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Posts tagged ‘Negro spiritual’

‘Επαιξα και εχω νίκησα. Recital Report, Part II

I played and I have won. Heh.

I was expecting to go first because I am – let’s just say, new, but I was wrong. I was second, hah! There was a quartet who played twice in the program so I was the first soloist. I still think I was practically right 😉

I walked onto the stage and adjusted the bench. I thought about putting down the music stand but I didn’t feel like messing with it, so I left it up though I played from memory. I started with my first chord and felt relieved that the piano felt decent. No other instrumentalist has to gamble the way we do! I felt my feet shaking as I was pedaling, but I just took deep breaths and did my best to tell the story. I moved my body to the music I was making and it felt very natural.

On Bended Knees is a slower piece, and I have found over the years that those types of slower tempo pieces are my favorite to play. I felt the same way when I performed in 2014 and I can report confidently that there is no change! While I may not have to worry about my fingers running away or getting tripped up, I do I have to work to stay in the moment mentally – not letting myself think too far ahead. Enjoying every melodic and harmonic moment was key. Key. Heh!

There had been a part as the middle of the piece comes to an end where I had been having some memory trouble, and it happens to be one of my favorite moments of the piece. I had thinking that I wanted this moment to be absolutely perfect as I played, and guess what. It was! I smiled as I relished the chord before continuing. I wanted Burleigh’s lush harmonies to fill the room and I couldn’t have done better. The piece was coming to a climax when I heard a child cry out. “Shut that kid up!” I thought to myself. “This is my time!” The kid was shut up, and I was able to reach the pianissimo ending without interruption 🙂

I got up and was met with a thankful audience. I bowed and returned my seat, where I was able to enjoy the rest of the concert and relax. I am in a group of some talented teachers! It was nice to meet musicians and exchange compliments and respect. It makes me want to play more and more! I hope I make it happen!

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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.

 

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