Category Archives: Violin

The Prodigal Violinist.

Last Sunday, I performed Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring at “MY violin concert”.

Before you start asking me for the details of my national tour, or how to order copies of Ms+e shar them in the comments. CD, in the interests of brutal honesty, I should confess that it wasn’t actually MY violin concert after all. Rather, I was performing at: “Music in the Orchard”, put on my the music school where I learn the violin. I know that’s just a minor distinction. A question of being in the fine print, instead of having my name up in lights, but a point needing clarification.

Anyway, as it turned out. I deserved to have my name my name up in lights,and that’s just for turning up. Ironically, playing my violin turned out to be the easy part.

You see, our household has a thieving poltergeist, and last Sunday morning it gave its best performance yet.

The nightmare started when my glasses went missing. Indeed, it hid my glasses  so well, that it took three people to find them. Every night, I put my glasses on top of the pile of books beside my bed. However, it’s not uncommon for me to send them flying during the night, but they usually land in the same old, predictable places i.e. down beside the bed or under the side table. However, this time they travelled further afield and had actually dived into my shoes. In an embarrassing moment of capitulation, I had to call my husband home from Church to find them.

The poltergeists next target was my daughter’s tap shoes. As no day is sacred in our end of year schedule and we’re double and triple booking and splitting the kids and ourselves up between us, my daughter had dance photos on the same day as my violin concert. While I’d really been looking forward to her hearing me play and being a part of my special day, I dropped her off at the dance studio as I headed up the hill. By this stage I was running late for my concert, but I figured that I wouldn’t be the opening act and would be well down the pecking order towards the end.

No such luck!

No sooner had I got there, and I was tuning up and praying to whoever it is who takes pity on mothers trying to pull off a performance while supporting their children and is lucky to be dressed at all, let alone made up. And, as for getting those fingers, strings and bow to cooperate, it was, going to take desperate prayer and serious pity. A case of the prodigal violinist… “I know you haven’t practiced enough, but I’ll help you play those strings and together we will make sweet music.”

As it turned out, I did have a guardian angel and that was my teacher, who was not just playing a duet alongside me. She was my accompaniest and a good accompaniest enhances the performer and compensates for their mistakes to make them look better. I knw she had my back, which gave me the confidence to get up on stage at all when I was only just adequately prepared.

So, let’s fast forward to my actual performance. I was playing Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring. It is a fairly difficult piece, but it starts out relatively easy and gets more difficult as you go along. I usually managed it through the first page alright but struggle with the rest. Indeed, we had been looking at cutting out the middle section, but I really liked it and found it very dramatic so I bumped up the practice and went into prove it mode.

However, after all the stress of actually just getting to the venue and trying to find my bearings, I started stumling right from the start and my fingers weren’t getting into gear. There was part of me which was starting to feel my performance was doomed. That if I couldn’t even get the start right, I was really going to botch up the other bits. It was that same kind of dread which overtakes your stomach when you’re on a rollercoaster  and your peering straight down over the edge of the very earth. You are going to die! Yet, at the same time, there was also that awareness that the show had to go on. That I couldn’t give up. I just had to make it to the end.

Then, the strangest thing happened.

After stumbling at the start, I actually nailed the rest of the piece and it really did sound sensational as a duet.

I have a very patient and encourging teacher! A veritable angel!

Do you have any performance stories you’d like to share? Please share in the comments.

xx Rowena

 

 

Never Give Up!

Yesterday, I almost cried with joy…relief. It was a true Eureka Moment moment. Just like you can strangely sink into a pit of despair over that proverbial glass of spilled milk, I found myself close to tears of pure joy, just by having my carpet cleaned. The “new” carpet wasn’t perfect, and still has its battle scars (mostly thanks to the fish tank). Yet, the metamorphosis was UNBELIEVABLE!!

We have wrestled for years about whether to get the carpet cleaned, or replace it. While replacing it seemed the obvious choice, we couldn’t agree on what to replace it with. So, its been  lingering on life support for eternity.  It’s only thanks to the funding I’ve received through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), that this became possible. That’s largely because I didn’ need to think about it. I could just do it. “Have a Nike moment”. Well, to be honest it took a lot more than just a Nike moment. It took a hell of a lot of work to “be prepared”, and that could only happen because the dermatomyositis is in remission and I have this NDIS funding.

DSC_6360

Now that the carpet’s returned from the dead, I have a glimmer of hope that the rest of our house isn’t dead after all. As they say, success breeds success, even when it comes to something as small and seemingly insignificant as the carpet. Slowly but surely, I’m getting my dignity back…and not just in relation to the state of the house, but I’m also feeling the cogs moving much more smoothly within.

Being something of a lounge chair philosopher, this brings me back to something I’ve considered before:

Is your house is a reflection of your soul, who you are as a person or your state of mind? Or, does it stand alone?

Naturally, it would make logical sense that whatever “stuff” is going on in your household or your life, that your house would become some kind of mirror or reflection. However, that can work both ways. Some people seem to throw themselves head long into maintaining the fascade during a crisis, seemingly to hold up the crumbling interior. For us , that hasn’t been an option. I’ve been sick for way too long and even the support crew’s had it. So, at our place, the house and garden have also cracked…along with the mirror.

However, is this crumpled wreck of my self or the accompanying shell, the real me, especially when I’m not living alone? After all, a family home is a family home, a canvas each of us paints and even when we live alone, a house isn’t a blank canvas. There are functional, financial and cultural considerations which reign our vision in. Most of us can’t just splat our real selves everywhere. Or, at least shouldn’t!

 

The photo on the left shows me having a transfusion of IVIG. I had these every 3 weeks for five years until my treatment regime crashed with a flare and I had chemo. In the photo on the right, I’m playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata after a chemo treatment. 

Yet, strangely we are resurrecting. I’ve been in remission for 3.5 years. Moreover, about four months ago, I was approved for our National Disability Insurance Scheme and any looking back has only been to celebrate my onwards and upwards progress. Well, that’s aside from my usual bout of severe chest infections, and the operatic cough which hails from the dark side of Hades. Indeed, I’ve been wrestling with all sorts of horrors lately as I’ve barked my way along some grueling, grim tributory of the River Styx filled, which is populated by all sorts of ghoulish spectors and shadows. Just picture the grim reaper, and I definitely believe he’s been stalking me for the last four weeks. However, I’ve become a seasoned veteran of the battle, and his attacks are not as severe as they once were.

 

Anyway, under the NDIS, I’ve been able to get extensive help at home and we’re steadily chipping away at years of neglect, struggle and the too hard basket, which has been overflowing with so much rubble that it’s toppled over.

So, you could just imagine my relief, my exuberarant joy and tears, when I said: “Hello carpet” yesterday.

It was also: “Hello sky”, because I also had the windows cleaned and much to our amazement, they’re clear. My daughter even joked this morning, that the magpie might fly into the glass and hit it.

The state of the windows was just another thing I’d switched off to. I know people do get their windows professionally cleaned, but this was out of our league and in terms of DIY, we’ve been struggling to put one foot in front of the other before NDIS. Windows, to me, is a computer thingy.

So, even though I’ve missed my usual contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share this week, I’d love to invite you round for coffee right this minute. That is, while the windows and carpet are in a blissful state of suspended animation, and you can actually see the floor. I know it won’t take long for trouble to return. We’re moving into Spring here and we have a little black dog who covers our carpet in a layer of felt. We also have two kids and my husband and I are also human.

In other words, we live in the real world…not Facebook or a magazine.

Have you experienced anything like this lately? Something you would call a “Eureka Moment” which has almost had you jumping out of the bath and running naked through the streets like  Archemedes? If so, I’d love to hear it and these stories are so encouraging to people in the thick of the storm, who doubt there’s any way out.

dog in the storm

Stupid me actually drove into this storm in search of “the shot”. I ran to my car which became my “tin can”, while hail the size of a golf ball pummelled the car. Even the sound alone, was terrifying.

On the other hand, if you’re currently feeling trapped in the thick of the storm, know you are not alone. A lot of people have been there or are there right now, and are only too willing to hold your hand either figuratively or in person. I would encourage you to hook up with some people sharing your experience, especially veterans and survivors of your particular battle. I know I’ve certainly found a lot of comfort with “my colleagues”, my “fellow travellers” in the same boat.

Take care and don’t forget to count and even search out your blessings. There’s always something, no matter how small. Or, perhaps it’s so big, you’ve only seen its feet.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

Rowena sun

Here I am at Railway Park, Byron Bay. The artwork was done by a mum whose son died in the park from an overdose of prescription drugs. She undertook this art in the park project to help save others.

 

Leonardo Di Vinci

Last night, I wasn’t looking for personal inspiration. It was more a case of getting my son to do his history assignment on a medieval/Renaissance leader.If you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ll know all about this. If you’re not, you’ll remember your own parents railroading you unless you were some kind of glowing Marcia Brady.

If you’ve been following my blog at all, you’ll know I’m crazy about history and won’t be surprised that I had more than a passing interest in my son’s assignment and might have some useful resources.

No doubt, that’s why he chose to research Kublai Khan. I had  fantastic, illustrated books on Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. So, they were too easy. We’ve even been to a superlatively inspirational exhibition in Sydney where they’d built interactive models of Da Vinci’s inventions and you could operate them yourself. Yet, Da Vinci was off his radar and I couldn’t help feeling like he’d plucked Kublai Khan out of a hat!

So, I made a brief but futile attempt to change his mind and retrieved my beautifully illustrated and well-researched book on Leonardo down from the shelf…Ritchie Calder’s: Leonardo & The Age of the Eye. A book, which despite my best intentions, I still haven’t read!

Of course, I know I should’ve read it myself and that it’s been sitting on my shelf for about 3 years making me look smart without actually taking it in…pretty stupid. Yet, aren’t most bookshelves also packed with good intentions????

Anyway, in a serendipitous moment, I opened the book at this paragraph, which really resonated with me:

“Leonardo was the observer with the naked eye and the naked ear. He also had, and never lost, his childlike curiosity which, however much we may specialize in the more-and-more-about-less-and-less, is the essential nature of science. His was not the structured life of the child who having revealed an aptitude for what is scholastically called “science” at some immature age is told that he should be a physicist, chemist or a biologist, and from then on  is academically escorted through the science stream, the science faculty, and the post-graduate course into the learned societies. He learned where he went and where the interests took him.” (pg 261).

While I’m not going to re-write the entire book (especially when I haven’t read it!!), I found this a few paragraphs down, which gives an insight into the breadth of Da Vinci’s “education” and training:

“His science began as a painter. He was lucky to be apprenticed to Verrocchio at a time when perspective had become a preoccupation with artists…among the master’s cronies the subject of perspective was not just a matter of working practice; it was a matter of winebibbing  debate, as well as quasi-mystical dissertations on spatiality. In a way it was putting them, the artists, on speaking terms with the intellectuals around the Medici Garden…

Probably the most powerful, formative influence on Leonardo was Toscanelli, physician, astronomer and natural philosopher. The tracker of the comet, the cartographer and mentor of Columbus kept open house for the likes of Leonardo, whom he encouraged in the systematic study of mathematics, and introduced to astronomy.” pg 261.

Thus, Da Vinci was nurtured in a very rich, yet broad and multi-disciplinary environment, and not simply pushed down one path to become the “performing genius” if you get my drift. While the benefits of a broad educational base bare obvious to some, there’s so much pressure to become that expert. That person who knows that topic in painstakingly intimate detail, even if that means losing site of the bigger picture entirely. Even if it means being unable to tie up your own shoe laces or bake a cake. Indeed, too many experts have travelled so far down their own drainpipe without networking with even slightly-divergent colleagues, and there has to be a price for that. Few of us would even dream of having Da Vinci’s genius. Yet, it was built on curiosity and a broad brush stroke, NOT knowing everything within a very narrow sphere too well.

By diversifying ourselves, we too could reap the benefits…especially as creatives.

I practice what I preach. While writing, photography and research are my mainstays, I also learn the violin and have been doing contemporary/ballet classes for the last six months, which have really intensified my vision.

Not that I’ve become Da Vinci, but at least I’m working on it!

xx Rowena

 

Musical Reflections 1941…

In March 1941, while London was in the throws of “The Blitz”, my grandmother was performing in Newcastle, a regional city North of Sydney. She was a concert pianist and after studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London, she returned to Australia in 1940 to tour with famed conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham…and no doubt to escape the bombs!

Fast forwarding to 2017, and I’m meticulously going through old newspapers online, transcribing text and pasting articles about her into word documents by year. It’s taken me years to come up with this approach for compiling all these bits and pieces, especially as filing isn’t exactly my forte.

An interesting aspect of my grandmother’s career, at least from the perspective of a storyteller, is that she lived through an extremely turbulent, yet fascinating, period of history. That included: the Great Depression, WWII, “women’s lib”  and also the Cold War when she actually performed behind the “Iron Curtain” in East Germany and Soviet Russia (the latter being quite an “interesting” thing for Grannie to do and she even brought back some Russian coins which was not allowed!!)

So, when I stumbled across this little discussion in the Newcastle paper about the conflict between classical music and Jazz, I thought of a few bloggers who’d find this interesting and I’ll be popping round to “your place” and dropping off a link. You never know when little historical snippets like this could come in handy:

So, here goes:

“WORDS CONTINUE, like pebbles, to be thrown into the stream of controversy that races between followers of jazz and the classics. One writer, who attempts an impartial summing up of the question suggests: “The highbrow’s error is to suppose himself a different creature from the low brow. He loathes himself if he is betrayed into humming a tune that all the world is singing or into tapping his feet in time with the band. And failing to recognise or contemptuously rejecting these instincts in himself he has nothing but scorn for their manifestation in other people. To him the lowbrow is the person who likes ‘that kind of music.’ How much better if we realised that there are occasions when we all like ‘that kind of music” when our superior faculties are enjoying a rest. “This problem must be giving the B.B.C. a headache in compiling its feature programme. ‘Music while you work,’ since obviously there must be some who would prefer to make a bullet or put an engine together to the accompaniment of a Beethoven sonata than to ‘Roll Out the Barrel.’ “Germany, if reports are true, is producing special music to aid the war effort. Soldiers now march to tunes which automatically control their breathing to enable them to go longer distances without becoming exhausted.”

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) , Friday 21 March 1941, page 18

This tension between classical and contemporary music, rings bells for me back at school, even in the 1980’s.

As if being a teenager wasn’t confusing enough, while the rest of the teenage universe was into  pop/rock/punk etc, my best friend was into classical and drew me under her spell. In retrospect, she was one of “those kids”. Their family only watched the ABC and she never ate junk food. Indeed, she didn’t even know what a Mars Bar was. That should have been a warning in itself, but your best friend is your best friend. Sink or swim, you do it together…even if you do die a social death.

So, if I could speak to my 13 year old self, I’d tell her that she should stand on her own two feet. That before you publicly declare you love classical music, remember you played Grease at your slumber party, which was anything but. Anyone who is your true friend, can accept a difference of opinion and give you the space and freedom to be yourself. You don’t have to be clones. Also, if you decide to go against the flow, make sure it’s for something you strongly believe in and that you’re prepared to cop the fallout. Otherwise, it’s just not worth it.

These are life lessons I’m now trying to pass onto my kids. Navigating your way through high school is a veritable minefield and hopefully they can learn from my mistakes and make different ones of their own.

Meanwhile, getting back to the tension between different styles of music, I’m sensing that this has eased up over the years and we enjoy much more of a smorgasbord of styles these days. That we can be wonderfully eclectic. Is that your take as well? I’d love to read your reflections.

xx Rowena

 

The Poet Muse…a mostly magnetic poem.

Gorgeous Goddess

sleeping,

delirious in a chocolate forest.

Mother moon whispers

sweet symphonies.

 

Your hair is a rose garden

and I swim in your beauty.

Who are you?

What is your song?

 

I hear your music

Yet, can not dance.

Awestruck,

An inner silence

fills my heart.

 

Intoxicated,

I stare at you

as still as a pond,

though my heart beats

faster than time’s

tick-tock clock accelerating

fast beyond my dreams.

 

I feel such love.

Yet, have no words.

Only rusty strings,

an imperfect bow

and half-forgotten notes.

 

So, I’ll let you sleep,

and you’ll remain a dream.

Nothing compares with make believe.

Rowena Curtin  23rd November, 2016.

Silent Strings…Friday Fictioneers.

The ecstasy was intense. She knew exactly how to play his strings and  the notes wafted out their bedroom window, mingling with the moonlight. A fusion of souls, together they painted stars across the universe…pure magic.

But then his eyes opened.

She was gone but his arms were wrapped around her cello’s wooden curves…a grief on the brink of madness.

He shoved the imposter back in the corner… a ghostly statue he would no longer embrace, but couldn’t throw away.

How could she be gone, now when he needed her most?

Yet, there was no reply.

Only silence.

………………………………………………………..

This has been part of Friday Fictioneers

xx Rowena

PHOTO PROMPT © Björn Rudberg

Paralympics Weekend Coffee Share.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee  Share!

This weekend, I won’t be asking you to join me on the couch watching the Paralympics because I have a nasty cough and my son and I are staging our very own coughfest. Indeed, last night my cough suddenly deteriorated and I was relieved to have antibiotics on hand to fight it off immediately. I’m not back on deck yet but have perked up.

 

Being a person living with chronic health and disability issues, the Paralympics have a personal resonance for me. It’s encouraging to see other disabled people overcome their own hurdles to become athletes. I have experienced this myself in my own small way when I’ve taken on skiing, playing the violin and more recently ballet and have been amazed at how much I could do. Sure, I’m not flash but I’m getting out there and having a go. Moreover, I’ve achieved so much more than I ever thought possible. This is no doubt because I sell myself short and think I can’t do something. Moreover, I need to keep an open mind, remembering that just because I can’t do one thing, it doesn’t mean I can’t do something else or I could possibly be able to do something a different way. You could say that this involves applying my creativity and that creativity can also be about problem solving.

My big news this week, is that Beyond the Flow finally reached 50,000 views. I’ve absolutely stoked and have posted a photographic retrospective here.

Meanwhile, we went on a history cruise along the Hawkesbury River to celebrate Father’s Day last weekend. If you’d like to experience a taste of touring along this soothing river, you can click here 

The cruise took us under the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge and we heard about the demise of the original bridge, which only lasted 60 years. All that remains of this original bridge is a row of stately sandstone pylons…a testimony to engineering error.

After the cruise, we headed up to my parents’ place for afternoon tea and dinner.

dsc_3310

Wednesday night, we attended my daughter’s school musical and absolutely loved it. While she loves the performing arts and has had a few performances this year, the school school was part of this and every class put on their own act. I really like this kind of inclusive performance and strongly believe that singing, dancing and any form of musical of expressive dance, are for everyone. My daughter’s class represented the 80’s dancing to Footloose.

DSC_3343.JPG

Make-up is now becoming an essential part of these performance for our daughter. Mum barely wears lipstick and yet she had very tastefully brushed on eye  shadow in rainbow colours and it looks like the soft feathers of a bird. She did a great job and helped the other girls with their makeup. This seems to be quite important to her and a means of self-expression and being creative. One of the young assistants at our local pharmacy was very helpful, which I greatly appreciated. She is learning to apply it tastefully without looking like a clown, which has to be a bonus!

In addition to watching the Paralympics today, we also watched Ghostbusters I & II. That was such a trip down memory lane remembering video nights back in the day and running around your friends asking: “Who you going to call? Ghostbusters!” (with an Australian accent, of course!)

On that note, I’m heading back to bed. I’m napping a fair bit at the moment and it’s now very late.

How has your week been? I hope you’ve had a great one.

The Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part Time Monster.  You can join this week’s Coffee Share on her blog or by clicking on the Linkup Linky.

xx Rowena