Carried Away

I got carried away today—carried away into a wonderful state of consciousness where I lost all sense of time and just enjoyed being enveloped in the music.

That tends to happen when I find myself with a grand piano, a Baptist hymnal, and a big, empty room with excellent acoustics.

Actually, it doesn’t. I’ve been practicing at that same grand piano at that same Baptist church at lunchtime for a couple of years now. Rarely have I let myself lose track of time. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I know I need to be back at work by a certain time because if I’m not, I’ll have to work later than planned. Who wants to do that? Not me.

Today I worked on a very tiny part of the Shostakovich, practicing for mastery of that one little tiny part. Spent a good half-hour or more on three not-very-complicated measures. Dug into the music, picked away at the layers, drilled in rhythms, and in the process played those three measures probably 60 or 70 times. That’s the way I like to practice. That is why I never had, and never will have, a future in music. (That, and I’m deaf.) I’d much rather tinker with the complexities of a single measure than, you know, learn the whole piece for a whole audience.

(Selfish? Probably.)

Anyway, after I finished drilling the Shostakovich, I decided to go back to work a little early, so I took out the Baptist hymnal to play through a few hymns, like I usually do at the end of a practice session. I’ve played them so many times, and I have fun improvising and trying out new interpretations. It’s kind of a “winding down” for my brain after the intense practice.

Usually, I play a couple of hymns, then I leave. Not today.

Today I played and played and played. And played. For probably an hour. I’ve been working on gospel-i-fying the hymns—you know, playing it in 3/4 or 6/8 time, using lots of grace notes, adding climbing and descending octaves, etc. It’s so much fun, even though some of my results leave much to be desired.

I also practice changing keys, usually just basic stuff like going from the tonic to the subdominant. I stick to the easier pieces—the ones that just have three or four main chords. It’s good training for my brain. (Training for what, I have no clue.)

I’ve long been at the point where I don't play exactly what’s written on the page. The chords in a hymnal are merely guidelines. I use them as such and go from there. It’s so much fun, even though the results are sometimes disastrous. This is part of why I have no future as a church accompanist. (That, and I have no desire to be a church accompanist. And I’m deaf.)

Anyway, I left for my “piano lunch” at 1:30 and didn’t get back to work until nearly 3.

What a great way to spend a long lunch.


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