Friday, December 29, 2006

Running Required

I was such a good little runner before the holidays. Now I am a slug. A pitiful, pathetic slug. It's not my fault, though. Honestly. My bones got out of whack, and I was forced to quit running for a couple of weeks. And now I feel like a slug. A pitiful, pathetic slug.

I ran once while in Louisiana, and boy, did it feel good. Something in my soul just opens up when I start running. I'm not particularly graceful, and I certainly don't look like a runner--lithe, athletic, and all that--but that doesn't matter. I feel like I'm all of those things when I'm running. After my Louisiana run, I felt better than I'd felt in ... two weeks.

I started running again yesterday. I'm starting with a few easy runs, and yesterday's run was 3.1 miles. I could have gone farther, wanted to go farther, but I made myself stop at 3.1 miles.

I can't begin to explain how on-top-of-the-world I feel after a run. I don't think it's the legendary "runner's high." I think it's just that sense of being able to breathe deeply, of knowing the muscles are strong and working, of feeling healthy. And it's nice to know that I can eat that 300-calorie dessert and not have to worry about gaining weight.

Speaking of gaining weight: between my forced hiatus from running and my holiday diet of chocolate and pecans, I've put on a pound or two. Which is another reason that I feel like a slug. But, because I ran yesterday and will run another five miles before Sunday, I don't feel guilty or depressed about gaining the weight.

Since I've spent much of my life feeling guilty and depressed about eating and gaining weight (a typical American female, I probably am), I've decided that running is a definite requirement for me ... for the rest of my life, no matter what it takes, and no matter where life takes me. Barring permanent injury, I hope to still be running when I'm eleventy-one.

My next planned race, by the way, is a 5K with the Hubster (yes, the Hubster!) in Myrtle Beach in February. We're hoping some friends down there will join us, either as cheerleaders or as fellow runners. I'll start my official 5K training next year (heh, heh ... as in "next Monday").

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thursday Thirteen



CaliforniaTeacherGuy and Ms. George have been doing the "Thursday Thirteen" meme for a while. So I thought I'd join in. I'm going to start with an easy topic, since it's late and I don't feel like thinking.

Thirteen Jobs I've Had

1. Microfilm picture-taker at my dad's office when I was 12
2. Writing tutor at Mary Baldwin College
3. "Kitchen help" at Yellowstone National Park
4. Ticket collector at various Mardi Gras balls
5. Teacher at a private Christian school
6. Social services director at a nursing home
7. Technical writer at several corporations
8. Model for figure-drawing class while trying to make ends meet in grad school
9. On-again, off-again freelance writer
10. Mortgage loan closer in Hendersonville, NC
11. Administrative assistant for various companies
12. Bookseller at an independent bookstore
13. Newsletter editor and brochure-maker at LSU's Wellness Ed Dept.

Let me know if you're also doing the Thursday Thirteen, and I'll add a link to yours here.

Cool header graphic found at Blue Star Chronicles.
More Thirteeners:

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Working at the Bookstore

Today's a work day at the bookstore. I've been listening to Bach and reading bits and pieces of The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop. The store will get frantically busy from time to time, but then it quiets down and I once again hear Bach as I nestle into my chair and open my book again.

This is a dream life. I'm not going to pinch myself because I don't want to wake up from it just yet.

We've been selling a lot of religious books today. Strange. This is an independent, somewhat left-leaning, "secular" bookstore (i.e., not a "Christian bookstore" or a "Bible bookstore"), and I've sold two books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (authors of the "Left Behind" series) today, plus several other books from our small "inspirational books" section.

I've listened to Bach all day long and am surrounded by books. Do I wake or sleep?

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Good Christmas

Hubster and I had a good Christmas 2006. Here are some of the more memorable moments.

1. The Drive Down: We flew down the highway until we got to Baton Rouge. We sat in Baton Rouge traffic (I-12) for an hour an a half. We were glad to get home.

2. The 88-year-old Osteopath: Dr. M.A. Truluck, an old-fashioned osteopath in Ponchatoula, is a true healer. He fixed my hip/thigh problem. They no longer hurt. I can run again, after a few more days of letting my body heal. I don't know what I'm going to do when this man ultimately passes on. There aren't many left like him. Fortunately for me, if there are any, Asheville is the likely place to find them.

3. Seeing Friends: Saturday night, Hubster and I went to downtown Baton Rouge, where we met Jan, Andye, and Alison at Tsunami. My, but downtown Baton Rouge has changed since I was last there. The Shaw Center for the Arts is a brand-new enterprise that includes the LSU Museum of Art and houses small concerts all year long. The restaurant is at the very top of the building and boasts a view of the Mississippi River and the bridge. Our friend Erv met us a little later, then we went over to a bar called The Roux House, where we met up with Mary and Nancy. It was great to see everyone. We didn't have nearly enough time ... even though we stayed there until 1 a.m., we still didn't get completely caught up.

4. Christmas Eve: We went to church Sunday morning. Brad Williams (who blogs here) is an amazing preacher (and singer). That night, he did a wonderful monologue as Simeon ... which was interrupted by the greenery in the baptistry catching fire from some nearby candles, and the fire spreading a bit before they could put it out. I think Brad was hoping for a Christmas Eve service that would never be forgotten ... and he got it. (But to be fair, his monologue was pretty unforgettable, too. Even without the fire.)

5. Making Pie: I actually spent much of Christmas Eve in the kitchen. I had such success with my from-scratch apple pie at Thanksgiving that I decided to do an encore. I must admit, crust-making in Louisiana during a downpour is a bit different from crust-making in western North Carolina when it's dry and 40 degrees out. My crust was a sticky mess, and I had to add a lot more flour than I wanted to, then ended up with a bloated crust. It was, however, an extremely tasty bloated crust. And it made for a beautiful pie. And everyone said the extra work (to make the pie, crust included, from scratch) was worth it. Ah. I love making people's taste buds happy.

6. Muffins: I woke up before everyone else on Christmas morning and made what I'm calling cinnamon puff-muffs. They were pretty good, but you could just sense those muffins pining away for a hint of banana, a crunch of toasted pecan. So, next time I'm going to experiment with making pecanamon puff-muffs. I'll let y'all know how they turn out.

7. Christmas: Christmas Day was good. We did the present thing. Our gift-giving is pretty subdued, as there are no kids (the youngest person in our immediate family is 33-year-old Mu). Everyone liked the gifts that The Hubster and I gave them, so that made me happy.

8. Visiting Again: Hub and I went back to Baton Rouge Christmas night to visit with a few more people before heading back to Carolina in the morning. We got to see Jan's new house and meet her man, and we also got to visit with my friend Ellen's parents, which was great because I hadn't seen them since our wedding.

It's been a good holiday, but I'm ready to get back to "real life"--editing, bookselling, writing, and piano-ing. I hope you, dear readers, had a merry Christmas as well.

Merry Christmas

For unto us a Child is born,
unto us a Son is given,
and the government shall be upon His shoulder,
and His Name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor,
The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.


Merry Christmas, all!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Safe in the Loo-zee-anna

Hubster and I drove all day today, and we're finally at the home of Mrs. Gwen and Mr. Hugh, where we found a big pot of chicken-and-sausage gumbo waiting for us. And a head of cauliflower. (I love cauliflower. My mom made me cauliflower.)

We had a good trip. When it took us an hour to creep through Baton Rouge in the "rush" hour traffic, I was reminded of Baton Rouge traffic and glad I now live in rural North Carolina.

I read a most excellent book on the 12-hour drive. Cover to cover. Fascinating stuff.

Merry Christmas, all! (I'm sure I'll blog again before Christmas day, but I'm writing this just in case I don't ...)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

There Go The Comments

I'm very sad. I changed my blogger template and lost my comments. It now looks like I have nary a blog-friend. :(

Update: My blogroll is gone, too. I still have Bloglines, but I'm putting the new blogs in (as you, my dear blog-writing friends, update them) through Blogger.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Crunch-Time Crunch

Remember how calm and uneventful my first couple of hours at the bookstore were today? Well, the serious shoppers started around 2:30 this afternoon. It got busy. I was on the phone constantly, putting people on hold while I looked up books, led people to books, straightened up books, and giftwrapped books. Oh, and sold books. I sold a lot of books today. About three times the sales I usually have on Sundays.

Things finally started to slow down about fifteen minutes before closing time. It was then that I noticed that my good ear was empty.

My good ear isn't supposed to be empty. See, my good ear isn't so good (it's just "good" compared to my bad ear) and is supposed to contain a plastic, battery-powered device called a hearing aid.

I have to take my hearing aid out before answering the phone. Normally, I shove the hearing aid in my pocket when the phone rings. (As you may guess, I'm not particularly good at communicating on the phone.) So I checked my pockets.

No hearing aid. I looked on the counter near the phone. No hearing aid. I lifted up papers and bags in the surrounding counter area. No hearing aid.

Panic. I go into a panic every time I misplace my hearing aid. Not only am I dependent on it to hear and communicate, but replacing it would cost upwards of $1,000--possibly twice that.

So I checked some of the shelves I had recently been to. No hearing aid. I wondered if I'd accidently bagged it with some customer's books. Would they find it and bring it back?

I seriously panicked. Checked my pockets several more times, just to make sure it wasn't there. Checked the bathroom, even though I hadn't been in there in hours. Checked the counter in the back, even though I hadn't been there in hours either. Checked the cash register. No hearing aid.

I suppose I would have heard the crunch if I'd been wearing my hearing aid, but I didn't hear a thing. But I did finally notice my hearing aid on the floor beneath the cash register. Oh, joy! My hearing aid! Panic was replaced by euphoria!

I bent down to pick it up, and ... the plastic was broken. All the tiny, wiry innards of the device were hanging out of it. It wasn't completely crushed, but ... I was.

I'm hoping I can get it repaired before Christmas. I don't want to spend the holidays cupping my ear and asking people to repeat and/or write down things. I'm hoping it can be repaired, period. I'm really sad about this.

So, crunch time at the bookstore was great, but the ensuing crunch (which I didn't hear) wasn't so great. I'll let y'all know the conclusion of this gripping saga tomorrow.

Sunday Browsers

People don't seem to want to buy books on Sundays. Our bookstore sits between a coffee shop and a restaurant, and down the street from several churches--First Presbyterian is a block one way, the First Baptist and First Methodist churches a couple of blocks the other way. Those who enter the bookstore are chronologically somewhere between church and lunch, and this is an in-between place for them while they're waiting for their tables to be ready. They come in to browse, but yesterday's shopping madness is ... yesterday's.

It's a beautiful day out ... sunny, a few clouds, and a temp of 63F. I've propped the bookshop door open and am playing some relatively tasteful holiday music on the CD player. I've been reading bits and pieces of different books, straightening out the shelves, checking to see if anything new came in on Friday that I haven't noticed yet.

I'm reluctant to write things like, "Oh, I love this job! It's perfect for me! I'm meant to work in an indie bookstore! I've always known it!" I wouldn't be lying, but ... I tend to have the same thoughts about every new job. I had it about teaching. I have it about freelancing. I had it about tech writing. I had it about social services. I get it every time I start a new writing project, fiction or nonfiction. But still ... I really do love working here. Even though it's only a part-time and non-permanent thing. Perhaps that's part of what I love about it.

Few are buying books today, but I've learned, from working various days during the week, that this is more of a Sunday thing than a Waterfall-is-a-terrible-salesperson thing. At least I hope that's what it is.

The store has become crowded. Perhaps someone will buy something. Perhaps not. Either way, I need to quit blogging and put my bookselling hat back on!

A Blog, and Two Books

I learned at my friend POG's holiday party last night that my hiking friend Susan "Jackrabbit" Letcher has a blog. It's called West of the Fields and is about her field research in Costa Rica (she's a doctoral student researching tropical ecology).

I also learned that she and her sister Lucy ("Isis") recently published two books about their Appalachian Trail "yo-yo" hike. Adventures of the Barefoot Sisters, Book 1: Southbound is about their Maine to Georgia hike in 2000-2001, and Adventures of the Barefoot Sisters, Book 2: Walking Home is about their hike back to Maine in 2001.

It's time for a bit more Christmas shopping!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Blogging from School

Notes from a Day of Substitute "Teaching"

8:15 a.m. One of last year's seniors spoke at chapel. It was great to see him again!

8:45 a.m. Normally, I'm eating breakfast and writing Morning Pages at this time. Not today!

9:00 a.m. First class o' day is my freshmen from last year. They haven't changed a bit--the same kids are still forgetting their books.

9:27 a.m. This is really scary. The English teacher I'm subbing for has my old computer, and all of my passwords are still in the computer. Ack! I thought I had deleted all those cookies! I think I really have this time.

10:40 a.m. Planning Period. Ahh. I'm ready for a break!! It's been good to see everyone again. A couple of my science students from last year came up and gave me a big hug after chapel. I got to talk to the principal for a while, so that was good. One of my lit students from last year got the highest score possible on the writing section of the SAT, and another of my comp students got into The Citadel! I'm so happy for them!

11:22 a.m. I so do not miss this job. I mean, really. It's nice to be back and all, but I'm already missing the bookstore, George, my laptop, and my editing job. Most of all, I miss the blessed solitude that comes with being a writer.

1:00 p.m. Had a nice lunch period. Spent most of the time talking to one of the teachers who is a marathoner.

2:18 a.m. It's over. My brain hurts from all of the chatter. It's been a good day, but I'm ready to go back to my non-teaching life!

Two days later: And I was doing so well. I've felt panicky, irritable, and depressed all weekend. I think some secret part of my psyche is scared that I've started teaching again and is rebelling mightily.

Working All Week

I've worked every single day this week--on something other than the novel, I mean. I've been putting in time on the novel, but this week I've been very busy with other (read: paying) jobs, between the bookstore, editing, and ... subbing.

Yes, friends, today I'm substituting for the English teacher at the school where I taught English last year. I should be more excited about this than I am; after all, I'm going to see lots of people that I haven't seen since last May, teachers and administrative staff that I love, and students that I love even more. Though I'll miss "my seniors," who are probably in the middle of their first-ever college exams right now.

I think it'll be a good day. I hope it will. My memories of last year are not particularly good (not because of students or co-workers, but because of stuff I was going through at the time), and I pray that today will be a good experience all around.

And then it's back to the bookstore tomorrow!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bad News and Good News

The Bad News: My left hipbone is higher than my right as a result of some weird twisting thing my hips did. They've done this before, so I'm reluctant to place the blame on running ... though running probably didn't help any.

The Good News: The miracle-working osteopath who has treated me the two previous times this happened (six years ago and nine years ago) and is about 100 years old is still ticking and still open for business. So I'm going to see him next week!

***

The Bad News: I probably shouldn't run between now and then.

The Good News: I can still walk! And bike! And swim!

The Even Better News: This condition isn't one that stops people from running!

***

The Bad News: I probably bought a new pair of $running shoes$ last week for no reason.

The Good News: I have a brand-new pair of running shoes!

***

The Bad News: Yesterday was my last scheduled piano lesson of 2006.

The Good News: Deborah's Christmas present to me is a free lesson next week!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Welcome Back, Gusto!

During the couple of weeks before the half-marathon, my life seemed to slow to a standstill. I became very sluggish, very unproductive, and, yes, even a little depressed. I ran when I could, but not with the same gusto I had previously. I started getting weird physical symptoms--side cramps, knee pain, shoulder pain--and was afraid that I had some sort of injury. I also went on some mindless eating binges and gained a couple of pounds, which I of course carried with me for the 13.1 miles of the race.

I got a couple of calls to substitute-teach at my old school, but I told them I couldn't do it. I was too depressed to get out of bed in the morning. How was I supposed to show up for a job at 7:30 a.m.?

I became stuck on the edge of Chapter 6 of the novel I'm writing. All of a sudden, the novel seemed a waste of time.

Piano was the only thing that was working. And, sad to say, piano tends to work best when I'm trying to avoid dealing with Other Things In Life. Like fear. And I think that, on some level, I was afraid of this half-marathon. Even though I'd already run the 13.1-mile distance several times in training runs.

Two nights before the race, I had nightmares about my family disowning me. Only once in my life have I ever had nightmares like that: the night before I climbed Mt. Katahdin to begin my AT thru-hike. Some deep part of me was afraid that, by catapulting myself out of my comfort zone (and everyone else's comfort zones for me) and potentially failing, I was somehow going to render myself unlovable or unworthy or unacceptable.

Of course, I wasn't aware of that on a conscious level. But I guess that, no matter how much we challenge ourselves, we never lose the fear that necessarily accompanies such challenges. And there's one thing that I have learned: the greater the fear, the more important the challenge.

What's a little scary is that I've learned to ignore certain fears. As a result, I've ceased to realize the importance of the life-challenges they are associated with.

Odd. This was supposed to be a "Welcome Back, Gusto!" post, but instead it's made me all pensive-like.

See? Now that this race is over, I've started having deep thoughts again.

Welcome back, Gusto!

I'm Back

So my blogging break turned out to be a two-week vacation. I figured as much. Blogging will still be light for the next couple of weeks, but I'm feeling chipper and refreshed at the idea of blogging again.

I've managed to keep up with blog-reading, for the most part, though I haven't been commenting much either. Here are some of the exciting things that have happened in the little corner of the blogosphere that I care about:

Two of my favorite blogs in the whole world are Tonia's blog, Intent, and Ann V's blog, Holy Experience of Listening. Recently Tonia announced that Intent would be coming to an end, and that she will soon be posting on a new blog with Ann V. I must admit that I'll miss the old blogs, but I'm looking forward to the new one.

Hilda, the Dominican Oboist, made her official debut with the "Merrily Orchestra" in New York and is now hooked on the ensemble thing.

My artist friend Amy on the east coast finally put her Christmas tree up. So did my artist friend Linda on the west coast. I guess we should put ours up pretty soon, too.

Oh, poop. The bug man is here. I going to go ahead and post this, even though I'm not finished writing it. I'll write more later, I promise.

Meanwhile, here's a pianist named Steven Spooner playing the Liszt piece that I've been learning.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tonight's Practice

I didn't have a very long practice tonight. I'm a little disturbed about what a challenge it's been to speeding up my scales and arpeggios. I can play them perfectly up to a certain tempo, but if I try to go past that tempo, my hands just start slapping at the keys, not even trying to hit the right notes. It's as if they're saying, "I can't do this, so I'm not even going to try. So there. Blah."

I think I have some idea of the reason for this strange problem. I know the notes. I don't think it's an issue of not knowing what notes to play. I think part of the issue relates to the fact that I've been slowly, over the last year or two, adopting a new technique of relaxed hands and using my arms more and my fingers less. My hands don't seem to understand how to unite "relaxed" mode with "playing really fast" mode. My hands almost feel lazy.

I worked on the Suzuki Beethoven some. Not much to report there.

For the fugue, I reviewed my work from the last practice and began work on another measure. I really felt tired, though, and didn't feel like I was benefitting much from the practice. So, after I completed the measure, I moved on to the prelude and simply worked on emphasizing the leading voices. So much easier said than done.

Then I moved on to Liszt. Resisted the urge to just sit down and play it through, and instead worked on the final line of the piece, trying to make it sound more "shaped" and less ... like a bunch of randomly twinkling stars. I worked in rhythms and was surprised (once again) that I didn't know the line as well as I thought I did.

That's about it for tonight. The entire practice lasted about 50 minutes.

No Practice December 8

I spent the day in Charlotte for the Thunder Road Half-Marathon. Didn't get to practice piano, though I did play a bit on my birthmom's keyboard that afternoon.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Half Marathon!

Time: 2:15:46
Pace: 10:22

More later! ...

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Practice 12/7/06

Only an hour or so of practice tonight. I've been feeling a little depressed and sluggish and wasn't in the mood for practicing.

I fell apart on scales and arps again. I ended up spending quite a bit of time on them, particularly the scales (Gb and eb). I tend to mess up in the same spot in the LH, no matter what scale I'm playing, regardless of whether I'm in major or minor. I worked through that LH spot, worked in rhythms, played it very slowly, etc., and then was able to play the scale perfectly at 88. I still feel a little "shaky" about it, though.

I played through the Suzuki Beethoven. Didn't really practice it.

Went straight to the fugue and learned four new measures. Yes, four! I saved the easiest least complex page for last, and it was nice to be able to learn four measures in just ten or so minutes.

I worked on tone quality and emphasizing the "leader" in the first page of the prelude. Played very slowly. I ended up picking the two "LH leader" passages apart, playing every other note, every two notes, etc. I don't feel like I have the control I need in my LH for the subtleties Bach is asking of it. So George and I worked on acquiring that control. One thing I did was to have my LH touch play a note, then touch the key (but not depress it) for the next note, then play the next note, etc. I don't want to do too much of that because I have an inkling it can cause hand injury. But the short exercises I did tonight really helped me to see what I need to do in order to rein the LH in as a whole.

I didn't have time for Liszt, so I just played it through once. He gets to be first tomorrow.

Monday, December 4, 2006

December 4 Practice

Friends, I would not have practiced tonight if I hadn't promised myself to update this blog every day, whether I practice or not.

But I did practice! And I'm glad I did.

I actually practiced a total of about two hours, give or take a few minutes, today.

Scales sound good. Arps sound pretty good. D Major, of all keys, gave me trouble. Hm.

Inversions: I think I might be swinging too much. I've started leaning my weight into the keys. Not enough that it would be obvious to a non-pianist, but enough that I notice it.

Liszt: I actually practiced Liszt several times today. Worked on the "boring" quasi Violoncello part. I started paying more attention to the accent marks (pressure marks?) and slurs, and it wasn't so boring after that. It was challenging. But I have a host of questions for Deborah now.

Bach Prelude: Worked on page two. Drilled the poop out of it. Drilled the poop out of the transitions. I've been playing page two pretty well, but I get a nervous feeling whenever I get to it. I wanted to wear out that fuse, and made some progress toward that.

Bach Fugue: Added about six measures HT! Drilled and drilled and drilled. I didn't want to stop, but it's late. I now only have ONE PAGE left to learn HT. I won't have it before tomorrow's lesson, but I will by next week's--if I keep working at it the way I am!

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Breakthrough

Good practice tonight. Scales and arps are sounding good, even at the faster speeds. I worked on both the prelude and the fugue tonight. For the prelude, I drilled a few measures on page two, and for the fugue, I reviewed those last three measures, then went to work on a HT measure elsewhere in the piece.

For the Liszt, I did a bit of drilling here and there, and they played the piece through a few times, thinking about the architecture. I think this creative visualization thing is working. Each time I play through it, it feels "bigger" somehow.

What I really want to write about for this entry, though, is a tiny breakthrough that I've been observing lately. It's been a long time coming, and I really noticed it yesterday when I was playing at church. It has to do with hand positions, finger curve, gestures, etc.

Ever since I started taking lessons from Deborah three years ago, she has been after me to relax my hands, to use more than just my fingers and wrists when I play. My playing was VERY "fingery," and my hands got tired easily because I let them tense up so much. My thumbs and pinkies, when not striking the keys, stuck out at funny angles, just because they were so tense.

Part of that was, I'm sure, because I *was* tense--I started taking piano at a very stressful time of my life (new job, new marriage, new state, new house, etc.). Part of it was that I hadn't played piano on a regular basis in over ten years. I'm sure my current less-stressful lifestyle, along with a much-increased familiarity with the piano, has helped. Liszt and Bach deserve some of the credit, too.

What's the big breakthrough? It's this: I finally seem to have adopted the "relaxed hand" mode that Deborah's been trying to get me to understand for three years. I can tell that my arms are in the driver's seat--not my wrists and fingers. And I'm not having to consciously think about it. It feels natural.

I don't know when this change took place. I'm sure it's happened over time--and glacially so. But I noticed it at church tody because my brain tends to dissociate itself from my hands sometimes when I'm playing there, and I watched my hands almost like I was watching someone else's hands play. And I could see a real difference. My hands looked more like Deborah's hands. Like a professional's hands. Smooth and gliding. Not tortured and stiff.

So ... small breakthrough. Big breakthrough. Take your pick.

'Tis the Season for Christmas Songs

It's that time of year again. This morning for church I practiced "Oh Come All Ye Faithful,"Emmanuel," and a few others. We're supposed to do "Go Tell It On the Mountain," but I don't have the music to it ... so I went through my old music and found a book of Christmas Carols for Level Four Piano, edited by David Carr Glover. I wrote down the chords, and voila! I now have the music.

I think Christmas carols are tricky, partly because we only play them for three weeks out of the year. So it's almost like I re-learn them every December, and I never feel like I quite have them down. I've always found "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" particularly difficult to play well, since the chords change with nearly every beat.

The bad thing is that everyone knows these pieces, so the pressure's on to play them exactly right--to give them what they're used to hearing.

The good thing is that people generally sing Christmas carols so loudly and with such gusto that they either won't notice or won't care if there's a missed note here and there.

I think my favorite carols to play are "Silent Night" and "Away in a Manger." When I was in my 20s, I worked out a little conglomeration of "Away in a Manger" and the famous Brahms Lullaby. I knew nothing about counterpoint or harmony at the time, so it's not a very polished little composition. But I thought it was cool how the two shared a lot of chords and chord changes, and I had fun weaving them together.

OK. Time for a shower. Considering I have 2 hours of church, 5 hours of work and 2 hours of running today, it looks like this morning's Christmas practice is the only one I'll have today.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

12/02/06 Practice Report

Today's practice wasn't much of a practice. I had to work most of the day and am too tired tonight to practice. But I did sneak in about twenty minutes earlier today to play through those last three measures of the fugue. The notes are starting to feel more natural to my hands. I still have some work to do before they feel *completely* natural. The plan? Spend another 10 or 15 minutes (no more) on them, with the goal of memorizing them, and then move on to other measures.

No other practicing today. Tomorrow morning I hope to get an hour in before practicing the music for church.

Friday, December 1, 2006

12/01/06 Practice

I hope I'm not overdoing it. I practiced for about 110 minutes tonight. I'm so very tired, but I want to post a quick report while everything is still fresh in my mind.

The second-to last measure of the fugue is perhaps the most difficult complex single measure I've ever played. Deborah said to spend "about 10 minutes" learning each measure. Um, Deborah? This one took me thirty minutes. Okay, thirty-five.

If there's any one thing I've learned as a pianist, it's HUMILITY.

I spent the bulk of tonight's practice on the Fugue. The last line (final three measures) is a toughie complex bit of music, but I finally managed it. Each new set of rhythms was a challenge. I felt disoriented each time I started a new rhythm. Completely disoriented. Thinking, "What is this piece? Am I in the right fugue? Is this the music I thought was so familiar, once upon a time?"

Once I got that last line, I realized something: I now only have a page and a half left of the fugue. Once I learn that page and a half, I'll be able to play the whole thing, HT! After ONLY FIVE MONTHS! And maybe I'll be able to play it at tempo in JUST FIVE MORE MONTHS!

OK. So maybe I would have learned it faster if I'd practiced more diligently, instead of the fits and starts of the last few months. But still. This piece has been a bear very complex. A very friendly, fuzzy-wuzzy bear. Heh. Who am I kidding?

I worked on the Prelude for maybe 20 minutes. The final few measures are sounding quite good. I played through the whole thing VERY slowly, with the metronome. Then I drilled a bit of the second page. Then I realized I have this piece in my hands. There are only a couple of spots now where I pause a bit and have to think about what I'm playing. Know what this means, folks? This means I'm going to be able to start working on tempo before long! (I think!)

I played the Liszt several times throughout the day, always thinking in terms of architecture and wholeness. It's been interesting. In a good way, I mean. This weekend, I really want to drill the quasi Violoncello section. It's technically the easiest, but it's also the least interesting section to me ... which means I don't try as hard when I play it. The result? Not only do I sound bored, but I miss notes I shouldn't miss. Lovely. I need to work on that.

I didn't do scales or aps or inversions or Suzuki. Didn't think about it. As usual, JSB hogged my practice session. So I'll start with something else tomorrow.