Day 85 – December 24th – Mince pies and carols

Making mince pies...

Making mince pies…

Christmas Eve, and my ‘Christmas Day’ celebrations with the Johnson side of the family. We skyped with all the Australian family this morning, catching them rather tipsy near the end of Christmas catch-up dinner. Then I made mince pies under the watchful eye of grandma. Though I do know how to make pastry, I think she was just quite anxious that I get it all right, and kept wandering into the kitchen to remind me of what to do next! With our combined efforts, though, the mince pies tasted fantastic – not quite like mum’s, but also not far off! I had so much fun that I really didn’t mind too much how they tasted, and was pleasantly surprised that they turned out so well. Yum.

....and the end result!

….and the end result!

As for the afternoon, we had a bit of a relax, some presents and I played some Christmas carols. I now have a huge supply of chocolate-coated ginger, some warm socks and another jumper. Christmas time is family time, and it feels so lovely to be up here spending time with my grandparents. Round two begins tomorrow!

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!