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Posts tagged ‘Chopin’

Sooooo…why did YOUUUUU clap? Recital Report, Part III


Among the many things for which I am thankful is a well-functioning frontal lobe. It keeps me from asking stupid ass questions such as the one posed in the title. However, as I was giving (getting?) hugs after my performance, people seemed to be answering this question though I did not ask it.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I bloody hate logistics. I CAN be an organized person, but because of my tendency toward perfectionism I usually shut down and wait until the absolute last minute to execute plans. One of the things I put off was deciding whom to invite. Of course, there were the people whom I knew love Lady J; por ejemplo, Mom and Dad had invested, say, $6920572047204 into my piano lessons. They’ll probably come check it out. Then there are the friends who are there to listen to me meltdown about the latest problems with my dead guy friends. Those were easy.

I’d like to say if I were performing popular music, inviting people would have been more of a no-brainer. Alas, I am an overthinker anyhow and likely would have operated with similar hesitancy. My program went a lil sumthin like dis:


People like what they know. Perhaps most could pick Beethoven (his likeness, not his music) out of a lineup, but the others? I didn’t want people to be bored. I settled on inviting people whom I figured would be amused to see me doing something that they don’t normally see. How often do non-musicians attend piano recitals of people to whom they did not give birth? People do things for the sake of novelty, right?

I reach the end of the recital. I get the claps. I wouldn’t expect anything less because applause is just good manners. People hand out standing ovations like I hand out candy to bribe my students to behave. Whatever keeps society running more smoothly, right? Most of the feedback fell into one of two categories:

1. You played some of my favorite pieces.

Of course. Moonlight Sonata and Clair de Lune. I picked my program with no regard to the wishes of my audience, so I suppose I was fortunate. “While I wasn’t surprised that this was said, I was surprised to learn that people were thankful that I played something familiar. I totally hadn’t thought how that would affect how my recital was received. I, too, am ‘guilty’ of preferring what I know. “It was really
cool to hear Clair de Lune performed live!” That made me smile. I got to bring people closer to something they already knew.

2. Cool. Weird, but cool.

“Man. You were really saying something up there. I don’t know what it was! But you sure said it.”

I’m pretty sure that’s the best review I’ve ever gotten. Thanks, Uncle. It spoke to the fact that many people don’t choose to listen to Classical instrumental music. Words give us cues. I REALLY take for granted that sometimes it’s easy to feel lost without that guide. If your ear isn’t ready, Mozart can sound like Schoenberg. And that’s a DAMN shame. I was pleased that people were able to enjoy the program without having a map, so to speak.

I’ve written previously about why I think people really clap for a performance. Lady J’s got some ovaries on her. I am the most at peace I’ve ever been about a performance. I am excited to prepare another recital. While I am a competent pianist, I don’t think that’s my greatest strength. I think it’s – well, this. I’m VERY mortal and I put it out there. Usually unapologetically. Truth? I can’t stand my people. Classical musicians, I mean. We make triathletes seem gentle and humble, and that is no small feat. I had to think twice about blogging about my recital because throughout school it felt like showing weakness was not allowed. Ever. Dammit, I’ve got feelings. I believe I reach people by sharing them. We play the greatest music in the world. Let’s not make it less accessible by being jerks because we put the time in.

In Him, I am strong. Rar. 😎

Of course it was a PR. Piano. Recital. Recital Report, Part II

If you could be inside my head while I play, I’m pretty sure you’d think I could add comedienne to my resume. Take a peek.

The Chopin

I can't help thinking about how frightened I was before the swim at St. Anthony’s. This Ballade was the swim. If I survived it, I win everything. Hell, I could go home. I get through the opening 4 bars. Yay. This sounds nice. Onto page 2 – the first page where fun things like to happen. Oh! That didn’t suck! Yay. Soon after, I missed my first note. My next thought surprised me. “Thank God that’s out of the way!” I didn’t have perfection hanging over my head anymore. I actually felt more relaxed. I think seeing myself keep going without missing a beat helped my confidence. Pages 5-8 were THE pages where I’d had my traditional freak outs. Then I just had this moment:

You know what? This m***** f***** Chopin is lucky someone is around to play his s*** damn near 200 years later.

Turning point. I started to smile – dance, even. While those pages weren’t flawless, I believe they were effective. I didn’t allow anything to keep me from moving forward musically or emotionally. Aaaaaaand I did a good job on my favorite part – the stretto at the end! Holy crap, it’s over already. A Flat chord! Hoo-ah!

Out. Water. New mood.

The Beethoven

I. Child. This was a good time. I closed my eyes and just followed the melody. Lol, I was one note away from perfect. “Dammit!” Here was where I really started to take notice of what was going on. “OMG, I’m, like totally making music right now. It’s filling the room. And people are listening. This is awesome!” I reached the end of the first movement and prayed no one would clap before I started

II. the second movement. No. One. Did. Hahahaha my heads up about not clapping when in doubt WORKED! I’m a champ. Okay, I’m a focused champ. I’m a champ in a different mood. We were somber, now we’re dancing. Move that body guuuuuuurl! Hey, it’s working! This sounds good. Oh, helloooooo mistake I haven’t made in months! Good to see you too; let’s play something Beethovenish until I make it to the next part. Made it. Don’t stop dancing! Just like that, it was time for

III. the last movement. *gulp* My presto has had a tendency to be TOO agitato, know what I’m sayin’? I’ve had to make real effort to not start too fast. If I think it’s just right, it’s definitely too fast. I had had a plan in place to check the secondhand on my watch in order to help with a starting tempo. I checked it. Then I remembered my secondhand broke A LONG TIME AGO. My left hand looked great though! Sigh.

Lord, have mercy.

I started. Okay, this is manageable. Left hand – Do. Not. Rush. Keep holding it back! Okay, this isn’t perfect but it’s – going. And not sucking. I’ll take it. Let’s make some music. I think I had some good moments in here but this piece was the least fun for me. Totally my b. I shouldn’t have allowed the blips to get in the way. But baby wants that coda. The coda is my jam, y’all. Aaaaaaand – I’ll take it, lol. Done!

Out. Water. New mood.

The Debussy

THIS. I reminded myself to breathe. I just – I opened up, man. I laid it on ’em. If I could find the place where I could learn to be that open with all my pieces – sigh. Perhaps in the next 25 years. Real talk? It’s a good thing I didn’t play it any better. I would have gotten draws thrown at me. There were children in the audience.

Out. Water. New mood. OMG this is almost done. Go make it happen.

The Brahms

Brahms and I have a special relationship. That’s not a euphemism. This girl loves her some Brahms. Plus, we share a birthday! I chose to end with this piece for a reason – it’s one of my favorite Favorite FAVORITE! I began to play. WOMP. CRASH. I didn’t even make it through the first two measures, LOL! Whatever my fingers did, my brain could not process and autocorrect. I stopped and smiled.

“JK,” I said aloud. The audience laughed.

I shook my head and started again. I am SO FREAKING PROUD OF MYSELF that I did not let that stop me from playing the hell out of that piece. I put it behind me and focused on one thing at a time. I got to the best parts and made them sing. I had a few more blips, but nothing to agonize or JK about.

Boom. The moment for which I’ve been waiting months. I’d fantasized about what it would feel like to get to the last page and freaking nail it. After all of the work and the drama of the piece. The program. The preparation.
I lingered on the final octave as long as I could before it was obscene.

It felt awesome. God is awesome.


Black is Beautiful.


Earlier this month, I was lamenting that the Chopin score above has SO. MANY. NOTES. For my taste, there is entirely too much black on those pages. Every dot is one more thing for which I’m responsible and quite frankly, I wonder whether I can handle it.

The score and I have a “special” relationship. Read: I’ve grown up hating it. That’s where the problems are! My strength as a musician has always been my ear; music reading has been a chore for me as long as I can remember. It is likely the greatest of my insecurities as a pianist. Seriously. Of musicians, we’re the brilliant ones. How can I not be a kickass sight-reader? Yeah, yeah, I’m still growing and improving, but I’m never going to catch up to where I feel I should be. Don’t ask me what that is.

However, as I’ve been preparing for my recital, I’ve heard the collective wisdom of my piano teachers bouncing back and forth between my stubborn ears. “Don’t be afraid of the score!” “Pay attention to detail!” “Put the notes where you want them!” Whatevs, guys. I guess I need to know where the notes are in order to do as I please with them.

And so, this summer I’ve arguably done more score study than I ever have. I think it has to do with playing on the other team (the teacher team) and asking my students to do the same. I hear them fight me like I’ve fought my teachers and I laugh, smile understandingly, then crack the whip. In this study, I’ve discovered something –

This is where the beauty is.

Not even necessarily in the score itself, although I believe that to be true as well. The beauty is in the process of the study.

I heard this particular Chopin piece at a high school piano camp and have been in love with it since. That was half my life ago. Actually getting to know the piece – digging in, closely studying – has been a struggle at times. However, I appreciate Chopin’s brilliance more than I ever could have as listener, or even casual player. My “in love” feeling was just that – an infatuation. Now, having really taken it apart, I feel I can say I truly love this piece.

There are few discussions of love that don’t remind me of the following verses from the New Testament:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13‬:‭4-7‬ NIV)

In learning to love the score, I have had to be patient. I have had to be kind to myself. I have had to resist the temptation to compare my talent to that of others. I’m continually humbled as I discover new things each time I really focus. If I were to keep a record of my errors, I don’t know that I would have the will to continue playing. I trust in my ability to grow. I persevere, hoping that I will do justice to Chopin’s music.

In learning to love the score, I am learning to love myself.


15. Bloody. Seconds. Race Report


So my plan had been to run with the 2:30 pace group. My best time to date is 2:27 and change, and I had received instruction from Coachie to take it easy. There were 2 of the 2:30 pace teams – one that planned to run continuously and one that was to do intervals of running 5 minutes and walking 1. I figured I would go with the run/walk group to A. Ensure that I was indeed not pushing myself too hard physically and B. Pace myself mentally. I thought this would be especially beneficial because I had been loathing struggling with running and this would be a way to not focus on having to do it for two and a half hours. Plan in place. Rock on.

I wandered over to the chick holding the 2:30 sign. Y’all already know. I don’t tend to open my mouth unless I feel the need to speak. Or flirt. I listened to the pacer explain to someone else that the run/walk pacer couldn’t make it. I’m sure you can imagine how disappointed I was. “Oh, well! Guess it’s just me and G and G.” G and G being God and Garmin, of course. I figured I would stay behind the group, keeping them in site to make sure I didn’t go too fast in the beginning. New plan in place.

While the race officially started at 6:30 AM, my corral didn’t arrive at the starting line until about 10 after 7. As we were about to start, I gave my cousin a hug, listened for the horn, and off I went. Garmin’s on. Music is on. Chicago is so pretty! Almost immediately, we went through a tunnel. “Uh-oh.” My Garmin was angry. I figured she would be better as soon as I got through the tunnel and I could check my pace again. I wanted to err on the side of slow because I was feeling all the feels and didn’t want to burn out because my adrenaline was pumping. Out of the tunnel, my watch looked more accurate. I passed mile marker one feeling awesome. The official time clock read about 53 minutes.

Mile 2 took us through some of Chicago’s most iconic sites. Over the river. Through downtown. Oh, no! The ABC building headline read that Maverick died! I arrived at the next mile marker to see that my Garmin was only reading 1.8 miles. Um. I began paying closer attention to my watch as I ran the next mile. I noticed it was auto-pausing even though I was running. Apparently, all of those iconic buildings were interfering with satellite reception. By the time I completed mile 4, I realized that the only thing I could rely on was the time on the watch – the pace was all over the place. 9:30! 16:20! 7:50! Fan. Freaking. Tastic. Okay, Joan. New plan! I passed the pace group and thought, what the hell? Let’s try to keep each mile around 11 minutes and go for a PR. So now I had to run and add at the same time. Piss off!

Looking back, I think my Garmin’s acting out was a blessing in disguise. I had thought my main concern would be my brain being bored of running. There was just way too much going on for that even to be an option. My legs felt great. The city and weather were lovely. My only lament was that I didn’t want to stop and take pictures OR stop at Giordano’s! It just isn’t natural to pass Nordstrom and not go inside. I pressed on.

Along the course, there were rock bands playing. I had my own music, but I’m sure you can imagine that these bands were quite loud. Of course, they were playing loudest when my favorite pieces came on my iPhone. “Sigh. Don’t these people know that Earl Wild’s Chopin Etudes ARE SACRED?!” I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they were only playing so loudly to motivate me to run faster and out of earshot. In addition, I had been smelling ALL kinds of fantastic Chicago food during the race, but mile 8 brought the most pleasant scent yet.


I don’t know who had it, but I thanked them. I remember when that used to smell like old people to me. Either I’m maturing, an old person, or both, but that smelled so soothing! I thought “YEAHHHHHH guuuuuuurl Imma get me some of that in less than an hour!” Still feeling good, I kept running.

Then there was mile 10.

By this point, I had been running about an hour and 50 minutes. I’m not sure what did it, but all of a sudden the giggles were gone and I turned into a bitch. I thank God that no one can read minds and that He has blessed me with a functioning frontal lobe because if I were to say out loud some of the things that were going through my head, I am sure I could have started a fight or two. EVERYTHING was making me angry. This joker over the mic saying “you only have 3 miles to go!” Another loud band outplaying Andre Watts and the Atlanta Symphony. The ABSOLUTE worst was my turning a corner to be greeted by a seated spectator doing NOTHING. He was just sitting there, observing. “You’ve got some *bleep* *bleep* nerve CHILLING and watching thousands of people run for their lives.” I was irrationally upset with this ugly ass man. Even thinking about it now makes me grimace, hah! We made the final turn toward the finish line around mile 11. Soon after mile 12, I could see it.


“But Lady J,” you counter. “You’ve got visual confirmation that the end is near!” Indeed, that was true. But from so far away, it feels like a tease. A mirage, even. I looked down at my watch and it appeared my plan to PR was still intact, but it didn’t allow for any wiggle room. I ran. My legs complained. “Mommy will take care of you in less than 10 minutes. You do me, I’ll do you,” I told them. They carried me across the finish line, where I noticed they were feeling quite jelly-like. I checked my watch. 2:24 something, but I knew that wasn’t right because of the stopping and starting it had done. Thanks, Chicago. Still, I thought I had run enough to PR. Rock on.

I received an email later announcing that official results were available on the site.


Of course, I had to check my previous best from the Suncoast Half Marathon.

2:27:38. Oh, dear. 15 seconds long.

This made me wish I had run with the pace group. If I’m not going to PR, why would I run as hard as I could? Then again, did I really run hard as I could? Did I take it too easy in the beginning? Did I walk too long as I got water? It’s not particularly pleasant for me to rack my brain, wondering where I could have shaved off fifteen stupid seconds. Lots of places, I imagine.

Not proud.

However, I do realize what my not being proud means. I completed my first half marathon only 7 months ago. For me to be whining about 15 seconds over 13.1 miles shows that I’m pretty committed to this madness. That’s probably something.

Welp, I did it. Something.


July 22 – Update:

I’ve decided to be proud for taking a risk to do my best even though it didn’t come out the way I wanted to. I guess that’s the point of living. I am smiling about the race today. Yay!

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