Panic and Pianos

3:04 am · category: Uncategorized

Tonight I performed in the Christmas cantata presented annually by the community choir in my hometown. It was lovely, especially since we had all kinds of musicians accompanying us this year. Usually there are only a couple of percussionists and horns to help out the pianist, but tonight we had a miniature symphonic band, complete with a harp. You can’t beat a top-notch harpist when it comes to Christmas music.

The evening would have been perfect had it not been for the fact that I had a solo. Mind you, this was a solo I didn’t get until 24 hours before the performance, at which point the original soloist called to say he wasn’t going to fulfill his obligation because he had finals. Because the solo was in my range and I happened to be there when the big ole quitter called the director, I somehow got the gig. Now, understand that the original soloist is working on his masters in vocal performance, so there was no way I could possibly live up to the expectations of the rest of the choir. But theoretically, I should have been able to do it decently.

Unfortunately, I have this thing where I freak out when I have to sing alone in public. It confounds me that I can teach a class of 30-some-odd teenagers and be completely comfortable, or that I can preach in front of a congregation of 100 or more and feel like I have a captive audience, or moderate a quiz bowl tournament attended by 3,000 students and educators without ever realizing that anyone other than the players are present. But stick me in front of ten people and ask me to sing by myself, and I lose it. My knees knock and my hands shake and my voice warbles and I damn near pee my pants. Singing alone scares the willies out of me, and it didn’t help that there were so many people in attendance (400 or more) that they had to put chairs in the aisles. (Side note: the fire chief was also in attendance and didn’t say a word about this, despite the fact that we were clearly filled beyond capacity and that there were nine candles and five oil lanterns flaming away. That’s a small town for you.)

I suppose I’m not alone in this weird fear. I once worked for a woman who didn’t really mind heights or water, but she was terrified of falling from a great height into water. Swimming pools were okay, and mountain overlooks were okay, but high diving boards freaked her out. Waterfalls were completely off limits. I’m sure there’s some sort of psychological term for this, but I’m far too lazy to worry too much about it right now.

On a related music note (tee-hee), I’m pissed off at my mother because — yet again — she will not let me take the piano with me when I move in a couple of weeks. Her reasoning is that the piano belongs to the family and that everyone plays it. What she means is that she had lessons for six months when she was a pre-teen and that one of my sisters can pick out a tune thanks to being a first-rate clarinetist. What my mother ignores is the fact that I took lessons for seven years (including a horrific year in college because I erroneously thought a piano class would mean an easy “A”) and have played for almost twenty. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really play very well, but I can read music and can turn out a pretty nice piece with practice. (Sight reading has never really been my thing, though.) I mean, when the regular organist and the back-up are unavailable, I have to play at church, so I must not suck too bad.

My theory is that I’m moving to a new area where I know absolutely no one and will have neither a phone, nor internet service, nor cable television. And honestly, a girl can read only so much. I’ve always found that playing piano was a wonderful way to wile away the hours, but now I won’t even have that. [/end rant]

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