It’s the end of the school year and over the past two weeks I have taken part in five auditions organised by the Ecole de Musique.
I think the term ‘audition’ rather than ‘concert’ is used to reflect the fact that these are seen as occasions for friends and family to hear what we have been working on. There is none of the formality or pursuit of perfection of a real concert.
That does not stop me having my usual performance nerves, which make me increasingly angry and frustrated. Why can’t I overcome that sense of panic? Some people have nerves before a concert and then seem to be able to put that behind them once they play the first note. I notice that is the case, for example, with our very competent percussionist. I, on the other hand, seem unable to focus on the task in hand: to concentrate above all on both the technical demands of a performance and the musicality.
The first audition, two weeks ago, was given by adult students at the Ecole. In the morning lesson I was pleased with the way I played the Allemande from Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suite I. So was my teacher, Anne. But come the evening, all those finer points that I had mastered went out of the window. Pah!
A few days later I performed the same piece before a smaller audience, with just the cellists performing. Same thing – not helped by playing without specs. I thought I had forgotten them, but at the end of the evening Anne found them on a table.
Then we had the end of term for ensembles. I was OK playing with the orchestra, but ill at ease again when I played in a trio. We were playing two dance pieces by memory with a certain degree of improvisation – not in my comfort zone. Some contributions were delightful: the students range in age from six to 80. Here are some of the youngest enjoying the limelight (more than me!).
This concert was in the auditorium of the Lycée which has an unforgiving acoustic, and the orchestra was not playing at its best. Two days later the orchestra performed again, during the Fete de La Musique (21 June – a big event here, with bands playing all over town). We were in the Temple, which has a forgiving acoustic (ie rather too much echo!0, the orchestra and conductor, Christophe, were much more at ease. We played well (for us) and enjoyed ourselves – even me.
Last night I played in a couple of pieces in another audition. One of the pieces was Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance. I keep telling people if they knew the words, they would be quite put off, but instead several like the music because they hear it at rugby matches!
Well, it’s all over for a year. If you discount the time off to have a hernia operation last autumn, I have almost managed a full year’s cello playing – the first time for six years! Now for the holiday work: I have to complete work on the Courante, which follows the Bach Allemande, and Anne has given me a whole lot of exercises and pieces to fill up the summer.