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Arabella Goddard 1836-1922, English Pianist.

Image via Wikipedia

Being a pianist is a very useful thing, but mainly for other people. If their accompanist is ill/on holiday/dead/on strike, anyone who passed their grade three will be asked to fill in. There’s a myth, I think, that pianists are somehow magical musicians who need only to sit down at their instrument to be able to play anything put in front of them. Preparation is not required.
I am suffering because of this. Tomorrow I play for two services at my local church, mass and evensong, and I haven’t even got the music for half the stuff I’m doing.  About six or seven years ago this would have terrified me beyond measure. Right now I feel irritated, a bit unable to settle and annoyed with myself for not asking the vicar for more information.

Perhaps I’m viewing this all a bit negatively. The flip side would be to say that the people who ask me to play for them simply believe that I’m up to the job and will take it all in my stride. Further to that, they know that I will tend to say yes to things most of the time. And despite my grumbling here, I don’t really mind all that much. But I’ve started turning down the odd gig lately. Performance has always been the hardest part of being a musician for me. Nerves and distraction so often get the better of me, and my belief that I don’t have a big enough/hard enough/flashy enough repertoire more often than not gets in the way of my enjoying the performance.

The times I am happiest playing are when I’m by myself, late at night with my beautiful harp. It sounds better after dark, as though it too feels happier being played in private when there’s no one around.

After this I’ve two more performances next month, at least one of which I wish I’d turned down and then I hope it’s a clear run through til Christmas, when I am happy to play as long and often as required. Christmas makes my heart sing, and the depths of winter draw such glorious melodies from composers as to make playing a joy from Advent through to Epiphany.

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