It has been a few months since I wrote about trying to take the cello up again. In fact this has occupied a lot of my time, and it is hard, hard work.
I have slowly recovered some of the mobility in my right arm, but it is nowhere near back to being able to move it smoothly without the muscles seizing up.
I rejoined the cello group at the Ecole de Musique in March, play in the Saturday morning orchestral sessions and a few weeks ago, resumed my individual lessons with the cello teacher, Anne.
It’s been a bit of a baptism of fire: the orchestra was in the middle of preparing music composed by the percussion teacher to accompany two Charlie Chaplin films, the Immigrant and Vagabond. I came in half way through the work, and now suddenly – gulp – the show is on. The film is to be shown in a couple of hours and again tomorrow afternoon.
My fellow cellists are debutantes and rely – falsely – on me. The music is anyhow very difficult – jumping between keys with lots of sharps and flats (evidence that Axel, the composer, has never learnt a string instrument!) and full of ridiculously complicated tempo changes.
This morning’s final rehearsal, in the cinema, was a bit of a nightmare – I missed a couple of entries. Axel’s beat is more jazz/swing than classical and with just the light on our stands, hard to see. My shoulder was crying out for me to stop after three hours of playing.
This does not help my existing tendency to get nerves when playing in public and to lose concentration. The growing menacing rolls of thunder and the breathless air, as we wait for what is now the daily storm, do not help.
Having said all this, the staff and pupils (I am the second oldest) are really good friends now. And everybody jumps to carry my excessively heavy cello case up and down stairs. It’s a good place for an ageing, enthusiastic but not very good cellist to be.
Once this weekend’s hurdles are over, I have a new one to face. I have learnt there is an ‘audition’ (the kind word for an informal concert by the school’s pupils) on the 26th June. I have been asked to play several pieces with the other cellists. No problem. But Anne also wants me to play a solo.
I started playing Mendelssohn’s Song without Words a few weeks ago. Initially I physically did not have the stamina to get through it without stopping. Now the question is can I face playing in public, not playing out of tune and not having my right shoulder seize up. I have not given my answer yet.