Day 171 – March 20th – Eclipse

Back to class today, and while warm-ups went well, studies weren’t great. The problem wasn’t as much my lack of practice as that I got nervous about it and about being up in front of Trevor again. Rather than addressing the problem of the nerves, he did the usual and just continued to push. While I was ‘passes’ on Andersen no. 17 and three more Drouet studies, Trevor still isn’t happy with the trills in Altès no. 25, and I have to keep working on it for another class. 

There was a solar eclipse over England today, though it ended up being too cloudy to see anything at all from where we were. We all piled into Trevor and Dot’s living room for a bit to watch it on TV, which for me was actually the best part of today’s class! 

This evening, four of us watched an old film of Marcel Moyse teaching and talking about his life. It was fascinating – he seems to have been such a lively old man who was excited about life and music. 

Day 170 – March 19th – Half-cooked

Today we were all back to practice, having been a bit here and there in the past few days. Class tomorrow is going to be orchestral excerpts and studies, and I’m rather hoping that I’ll play quite a few of the former and very few of the latter.

I’ve rather shot myself in the foot with studies because I haven’t been terribly consistent practising them over the past few days. I’ll do some good work one day, then leave them and do other things like writing my paper and sorting out things after the course the next. So I have quite a lot of studies that are half-cooked and just about nothing that is going to sound really polished in class. Good lesson – don’t bite of a lot unless I plan to chew it properly!

A part of me wishes that our time here had ended after yesterday and the school concert. It would have been good to go out on such a positive note, and to remind ourselves of the greater purpose of music to communicate to audiences. I’m struggling to stay in the mindset of life here, and am certainly ready for my upcoming holiday!

Day 167 – March 16th – Tricky bits

No class again today, as Trevor’s cold doesn’t seem to be getting any better. This afternoon we had another rehearsal for our concert and talk at Bodsham Primary School on Wednesday. The pieces are sounding quite good, though without the feedback of Trevor’s rather critical ear they’re not quite as polished as the Christmas concert ones were. For talk, we’re showing a little of how the flute works and then introducing the modern flute family as well as some more distant relatives. It should be good fun, and I hope the kids will enjoy it.

As we’re not sure what’s happening with classes, I’m in a sense of limbo with what to practice. This morning I did a good long session of technique, changing from the Practice Book 6 exercises to Moyse’s 480 Daily Exercises. I also finally got all the way round the circle of fifths for Taffanel and Gaubert-style scales with descending mordants in one sitting. It wasn’t amazing, but is certainly getting there. I’m finding a particular set of notes in the third octave tricky: G – A – G – F – Eb – F – Eb – D. The mordants happen on the G and Eb, and both use trill fingerings that don’t sit well under the fingers. For G – A, it’s left hand first finger and the first trill key, and for Eb – F it’s both second and third fingers of the left hand. For whatever reason that combination doesn’t sit well under my fingers at all!

In the afternoon I decided to focus on studies. While I spent some really productive time on Andersen and Drouet, I was probably a bit too tired by the time I got to the Altes. Oh well, with no classes in sight until at least Thursday there’s still time.

Day 165 – March 14th – Trills 

I didn’t have a hugely productive day today – after yesterday’s long day and late night I needed a lazy morning. After a run and lunch, though, I was feeling sufficiently guilty about a lack of practice to start doing battle with my studies. 

Altès no. 25, the penultimate study in the book, has a devilish half-page of quick trill coupled with dotted rhythms. I spent quite a while on this bit, really aiming for clean trills that sound easy and don’t disrupt the rhythm. I’ve often been told off for not linking my final turns with the rest of the trill, so this is a big part of my ‘sounding easy’ criteria. Rather than starting slowly, I first made sure that the rhythms were correct without the trills but at the right speed. Then I played through small sections adding in the trills and making sure that all sound even. I though this was a better solution than starting slowly because the temptation with more time would be to add in more oscillations of the trill. Most of it is now sounding quite good (though I’m prepared for it being a couple of notches worse at the start of practice tomorrow), but I need to remember to relax rather than get tense over the trills! 

At the very start of my practice session, I stuck to my goal of working with drone tones. I decided to play my warm-up tune – Morning has Broken – with the drone because it uses a lot of notes from the major triad and has quite a few leaps as well. Even over the ten-minute time frame I became a little more sensitive to my intonation in relation to the drone, which is good. My 5ths and 8ves were likely to be on the flat side, and then individual keys have special difficulties. Theoretically I know all this, hopefully the drones will help me iron it out in the long run. It’s tiring work though, and I felt my concentration wavering after ten minutes. 

Trevor’s cold continues, and it looks like class is off again on Monday. We’re so near the end of the course now, but the next two and a half weeks still seem like a long time! 

Day 162 – March 11th – Spring Air

A more positive day today, helped along by the fact that it’s almost warm outside! I went running in a T-shirt for the first time since September, and also had my window open all day. I ran past fields of lambs (must take some photos) and daffodils ready to break into flower.

As for practice…I didn’t start out in a terribly good frame of mind this morning, but that improved with the day. I’ve noticed lately that my finger movements are becoming a lot smaller and more precise, both in technical exercises and studies. Trevor’s Practice Book 6 exercises really show up the finger movements that are hard – I’ll be going along at crotchet =126 no problem, and then all of a sudden one set comes up that really throws me off. Today I did E, F, G and H, and there were fewer surprises that I was anticipating, though still more than I want. Anything involving both an F# and a Bb is a disaster!

I spent quite a bit of time working on sight-reading, which is much better these days. I still tend to play unrhythmically when faced with a slow movement with lots of turns and grace notes, as the ornaments throw off my sense of the beat. I think I need not to focus on the little notes so much, but it’s hard when they’re small and I don’t know what they are.

This afternoon, Trevor emailed to say he has a cold and there’s no class tomorrow. I have to confess I did a little happy dance – the thought of playing the Hue Fantasie on one day’s practice was not enticing! Instead, I spent the last hour of my practice working on Andersen and Altès studies. I’m adamant I’ll finish the Altès book next week – while there’s a section of no. 25 that’s tricky with lots of quick trills, no. 26 is easy. Getting through the whole book will be a nice sense of accomplishment.