And Aubrey was her name
I never knew her but I loved her just the same
I loved her name.
~ Bread, “Aubrey”
Raven and Tempest were two sisters who performed in the piano/voice recital. Raven, the elder (14) sang show tunes. Tempest played piano and collapsed in tears when she (apparently) made a mistake during “Hedwig’s Theme.” (I didn’t notice the mistake – only the tears.) Tempest’s twin sister, Thorn, wants to take trumpet lessons. They were all very stylish in hair, clothes and bearing, and so was their mother, whom I instantly disliked.
Then there was the hippie family. The piano-playing children, Finnegan and Aurora, are small of stature with colorful hair (Aurora’s is grass green; Finn’s is purple) and elven faces they get from their mother. She was wearing a long, bohemian dress and displaying tattoos on both arms. (Later, when I needed a knife to open the packaging on my Edible Arrangements contribution to the reception, she bemoaned the lack of pockets in her dress – she should have had a pocket knife.) The dad had clean, shining hair cascading below his shoulders, and a tidy beard. Obviously I liked them a lot.
Rounding out the recital participants were Sera Juliet, a confident young lady of about 8 whose mouth – like her mother’s – turns down when she smiles; and Brianna, a teenager with braces who sang Smokey Robinson songs. And the old white-haired lady, moi.
I dreaded this recital for a lot of reasons. I don’t like to perform in public. I can barely play for my teacher, let alone an audience! I didn’t want to be the only adult, surrounded by small children who can play better than I. I knew I would make mistakes and I may know intellectually that it’s okay, but inside I feel like poor Tempest when I screw up. I was afraid I would get so tangled up I would need to start over. When you’re singing or playing a wind instrument, you can often keep going when you miss a note or an entrance, but so far I find with piano that I have to restart both hands if one of them lands on the wrong fingering. That would be embarrassing.
Most of all, I didn’t want to face up to my shortcomings. In my imagination, I play beautifully, perfectly, with emotion and fervor; and if that’s not true when I practice, well, I’m just practicing. This was the Real Thing, a recital in front of an audience, and I was terrified.
… That is, until I got there and saw the other participants and their proud families. I enjoyed watching them and hearing their performances, which weren’t perfect and didn’t need to be. Dads (and Trudy’s husband) had video cameras on tripods. A man who looked like Steve McQueen materialized in the doorway and Sera Juliet threw herself into his arms, squealing, “Grandpa!” Trudy’s two-year-old son ran from piano to piano (this took place in a piano/music store), until his caregiver had to take him elsewhere to let him run off steam. It was friendly and fun; and the least I could do, as the sole adult, was to help calm the jitters of the youth by minimizing my own.
I made several mistakes in the Bach (Prelude #1 from The Well-Tempered Clavier, if you’re following along in the program), but I didn’t have to start over at any point; and I felt like it came across well enough, rhythmically and dynamically, that the occasional misplaced note was forgivable. I managed not to come crashing down on the final chord, which requires delicacy and sensitivity, as if I’d arrived at the finish line of a marathon. So it was fine, and I smiled sheepishly at the audience when I took my bow. (Trudy had told me, laughingly, during dress rehearsal, not to roll my eyes.)
Then I was able to enjoy other performances and recover my sang-froid before retaking the stage for my second piece, a Telemann Bourrée. My place in the lineup was immediately after Tempest’s breakdown, so I was somewhat distracted by sympathy, sniffling and stifled sobs. Perhaps as a result, I played it better than I ever had before. And absolutely no one cared, which made it even better. (Well, okay, Trudy noticed.)
So after all, it was fine. I wasn’t flustered or emotional. It was pretty much like presenting at a staff meeting – I got my point across and got offstage without tripping. Sera Juliet’s grandma – who looked way older than Steve McQueen – wanted to tell me how inspiring it was to see someone her age (!) taking up piano; it made her feel like maybe she could return to those childhood lessons for which she never practiced. Raven and Tempest’s uncle, bearded and kilted, rushed over to thank me for playing Bach, because he just loves Bach. Aurora liked my turtle earring (the DiscWorld space turtle, worn for luck) . Her long-haired dad said that particular Bach prelude always makes him cry – always, including today. I thanked everyone and congratulated everyone and helped Trudy’s daughter with her fruit-on-a-stick, and it was fine.
I survived a recital and feel like I could do it again someday – and maybe even allow family and friends to come. Especially since my family members have cool names too.
Bring a pocket knife.