|Image from Wikimedia Commons|
My husband, Tadd, and I are are just finishing up a busy month performing several concerts in Germany and Switzerland and here in the US. We've never performed so much in such a short amount of time and it's also a first for us to have performed one program so many times - needless to say, we've learned a lot about ourselves, audiences, and performing in the process and we are thankful that our most recent recital in particular felt like an exclamation point at the end of a very satisfying paragraph.
How we got to that exclamation point was somewhat of an evolution over the past year as we've performed our Love.Songs program repeatedly. We slowly figured out how we wanted to interact with our audiences and how we wanted to break down some of the traditional walls that typically separate audiences and performers; we grew more comfortable with the music we performed; we also grew less concerned with how the more traditional classical musicians and fans in the audience were responding to what we had to offer. But the thing that really inspired the exclamation point was a situation that sprang up out of the blue and that put us in a place where we were given the opportunity to make a recital partially about the audience and not about us.
The university where we were performing had just been given a concert grand Steinway as a way to memorialize someone in their community who had recently passed away. We heard about this piano from several people as soon as we arrived and with each mention it was accompanied with an amazing sense of excitement and pride. We were also told several times, with many apologies, that the piano wouldn't be unveiled until a special ceremony and performance being held the weekend following our own. In all honesty I wasn't bothered terribly by the news since I'm far from being a top tier pianist and because I enjoy playing on just about anything that resembles a piano and I am always up for the challenge of figuring out a new-to-me piano. We preceded with our dress rehearsal using the "old" Steinway concert grand and I was thankful for the opportunity to have plenty of time to get to know the instrument. When it came time for the concert, Tadd and I did our typical hang-out on stage beforehand, talking to the incoming audience members and getting to know them a bit which was, as usual, great fun and helpfully relaxing. About two minutes before the recital's start time a gentleman who turned out to be the piano professor at the university approached us with our host and whispered to us, with a great sense of urgency and conspiracy, that we could use "the" piano if we wanted to. At first we politely declined, saying that we had already rehearsed with the other piano, the recital was supposed to start, we didn't want to cause a fuss, but it became clear to us quite quickly that perhaps we ought to reconsider. There were several students nearby that were overhearing our discussion and as soon as they figured out what was being offered there was a new buzz that was added to the atmosphere that made it virtually impossible for us to make the wrong decision. Tadd and I asked, "Where's the piano?"
Five minutes later, five minutes "late," we began our performance with me on a piano I had never played before, but one that meant the world to the majority of our audience.
So what was the piano like? Was it the best piano I have ever played on? Was it "worth it?" I did enjoy getting to know the piano in this blind-date situation and it did have a lovely sound in spite of some sticking keys. In the end, even those sticking keys didn't matter much because I knew that this switch was indeed worth it. Through that one simple act of accepting their gift we had made the performance a two-way street. We had told our hosts that this performance wasn't just about us or the music we were performing, it was also about them.
I think that is worth one exclamation point! Or maybe two!!