Sunday, May 15, 2011

Keep Thy Panic to Zero

The lovely KUPC 
Another gig for the quartet, which might be called the Icarus Ensemble, at the Kanawha United Presbyterian Church. The Kirkin of the Tartan is an annual Scottish service complete with kilts, flags, tartans and bagpipes. A lovely service to be sure.

This year I got a very simple email question: "Do you still have some Scottish music to play?" This email came from Ron, the music director extraordinaire, who is everything most choir directors are not. He is organized without fuss or fury; direct without being brusque and makes it all look easy.

Of course we have music to play. Translation: we will dig the dusty music scores up and put together the 15 minutes of pre-service music.

Rehearsals are funny things. Notes can be mended if sour, but form to me is the most difficult and requires some kind of written note or must be drawn from memory. This is mainly what is discussed: who is going to do what. And that's precisely the pickle.

David's EVI is an electronic value instrument that can produce an array of sounds. He can be a string bass one second, then a penny whistle another. The guitar can double the melody or act as bass or bass/chordal. The flute has only one option, but duration must be taken into consideration-the embouchure and lungs can tire. Percussion works around the three of these and a number of choices are possible. We are ripe for the pickle for all these choices.

Then once the tunes seem ready, a setlist must be written. This is a matter of open debate. There was some confusion among members as to the place of one song in particular. This I believe was resolved.

I have always been a nervous performer and feel that most of my technique and accuracy goes away due to shaky hands, particularly my right hand. This time I tried a different approach. I woke up early enough not to have to rush and to mentally prepare. The morning sitting, followed by slow and cautious practice, and a mantra of "calm, relaxed and focused." Whenever my mind tried to rush through details and minor worries, I used the mantra. Soon the rush and panic of my mental world was convinced and finally gave in to relaxation.

I felt confident about the gig and more importantly, how relaxed I felt playing. I had to start the set solo with a tune called Absent Minded Woman. Before playing, musicians tend to fidget, fidget, fidget. This is not calming or centering. Even when I was playing, I didn't even tap my foot as this is distracting from the fingers. Any energy expended not on the music is waste. At least that's how it felt and worked.

So, here's to maturity and to performances when our nerves are kept at bay and we can play with assurance and focus.

It's only taken 53 years after all.

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