21 Candles – Come Sing and Dance

It has been three weeks since I last wrote a post.  A while, as in my head I planned to write at least one post per week.  But I delayed and delayed writing this, not really knowing how to start.  But here it is!  My Remembrance Sunday post come a little later than expected…

Two or so weeks ago, I did one of the most touching performances so far this year.  I had the honour of being asked to play with my mother’s cousin Gillian, a soprano, in a recital at Winchester Cathedral.  It was a remembrance recital, about loved ones, family in particular, that we have lost, not just fallen soldiers as was the timing of the recital being the day before Remembrance Sunday, but others.  This one in particular had great resonance and emotion in my family, and I was so frightened of getting it wrong, of playing wrong, not matching up to the professionals I was playing with.  David Harper, a renowned pianist and vocal coach was accompanying us, and there was nothing that scared me more than a professional musician who WASN’T family, or a college accompanist to do a “real” recital with.

For me this wasn’t really the problem that kept me nervous.  I was secretly worried about my cousin, and what she was thinking, how she was feeling about me playing and what she would feel if I turned out to be absolutely terrible, and not the aspiring professional/conservatoire student/amazing musician I like to think that other people see me as?

(How I think I look…)

“I am a genius!”

(How I actually look…)

Stop looking at me
Stop looking at me!

Getting more serious, there was a very special reason why this recital was important.  Gillian, my mother’s cousin, had a daughter Alice the same age as me, Alice would have been twenty one years old this year, the same age as me, had she not died due to illness as a child in 2001. The weight of this recital was not lost on me, I felt that I represented my family, and all the wonderful people that we have lost, the sadness of it, and how I in some way represented this person.  But it also represented the joys of life and everything we continue to enjoy together.

The music reflected this; together we played Schubert – Shepherd on the Rock, and the Mozart aria “Parto” from La clemenza di Tito, both beautiful pieces full of life and joy.  I then performed Schumann’s Fantasy Pieces for clarinet and piano, a solemn and yet joyful piece that means a lot to me, as I played it to both my grandfather as he was dying, and my great grandmother in her later years, as it was the first “proper” piece music I had learnt up to that point, I then played it at her funeral.  One of the hardest things I have ever done, but something I HAD to do for myself.  It was to them I dedicated the pieces in this performance.

During the performance, my cousin’s beautiful voice wavered once or twice, and I found myself getting wobbly at the touching readings, but for all those nerves that I had about playing in front of the people that mean most to me – my family – (for they made up the majority of the audience) I could never have wished it to go any way other than it did.  Was I nervous about mistakes? – YES.  Did I make mistakes? – OF COURSE!  Do I care about them now? – NO.  The most important thing about that recital was the people I was playing to, it wasn’t about me, and sometimes when we’re nervous, we forget that it’s the people watching you that matter.  We must remember the people watching, and to them mistakes don’t matter, for they disappear once they are made in music, because they will only remember the music.

For more information about Gillian, David and the recital go to Gillian’s blog here and have a read, and see some of the photos of the lovely if chilly space we were in.

– Soundcloud links to some of the songs performed by Gillian and David

This entry is dedicated to all of my family, and especially Gillian, who is a wonderful person and musician.  Thank you for letting me be a part of this.

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