Monday, May 21, 2007

Making Music

When I read John Daido Loori’s book “The Zen of Creativity” a few years ago, I thought he had an interesting idea but at that time I had not experienced it. He suggested that people get together in small peer groups to share music or art or something of themselves. The group would provide its members with constructive feedback.

Most of us grow up feeling terribly self-conscious about performing in front of others. What if I make a mistake? What if I forget? What if they don’t value what I do? With never the thought of What if they find out something new and important about me?

My first attempt at joining someone else’s group didn’t work out. But then I learned of “Works in Progress,” a piano group that meets on Capitol Hill each month. It was exactly the format that Loori described. There’s no audition, no judging, no critical review. It’s simply a group of people who get together because they have a shared love of music.

For all of us, music is not a vocation, but rather a hobby. It’s where we go when we want to work and relax at the same time. Most of us have had long periods when there was no time to play music. We range in age from 40-something to 70-something. Some people currently take lessons. Others simply play.

Yesterday’s meeting of the group reminded me what a privilege it is to belong. I have finally gotten to the point where I can say “I’ll go next” with no fear. Yesterday it was WE rather than I, as I was playing with others.

Mary and I did a 4-hand Scott Joplin piece called the “Stoptime Rag.” The idea is that you stomp your foot on the first and third beat of each measure. At first this was akin to walking and chewing gum at the same time for me. But I quickly got into the fun of stomping and playing. We invited our small audience to stomp along with us, so it was like having a built-in metronome. We did remarkably well, given that Mary and I had never performed together before. But the point was that it didn’t matter. The group was there to stomp for us, not to judge us.

I stayed on at the piano as Deborah tuned up her base. We then played a Haydn sonata, which featured Haydn at his best. It evoked the feeling of a dance that caught up our listeners. I embraced even the fast parts without fear of failure.

One person played a sonatina from memory, something that still terrifies me. But perhaps one day I will conquer this fear.

Another played a Grieg piece she has done a couple of times now, each time with marked improvements. She stopped short of the end, promising to work on that last page for next month.

There were several remarkable pieces, all varied in their nature and in the ability and experience of the pianists.

At the end we sat around eating fruit salad and cookies and enjoying a chilled white wine. I expressed my gratitude for being included in such a group as we chose a date for our June meeting.

From there I hurried on to a 7:00 PM concert in Bowie given by the Heritage Singers, a 10-man a cappella group. Ironically at my last work retirement luncheon, I happened to learn that a colleague was a singer in this group. As I sat there listening to a repertoire that ran from Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Five Sacred Songs to Get Me to the Church on Time, I felt so lucky to have discovered Scott’s interest outside of work. I will be a regular at future performances of this group.

So Sunday was a day filled to the brink with music. As I consider how to answer the oft-asked question, “What are you going to do in your retirement?” I can always safely say, “I’m going to play and listen to a lot of music.” That’s for sure!


Blogger steve said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:40 PM  
Blogger steve said...

Tried to get you out here 2 years early!
"So how are your "Frequent Flyer " miles looking?
You are aware that the Van Cliburn Competition starts here in FORT WORTH tomorrow!!!
Even an ol' Cowpoker like me, that hooks one thumb in his beltlooop while he picks his ear and talks to you, has an appreciation for such ans event.

HAH! Make that TWO YEARS from Tommorrow...but you are welcome here anytime!

1:43 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve -- I still think any sort of competition would totally freak me out. I just play for myself and a few friendly ears. But thanks for the vote of confidence!

2:12 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

What a great day! Some friends and I are actually trying to start a salon for sharing creativity - art, photography, music and words. It's slow going but we might get it off the ground yet.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I think that's just great! Wish I had the talent to do that...I can always stomp and clap but not while playing guitar!

7:29 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- I will loan you the book! It's a big help in figuring out what to do to make this happen.

MOI -- You would be surprised at your ability to play and stomp!

8:16 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

laughing at the comments. I can clap or I can stomp but not at the same time and I've often been requested to sing over the hill and far away.

The group sounds like fun though...

6:30 AM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

Sounds like you have very full and musical days. I'm a bit envious!

Never at a loss for anything to do. Good for you.
Each post since your retirement has been filled with new lessons learned and skilled honed. I'm enjoying reading about all of this.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Finding a group you are comfortable with is important, but also hard (at least for me).

I easily find groups of people who share similar interests (at least superficially), but the direction, depth, or tone may not be what I am looking for. Or they may be so narrowly focussed that I think they are missing the bigger picture.

Glad you have a group where you can let your hair down.

3:39 PM  

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