The End of Year 3: NHS&LCC

The New Hope- Solebury & Lambertville Community Choir (NHS&LCC) is wrapping up it's third year of existence! I've been there since the very beginning, in a restaurant playing a tiny keyboard, with a group of people trying to see their music in dim restaurant light.

But we've come a long way, folks. Now we meet in a church, with a piano that even got tuned last month. I have been with the choir long enough to hear a difference in sound and capabilities. It is cool that we have come so far in only 3 years! We are performing a piece this year that we have tried to learn for several concerts and just never really made it until now. Just like anything in music, it takes time to make progress. Most little kids sitting on a piano bench are not going to be winning awards in 6 months. But give them a few years of piano lessons, they will have a skill for life! 

Anyway, our end of season concert is coming, and you are all invited!

Just a note: we are performing a new work by an area composer and lyricist.

We are also performing this Requiem, which was written in the wake  of the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia. (This isn't us, but just a look at the cool stuff we are singing!)

Creative Arts Night or "Unintended Lessons in Tuning Pianos"

Last week I accompanied two soloists at the Creative Arts Night. The church did a great job of putting together an evening aimed at opening eyes to the slavery and abuse of women in our own area. They had posters on all the walls with facts and information and a computer center set up to be able to email local representatives. One of the entrances looked like this:

Husband and I at the event

Various forms of artwork were displayed for sale, and even some that weren't for sale were sold (for the right price). I was just a little part of this, accompanying during the recital that followed the general art-viewing. The recital (mostly opera and art songs, with some classical piano, guitar, violin, and some modern drama for good measure) was very well received.

 This picture is from one of the dramas.  Different numbers were displayed representing statistics about abuse and human trafficking. The picture does not show this well, but the people holding the number signs all had duct tape across their mouth.

Overall, I hear it was a good night.

But here's the back story, and the part that had me worried all afternoon, night, and the next morning even, and taught me lessons which I don't think the planners of the event ever intended:

You see, I had offered to tune the piano for the event when I was asked to play, thinking by that time surely I would be done with the tuning course (or enough of it) and be ready to get to work.  So, I wasn't entirely surprised when I received a phone call the day of the event... but I definitely wasn't where I thought I'd be in the course. However, I pictured some really terrible church pianos that I've played and figured I should give it a try and at least make it sound better. I agreed and had exactly 2 hours to tune the piano.

Problem #1- I hadn't actually tuned a piano all the way through and assumed 2 hours would be enough. It wasn't.

Because of...

Problem #2- The piano had existing damage that I didn't know about until I started tuning it. And I didn't realize how extensive it was until I got going a little ways. Which made it much harder to tune, which means time, of which I didn't have very much. It was either tune the piano or get it back to where it had been and tell them I couldn't tune it... and I chose the former because at this point I'd already started, and let's face it, who likes telling someone you can't do what you said you'd do. (I've learned my lesson. Next time, I'll just tell them I can't do it.)

So, end of story, I ran out of time, took some short cuts (I know, all the piano technicians out there are shaking their heads saying "what shortcuts?"), and did as best as I could. But it still didn't sound how I thought it should. And I wasn't happy about that, at all. It was my first piano tuning, and I wanted it to be perfect. I went home, changed, ranted to my husband, got supper on the run, and came back in time to play for the recital. The recital went well, but I could still tell something was wrong.

After the recital, I offered to come back and fix the piano the next day. And after a very troubled night I did go back, leaving it in much better order than I had the night before. It also took less time that I thought, restoring some of my faith in the work that I've done so far in my course.

Anyway, I've learned my lesson(s):

1. No emergency tunings.

Not for a while anyway. I really don't know how long it will take me to tune any given piano at this point... so getting stuck in a tight time-frame is not a good idea.

2. I don't know everything yet, and that's ok.  It's actually kinda hard for me to be ok with that, but I know that everyone has to start somewhere. And if I can't do something, I'll just admit it, and not try to muscle through... unless for some reason the client really wants me to do so.  But I think that will probably only happen with my parents' piano.

Still want to hire me?

Good! Give me a few months, and then I'll see what I can do.

Until then, it's back to practicing and homework for me.

Processing Death through Music- Thoughts after a Composition Recital

I went to my friend's composition recital last night. After all those days of seeing him walking around, lost in his own world, or coming to breakfast with a book of poetry instead of homework, eyes red and drinking the cafeteria coffee even though we all knew it tasted terrible, we finally got to hear what he had been creating in his head. And it was beautiful.

We lost a professor, Dr Sam Hsu, my last year of college, a year and a half ago. He was the chair of piano, teaching piano and music history. We all interacted with him, in and out of class, since we all but lived in that tiny music building together, but to some he was also a mentor. He ate lunch with the students almost daily, and many times supper too. He frequently had tea and theological conversations with some of his closer students. He was a man of great wisdom and many metaphors. Everything was about music and everything was connected in his mind, but the core of it all was Christ and love.

The saxophone recital that I accompanied was the last that he heard.

It was a hard a time for all of us. No one expected him to go so suddenly, and we still had to finish our semester and finals and everything that comes at the end. And no one felt like it.  I remember hearing this music coming through the walls during one of my classes. It was very faint, but I knew what it was immediately, and the rest of the class was a blur.  

The weekend after he died I sat down and wrote about my memories of him, as specifically as I could, because I didn't want to forget. It was my way to process and to pay homage to his memory, even though I've never shared that document with anyone.

My friends and those close to him didn't really talk for the rest of the semester. But when I went to this composition recital,  I got to hear a little of my friend's processing in the form of two pieces written in tribute to Dr. Hsu, one shortly after his death, and one a year later. It was beautiful and tragic and very sobering. But Dr Hsu would have been proud.