|Photo by Georg Feitscher, on Wikimedia Commons|
Virtually every day on the job for me, as a collaborator/accompanist, is full of wonderfully satisfying moments. I have my not-so inspiring days too, of course, but I have to say they're pretty rare and tend to have more to do with external factors that have little to do with music-making. But even with this general blissful relationship with my job and with those with whom I work, there are sometimes moments that present themselves in such a way that I am completely blown away and amazed by the honor that I feel to be doing what I do.
I had one of those moments today. I'm still recovering.
Once a month I play the piano for a local cello studio's performance class. It's a pretty large studio with students of all ages. Most of the music I play for these classes come straight from the Suzuki repertoire and after having played for this particular group of cellists for 5 years, I can say that I've probably played every piece in those books a dozen times, at least. I guess you could say that I know the music like the back of my hand.
So that's where I was this afternoon. Cello class. Several hours long. Same music as I always play. A few folks with memory slips so I take on the challenge of smoothing those out. Some adorable little ones playing open string tunes without an ounce of fear. Nothing new.
But then, after about an hour and forty-five minutes, a teenage girl, that I haven't played with much and that seems quite shy to me, stepped up to the piano to tell me that she was going to play the Sammartini Grave from the g minor sonata. No problem. A very straight-forward movement. She tuned and we began. Actually, she began all by herself, with an eighth-note upbeat that completely caught me off guard and immediately transported me into a new world - her world. This one eighth-note and the phrase following it were very, very soft and very, very slow. Not a "bow in the wrong part of the string" soft or a "she has no pulse" slow but an other-worldly soft and slow that had both dimension and meaning. Now I have to admit that after a few phrases of this, the old, or perhaps I should say older "more experienced" (translate to "jaded musician") found myself questioning the wisdom of picking this way to express this particular music but that feeling only lasted a brief moment because the more she played, the more I was drawn into this wonderfully intimate space that she was creating.
Now her performance wasn't all quiet. There was a section in the middle in which she stepped out a bit from that space she had created. But it was all in perfect context and all wonderfully done. When we arrived at the last note, I couldn't help but smile. I couldn't criticize the tempo or the dynamics because she had made them her own. They were part of her and for those three minutes, I became a part of her and her interpretation as well. An incredible feeling.
A teenage cellist - not a prodigy, just your typical girl. Yet today she showed me a glimpse of something else, of something very, very powerful. She took me by the ear and showed me a completely new, fresh interpretation of this piece of music that I've played many, many times before. She also reminded me of how honored I feel on a regular basis, to be invited into other's emotional and creative worlds with no words of explanation needed.
Truly a gift.