I do it, and I do it big. Here's to not forgetting about it.

Posts tagged ‘Classical music’

Concert Black: Recital Report, Part I

I am playing in a recital today!

It is the first time I have played publicly since my recital four and a half years ago.  The local association of piano teachers of which I am a part organizes a recital for teachers each year and a few months ago I was feeling brave and so I did a dumb thing – I registered 🙂 On an emotional scale where 10 is “Whee, I can’t wait to play for everyone!” and 1 is “I want to hide under the covers with Bear,” I am registering at a respectable 6. I am currently under the dryer at my hairstylist and after I get my nails and waxing done, perhaps I could peak at an 8.

This recital has special meaning for me because it is the first time I will be performing a piano piece by an African-American composer, which sounds insane coming from a grown ass African-American pianist, but here we are. And thank God for that. I am playing On Bended Knees, the 5th piece of 6 from a set called From the Southland by H.T. Burleigh (1866-1949). I was supposed to play 2 of the 6 but – life. I didn’t practice enough to feel sufficiently confident playing it. I am looking forward to practicing more to put the whole set together with other amazing works by these often overlooked composers.

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I must confess – I was bitter when I got the reminder email from the concert organizers.

Attire: Concert Black.

Like I said, I’m grown! How are you going to tell me what to wear? We are all piano teachers who regularly enter their students in recitals and who likely have grown up doing this very thing themselves. I can only surmise that they didn’t want the new one *me* looking flashy as hell. Maybe they know me without knowing me, because I would have found something really bright to wear. I’m feeling bold and proud and I love when my outfits match. But let’s be real – what’s bolder and prouder than a black pianist playing black music in a room whose ethnic composition is likely to mirror the Republican National Convention?

I am not sure if many in the room will recognize the Negro Spiritual upon which On Bended Knees is based, but I believe it is a melody that evocative of all of the pain of my people as well as the hope that has been carried and passed on. Everyone has experienced pain and hope, and it is my hope that I will be able to express these feelings successfully today. When I think about how the closest I will be to slavery is my student loan debt, and of the privilege I have to share black history on stage today, I feel incredibly thankful. It won’t be perfect, especially since note perfect is not how I roll, but I am in the perfect position to imperfectly tell our story.

Concert Black. All day, every day.

 

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

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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:

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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. 😎

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