to sit back and watch others perform.
One day, after buying our lunch from a bakery and heading to a park, we ditched the park when we saw a violinist playing on the steps of the Musée d'Orsay. We listened to him for about an hour, playing gypsy music- so different from the classical training that I am accustomed to. It pleasantly surprised me how many people sat on the steps and watched the violinist, and most sat for a long period of time.
Another day, we we lucky enough to snag seats to a fabulous concert in one of my favorite venues in the world: Paul Rogers playing the Vivaldi's Four Seasons at the Sainte-Chapelle church in Paris. He lived up to the virtuosity of the piece and we sat mesmerized, listening to the vibrant sounds of the strings in the glowing world-famous stained glass chapel. I left enchanted.
While in Cassis, we journeyed to a nearby town and watched a pianist play Beethoven accompanied by orchestra in the hills. Every concert was magic.
I fulfilled my dream of visiting L’Opéra national de Paris, or the opera house of Paris, and merely taking a tour left me astounded by the beauty of it. To get the chance to play music in what seemed to me, a sacred place for music, was every musician's dream.
Sometimes, the classical scene in the U.S. is a bit worrisome, with the orchestra lockouts becoming more and more common. What was refreshing to me, as a young musician, was to see the fervor that people felt about music in Europe.
To attend a concert in the Musée d'Orsay, people lined up outside as early as two hours before the show, and when we finally did make it inside, we could barely see over the sea of people in front of us.
I was fueled by the atmosphere, the charm of the music scene over there. One day, while walking near the River Seine in Paris, where there are always small stands lining the sidewalk, I spotted an old score of the Lalo concerto, which I just happen to be currently studying. Of course, I had to buy it.
Yes, we climbed the Eiffel Tower and went to the Louvre, but it was all these "little elements" of the music that made this trip so memorable to me.
Occasionally, life throws you these little signs that you should keep doing what you're doing.
Whenever I wasn't practicing, I was able to relish these moments of music and beauty. It gave me perspective because maybe one day, I can travel with my music. It gave me hope, and sometimes that is all one needs to get back on their practicing grind when they return home.
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