due to space limitations in a church concert series, relying on the back of the violinist’s head and the tip of her bow
What can we do? How can we “deal?”
The pianist Ruth Slenczynska, in an event at SIU, talked about the way she practices during the two weeks preceding a concert. She intentionally creates uncomfortable conditions for herself! One day she’ll practice in bad light, the next in a cold room, then with the bench at an uncomfortable height, etc.
Pianist Peggy Lazarus, who lives near Boston, prepares her students for performances by making noise during their lessons.
As she said in a recent email:
“we practice with distractions…..my students play and I bang on drums, wail like a baby and blow a train whistle! Usually we all end up laughing…”
During college, my fellow music building inhabitants and I would go into each others’ practice rooms to make noise, take the music away, and dance around.
One more situation comes to mind. On occasion a concert venue will be highly reverberant. If a performer arrives just before the concert to warm up at the hall, that can change everything.
Do you practice with slower tempi from time to time? Playing slower in reverberant halls will sound clearer to the audience. Unless the reverberation is out of control, that is.
Putting more distance between the piano and another instrument can result in a separation of sounds, which ensures more clarity.
Producing shorter sounds makes a difference in live rooms. As a pianist, I also use less pedal (more in a dry acoustic).
Sometimes it’s difficult to hear yourself and other performers on stage. You have to do the best you can. Just try to play like you rehearsed. And watch your collaborators like a hawk! You’ll be relying on sight cues rather than sound.
I wouldn’t want my students to feel jumpy due to anticipated distractions when they go into a performance. But making them aware of how important it is to focus and to expect things to happen can be very helpful. Think of all the cell phones out there.
Learning the music in a variety of ways is good insurance. That way, when distractions happen, the performer can say the names of the notes, say the fingerings, focus on the chord structure, etc. Silently, of course.
In the midst of an oratorio performance last year at Smith College, a small dog found his way onto the stage via an open door. The soprano soloist nonchalantly picked him up and handed him to an orchestra member. (I don’t remember what happened after that.)
The conductor said he had been expecting a cell phone to ring, but a dog? And he didn’t miss a thing. The singer scored attention in the review for her dog catching skills in addition to her expressive singing.
With that said, being able to “deal” comes with experience. I wanted to write about it in the event that someone else might navigate a little easier.
Do you prepare yourself and your students for the unusual things that happen? How do you go about that?
What have you encountered in performances? What were the results?
Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below!
And be sure to check out the book sale! Special prices on “Goal-oriented Practice” are effective through midnight on Thursday, November 18! Both the E-book and print versions are available at bargain discount rates. Don’t miss out!
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