Saturday was my third performance with the string ensemble I play with.  Nobody died.  In fact, except for four consecutive measures in one piece where everyone kind of faltered, it was pretty good.  Of course we had ringers in both the cello and violin sections, so that helped.

I don’t feel terrible about the performance, and I don’t feel great about it.  We could have done better, but we have certainly done far worse.  The two things that stuck out for me was when my stand partner, two rehearsals out from the performance, suggested I not try to play all the notes in a fast 32nd note section (because I was really bombing on it); and when the lady to my right suggested I sit in the end seat because she thought I was good.  I think it was because she felt too exposed on the end though, so I’m not sure how I feel about it.

So I sort of received one compliment and one piece of advice aimed at making sure I don’t screw up the section.  All I know, is I have a long way to go.  I need to spend some serious time with the metronome.

My family came to see me, along with a coworker and her husband, and my sister, who brought me flowers.  It was nice of them to take the time out to come.  Plus, flowers – yay!

Yarn, Food & Dirt

I still haven’t knitted the toe on that sock.  It’s not as if I haven’t had time, but I just can’t seem to find it in me to sit down and just get it over with.  Perhaps I should give myself a deadline – especially since I want to use that set of needles to work on a Christmas present for someone.  I can’t believe I’m still planning to knit a gift and I haven’t even bought the yarn yet.  Clearly, nobody has ever accused me of being sane.

Now that our family has kind of gotten back into the swing of planning dinners ahead of time, we are eating much better.  One trip to the store every week is better for our time management, our stress levels, and our budget as well.  Since that has been so successful, I think I might start carrying lunch to work too.  As much as I enjoy leaving the office to get lunch, it is really expensive.  Plus, I’ve gained back half the weight I lost this winter.  I need to be more disciplined if I want to get back into those cute new clothes.

The garden needs to be cleaned out and reset for next year’s crop.  This year’s crop was pretty much a dud.  We got a couple of cucumbers and some tomatoes; but we couldn’t eat the tomatoes before worms got to them so it was a waste.  Maybe I won’t bother to plant any next year.  I might just plant all annuals so I can enjoy the garden again instead of fighting off the pests.

We have brought in many of the plants for the winter.  (That reminds me, they need to be watered.)  I ordered 40 daffodil and tulip bulbs so that we can enjoy some spring color.  I’d like to hire someone to put the big landscape beds in for me because I know that I just don’t have time to do it.  The plan was to get that done this summer but I had no luck finding anyone to help.

Weekend Update

We had a lovely autumn weekend here in central VA.  The last two days have been crisp, and we had our first frost last night.  The house is a bit chilly, but the fireplace keeps us warm downstairs and upstairs we just pile on the blankets.  I hate to turn on the heat until November.  Just two more weeks!  In the meantime, I’m getting good use out of the hipster flannel shirt I got in Seattle.

Last night a friend hosted a knitting  gathering and I met some lovely people.  I got the second sock of a pair I started in 2009 finished all the way to the toe decrease.  Just another hour or so and I’ll be finished with it.  It has been so long since I finished a knitting project!  Finally – I will have freed up a set of sock needles.  There’s a few more unfinished projects that would take a short time to complete.  Maybe after I kitchener that sock, I’ll pick one of them up.  No new projects until I get rid of some of the old ones!

We are getting a bit better about meal planning the last couple of weeks.  I have been trying to go to the grocery store once a week.  We had gotten into a terrible habit of going every time we ran out of something and some weeks we ended up going to the store daily.  It is my hope that if I go regularly, it will be less of an ordeal.  That first big trip was an expensive one because we were out of everything!  This week’s trip wasn’t as painful.   The only hard part is figuring out what we will eat all week so we buy the right stuff.

Meet My New Violin

For those who don’t know, I bought a new violin.  It’s a French workshop violin from 1908 and is nearly full size at 352mm.  At first it made me a bit tired to play because it is SO much bigger than my 3/4 (331mm), but I seem to have gotten used to it now.  Playing the old violin now seems cramped, but I like it better for fiddle music.  I haven’t decided whether to sell it yet.  Adam at Four Strings is restoring an old German violin that is between my old one and new one in size that he is sure will outplay the 3/4.  If I like it, I might sell the 3/4 and buy the other one, though I would be sad to let go of my first violin.

Here’s a picture of the new addition.  I’m calling it Colette for now, but that may change.

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It’s a Francois Barzoni, which is the brand made in Mirecourt for Beare and Sons in London.  Like all “brand” name instruments, they range from beginner styles all the way up to exceptional.  This one is one I would describe as “upper intermediate”.  The nice folks at Brobst Violins were really helpful and let my teacher and I play as many violins as we wanted.  I don’t know if they showed me anything out of my price range because I didn’t ask about prices until about four hours into the trial process, when we had narrowed things down to two fiddles and three bows.  I wish now that I had looked at labels as we were going through the violins (we tried about 25), but at the time I didn’t want to be influenced.  Along with Colette, I also purchased a Richard Grunke gold-mounted bow that is truly wonderful, and may be the only 7/8th size bow I’ve ever come across.  All in all, with the new violin, bow, and a new case, I squeaked out of the shop only $300 over my budget.  I call that a serious win.

Happy Violin Things

These last two days have been great. Our ensemble conductor really spent time breaking down how to approach two of our pieces last night and I learned a lot from that. Plus one of my teacher’s other adult students came to ensemble for the first time. He’s really stoked about finally playing for someone besides his cat, and I’m thrilled for him. I remember that lonely feeling. He fits in great. Maybe now I won’t be the only adult playing in the studio recitals. That would be awesome.

Then I had a fantastic lesson tonight. My teacher was unusually complimentary about my progress and seemed excited for the upcoming performance with the Vivaldi. He feels certain it will be polished in time. I confessed my desire to perform all three movements of the Vivaldi A minor together and he’s on board with helping me get there. I think that will help me feel like a real violinist. Yeah, I’m never going to be Rachel Barton-Pine; but I can still harbor some higher aspirations than playing for my cat, right? Adult students need to feel relevant too, even if we aren’t as adorable as our tiny tot counterparts.

When I got home from my lesson, I discovered that the Yitamusic IPE Baroque bow I won on eBay had shown up early. It took less than a week to get here from China! There hasn’t been much time to try it out. However, since it’s a full-size bow and they are shorter than 4/4, it’s about the same length as my 3/4 bow, but heavier. It’s also stiffer, which I did not expect. The bow has an altogether different action that will take some getting used to. Right now, it feels more like a viola bow than a violin bow. We’ll see how I get on with it. It’s fun to have new toys!

I spoke to my teacher tonight about how challenging it is helping my son (who is also his student) with viola practice. It is easier for me to read alto clef when I am playing viola than trying to transpose to another key on the violin, but my son’s viola is far too big for me. Although I thought he would hate the idea, he seemed pretty OK with my suggestion that I get a 14 inch viola to practice with him. Our teacher likes my son, so that probably helped him realize I wasn’t just wanting one to be silly. Sometimes he reminds me (and rightfully so) that I need to focus more on refining my sound rather than trying change up my equipment. He seemed surprised that I was participating so fully in youngest boy’s cello lessons as well. I suppose he didn’t think I would play the cello too. It did tickle him when he realized I have to read in three clefs now. Since I used to be a pianist, only the alto clef is really new to me so it’s not as hard as it might be for somebody else in my position.

I tried desperately to instagram the crap out of an oddity today but got caught in the act and had to slink away slowly.

So my coworker and I made a run to Chipotle to grab some lunch. The one near our office usually has limited parking so as soon as C found a parking space he raced up to it, only to change his mind and circle the lot again. “Holy cow! Did you see that?” “Did you see what I saw?” Yup, we both saw the same thing.

As C was getting ready to maneuver into the spot, we both noticed a Very Large and Prominent mud dauber’s nest coming out the trunk of the car next to the space we were about to occupy. Even crazier, it had live wasps going in and out of it. Now we’re at that Chipotle several times a week, so it’s not like that car is permanently parked there. Somebody is driving a car with a LIVE mud dauber’s nest on it. You know they had to be all up in the trunk too – and how were they not inside the car if they are in the trunk?

Anyway, I knew nobody would believe me so I approached the car and prepared to take a picture for posterity when the driver and his companion walked out of Chipotle and caught me. They seemed oblivious to the scary nest of stinging insects on their car. I gave them a quick nod of acknowledgement and practically ran into the restaurant, red with embarrassment.

It is killing me that I didn’t get a shot of that noise to share with you all. Just another day in the River City.

Difficult Lesson Days

If it seems like I’m only posting violin thoughts here lately, you’re probably right. Most everything else involves other people so I don’t feel comfortable discussing it.

My teacher has been more picky recently. The plan we’ve had in place for over a year and a half now has been to have me play with the local university orchestra. I’ve been panicking since December. I think he’s starting to panic now.

He came to watch a performance of the string ensemble I play with on Saturday, and unfortunately my performance was lackluster at best. Nearly the first words out of his mouth were “why doesn’t your bow move when you tremolo?”. Of course it was moving. We were playing ppp, but I suppose he didn’t like what he saw.

Today’s lesson was difficult. Nothing I practiced came out right. My posture was wrong. My bow hold tense and inflexible. I couldn’t play double stops to save my life. Everything was choppy, accented wrong, or played with the wrong dynamic. Of course the more he corrected me, the worse it got. I slumped out of there knowing I have so much to do to improve that it seems impossible. If my son hadn’t been with me, I probably would have cried in the car.

It’s days like this that make me question why I want to do this so badly. Honestly, I don’t have the answer to that. This is just something I have to do. There’s no rhyme or reason behind it. I only wish that I could apply all the great techniques my teacher is trying so hard to give me. He must feel like I”m not really trying, and that’s so incredibly frustrating because It seems like I’m killing myself over here. Nothing I do makes a lick of difference.


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