Today, I received an urgent SOS. No! NOT an SMS, but a real SOS. It read: “Mummy, I have a week to learn Fur Elise (her choice) on her violin for an audition. Please book me in for as many lessons as you can!!!!!”
If there is one thing I have learned from my kids, it’s to expect the unexpected. That as much as I try to be the conductor and orchestrate the piece, the players are busy composing their own thing and improvising instead. Obviously, there are no guarantees that it’s going to be a harmonious mix when it all comes together either. Much more likely, that the sounds will be wondering randomly all over the place like lost sheep. However, all is not lost. With three sheep dogs under one roof, hopefully they can retrieve the notes and bring it all back together. By now, I guess you’ve realized that we’re not traveling systematically in a straight line. Rather, our paths are more like a spider’s web AND for better or worse, I think that makes me the fly.
The spark for my latest philosophical rant, was my daughter. An audition has cropped up, and this musical calls for a singer and musician. That is, someone who can play an instrument. For my daughter, this posed no problem because she plays the violin. The only trouble is, that she hasn’t touched her violin in just over 12 months. Indeed, she hung up her bow after performing at the Sydney Opera House with her school. In case you haven’t had a love affair with the violin, it doesn’t appreciate neglect and has been known to screech and complain in very unpleasant, ear-piercing tones when it’s player returns. At least, that’s how it’s been for me!
The road to this audition hasn’t been easy. Miss was away at a school camp this week where, by the way, she lost her voice. Moreover, she had no time to learn her lines, resurrect her violin or prepare herself and then, we received a note from the dance school saying we were recording her audition this morning. Naturally, she wanted to pull out, but she’d made a commitment and getting audition practice is the name of the game at the moment. So, off she went… the violin case still covered in dust. It hasn’t been unopened in over twelve months!
I still remember what it was like be a kid and leap before you look, not really knowing what you ought to know before you dive in. Back when I was eleven, I filled out a form for a pen pal and ticked that I could speak German. After all, I could count to ten and also knew “Ja” and “Nein”. Of course, I was rather surprised when I received letters in German from three German pen pals. Then, there was the time I auditioned for the Bennelong Programme at the Sydney Opera House. I remember my friends and I filling out the forms and I ticked that I could play the flute, even though I hadn’t touched it in at least 4 years. I got into the programme but was ultimately so intimidated by the level of talent, that I left. I am clearly much better at creative writing.
Anyway, my daughter’s been given another week’s grace before she needs to do her recording. So, the voice has been ordered to rest, and the violin has been ordered to play. I must admit that I’m quite excited about this and I have loved playing with Miss in the past. Yet, at the same time, I know we have a mountain to climb. She not only needs to sound like a decent violinist, she has to look like one and that is almost as difficult. She has chosen to play Fur Elise, which you don’t usually hear on violin, but I’d chased down the music with my teacher. My mum has taught Miss to play it on the piano and Mum tells me that my grandfather used to whistle the opening bars. I can also play it on the piano myself…right through. It’s a sentimental fave.
Just as well I’m not a ruthless organizer. It wasn’t that long ago, that I had a good look at my daughter’s violin and wondered whether it was time to go. With a cupboard full of violins and three hungry dogs, I’m planning to sell the smaller violins and was wondering whether to add her ¾ violin to the pile. After all, how long do you wait to find out whether a dream’s merely asleep or if it’s dead? Even if it’s simply taken a different path and been reborn as something else, the violin was surplus to requirements. However, I couldn’t be sure and wasn’t ready to put that final nail in the coffin.
You see, I still remember once upon a time…
Back then, Miss was six going on seven with bobbed, dark hair, a fringe. She was my little sparrow. She’d fallen in love with the violin and despite my efforts to steer her into learning the piano, she insisted. At first, she played and played and played, but after the holidays, the stupid thing started screeching and it was all too much. She stopped playing, but I kept going. Despite all her protests, I knew there was a magic there. That the violin had touched her somewhere deep inside her soul and lit a spark. The sort of spark, which never goes out. Even if you can’t see a glimmer of light from the surface, the spark is still there just waiting to be rekindled.
While her love affair with the violin has been dare I say “fickle”, I have been steadfast. A week after her very first lesson, I picked up my bow again and I haven’t put it down since. Indeed, through pneumonia, chemotherapy and the demands of parenting with a chronic illness, I have played on. Just like the violinists immortalized on the Titanic, I’m no quitter.
Yet, learning an instrument as a mature aged student isn’t easy. It’s actually a very physical thing and I’m not physical. I’ve had to work hard, persevere and accept the plod while those around me soar and a little upstart picks up Fur Elise after not touching her violin for more than a year, and plays it. Not perfect, but after 30 minutes, she plays it better than me.
As much as I’m delighted and relieved she can pick it up again like that, I’d have to be honest, and say there’s a fair degree of schadenfreude in there. It’s not easy when you’ve put in the hours and someone else clicks their fingers, and gets there at the speed of light. You want to complain to management. Register you’re angst with the man upstairs. After all, isn’t it meant to be the tortoise who wins the race…
Do you have any tales of going for auditions or preparing for concerts etc? I’d love to hear them. Please leave them in the comments.