Tag Archives: violin

Weekend Coffee Share – 4th March, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Hey, so what’s been going on in your neck of the woods this week? I had a virtual visit to London catching up with  Geoff Le Pard and Dog who ventured out for a walk in the snow where Dog was a bit sensitive about show getting in between his paws. Next, I scooted off to Birmingham with  Suzie81 Speaks and froze through  Snowmageddon. Meanwhile, it’s been hot and sunny here in Sydney, but not as scorchingly hot as it has been.

I know it doesn’t sound very exciting, but I am still fighting off Fergus the phlemmy cough and sinus infection. Consequently, I’ve been sleeping a lot and trying to stay home as much as possible to fight it off. It has been making me a bit grumpy, but it’s given me the chance to read.

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Atticus (played by Gregory Peck) and Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Read…That’s right I am re-reading Harper Lee’s: To Kill A Mockingbird. Have you re-read it since you studied it at school? Or, perhaps you haven’t read the book at all. I’d been meaning to re-read it for a few years, as one of my favourite all-time quotes comes from the book:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

However, it’s simply been phenomenal to re-read the book and read the action around the quotes and truly understand what they were fully intended to mean within context. That’s so much richer, yet perhaps more limited, than when the quote appears all by itself drifting through space without a base.

Another quote also really resonated with me:

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.- Atticus Finch”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

This quote appeared in reference to Mrs Dubois who’d become addicted to morphine and was went through the horrors of withdrawal not because it would save her life, but because she wanted die free of the drug. After Atticus explained what she did, Jem and Scout came to respect her courage and understand somewhat why was she so cantankerous and difficult.

I also relate to this quote myself in terms of my health. I keep on fighting and keep staying a few steps ahead. This doesn’t feel like bravery or courage, but those qualities aren’t born out of hardship and mess and not a bed of roses.

This week has also had a few triumphs for the kids. Our daughter has an audition coming up which requires playing a musical instrument. However, she hasn’t touched her violin for over a year, but fortunately she has another week up her sleeve and much to my pride and irritation, she’s already playing Fur Elise better than me…the good old reliable tortoise. Meanwhile, at sailing our son was helping another young man who’d just got his Flying Eleven and it was his first time out. I was really stoked that the club thought Mr was good enough to go out with him. That was a really positive sign of confidence and respect. Better than winning a race…Well, almost!

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Mr at the Sailing Club.

In terms of my writing this week,  I participated in Friday Fictioneers again. This week I based my flash on the story of Australian boxer, Les Darcy who tragically died young at the age of 21 in Memphis, Tennessee. I’ve added some bio details as well as a link to an excellent piece of writing by Australian author, Ruth Park who wrote his biography.

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Oops. I almost forgot to mention that we had had a bit of local excitement this week. A small sailing boat was beached during some heavy rain and with it came all the questions of how did it happen? Who owned the boat? And, perhaps the ultimate question…could she be saved? I know how much our boats have meant to us and this boat was vintage with timber trim and had character. Since there are no secrets around here, it didn’t take me long to find out who owned the boat and how it came to rest. Beached Yacht, Ettalong, Australia.

Anyway, that’s about all for now. How has your week been? I hope it’s been a good one.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Alli.

xx Rowena

 

 

Bless Our Little Violinist!

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.

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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.

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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.

Rowena Lizottes

Posing after our violin performance 2012. Lizotte’s is a rock n’ roll venue where the likes of Diesel have performed…and me! The music school hired the venue for our concert.

 

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.

xx Rowena

 

 

The Last Rose of Summer…Friday Fictioneers.

There was something different about this rose…the last rose of Summer. While the harsh Autumn winds had claimed the rest of her kin, she stood firm, holding her petals in tight. Clearly, she was waiting.

Once upon a time, I would’ve known she was waiting for me. That she would be my bride. I’d have pulled out my violin, and accompanied her sweet song. Kissed her tenderly, sweeping the dew drops from her heart.

However, the winds had changed. Tortured by her thorns, I only knew love’s scars.

I did what I must.

It was off with her head.

……

Rosa_'Old_Blush'

“The Last Rose of Summer” is a poem by the Irish poet Thomas Moore. He wrote it in 1805, while staying at Jenkinstown Park in County Kilkenny, Ireland, where he was said to have been inspired by a specimen of Rosa ‘Old Blush’.[1] The poem is set to a traditional tune called “Aislean an Oigfear”, or “The Young Man’s Dream”,[2] which was transcribed by Edward Bunting in 1792, based on a performance by harper Denis Hempson (Donnchadh Ó hÁmsaigh) at the Belfast Harp Festival.[3]

I have been researching my Irish roots for many years and recently started researching a group of Irish Famine Orphans from Midleton Workhouse County Cork who emigrated to Sydney, Australia. These girls included my 4th Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan. I have been trying to pick up a bit of Irish cultural history and came across this dramatic poem.

– Wikipaedia.

“The Last Rose of Summer”

‘Tis the last rose of summer,
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
Or give sigh for sigh.

I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter,
Thy leaves o’er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,
When friendships decay,
And from Love’s shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie withered,
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit
This bleak world alone?

Thomas Moore

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Marie Gail Stratford

 

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

 

 

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