Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fiddling through the Earthquake

As the members of the fiddle group (2 fiddles, guitar, tin whistle, bodhran, cello) readied ourselves to play at 2 PM on Tuesday, outside in the ArtMarket, the Washington DC-based earthquake struck the town. I wish I could say that the earth moved when we started to play, but, honestly, none of us felt a thing.

We were probably too engrosed in our first "public" concert. We had performed twice before, both for large family parties hosted by the leader of our group, but this was the first time we were out in public. It wasn't really a concert--there were no chairs set up for people to sit down and listen, but our music was amplified and sent throughout the art fair, so everyone could hear. There is a grassy area in front of the musicians so that people could sit there (some did), but music at the fair is mostly background music.

We had prepared (to varying degrees) lots of music for this 2 and a half hour concert, and for the most part it went well. I probably made a mistake in every tune though. Some more than others. Some because I knew the "hard part" was coming up and froze, some because I was thinking, "This is going well...."

Our list of music did not last the full 2 and a half hours, and when we started at the top of the list again, I felt I was playing better, more relaxed, less inclined to give in to the "hard parts." A friend in the group assured me that no one heard my mistakes. Maybe. But I knew they were there.

Initially we got no response from the audience. No applause, no one looking and smiling, no one coming over to say something nice, as had happened the previous week with the classical group. Then, midway through, people started show some interest (in part families and friends of the players). But a man asked if he could videotape us ("My mother would love this!"), promising he would not put it on YouTube. We said sure, and played our best "Over the Waterfall" for him. I noticed someone else videotaping too. I tried to look pleasant, as I am frequently scowling in photos of my playing the cello.

All in all, it was fun and the weather was gorgeous. I am looking forward to the next time, hoping to weed out a few more errors.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Where Did the Summer Go?

Ok, we still have a couple of weeks of summer, but it has slipped by so quickly. Our end-of-summer performance that was so far in the future is this Tuesday. This will be the fiddling group concert. The classical music quartet performed last Tuesday.

Both performances were/are at an outdoor art fair, where people do not actually sit down and listen to us, but get to hear us amplified throughout the entire craft fair. There's no escape for them. I have pretty much gotten over my "don't mike me" attitude, having been convinced by the "when in doubt, play out" school of performing that a strong, resonant, robust wrong note is better than a scratchy, tentative, wimpy right note. That, and we have improved.

Our recent quartet performance, a 2-and-a-half-hour gig, was much better than our June concert. We did have a few breakdowns, but nothing terribly dramatic, and some pieces we played better than ever. Pachelbel's Canon, for instance. As you may know, the cello part for this is the same 8 notes over and over and over and over again. And, even though I have them memorized, I read from the sheet music so I know where we are, even though I admit this is silly.

One of our flute players has had problems with the piece, and we omitted it from our June performance. This time we decided to go for it. The flutists played perfectly. My mind wandered and I got lost, briefly. The viola player also got lost, but she is a great improviser, and found her way to the end.

Because there wasn't really an audience, there was no formal applause after each piece, though we did get intermittent applause and yells of appreciation, and some people came over to tell us they enjoyed our playing, pleased to hear chamber music outside.

I don't remember if Pachelbel's Canon got any applause, but more important for me was our satisfaction in playing a mostly intact version of it. In addition, we played Haydn's London Trio, no. 1; a long-time favorite, Handel's Water Music excerpts, a new favorite; Ash Grove, Simple Gifts, Sellinger's Round, works by Boismortier, Wiseman, some Rodgers and Hammerstein show tunes, and more. We prepared a lot of music for this event, given its length. We only had to repead a couple of short pieces to round out the 2 1/2 hours.

This Tuesday, it's 2 1/2 hours of fiddle tunes! This is a women's fiddle group with fiddles, guitar, tin whistle, mandolin, and me on cello. We use sheet music, which I love because it is hard for me to memorize so many fiddle tunes and harmony parts. But I have probably spent more time transposing fiddle parts and working out playable arrangements (simplifying the fast runs, figuring out which octave works best, etc.) than I have practicing.

Practicing--a good idea! I will do it now!