Archive for the 'Piano' Category

32 C’s and 7 A’s

It’s really a lot better than it sounds. Today Andrew had his annual guild audition in Springfield. It’s something like a final exam for piano. He works the whole school year on a variety of skills and pieces, and then in May he goes before a judge who evaluates him. This year, he did what’s called a ten-point program, meaning that he played eight pieces from memory and was further tested on the two areas of cadences/chords/scales and ear training.

C = “Commendable”, and A = “Needs Attention,” so his scores were outstanding. Although he faltered a bit on the ear training, the comments the judge wrote about his playing were truly glowing. I was so proud of his effort and his accomplishment! We later met Josiah and ate at Fazoli’s to celebrate. Siri said, “finding directions to FAZZ-uh-leez.”  = )

A smearing sensation

In doing the breakfast clean up I got a little carried away.  With Andrew gone at school, I now have more time, and since almost EVERYTHING about our house is either cluttered and/or dirty, it seems appropriate to begin to tackle various little projects a few minutes at a time.

So, I cleaned the dish drainer, the counter under it, that portion of the back splash, and the microwave.  I dumped out the toaster crumbs and then went to finish clearing the table and wipe it.  In so doing, I passed the piano, which was, of course, very dusty as always, and I thought, “Hmmm. . . I really should wipe down the piano.”  Which I did after the table.  I thought about using my Swiffer duster, but decided that as bad as it was, I should hit it with my damp dishcloth.

I got on a roll, first clearing and wiping the top, including the lamp and globe, and wiping along all those little wooden edges and ledges, and then I saw all the dust and grime on the keys themselves.  They were pretty yucky, and since I was on a roll, I cleaned my dishcloth, wrung it out really well, and started at the high end, firmly wiping down each key.

Somewhere about an octave above middle C, I noticed that some of the white keys I had cleaned still looked faintly dirty.  They were slightly smeared with some light gray kind of something.  I re-wiped several of them, with the result that the gray smearing seemed even darker, but when I forsook the cloth and just wiped off a white key with my finger, it came completely clean.  I looked at the dishcloth in my hand and had an “Aha!” moment:  Whatever made the black keys black was coming off on the cloth and being re-deposited onto the white keys!

Armed with that knowledge, I cleaned the cloth (which – although I hadn’t noticed a moment ago – now  had what appeared to be many, many black paint stains on it), and carefully re-cleaned the white keys.  Now all is well.

Moral of the Story:  If your piano is not older than the hills, its black keys are probably not made of ebony wood, and so were painted or dyed with something to make them black.  That something may partially come off with water, so wipe at your (dishcloth’s) own risk.

Question(s) O’ Day:  When Andrew sits down to practice tomorrow morning, will he even notice that I cleaned the piano, and if so, will he make any comment about it?

Celebration Hymnal scores

The evening that I was at PHC, serving as a contestant on, “Can You clean This Dorm?”, and while we were waiting for Valerie to come tell us whether or not our latest attempts had been officially successful, I went over to the Hodel Center (BHC) to get some cold water.  The water fountain there is filtered  quite well, and I was told it was better drinking water than what was in the dorm.  Not that we could turn on a faucet in the dorm.  That would have gotten a sink wet, and that would have invalidated the cleaning we had just done.

Anyway, I did fill my bottle with delicious, ice-cold water, and while wandering around in the BHC, I found a piano in the lobby.  We couldn’t do anything useful till Valerie returned, so I sat down at the squeaky keys and opened the hymnal that was sitting there.  Katie came in, and I played around on a few hymns to pass the time.  I was quiet impressed with the hymnal.  Several familiar tunes were especially nicely arranged, and some of them even had optional final verse variants that involved modulations and really rich harmonies.  I liked that hymnal.

I was placing an amazon order the other day and remembered that hymnal.  I wished I had a copy of it.  My old Methodist hymnal, which I got when I was about 15 years old, is falling apart, and although it is musically solid, it doesn’t have any spiffy arrangements.  I contacted Research Consultant, who was able to instantly give me the title of the hymnal.  I found it in blue for $9.95, and, due to the size of my order, I had free shipping.  What a deal!

It arrived yesterday, and tonight I sat down and played for fun for thirty minutes, even though I have lots of other things to do – one of which is, go to bed.  It was fun and I like the hymnal just as much as I thought I would.  Yet another blessing from PHC.

Should be practicing, but

I’m not.

Our piano studio’s fall Hymn Festival is this coming Wednesday morning. I will be playing two hymns from a hymnal and one richly harmonized hymn arrangement.  (Read:  many accidentals and tricky to play.) Today is Saturday and I am not ready.  I have not practiced much at all this week, although I’ve had good excuses for that.   Well, I’ve actually had SOME time, but I’ve chosen to use it in getting caught up on a number of other things, including massive academic planning, getting most of the way through a mountain of ministry-related deskwork and correspondence, wrapping and packing a shoebox, taking a long hot shower, and once AGAIN sorting through the pile of miscellaneous stuff that seems to reproduce exponentially on my dresser.

There have also been a few tugs at heartstrings lately (and when those stings yank, I tend not to practice the piano for some reason).  My mom had the audacity to turn 76 this week.  How on earth did she do THAT?!?  I miss our resident peacock and have been thinking about the various challenges she is going through.  I heard a great message at church that challenged me to make adjustments in some areas, but I’m not sure how to move forward on those.

Then, just a few minutes ago, I realized that it’s fall back day (yippee!), so I took my trusty cell phone and wandered the premises changing all the clocks I could find.  The peskiest one is the clock radio in the kitchen.  I don’t have instructions for it (and even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to find them), so I took several stabs at re-setting it by pressing various buttons with labels like “clock” and “hour” and “DSL, ” all to no avail.  Whenever I released a button, the display zapped right back to 4:29 PM, even though I had clearly set it to 3:29 PM.  Oh, well.  Probably one of my geekish techno-boys will be able to figure out how to re-set it.  It wouldn’t really matter, except that the display is so darn huge.  Even I can see it from way across the room.  It is a clock display to be reckoned with, and honestly, it would truly bug me to spend the next five months having the wall clock and microwave clock say one thing and the monster radio say something an hour later.

Maybe I should just go practice the piano.   = )

We conquered Festival

Every year in March, we three piano students play in the National Federation of Music Clubs Festival.  This involves playing two pieces (one off of a list of required pieces and one of your choice by a foreign composer) before a judge, who rate you on factors like memory, accuracy, rhythm, technique, and musicianship and give you a final mark.  The marks range from needs improvement up through fair, satisfactory, and excellent to superior.

This Festival occurs all across the United States, and if a person manages to get a superior three years in a row, he is awarded a (coveted?) cup, which I assume is some kind of trophy.  Well, Jessica and Andrew both participated in Festival in 2008 and both received superiors.  In 2009, I took the plunge to join them, and we all three received superiors.  This would seem to be Jessica’s final year for formal piano lessons, and she REALLY wanted to end well – with a third superior and a cup.

In 2008 and 2009, the event was held at C of O, but this year it was moved to the Presbyterian Church in Branson.  We three all ended up assigned to play in the Old Stone Church on its very nice (but pretty badly out of tune) Kawai grand.  There were some 18 students from Mrs. Walker’s studio participating, and I don’t know how many other students.  The scheduler was kind enough to put us three Roberts’ all within an hour, which was very much appreciated.

Among us, Andrew – dashing and debonair in his new black sports jacket – played first, and he did a superb job on both of his pieces.  That guy ALWAYS plays well in performance, which frankly kind of galls Jessica and me, because we both practice much more diligently than he.

I played next (with the music, one, because adults are allowed to use their music, and two, because I struggle mightily to memorize even simple pieces), and I am thrilled to report that I actually played C.P.E. Bach’s “Solfeggietto” as well as I ever have.  Now, that may not be saying much, because I admittedly played it much slower than the allegro vivace Mr. Bach had in mind, BUT despite a few bobbles, I kept going and did as good a job with that one as I could.   The “Mountain Melody” went quite well.  I played steadily and with as much expression as I could muster, and I don’t think I even made any significant mistakes.  Afterward, the judge told me that she thought my presentation of “Mountain Melody” was “just beautiful.”  Wow!

Jessica played last among us, and did a very nice job with her required piece first.  It’s flowing, lyrical, and expressive, and she is just exactly that kind of player.  I had my eyes closed, and it was delicious.  Then she began her SEVEN-PAGE-LONG Clementi “Sonatina.”  It’s a piece with a zillion notes, and her fingers truly fly.  It’s also LONG.  Did I mention that she was playing seven pages of music from memory?  Halfway through the second page, she fumbled, paused, tried a few notes, and realized she had forgotten what came next.  She stopped, backed up a bit and came at it again – a very difficult thing to do during a performance! Eyes still shut, I was willing her past the hump, when she had the same problem again at the same place.  Finally, she stopped completely, looked at the judge, and said, “May I please start over?”  To which the judge replied, “of course.”  So, back to the beginning went Jessica, and she played that entire Sonatina with passion all the way through.  It was an amazing recovery and an outstanding performance.  I was so terribly proud of her!

When all was said and done, we learned that Andrew and I had received superiors and Jessica had received a superior minus.  The judge told Mrs. Walker that she had debated whether to give and excellent plus or a superior minus.  She had to take SOMETHING off because of such a major break in the action, but she felt that overall, Jessica’s performance was so outstanding that she deserved a superior in some form.  That score will get Jessica her three-year cup, which is a very satisfying way to wrap up her “piano lesson” career.

I, on the other hand had been saying for months that this Festival thing is way too much pressure for me.  I play piano because I enjoy it, and my life provides plenty of other opportunities to get stressed out without sweating over Festival.  I had told Mrs. Walker that this was probably my last time to do it, and that if I didn’t get a superior this year, it would DEFINITELY be my last time to do it!  Now she’d like me go around one more time in 2011 (trying for a superior), so I can get a cup, too.  Maybe I will and maybe I won’t.  Maybe it will depend on just how impressive Jessica’s and Andrew’s cups really are.

Go, Tell. . .

I found a really nice, jazzy arrangement of “Go, Tell It On the Mountain,” and I started working on it today.  However, it’s pretty difficult and it will take a LOT of practice to get it presentable by the first week of January (the last time we can get credit for learning Christmas songs).  That means that if I can carve out time to practice at all, my family will be hearing an awful lot of “Go, Tell. . . ” in the near future.”  Maybe I should move from the computer to the piano now.  = )

All’s well that ends well

I had asked our boys on Thursday night to set out all the dress clothes they would be utilizing for the recital on Friday evening.  Andrew did so.  Josiah did not.

Jessica and I were going to leave at 5:50 PM, as I was supposed to be at the Methodist church (recital site) by 6:05 PM.  I needed to iron my clothes, plus Andrew’s clothes; and since I chose to be a nice mommy, I thought I should pick out and iron some clothes for Josiah as well.  I hadn’t heard from them all day, but I figured they would come scooting in – tired, dirty, and smelly – around 5:15 PM.

That being the case, I started my ironing task at 4:45 PM by trying to find some dress clothes for Josiah.  One wouldn’t think that would be so hard, but Josiah’s wardrobe organization scheme was a bit difficult for me to follow.  Two baskets of clothes (level of cleanliness undeterminable) were positioned on the floor of his room, and beside them, several heaps of clothes (of also unknown cleanliness).  Wading through the fabric, I pulled up a pair of inside out black slacks and a black dress shirt and decided I’d iron them in their present condition.

Down at the ironing board, I did just that, and while I was working – at 5:05 PM – my phone rang.  Scott said all was well and they had had a great time on the river.  I asked where he was and he replied, “a few miles south of Harrison.”  Now, this could mean anything.  If I said that I were a few miles south of Harrison, it would mean I was within 10 miles of that city and therefore about an hour from home.  However, I suspected my menfolk might be quite a bit farther from Harrison, and Scott just didn’t want me to panic.   = )

Scott asked if I could bring Andrew’s recital clothes to the church.  Yes, I could, but what about Josiah’s clothes?  Well, could I bring them, too?  Yes.  And could I bring Josiah’s razor?  Yes.  Would they perhaps be needing deodorant, clean underwear, toothbrushes?  Yes, yes, and yes.  I strongly resisted the temptation to ask when they might arrive at the church.  I hung up and finished ironing.  Jessica helped me collect the various items for the boys and pack them in a duffle bag.

The timer dinged and dinner came out of the oven.  Jessica had prepared a nice supper of creamy cheese potatoes with sausage, but with the two of us now racing around and the guys arrival time unknown, it didn’t look like anyone would be home to eat it.

While I put on a face and got dressed, there was much calling back and forth between Scott and Jessica.  One call asked us to leave Josiah’s clothes and toiletries at the house.  Another call asked us to pull off at the Wal-Mart exit and pick up Andrew who would be stading by the side of the road.  There was a request from Josiah to wear his black jeans instead of his black dress pants (which were not clean, as I had suspected), but I said that I wasn’t going to wade back through those piles and he’d have to wear what I had ironed.

And on it went.

Jessica and I dashed out the door at 5:55 PM, and I sped to Branson.  Whipping off the highway at 6:05, we picked up Andrew, and I told him to start changing in the van.  As I crested the next hill doing 72 mph in a 60 mph zone, I spied a motorcycle cop on the shoulder.  I hit the brake hard and skittered down to 62 mph as I zoomed past him.  Good night, what stress!

The three of us arrived at the church and got our respective acts together.

Josiah showed up shortly before 6:30 PM, and when I walked out at 6:43 PM (prior to playing my monster piece to start the recital at 6:45 PM), I saw Scott on the second row.


Later, I got the full scoop from the guys.  They were on the river and having a grand time, when they asked some other guy what time it was.  “Ten till four,” he called out, and that was when things got crazy.  They paddled fiercely to their take-out point, loaded the canoe and kayak, and began the long, steep drive up a dirt road toward the highway.  Once on pavement, the boys claim that Scott broke several land speed records.

After handing off Andrew to us at 6:05 PM, Scott and Josiah faced a ten-minute drive home, and a fifteen-minute drive back to the church.   They arrived at the church a little BEFORE 6:30 PM, having gone home, disconnected the canoe trailer, shaved, showered, donned dress clothes, AND zipped past that same motorcycle cop.  They both looked quite handsome, and no one would have known the many gallons of aderenaline their bodies had produced in the past two-and-a-half hours.


At the recital, we played as follows:

Patty – “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love”

Andrew – “Magical Forest”

Jessica – “O Come, All Ye Faithful”

Andrew – “Fiesta Days”

Patty – “Allegro Scherzando”

Andrew and Patty – “Summer Samba”

Jessica – “Sonatina”

Jessica and Patty – “Maple Leaf Rag”

I was nervous enough for all three of us, but we each played our best, and I believe God was glorified in that.   It was fun to work hard and do well.  It was also a special blessing to have my parents there to see and hear us play.  They drove up that day for one night, just to attend the recital.

Just before the grand finale (our “Maple Leaf Rag” duet), a number of students, including Jessica and me, received the much-prized “gold medallion,” which is awarded only to those students who complete all ten areas of achievement.  It can be done by most students just by working very diligently, but extra effort was required on my part for the “memory” area. Memorizing ten songs (even simple ones) seemed like an insurmountable obstacle, but I finally did it!

Then, at the VERY end of the evening, trophies were awarded.  Everything one does related to the Walker Music Studio earns points, and of the thirty-odd students, the ten with the most points at the end of the school year each receive a trophy.  The tenth place trophy is maybe six inches high, and they gradually increase in height up to the first place one, which is over two feet tall!

Andrew was close to trophy realm, coming in at 12th place in the points standings.  I think he’ll be working toward a trophy next year.  = )   There was much eager anticipation, neck-craning, and breath-holding, as the final ten names were announced.  Because any age student can earn just as many points as anyone else, there were some first- and second-graders up there with some pretty big trophies.  But in the end (drum roll, please), the #1 student with more points than any other student in the studio was. . .

Jessica Roberts!!!

I was so proud and happy that I cried.

Proud of our piano players

This afternoon Andrew, Jessica, and I played in BAMTA’s Fall Recital at the Old Stone Church.  I suspect I am biased, but I must say that both Andrew’s and Jessica’s playing was (were?) noticeably more musical that the other students’.  They didn’t just play notes; they made; lovely music.  I was so proud of them both.

I also played well, though not perfectly.  I was MUCH less nervous by using the music, and as far as I am concerned, that will be my plan in the future.

Musical events

I’m not sure why I haven’t made time to blog in a week.  I need to stay in the habit, or else so much of life goes by that I can’t seem to make myself go back and write about it.

This week was Hymn Festival for Jessica, Andrew, and me.  I was fairly satisfied with my playing, although Mrs. Walker says I need to play with more expression.  Sheesh.  I will be playing one of the same pieces, an arrangement of “Holy, Holy, Holy,” for a BAMTA recital tomorrow, and I will do my best to be more expressive and vary my dynamics more.

We also bought a new (used) piano this week.  Actually, we picked it out at the piano tuner’s shop last week, and it was delivered today.  It is quite different from our Ancient of Days monga piano.  This one is much shorter and lighter wood.  It has plastic keys instead of ivory, and it is quite short to the ground.  We had to have Mr. Dugan saw off the bench legs about three inches, so Jessica could get her knees under it!  We may still have to raise the piano some, and we’ll surely have to raise it more as Andrew grows.  It sounds different from the old one, it’s louder, and all the keys play.

In many ways it is a great blessing – especially that Scott would be willing to spend the money for a new one.  He knows that piano is important to all three of us, and we appreciate that.  However, it was tough emotionally to have the old one leave.  It was big and clunky and had many idiosyncrasies – much like our house. I think it was patricularly hard on Jessica, because we made the decision to replace the piano while she was away on the AIM East Coast mission trip.  We were all frustrated by aspects of the old piano, but I don’t think she ever thought we would replace it.  However, she told me she would forgive us, and I am trusting that over time, we will all get used to and greatly enjoy playing this 1929 Gulbransen.

I’m not ready

My first piano lesson in two months will happen tomorrow, and I am very not ready.  Thankfully, the lesson is at 3:15 PM, so if I get everything done in the morning (and that would be a first), I will have plenty of time to practice, right?

That’s nothing compared to the video shoots Scott and I havev been trying to do lately.  Yesterday morning we battled sunlight and noisy bugs.  This morning it was just a matter of trying to get the right background and say the right things.  We’re trying to wrap up a promo video for our ministry, and I won’t tell you how many takes it took to get a fairly good version of a one-minute spot.

But you could guess.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.