Monday, 1 September 2008

September already!

What does September have in store? Flanders and Swann say mist and mud, enough to chill the blood, but I'm rather looking forward to this month.

Well, there's the concert a day after tomorrow. I'm really hoping we'll get some audience. I've been at a bit of a loss as to how to promote it efficiently: the location is pretty much ideal for someone who works in the Square Mile and has a bit of flexibility in working hours, as it really is just outside Bethnal Green tube, only five minutes from Bank on the Central Line. But, well, most of the people I knew who used to work in that area don't work there any more, they've gone further west or become self-employed, and getting people to come to a lunchtime concert if they have to travel fifteen or twenty minutes each way is a lot harder than if they have to travel five or ten minutes. I've put up a few posters locally, created a Faceborg event and sent some e-mails (though I must send a few more, I keep thinking of more people who might be able to make it), but it's hard to tell who will turn up of those who say they're interested. A lot of attendance at events like this boils down to how people feel on the day.

All that aside, I'm looking forward to playing. The lunchtime concert series at St. John on Bethnal Green is a new one, so new that we're the first performance. It may take a while to build up a regular audience, but at the same time if there isn't sufficient audience by the end of September then the series is unlikely to continue.

I start teaching on Sunday! I am very much looking forward to catching up with my students again after not seeing them for several weeks. As usual there are some scheduling wrinkles to be sorted out; I long for the day when I can teach from a fixed studio and have some of my students come to me, rather than my having to solve a version of the traveling salesman problem. Overall, though? Looking forward to teaching. In terms of what I'll be teaching, there will be two themes this month. For those students who want to play in exams this term there will be some decision-making over whether they are ready. This partly depends on whether they practised during the summer break, but it also depends on their progress in the first few weeks. For all my students there will be a certain amount of re-adjustment to having lessons again, especially if they've been unable to play the piano at all during the absence: it's easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged when one hasn't played for a few weeks, so there's a lot of expectation balancing on the part of teacher and student when things get going again.

That last bit has been a factor in my own playing the last few weeks as well. I was getting seriously tired before going away to Charterhouse, and it was very intense in and of itself as well. After that I went away to Somerset for a week of something completely different. Three weeks of getting up at least an hour later than I normally do left me struggling to get going in the mornings and it's only the last few days that I've started waking properly at 6am again. This might seem rather early, but that's what time I need to get up if I'm going to be at Trinity by 8am to practise. My 8am practise routine has been extremely useful over the last six months: it's partly that there are only a few of us regular early-birds about so it's easier to get a practise room then, but it has also become a very grounding, orienting part of my day. I have a fairly long warm-up routine (which I can shorten if necessary but don't like to), and sometimes I do the whole thing twice: the idea is to warm up until the instrument that is my body is doing the best it will do that day, behaving consistently, performing comfortably. That approach to warming up is one of the first lessons I had from Stephen Stirling and it has stuck with me. But I'm also finding that it isn't just my body that needs to warm up for the day: some days I get in and find that physically, things are working well, but mentally I need more preparation. Having a two-hour practise session at the beginning of the day really helps with that. My warm-up is not just an exercise but a meditation, and I can move on from that to whatever is going to put me in the best mindframe for getting good work done the rest of the day.

Of course, that's the other thing September holds: a new term at Trinity. I have new lecturers in Improvisation and in Arranging, which should be interesting. I'm keen to play a lot more chamber music this year and really September is the best time to sort this out: later on, people are simply too busy to think of taking on new projects. There is the Year 4 Project, which I keep saying I'll talk about here, to plan and work on. I'd like to actually enter the various competitions I'm eligible for as a horn player (not many! Two ensemble competitions and the soloists competition), and I'll need to start wrangling paperwork early. And the paperwork for everything else comes along too: NUS card, National Rail discount card, London Transport discount Oystercard, locker rental... the list goes on and on.

This post was brought to you by procrastination! I'm meant to be writing programme notes for the aforementioned concert. Guess what I'm doing tomorrow as soon as the library opens?

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