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Last Saturday my piano teacher had her winter soirée. She organizes a get-together twice a year for all her adult pupils. It’s a night for great food and wonderful music. In the summer we have a barbecue, which is great because we can have the patio doors open allowing the music to waft out to everyone sitting outside. They have a lovely big house with a large open-plan kitchen. At the start of the night we all tend to mingle around nibbles on the dining table, catching up on everyone’s news. For the winter piano night, she normally makes three stews, and asks everyone to bring along either a pudding or a salad. They are also expected to bring along the music that have been working on to perform in front of everyone. I took along five tunes that I wanted to play. The conversation, especially for the musicians, often revolves around what everyone will be playing.

My teacher kicked off the playing with an incredibly fast Bach piece, which really showed off what a great player she is. I then jumped in next. I like to play early on, which helps to calm my nerves. I played a fairly passable version of Winter’s Tale (see post), which went down quite well. It had a few mistakes, but is such a melodic tune that it still sounds good. Most of the others prefer to play the more traditional classical repertoire, so I like to play something completely different. I followed it up with I Dreamed a Dream and was going to play On my Own, also from Les Miserables. However it turned out that quite a few people had brought along Schubert compositions, so my teacher was keen for me to kick off a Schubert-fest. Since I had brought along Ständchen (Serenade), see my post, I played that instead. I was really pleased with my performance; by then my nerves had calmed down, and felt that I did the piece justice.

Apparently it was Schubert’s birthday 206 years ago last week, which linked in quite nicely with the night; as following me five other students played Schubert compositions. There are some great pianists at the evening, and the rest of the pieces played were much more complicated than Serenade, but, in my opinion, none of them were as beautiful. Sometimes I find the more complex tunes have almost too much going on, if that makes sense?

It wasn’t just a night of piano; my teacher is also an accomplished saxophone player and clarinettist, and three of those present are learning the saxophone. My wife made the mistake of sitting right next to where they were playing. It is an instrument that is surprisingly loud close-up. The good news is that all of them have really improved over the last few years, so there were no foghorn sounds going on. One of them was telling me that he even passed his grade 3 in December and I don’t think he has been playing for that long. They were all really enjoyable to listen to, as you don’t often get to hear this sort of music so close. One of them played a great rendition of the theme from The Godfather, with my piano teacher accompanying on the piano.

One of the other piano pupils gets really nervous playing in front of others. She hates to be watched and gets thrown easily, so was hoping to time her playing whilst most people were getting their puddings. She played two lovely pieces from Howard Blake’s book Lifecycle. Blake composed the music for The Snowman see (snowman), and the most famous of all the tunes from this animation, Walking in the Air, is included in Lifecycle. Some people did sneak in to watch her play, but it didn’t seem to put her off, so I was really pleased for her.

I got back onto the piano later on, and played Monday from Ludovico Einaudi’s album Divenire. It is my second favourite of all his tunes, and I have only recently learnt how to play it. The nerves were still there a bit but I got away with it. On Tuesday I filmed myself at home playing it and have uploaded it below. This is the first time I have filmed a video of myself playing to upload to the blog. I filmed it all in one take and it is strangely as nerve-wracking as playing it live in front of people (even though I could have deleted it and tried again). I made quite a few mistakes, but I felt it is more honest and a better record of progress for later, to show it, warts ‘n’ all. So if you click on the video below, you can judge for yourself. It is a piece that I will continue to play and perfect. I may even post up another version of me playing it error free in the future.

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