Day 178 – March 27th – Cleaning 

Today ended up being a cleaning day because I was a bit scared of tackling packing! This morning we all put in a few good hours and got the kitchen (including fridge, microwave, oven and cupboard) looking sparkling. I have got my rucksack out, and started sorting through things, but am still wondering how it’s all actually going to fit in. 

In the afternoon I went off on a long walk round Spong Wood and across the fields. It was perfect spring weather, and I couldn’t have stayed in the woods for hours longer. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to go back again before I leave. 

This evening, Mum and I went to the Five Bells pub with the Boxalls, who have been so lovely while I’ve been here. We had a nice meal and great conversation. It’s the most English I’ve felt in quite a while! 

I’m still not sure whether class tomorrow is playing or just talking. We will see…

Day 152 – March 1st – A bit of whimsy

To go with the start of a new month, today really was beautiful English springtime weather. I spent most of the morning Skyping and didn’t get onto practice until relatively late-on. My technical work was a bit of a mixed bag – some of it went really well and then other bits were sloppy. While getting through No. 4 of Boehm’s Twelve Studies from memory was a struggle, the much more difficult No. 1 was easy.

Since Christmas, Trevor has been introducing more and more variations on his technical exercises in class. Some are relatively easy, like playing page 90 of Complete Daily Exercises alternating major and minor each time. Others are tricky, particularly Taffanel and Gaubert-style scales with added mordants on the descent! The variations on page 96 are positively endless, and at once fun and difficult. I like exploring all the ways we can play around with a very simple pattern, but then struggle to apply it to the last bar of the sequence – the dominant 7th of the next key. I know exactly what the notes should be, but don’t relax enough with them and am constantly second-guessing myself. That said, at the beginning of the course I couldn’t imagine playing most of the exercises from memory at all!

This afternoon, I took advantage of the lovely weather to go back to Spong Wood. I took my flute and zoom (microphone), and, after wading through quite a bit of mud, improvised for a while in a glade. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while, and loved the experience. It was sunny, almost warm, and I was alone with the trees and the birds. I’ve recorded the improvisation, and will play around with it in Max 7. Stay tuned for the results!

After that, though, it was back to studies. I feel like Altès No. 24 is finally working, after spending quite a while this week getting my fingers around the tricky mordants, but am not convinced that Andersen No. 16 is ready. Hopefully we’ll spend plenty of time planning our Bodsham Primary School concert and my Moyse, Altes and Drouet studies will be enough!

Day 131 – February 8th – Spring?

Spong Wood

Spong Wood

Today was a bit of a cramming day before our studies class tomorrow. I say cramming because it really does feel like I have more music than time to practice it in what with all Trevor’s studies that he keeps throwing at me. Of the new Drouet set, I’ve managed to prepare nine, which I’m pretty happy with. That, along with two of the Moyse 25, Altès No. 23 and 23B and a couple of the Bach variations are all sounding quite good. I’m a little more dubious about Andersen No. 14, which sounds ok after I’ve spent twenty minutes or so working on it, but tends to fall apart rather horrifically the first time I play through it. It’ll be a little under-tempo tomorrow, in the hope that playing expressively and with good line is a better goal.

Spong Wood

Spong Wood

In the afternoon, I went back to Spong Wood for a walk. It feels like spring is almost on the way; something in the light when the sun shines, or in the way the air isn’t quite so crisp. There are snowdrops here and there in the village, and I’m constantly on the lookout for my first daffodils of the year. The wood was quiet, and felt removed from the rest of the world. It made me feel calm – studies and scales were for a different space, there I just needed to breathe and be. I think I’ll be going back quite a lot.

Day 124 – February 1st – Spong Wood

Another day without an evening walk as Trevor is’t totally sure he’s over his laryngitis. I took advantage of clear skies in the afternoon to go off on a cross-country de-stress ramble, and came across Spong Wood quite by accident down a winding track. Carol, my landlady told me about the wood way back in September, but never told me exactly how to get there. Though terribly wet and muddy, it’s a lovely little pocket of English woodland magic. The trees (are they hazel?) grow outwards from the base, creating a dense and twisted canopy even in winter, and the ground was covered in moss and fallen leaves. The path would open out into clearings before plunging back into the foliage, and I was certainly the only person there. Sheltered from the wind, I wandered about happily for an hour, though always with half an eye out for something to leap out of the trees (and perhaps a fairytale!) at me.

Tomorrow marks a return to the Practice Book 6 exercises in our rotation of finger exercises, and as usual I gave myself a day’s head start. I was quite surprised to find that exercises A to D were speeding along much more quickly than last time I practiced them. The last metronome marking I’ve got cross out in my book (I write them in a line above the exercise) is crotchet = 126, and my memory if it a month ago was one of decided discomfort. However, when I turned the metronome up to 128 today, the exercises still felt easy!

Studies are less wonderful. Both Altes no. 20 and 21, as well as Andersen no. 13 are getting there and by the end of a twenty-minute session sound good. The problem is that I when I come back to them, my fingers have forgotten some of what I’d done previously. I need to keep working on methods for really getting them into the fingers for good, but it’s tricky when there is such a quick turn-around time.