Sunday, August 2, 2009

One Week in the Life of a Camp Counselor - Thursday and Friday

THURSDAY - Today, unfortunately, Mrs. Eastman was out with a sore throat, but we hoped to have her back the next day. For a change, the morning didn't begin with a recital, but rather with a class by Ruth in which we discussed interpretation - what image does this section of a piece give you, why, and how do you bring that across? She chose a good one for it, too - Debussy's Claire de lune - and we talked about what kind of moonlight each part might represent. It was very interesting how different kids saw different sections. They also discussed a sonata by Schubert, which was a lot of fun, though not so easy to think up images for, because, not being Impressionist, it wasn't meant to only convey an image. Then, of course, there were lessons; and at noon, as usual, we split up and walked to lunch. The kids voted for pizza unanimously this time so I was introduced to Raccanelli's while Matt took his bunch to Imo's.

We got back in time for a little practice, but then it was time for Mr. Schene's recital. To me this was the highlight of the whole week, if not of the whole summer, musically speaking. He started it with the Beethoven sonata I happen to be working on now, Op. 2 No.1 in F minor. There's really not much to say about it, it's Beethoven! He did it beautifully, as always (this is the second time I've had the good fortune to hear him play it.) The first movement sparkled, despite the piano marking which he followed perfectly; the second was wonderfully gentle; the minuet-and-trio danced, as all good minuets should; and the final movement had me watching his flying fingers breathlessly till the last arpeggio came whirling down the keyboard. Beethoven doesn't need huge chords for an effective ending - that arpeggio ends in a single note that is a perfect period to a swiftly-but-well-spoken sentence! He followed it with Reflets dans l'eau, from Debussy's Images. It sounded exactly like reflections on water look - softly shimmering. I haven't had a really good look at the score yet but it's definitely a piece I want to play someday. And then, he finished it off with Chopin's Scherzo in B-flat Minor. Every note rang like a bell; after the martial introduction, the second theme, rather like a dance, was delightful! I couldn't take my eyes off his hands - I love watching him play, because it's so obvious that every finger knows exactly where it's going next, and in this piece, which I am familiar with and fond of, it was awesome to watch.

After a well-deserved thunder of applause, he had time for a couple of questions, ("No, I am not going to tell you how old I am," he joked, and I laughed "I know!" which made him give me a mock-glare as he said, "Well, thanks!"). We discovered that he had begun to teach himself piano at the age of seven and started lessons at nine. "That was a long time ago," he added, which made us all laugh. (And he made his concert debut at the age of fifteen! I wanted to ask what that first concerto was, but never got the chance; I'll ask him sometime.) Someone asked him how long it took him to learn the Scherzo; and he left us all stunned by saying, "Well, considering I learned it when I was fifteen, (wow! that's quite a piece for any fifteen-year-old!) I couldn't tell you exactly. But if I tried to learn it now, let's say, with some hard work, it could be done in... ten days." The children were amazed. I wouldn't be surprised, knowing Mr. Schene, but - phew!

We had to run over to Winifred Moore Auditorium then (Winnie Moore, as we all call it for short), for the first run-through of the recital. We didn't have time for everybody, but almost all of them got to play before we walked back over to the Music Building at four.

FRIDAY was lots of fun too! They started off with lessons and "practice till you fall off the bench," as Donna instructed on the daily schedule I typed that morning (I made that phrase bold, italicized, underlined and extra big!) Even Matt and I taught a lesson each, because Mrs. Eastman's sore throat had become a violent case of flu and so there was, of course, no way she could come. At ten-thirty we had dress rehearsal, clad in our olive-green Piano Camp t-shirts, and the children collapsed laughing at the end of Matt's and my rendition of Randall Compton's C.S. Theme and Variations -- it begins like Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody, but turns into Chopsticks, thence the "C.S." And at one point, the secondo, or lower part, comes flying up the keyboard and the primo has to jump out of the way and come round behind the bench to take the lower half of the piano -- so maybe "C.S" stands for "change seats" too, haha! As we came back to the building to leave our things, Connor had a light bulb and said, "Why don't you run around the piano instead of the bench?" I thought it was a brilliant idea and so did Matt, so we determined to do it! And when we came back and had a bit of time to practice, we tried it with the lovely Steinway grand in the Recital Hall (a.k.a. the Precious!) and it worked splendidly.

The recital that afternoon was wonderful. Only a few small slips occurred, but in general it was perfect and the children really did us credit, from Matt's perfect Bach to Miriam's delightful "Golliwogg's Cakewalk", the grace of the trio and the sparkling duets, and Matt and I ended it with the hilarious Chopsticks duet. There was as much laughter as applause at the end, which was a good thing! Actually, it became even funnier along the way because I nearly miscalculated my dash around the piano, since I hadn't considered one thing: the Steinway in the recital hall is a model B, about seven feet long, while the concert hall's piano is a full ten-foot concert grand, adding about six feet to the distance I had to run! As it was, I managed to collapse breathlessly onto the bench exactly in time to hit the next chord, and we kept going without a pause! Even Mr. Schene said afterward that we'd performed it very well, which was a relief, because we two had wondered what he would think of two of his serious (haha) piano majors playing such a nonsensical piece, (though it takes a lot more technique than it sounds like it does!)

After Ted Drewes' ice cream (a signature St. Louis delicacy) and a lot of chatter and farewells, Matt and I helped the ladies close up the concert hall and headed off home. It was a lovely week and they said they wanted us next year if we wanted to come, so I'm already looking forward to it!

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