Day 30 – October 30th – Sister’s smile

Today started off Skyping with my little sister, who I haven’t spoken with in three months! It was absolutely wonderful to chat and have a virtual tour of her new house, and I felt ready for just about anything that Trevor could throw at me in class.

As it turned out, I got off quite lightly today. Nothing is perfect, least of all my playing, and before coffee time Alyssa was required to give me a 20-minute ‘lesson’ on practising long notes in tune. However, it seemed that Trevor intended it as a pedagogical experience for both of us for various reasons, and it helped me to clarify a really key point: what sounds the best for me doesn’t sound the best out in the audience. We experimented with bending the note up and down, increasing and decreasing resistance in the air column. Trevor pointed out that the sound we tend to aim for is the point at which resistance is equal to air pressure, thus creating a harder, ‘purple’ sound. However, by closing off less of the embouchure, we reduce the resistance but maintain the same air pressure, thus achieving more of a ‘yellow’ tone that is more penetrating and, importantly, has harmonics that are more in tune. So step one is finding this tone, and then step two is practising long notes with a diminuendo from ff to pp.

As today was the last lesson of the month, Trevor wanted to check on those who’d been issued with recorders and the traverso, but Shannon and Chin Ting had forgotten theirs and were sent running home (a half-hour walk!) to get them. Luckily Dot persuaded Trevor to go and pick them up, but I think the point was made and all will be careful to do their extra homework in the future!

I’m counting my performance of the Griffes Poem as a success. It certainly wasn’t perfect, and I was actually ticked off and told that I “hadn’t practised” the fast bit. However, I got through the first page and a half with Trevor only making stylistic comments, and was complemented at the end of them for my new-found expressiveness. This week, I’ve been trying to worry less about getting everything ‘right’ in my class performances, and more on simply communicating my love for music. It seems to be paying off, and hopefully I can add to that more correct notes in the fast sections of the piece next week.

We finished off the evening at the ‘Old Dairy’ (I live in the ‘New Dairy’), where Chin Ting and Yi Yin made dumplings. It was nice to cook and eat all together, and I made a note of Chin Ting’s vegetarian dumpling recipe because they were yummy!

Day 29 – October 29th – Wet Weather Blues

Despite having a productive practice day, I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts. Some of it is probably the weather (low cloud and light drizzle), some also that I’m still not fitting in terribly well with the other students here. With five months still to go, thought, I think it’s better to focus on the positives:

– I had a lovely Skype with a friend in Australia this morning
– Wet weather just makes me want to drink more tea, and I bought some green tea with cranberry this week, which is wonderfully warming
– I made more progress with scales today, and even the melodic minors are starting to sound fluent. Eb melodic minor, the bane of my practice last week, is now sitting really well under the fingers.
– My room smells nice – I’ve been burning the rhubarb crumble scented candle I won at whist a few weeks ago!
– In my humble opinion, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of the Griffes Poem in preparation for tomorrow.
– Next week is bonfire night!

Day 28 – October 28th – Bizet and Griffes

Dark evenings certainly make a difference, it’s 8:50pm and I already feel ready for bed! On the other hand, I did go for a lovely run this morning, so not all bad.

We went to Peri Court Farm as part of our shopping trip today, so I was able to get some dark chocolate-coated ginger as a reward for my practice. Yummy!

Practice itself went quite well, especially scales! After a few days of them sounding and feeling utterly shocking, today suddenly worked. Several possible reasons why:

– We switched back to Moyse finger exercises this week (and I only did them at crotchet = 96 today to iron out errors)

– I had lunch and a break between Moyse exercises and scales, which may have given the muscles a chance to recover

– I’ve been practising and it’s paying off!

I’ll have to see how things progress tomorrow, but hopefully this is a permanent improvement.

Yesterday Trevor added another set of exercises to our list, Daily Exercise No. 1 by Marquarre, which can be found on page 40 of Complete Daily Exercises. I had to sightread it solo in class yesterday and found it really hard! The first bar in the C major version is C – D# – E – G, and I could not get my fingers to follow the pattern. Trevor did confirm that this is exactly the point of the exercise – to make us play something unexpected and non-scalic – but I still need to do some work on it. I also spent a good solid 10 min on the Pinkie Polka today, and can now play it at crotchet = 63.

Our repertoire for this week is the Griffes Poem, and the orchestral excerpt the Menuet from Bizet’s L’Arlesienne Suite No.2. I haven’t played the Griffes before, and so have rather got my work cut out learning notes, but have found it to be a lovely piece. I’m quite keen to program it for something further down the track if I get the opportunity.

As for the Bizet, well it’s just such sparkling, stunning music, like having a warm hug without it being too overpowering. I’ve been listening to the Berlin Phil/Karajan recording on Youtube, which is bubbly and delightful. The flute solo starts at 5:22, but why not listen to the whole thing and feel inspired?