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Karen Allendoerfer

More Music Therapy--or getting the monkey off my back, part II

August 24, 2007 at 6:27 PM

I played again at the Belmont Farmer's Market yesterday. I don't have any pictures this time, but there was a woman from the local public-access TV station who interviewed me after I played O Sole Mio. She had a (silent) cameraman with her who filmed the whole song.

So, why the title of this blog? Well, my mother is unwell. She and my father had been planning to come to hear me play. I'd picked the date for that reason. But then she got sick and couldn't come, and her illness is making her say some not-so-happy stuff. I talked to her on the phone the night before, and in a classic case of parents being especially good at pushing your buttons because they installed them, she rattled me. I had a hard time sleeping, and then in the morning was trying to finish writing out my arrangement of O Mio Babbino Caro for the viola, and I completely screwed it up. I had decided to put it in the key of D, and I put it in G by mistake. Alto clef--blecch.

I came home from work, changed into my new dress I'd bought for the occasion, put my viola in the car, drove there with all my bad old performance-anxiety nerves jangling, watching the sky thinking maybe it would start raining and I'd be off the hook and could just go home.

No such luck. The family trio playing before me had already packed up and left, and so I just took my time setting up: putting up my music stand, arranging the multiple clothespins just so (I brought 8 this time). I tuned. I'd forgotten my tuning fork and don't have absolute pitch, but oh well. The A didn't sound off and my viola generally holds its tune pretty well. So I took a deep breath and started to play.

And after a few minutes, the tension and angst started to slip away. There was a little baby, around a year old but pre-verbal, who kept making the ASL sign for "more." He and his mother stayed for a long time to listen and even went and got a stroller so she wouldn't have to hold him. There was the ~8-year-old who asked if my bow was made from horse hair, and the woman to whom I explained the difference between a violin and a viola. Then there were the two kids who started fighting about a scooter and had to be taken away by their parents--they distracted me, but didn't really *bother* me. There was the woman who wondered if I was with the local music school, and mentioned her service on its board of directors. She said that school had opened "before [I] was born--probably 40 years ago." (I'm 41, so no, it wasn't before I was born, but Thanks!). There was the woman who told me it was a great dress.

The "Come Back to Sorrento" guy unfortunately couldn't stay to hear the song. But I was happy with it anyway. It sounds quite nice on the viola. It can be played as written, in the right key, without needing to be transposed at all or played with weird fingerings. "O Sole Mio" is the same way. As I mentioned, someone taped it for "Focus Belmont" on local access TV.

I played enough different songs and got enough feedback that I think I'm beginning to be able to tell which are "crowd pleasers." These include:
O Sole Mio
Bach cello suite #1 prelude and #3 bouree
Purcell Rondeau from Abdelazar
Harvest Home and Cincinnati Hornpipe
Shenandoah

"O Mio Babbino Caro" was okay too--but it would have been better on the violin. I had already punted Largo from Winter (Vivaldi's 4 seasons), Preludio from Partita in E, and Gusty's Frolics from the program completely, because they just didn't work on viola, and it turned out I just wasn't ready for violin, or for bringing two instruments.

I also have now heard my viola in enough different situations that I'm even happier with my purchase of it. Its sound is robust and resonant, and it carries well, even outdoors. Whereas even at its best, the sound of my violin can only really be described in positive terms as "sweet." And you know, I think I have to face facts here: I'm just not really that sweet.

For playing, I got a gift certificate from the market that I used to buy some corn, a jar of chocolate sauce, and a loaf of fresh whole-wheat bread. We had that for dinner, and even my picky-eating children loved it. Sitting around the dinner table with them, munching on fresh corn, I was glad it hadn't rained. I was glad I went through with it after all. I felt okay again, as if I'd been healed by the music.

From Albert Justice
Posted on August 24, 2007 at 7:13 PM
And then, we get to learn that they, are just imperfect humans like ourselves? I think that's when I started being able to grow up myself in some ways.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on August 25, 2007 at 3:09 AM
I believe that you really were healed by playing the music. Music has such wonderful restorative powers.

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