Musical Meanderings

This is a blog centered around some of the musical encounters and experiences that I come upon in my daily life as a musician.

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Location: Alameda, California

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Water's Edge Retirement Concert

It was kind of a depressing setting, which I well knew that it might be. But the spirit is to go and play your music and hopefully cheer someone up. I want to teach that spirit to my little girl. When we got to the retirement home, we had to navigate our way through lots of hallways with old and sick folks hanging out in wheelchairs all along the way. I had Isabelle, aged four, and another mom with me and her two toddlers, so that they could watch Isabelle when she was done with her performance. I took a deep breath and thought about how I would explain old age to a four year old, as I knew it would be coming up in our conversation very soon.

Well, we finally made it to the performance room, which was kind of dimly lit and filled with people that are half there, either sleeping in their wheelchair beds, or peering out of eyes that have known alot of life and are unable to function anymore on their own in society, with stories to tell, no doubt, but noone to tell them to anymore.

I set up Isabelle's little red chair, which we have to take along always because she will not fit on a big chair. She sat down and said, "Mama, I want my cello. My cello, please!" She started to get a little agitated as she didn't understand that I was trying to set up, getting my stand out, rosining the bow, getting the music together for my set with Terrence, the guitarist that was to come after her little performance.

We began playing in unison, the Twinkle Variations, and it seemed that people thought it was cute. Isabelle was concentrating very hard. I noticed that her bowarm seems to go wacky in performance and the little sound she usually gets is even smaller when she performs, as she is thinking so hard about the notes and the music.

So we played a few variataions together, and then the last one I broke off and played a harmony part and let her take the melody. It was at this point that I could see a look of pure delight on people's faces, because she was playing the melody by herself and they could hear her, and she was strong enought to do this with an accompaniment.

They loved it! We played the rest of her pieces the same way: I played in unison with her for a time and then broke off and let her play the melody alone with some pizzicato accompaniment.

She was definitely a hit.

After that, Terrence Brewer and I played some Christmas music and some popular classical pieces, like Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. There was not too much energy in the half sleeping crowd, but I think they liked it. One woman was saying, "Help me," really softly in between our selections. It was a bit unnerving, but Terrence later said that he thought our music did help her.

There was a very sick woman who had some vocal problems and was talking in a very deep voice. It was a little scary sounding. When we went into the bathroom, Isabelle asked me why that woman had a man's voice. I told her that when you get older, you start to get sick and sometimes things break down and stop working. This woman was having problems with her voice, I said. Isabelle looked at me with her big blue eyes and said, "Mama, when I'm bigger, that's not going to happen to me."

What do you say to protect your kid from all the terrible realities of life?

"No honey, it's not going to," is what I said, hoping that I was right. "But today you did a great thing, because you gave your gift of music to all these people who really needed it. And you made them happy."

She reiterated. "I did. I made them happy."

After our show, we went out for ice-cream to celebrate the success of our performance. Three toddlers and two moms, bubble-gum ice cream for the kids and a hot fudge sundae for the adults.

Now this morning we have to practice for our show tomorrow at a different retirement home. That one will be in a better environment I think, as I played there with my high school students from the Oakland School for the Arts a few years ago. I am thinking that maybe Isabelle and I will change our show around and do some different pieces, just because we can.

Monday, December 04, 2006

December Performances

Well, I got to play with my new violin friend Saturday night: Mr Zin Violin himself, Chris Kranyak. We played a wedding in a tent in Danville. He's awesome! The wind was howling outside in the trees while we played duets for a wedding. There were about a hundred people there. In addition to our regular Bach/Handel wedding music selections, we had to accompany a tenor who said he had woken up with a sore throat and so didn't have any high notes. The piece was a John Denver composition called "For You", which, of course, required high notes. But it was fine. The bride was very nice and also the groom, who stood and talked with us for quite some time during the reception. ( This never happens). He is a scientist that is developing a cutting edge laser and he was explaining it to us. He has been traveling to Germany with a team of international scientists. It all sounds very exotic and exciting. We were waiting for dinner and the butternut squash soup at the reception, but it took too long, so we just left a little hungry. In the meanwhile, though, I discovered these amazing pecans with some kind of sweet and sour coating that were hella great, so at least there was that.

And then on Sunday I played two church performances. On the first one I had a nice cello solo at the very opening of the show. That was fun. And I met a nice bass player named Dave and a violist named Jason who has a doctorate from Eastman. The conductor let me out early to run to my next show, which was a sing-along Messiah in El Cerrito. We did the entire Messiah, which was long. The conducor was dressed up in a big white wig and some great clothes from the baroque period. He was posing as Handel's brother!

We have shows this week at two retirement homes in Alameda. Isabelle, who is still four, I am proud to say, is going to perform selections from her repertoire! We will play some pieces together and then I am going to play some Christmas music with a guitarist friend, Terrence Brewer. It should be fun. You never know, though, what Isabelle will do in performance. Last time, at the preschool performance, I had brought a violin for the children to look at and to try out, and Isabelle decided that she wanted to perform on that. I had to let her play it for awhile before she would play her cello. It's always an adventure with a performing four year old.