A mosaic of tiny pages

Posted by Susan Tomes on 29 May 2009 under Concerts, Daily Life, Florestan Trio  •  3 Comments

I’ve been putting together a special performing score of my Haydn piano concerto for the Florestan Festival. I’m going to be directing the performance ‘from the keyboard’, and I don’t want to have too many pages to turn. There’s so much else going on in the festival – both musical and non-musical – that I’ve decided not to try and memorise the orchestral score as well as the solo part. But if I use my usual piano part, which has a great many pages, someone will have to sit beside me and turn the pages. I could ask someone to do that, but I’d like to try and have an uncluttered stage.

I’ve been to the art materials shop and bought several sheets of large, stiff art paper and a tube of paper glue. I’ve photocopied every page of the Haydn score and reduced it to a quarter of its size. I now have a pile of tiny pages from which I’ll create a mosaic, sticking 12 little pages on each sheet of art paper. I could have made the pages tinier, but I wouldn’t be able to read them. I’m trying to lay them out cleverly so that the few page turns come at moments when I’m not playing.

Roll on, e-book readers for piano music! Maybe they do exist; I’m not gadget-minded, so I may well be ignorant of something that’s already there. But I’ve never heard of a device which can be placed on the music desk of the piano and used to perform from. Where would it be plugged in, and if it wasn’t, what would happen if the batteries failed during a concert? How would the pages be turned if the pianist’s hands are occupied with playing the notes? Obviously you can’t shout, ‘Turn!’ into a little microphone. Friends have suggested that the tempo of the music could be somehow pre-set into the e-reader, so that the pages scroll past at a relevant speed. But anyone familiar with printed music will know that that’s not going to work. Depending on the density of notes on any given page, one printed page may pass more quickly than another in performance. The scrolling tempo of the pages would somehow have to be linked to the speed of real-time performance, so that if there is some delay, you don’t find that the e-score has moved imperturbably on to page 42 when you’re still trying to play page 36.

Ducklings

Posted by Susan Tomes on 28 May 2009 under Daily Life, Musings  •  Leave a comment

We were walking through Richmond Park, discussing various members of the younger generation and their current dilemmas. Should they change their jobs, travel the world, leave this partner or get together with that one? Will the pursuit of their dreams enable them to make a living? We sighed over the difficulty of finding one’s path in life. Where to live, what to do, how to find kindred spirits? What will make them happy?

We rounded a corner and saw a group of people standing respectfully back from something on the path beside the pond. It was a huddle of ducklings, at least twelve of them, nestling close together and ‘peeping’ tinily. Nearby, slightly bigger ducklings hopped merrily in and out of the water, watched over by a proud mother duck. We all stood and watched admiringly. ‘None of these kind of discussions in duck families, I suppose’, said Bob thoughtfully. ‘Can you imagine? “What are you going to be when you grow up, darling?” “A duck.” End of story.’

Calorie Gallery

Posted by Susan Tomes on 27 May 2009 under Daily Life, Inspirations  •  Leave a comment

hazelnut raspberry meringue

hazelnut raspberry meringue

Eat your heart out, pointlessly thin people, for this is a photo of the birthday cake Bob made for me yesterday. Two layers of chewy hazelnut meringue filled with double cream and fresh raspberries. A thing of beauty and a joy forever!

Legions of fans

Posted by Susan Tomes on 27 May 2009 under Daily Life, Florestan Trio  •  Leave a comment

I spent a long tube journey today reading the newspaper articles and special supplements about tonight’s Champions’ League Final football match between Manchester United and Barcelona. I’m not much of a sports fan, but anything can become interesting once you take the trouble to know something about it, and I can see that in any team sport played to a high level there’s the same fascination as there is in chamber music: the intense collaboration between talented people dependent on one another’s reflexes and powers.

As I read, I wondered what it must be like to have 200 million people waiting to watch on television, thousands of supporters flying out to Rome to attend the match, and thousands more taking time off work to fly to Italy without even having tickets for the match, knowing they will end up watching it on a screen in a field somewhere, but just wanting ‘to be near’. I can hardly imagine. In my line of work, there are passionate supporters and people determined to get to particular concerts, but their numbers are …. well, let’s say they are in the hundreds at most. We did once have a few music students camped in the churchyard at the Peasmarsh Festival, but I can’t say their behaviour caused the local police to tremble. No, we can’t compete with Man U. Yet I can’t believe there is less skill or value in what we do, and I still think lots more people would enjoy it if they gave it a chance.

Plodding without thought of the summit

Posted by Susan Tomes on 26 May 2009 under Florestan Trio  •  Leave a comment

Today was a Bank Holiday, but I hardly noticed. To me it was just a valuable practice day in the week leading up to the rehearsal period for the trio’s festival. Next Monday marks the beginning of a ten-day period in which we have to prepare all the pieces we’re playing in eight concerts. Once the festival opens, on the very day after the rehearsal period ends, the concerts fall thick and fast, and none of us can afford still to be thinking about notes or fingering. Even though it may look from the outside like an idyllic rural event, the festival is in some ways the biggest challenge of the year.

My left index finger is still fragile. No longer painful, it has however developed a ‘twang’ as if a tiny tendon is out of place in the fingertip. If I strike a note too forcefully, my finger ‘twangs’ as I release the pressure. So I’ve decided it would be wise to spend this week playing everything slowly and carefully.

Every year, preparing for the festival feels like a mountain to climb. And speaking of mountains, I got an important tip from reading about Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who at the age of 65 has just conquered Mount Everest. He said that his mental trick was never to think of the summit. He just kept plodding on, ‘walking for ever’, not allowing himself to wonder if he was near the top yet. Putting one foot patiently in front of the other, one of those steps would eventually be the one that happened to place his foot on the summit. I’m going to try to follow his example.