Weekend Roundup: Mostly Cello Recital Prep Edition

Cello fell apart last week. I don’t mean literally (you’d have heard me screaming from wherever you physically are, I suspect) but figuratively. Nothing I played worked. Everything was disjointed, scratchy, jerky, lousy phrasing, no dynamic control, horrible intonation (why E flat major as C minor, why, WHY?)… every time I tried it got worse instead of better. Which is, if you think about it, the exact antithesis of what practice is supposed to do. One of the general bits of wisdom floating around is that you shouldn’t repeat mistakes, so if things are going wrong and you can’t isolate why and fix them, stop and come back later. Except every time I came back it was worse. Friday night I sat down, gritted my teeth, put the Suzuki accompaniment CD on and played the Gavotte at the ridiculous speed it called for. And I did it again. And again. And again. I didn’t stop, I didn’t pause to fix things, I didn’t listen critically, I just played it. And I played it at a speed that was far faster than I’d worked it before, faster than my target metronome marking. And then I put the cello away.

Saturday morning I went to my lesson. We warmed up with my lines in the pretty arrangements of Silent Night and Greensleeves that we’re playing, then my teacher said there was half an hour left and she didn’t think we needed half an hour for the Bach, so why not look at the Bazelaire she’d given me for the next recital? And we played through the first half of the first movement, working on the wacky thumb-index-index pizzicato movement, and it was so much fun. Then we turned to the Bach. I kind of gritted my teeth again, then took a steady breath, threw all my feelings about it away and started. And it flowed, and had phrasing, and drove right on to the end. When I was finished I started to laugh, and my teacher exclaimed and asked where that had come from, and she even made me stand up and take my Suzuki bow. Apparently running a piece at ludicrous speed seven or eight times in a row to recorded piano accompaniment is a good thing. I didn’t even play it through again, or look at trouble spots; it didn’t need it.

I drove home and had a quick lunch. Then the boy and I bundled into the car and drove to the local movie theatre to meet with his best friend from preschool and her mom to see Tangled together. It was so much fun. Granted, listening to Zachary Levi for an hour or so was part of that, but the design, the palette, the characterization, the execution, the pacing and plotting, and the songs and score were all fantastic. (I’d sneaked a listen to some of the songs released earlier that week on various music and film blogs, and had in fact purchased the soundtrack two days before the film, so I knew about that last bit ahead of time!) It has firmly settled itself among my top three favourite Disney films, and very possibly has bumped Beauty & the Beast out of my #1 spot. I can’t make a confirmed judgment as to that yet, because I’m going to need to see it a few more times first. We’ll certainly go see it at Christmas when we visit my parents, because Mum wants to see it and HRH needs to see it, too.

The boy’s friend came over to our house to play for an hour and a half after the film. I made peanut butter chocolate-chip cookies, they played with his trains, and at some point they ran through the house playing cowboys & knights, one waving the wooden sword and shield HRH made and the other with a Nerf gun. It was great.

Her mom picked her up and I headed into Montreal for my piano rehearsal scheduled for 5:20, where we each play our solo pieces with the accompanist. Despite giving myself forty-five minutes to get to NDG I hit bad traffic and was ten minutes late, but things were running behind anyway. I got to listen to everyone’s pieces and their work on the timing or the trouble spots, applauding with everyone else enthusiastically after each. And then, like the Farewell Symphony, they all left one by one as they were done; I was last, with an audience of only my teacher and the pianist. And I kicked my Gavotte again from start to finish. I was very pleased with it. We didn’t need to work on anything or test timing or cues; I loosened my bow and that was that. I’m feeling really confident now about next weekend’s recital. I got home in time to read to the boy in bed. That night HRH and I ended up clearing out the storage room because I was looking for something. We moved some stuff into the laundry room and emptied at least three big boxes. It’s much easier to locate things now. Ironically, though, we didn’t find the box I was looking for.

Sunday was my day at the Yule Fair. I was scheduled to do a talk with Ellen Dugan on green magic and magical gardening, and she was so fabulous. We had a blast. I got to touch base with Chris Penczak and Judika Illes again, too, and pick up a couple of books. I so love working with other authors at these kinds of events. And it always comes as a surprise to me when they say they’ve read my stuff and are impressed, or refer to a concept I’ve discussed somewhere. I had some wonderful discussions with people who came to my signing afterwards, too, and was very touched by some of their stories about what my books have done for them. HRH and the boy came downtown with me and took the metro to see the Christmas window at Ogilvy’s, which was unfortunately half non-functional, before having lunch out together.

We had to leave the fair and get back home for mid-afternoon because I was possibly expecting a drop-off. It didn’t happen, however, and good thing; both HRH and I were coshed by a really, really bad cold and fell asleep while the boy watched movies. I’d felt the beginnings of it when I’d woken up in the morning, but a couple of Tylenol took care of the aches and sore throat for a few hours. I was stunned at how brutally it hit me mid-afternoon, though.

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