Daily Archives: March 1, 2010

Weekend Roundup: Canada Takes Lots Of Gold Edition

This was a good weekend, despite setbacks.

Saturday morning I had my cello lesson, which was notable for happening half an hour after I woke up. I’d been sleeping badly and HRH decided to let me sleep in, which was lovely, but then he realised at 8:26 that I had a cello lesson at 9:00, and woke me up when I’m usually stepping out the door. I got dressed in record time, he made me tea in my travel mug, and I flew out to the West Island. The lesson was pretty good. It’s nice to be asked, “How long have we been working on this étude?” and to answer, “Well, actually, you assigned it last week and this is the first time I’ve played it for you,” and then hear the teacher say, “Well, you’ve done what you needed to do with that, let’s look at the next one.”

I asked to work on ‘The Entertainer’, which we’re playing in a quartet arrangement for the June recital, and gah. I’m playing Cello 2, and there were some rhythmic things that I just wasn’t getting. My teacher tried all sorts of rearrangements and subdivisions to help me get it, and they just succeeded in confusing me more. I’m a very basic kind of ‘just play the correct rhythm for me and I’ll internalize it’ kind of girl; rhythm tricks just worsen my muddle. I got it in the end, mainly because a few bars later the same rhythm showed up with different notes, only preceded by two eighth notes instead of a quarter note and that seemed to make all the difference. Then we moved to the Boccherini minuet.

Oh, Boccherini. Really.

I have a hate/love relationship with pops and chestnuts. They’re overplayed and so I grit my teeth at them, turn them off when I can, and resist them. If I have to play them, I discover all sorts of lovely things about their internal workings, admit there’s a reason for their popularity, find something to like about them when I hear them, but I still don’t enjoy them. Boccherini’s Minuet is a classic example of an overplayed pop that I hate. And I hate it all the more now that I have to play it, because those opening sixteenth notes are a huge obstacle for me. I can play them in the repeats, but starting from a static bow? Gah. No.

It’s one of those pieces that is all about bow speed and weight and control and I’m sure it’s very character-building, but I’m hating myself because I can’t flipping get that mini-run of sixteenth notes. My teacher pointed out that I can play the piece with my left hand, and that I regularly play much harder pieces in orchestra. (In fact, she expanded that to cover all the Suzuki material I’ve done and will do, which was very gratifying to hear, since sometimes I beat myself up about being on book three after playing for sixteen years.) The point of this is to work the right hand, and my problem does in fact lie entirely with the bow. From a dead stop, I can’t micro-manage the speed to get that lovely sort of swoop and jump for precise phrasing on those two first bars. (There’s an argument in the music world about the validity of the Suzuki method for adults, and what people tend to forget is that review is a huge part of the method. Yes, after sixteen years, you can go back to the earlier books and work on the pieces with all your knowledge and still find technique to polish. The method is a philosophy, not just a set of books.)

We spent the last ten minutes focusing on phrasing those two bars and trying to play them over and over, and I finally said I had to stop because it was getting worse and I was tensing up and losing control of bow and phrasing entirely, and it was doing more harm than good. That’s the kind of thing that stays with me, and despite the lesson overall being great, I had to keep telling myself not to brood about it on the way home.

Saturday afternoon I went out to meet a wonderful couple to discuss performing their handfasting in April. It’s a renewal of vows, seven years to the day they got married, and the handfasting will be followed directly by a Wiccaning for their three and a half month old daughter. I’m very sensitive to working with people I don’t feel comfortable with, but as soon as I walked into their home I felt relaxed, much to my relief. They’re absolutely wonderful women, and I felt so at home with them right off the bat. And their daughter is exquisite.

I got home, watched half of a movie with HRH, then played with the boy till the local grandparents came over for pizza and babysitting. We headed over to Ceri and Scott’s that evening for cake and company, which was very enjoyable, until we got a phone call saying that the boy had been sick. Home we went, and the poor kid was sick a couple more times.

Sunday morning he woke up with a fever, and all he wanted to do was drink water. We’d already cancelled our attendance at his monthly pagan playgroup, so I installed him on the chesterfield with a blanket and some stuffed animals and the Sunday morning cartoons. I cautiously introduced watered juice when he asked for it, then got him to nibble a graham cracker a few hours later. He didn’t want lunch, just juice, but the fever peaked in the early afternoon and had pretty much subsided by the end of the day, at which point he ate half an apple, a bowl of Rice Krispies, and some rice and chicken. Still, apart from his three-hour nap, all he wanted to do was curl up on the chesterfield and watch movies, which was fine until the men’s gold medal hockey game came on and he wanted to watch Star Wars. HRH and I ended up in my office watching the HD stream on my computer. And what a fabulous game! I enjoyed the simultaneous discussion happening on my Twitter list, too. I said last week that Twitter was like having all my friends from all over working together in the same room, popping heads up now and again to chat, and this was similar: it was like we were all watching the game together. When the boy’s movie was over we put the Olympic recap on so we could all watch it together, and even had a picnic in the living room. HRH and I watched the closing ceremonies, too, even though they got progressively weirder and weirder, although I put up with the beavers and moose and voyageurs for the sake of Michael Bublé. The Sochi presentation was incredible.

I am not an Olympic fan. I think there’s an awful lot of controversy about the cost and the impact on the host cities that isn’t considered enough. I’m always irritated by the general emphasis on sport and the lack of equivalent support for arts and culture, and the Olympics just highlight this imbalance for me. And frankly, I’m not a sport fan in general (other than curling, because that’s my game). But being a citizen of the host country for these winter games finally broke down my curmudgeonly resistance and invoked my patriotism. Between the summer and the winter Olympics I will always choose the winter games, and damn, but Canada is good at sports that involve ice and snow. Part of my resistance also comes from the fact that downhill skiing and snowboarding and bobsleighing and such things bore me, and that’s what’s on mainly at the beginning of the winter games. I used to watch figure skating but it doesn’t do it for me any more. However, I happened to watch the women’s freestyle aerial ski jump last Wednesday night for the first time because HRH was watching it when I came home from orchestra, and it was fascinating. We saw the men’s aerial freestyle final too, and the women’s final hockey game, and the women’s final curling game. I’m not much of a hockey fan (my heyday for that was back in late high school), but if pro hockey was played the way the women’s gold medal game was played, I’d watch it regularly. Maybe part of my lack of enthusiasm came from the fact that I’d have needed cable TV to watch the things that actively interested me in the first half of the games.

And I can’t deny the impact my own patriotism had on me. I am a complete and total sucker for our national anthem, especially when sung by enormous stadiums full of people who are crazy proud of our country. The damn ‘let’s make sure they know whose game they’re playing’ Coke commercial that changed to ‘now they know whose game they’re playing’ after Canada won the gold in both women’s and men’s hockey even made me cry. And the whole making history by winning the most gold on a host nation’s home soil? Yeah. I may not be a sport fan, but I am Canadian.

But if I couldn’t have our fabulous national anthem, I’d want Russia’s. I’ve always loved it, and the choral rendition of it at the closing ceremonies was thrilling.

Apart from all that, I tried to spin the overdyed fibre I did last week, and it had felted. I split the roving lengthwise and spun it without drafting, and in the end I have dreadlock-like yarn that I have called ‘Chocolate Cherries for Cthulu’, because it’s dark brown with touches of dark red and green, with green sparkle here and there. It’s awful, although I love the name. No one will ever be able to do anything with it, either. It’s that bad. I’m chalking it up to a learning experience.

Today is March first, and we’re in the home stretch for spring! It was a very spring-like weekend, too.