Monday, October 25, 2010

Anxiety In the Night

Last night I had a music dream. I would like to say that these dreams are filled with beautiful compositions and heavenly sounds....or it would be nice to at least remember SOMETHING from what I hear. Alas, mine are usually manifestations of ANXIETY (I am reminded of the movie High Anxiety).
What are they about....well .....I am late to a concert, I am sight-reading during a concert, I am sight-reading near the front of the viola section or as principal, I am seated near the edge of the stage and beginning to slide off (really BAD....), I can't find my music, I arrive for the concert with street clothes on and no time to fix it (but at least I have clothes on, and they usually are not my pajamas), or, like last night, I spend so much time figuring out the way to the concert that it becomes impossible to get there on time. Because I can't get the internet map big enough to see where Ohio Street is. Whatever that means (it is scary to contemplate the implications of googling maps in a dream.....). I was so glad to wake up.
Truthfully, I do not have these dreams very often. In fact, my behavior in them is beginning to change. I have had a few in which I perform (even sight-read) successfully. Wow. The first time I had one of those was a delightful experience. I guess there is hope!!
At times I have been curious about the meaning of dreams. A bit of research has left me still wondering about them, and I have come to the conclusion that what they mean is dependent upon the paradigm of my own life. So much for dreams.
A few times I have described a dream in a journal. This is best done soon after waking, when details are fresh. Some interesting insights can be gained, especially by reviewing and pondering unusual dreams.
Well, I wish I had a photograph to go with this post. I think I will end with a peaceful pic, a counterpoint to falling off a stage. 
                                                       Mackinac, take me away!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Stretching

     Many, many years ago, in the years of my youth, I read a magazine article about the importance of stretching.  Advice and suggested  exercises were included.  All sounded good, and I was convinced that I should attempt this.  The routine lasted two weeks, maybe.... I hated it.  Nothing to direct my thoughts, and the stretches got old really fast.  Boring.  I had no patience for it.  And...did I really need this?  I moved fine without it.
     It has also been suggested that string players, like athletes, should always warm up before practicing.  My thoughts on this..."You've got to be kidding!  No way, Jose.  Boring. I don't need it".
     And then my body got old.
     And I fell and hurt my left wrist.
     And I could not play my viola for 7 weeks.
     And this was VERY bad!!
     And it healed,
     And how was I to begin again in my fifties without reinjuring myself??!!
     Ah ha.........ah ha.......slowly, carefully, with STRETCHES.  This time there was no choice if I wanted to play again.  So I began.
     My practice time increased gradually from 5 minutes a day to almost an hour over the course of a month.  I was disciplined and used a timer so I would not play too long.  I added slow, gentle stretches so I would be able to shift again; I had a concert coming that required a lot of that!!  Stretches increased and I added trills.  Trills seemed to really strengthen and work my wrist.  Etudes with trills and lots of shifts were added for endurance.  By the end of the month I was traversing my fingerboard amazingly well....in fact, I could get around BETTER than before the injury. How could this be?!  Hmmmmmm...could it be that I had been avoiding shifting before the injury?  Shifting involved stretching....guess I had better continue!
     Now I almost always stretch before I play, and I pay for it if I don't!  I have been converted, and I continue to play without injury.  So much for my learning experience.
     Does this apply to other areas of life?  I think so.  I firmly believe that as we age we need to stretch our brains as well as our bodies.  We need to stretch ourselves spiritually, and on a daily basis.  Spiritual growth goes with us when we die.
     Enough for now.  I just pooped out.........and I need to practice.....
     

   

Monday, October 11, 2010

R.I.P.

     Today I am recovering.  It was a long week, and an even longer weekend.  Rehearsals, concerts, and traveling.  And again.  And again.  At times, as I heard a concertmaster say, like the movie Groundhog Day. I think that says it all.
     My poor fingers, especially those of my left hand.  They have been telling me "You know, we are not young any more. We will do our best to comply, but some of this music is not just fast.....it is being conducted at a tempo WAY over the speed limit!  Why don't conductors get tickets!!!  We want a break!! Maybe we will go on strike!! "
     Fortunately my brain overruled my fingers and they complied.  But today they get a rest.  Sort of.....they are typing, but they get off the viola.  In tribute to them I have posted their picture below  It is a photo from their younger years.
     Fingers.  I love my fingers.  They were my toys when I was young.  Now they are my tools.  I am so very grateful for my hands.  I digress.....on to the concerts...
     Saturday I played a concert with Kenosha Symphony that included Prokofiev's Classical Symphony.  The outer movements of that piece are why my fingers get a day off.  While preparing I listened to various versions  to refresh my memory.  Fast, very fast...faster than I remembered.  And even faster in Kenosha.  It was at  breakneck (or break-finger) speed.
     I love this work, but it is difficult to play.  Along with extremely fast finger work there is lots of challenging work for the right hand and both arms.  The left arm shifts a great deal in some very fast passages.  It seems more like a third violin part....all violists should receive accolades for just getting through it with a cool head  and body intact!  Violinists just don't appreciate how much more difficult it is to do gymnastics on the viola.
     During the dress rehearsal something the conductor said clicked in my brain, and I had an "epiphany".  Hmmmmmmm...perhaps I am WORKING TOO HARD.  I was reminded, even after all my years of playing, that sometimes I need to step back, take a deep breath, cool it, and look at the big picture of what musical message is being sent.  In this case, it was one of lightness and humor....even a bit of silliness.  The "light bulb went on", and I knew I was supposed to have fun.  That was more important than "what if I miss a sixteenth note....!!".  So I cooled it and tried to enjoy the piece.
     It worked!  I also learned that the obscene speed actually enhanced the music in places.  During one passage I caught myself giggling because the music was laughing.
      I had a concert in Milwaukee yesterday. I was tired.  Very tired.  So tired I did not notice that my black hose were navy blue.  And I was sitting principal--everyone could see.
      It did not end there.  During a visit to the Ladies Room before the concert I apparently picked up a souvenir and brought it back with me.  I walked out on stage, sat down, and shortly after heard a section member discreetly inform me that I had toilet paper stuck on my leg.  Yup....white on black.
     To fully appreciate this you must read the following.  Many years ago friends, my husband and I watched the movie Junior starring Arnold Schwartzenagger and Emma Thompson.  The latter played a spacy scientist who in a dance scene comes back from the ladies room with toilet paper stuck on her shoe.  I recall that I was compared to that character.  That was something Christine would do.  Well, now I have done it.  So much for dignity.
     I could go on, but I am tired.  I must R.I.P.....especially my fingers......







    

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Autumn

     I love fall!  Today I will just post some pics taken this month.....it has been a busy week. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

We Just Don't Always Know What's Best!

     It is band season.  That phrase alone triggers immediate responses from parents. Lots of rehearsals....an absent son or daughter...going to band concerts.....freezing in the bleachers.....do we go to football, band, or both....paying for band stuff....band meetings.....trying to keep up with the schedule....making sure my child is keeping up in school.....maybe a band party.....and the yearly cattle call for parental volunteers....here we go again....and again.....and again.....I will be so glad when band season is over....uh-oh, it is longer this year because we are going to nationals....and again....and again....when will I be childless.....and maybe, from some "get up and go" cheerful types-Wow!  Isn't it great that we can support this!!  Let's help!!
     Well...confession time...the latter is not me.  Enough said.  I have always been happy and grateful  that my boys were in good music programs in public school, but I DREAD volunteering.  All those strange people and circumstances.  My stomach starts churning when I first hear about the band meeting for parents.  One would think that by my age those feelings would dissipate, but not so.  So I usually try to bake if I get to the sign up sheet in time, or there is a weekend when I am not busy with my own rehearsals or church activities.  And then I feel guilty that I don't do more (never mind the fact that many other parents chip in...no one is really  going to miss me!!). 
     This year I got to the sign up too late to bake, so my husband and I perused the lists for something different.  My other half, who does not have a shy bone in his body, signed us up to be band guides.  OK, I thought....it suggests doing this as pairs....should be OK.....I guess I will find out more about this when it is near the time to do it.  Well, that was yesterday.  My stomach began to churn on Thursday, and my worrywort mind began conjuring up possible problems and concerns.  I tried to curb this process, but it really hit yesterday.  How I would have liked to get out of it!!
     We went to the meeting for band guide volunteers, figured out what was going on with the help of other friendly parents (some of whom were also new to this) and did our "shtick".  It wasn't too bad...in fact, it was fun!  Of course, it helped that I was not alone.....
     It was fun and interesting to watch the bands prepare.  Why it was so hard to make myself do this I will never understand, but it was worth it.  Now I regret that I did not do it sooner (oops...no looking back....!).
     The weather was beautiful.  We were outside for more than five hours in sunshine, fabulous cloud formations, wind, rain, cold, and darkness.  We walked and walked, and I am sore.  But there was one moment that was spectacular!  Around 5PM a rainbow began to form.  Soon there was a double rainbow.  As I watched, both  began to grow.  Soon the inner rainbow intensified and became complete.  A pale but full outer bow hovered above it.  They formed a huge, perfect arc over the football field where all the bands would perform later.  People were taking pictures (I didn't have my camera...!!!); I heard one young person exclaim "What does this mean...?" as he shot pics.  It was a once in a lifetime experience, which I would have missed had I not gone!
     In retrospect I have examined my feelings and decided that the positive feelings of the experience outweigh the anxiety preceding it.  I hope I remember this.  Things are usually not as bad as we imagine, and sometimes we are graciously blessed !

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In addition to being a violist, I am a wife and mother (three sons). I dabble in writing, handwork, sewing and photography.