Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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2 smiles, one weekend

I’m a lucky lady, I got to experience two big smiles jammed into one weekend. Plus we are experiencing beautiful weather, warm and sunny with the trees starting to turn color. The morning and evening light makes the trees just glow.

But that’s a different blog post.

My first smile of the weekend was Saturday evening when I got to play in a pop-up concert with some of my Clarkston Community Band mates and several professional musicians who came to fill holes in our orchestration.

The neighbors came out to listen to us play on their cul-de-sac.

We haven’t played together since early March. Many of us haven’t played at all since then, though most of us frantically practiced these past few days trying to get our lips back in shape. The professionals sightread the music and sounded wonderful. I was grateful to get to play with them.

Thankful for these guys coming to help us out.

It was a lovely night and we are reminded again why we play long after school ends. As our Director, Ms. Roland said, tonight we’re not talking about politics or bingewatching silly shows on TV, we’re not thinking about virusus or worried about the future.

ALl about the music.

Tonight it’s about the music. And what a relief that was.

Keeping us in time.

I hope the neighbors who came out of their homes, sat in lawn chairs and waited while we did a little rehearsing before we began, I hope they had as much fun as we did.

Making a big sound.

But I don’t see how they could have had more.

He’s played with us since he was a kid, now grown up and still making music.

Then this morning I did a virtual 5K with my friend Tami who lives in California. So that we could run/walk together she went out at 6 a.m. while it was still dark, and I waited until 9 am. here, an hour or more later than I would normally go out.

At the turn around point.

It was a compromise on both our parts because we wanted to motivate each other. Compromise works, I wish it was something that happened more in our world, but I’m not going there in this post.

Nope, this post is all about smiles. I hope you had something fun to do, or pretty to see, or beautiful to listen to this week.

As we march toward November we all need to remember to smile. And that’s as political as I’m going to get today.

Trombones all in providing the bass sounds.


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Live music in a different way

Last night I attended, in a manner of speaking, the Detroit Symphony playing their opening concert of the new season. They played in Orchestra Hall, just like they have every season for years.

But it was very different this year.

This year I ran across an ad for the concert on Facebook. The concert was due to begin live streaming in four minutes. Tickets were $12. I spent three of those minutes finding my purse and credit card and entering all the data to get my virtual ticket.

At the last moment I tuned in to watch.

A lone violinist stood on a partially dark stage playing the National Anthem to a lit flag. Something about the lonliness of the performance had me feeling blue. No one was singing, so I softly did, off key, alone, with tears in my eyes. The last note was swallowed up by the empty seats, the silence deafening.

And then the opening piece, Fanfare for the Common Man by Copland began. Near the back of the otherwise empty stage were three percussionists, dressed in their concert blacks, with black masks, spaced at least 10 feet apart, playing a gong, the bass drum and a timpani. At the front of the stage was the conductor standing on a raised podium. And behind him, spread across the balconies, were the brass, high above the empty main floor.

The piece was electrifying. They played it, said the conductor later, to honor the Covid victims and because it is filled with hope. It certainly made me feel better, though it was so odd that when it was finished the conductor bowed to the empty house and exited, stage right just as he would if we were all there, wildly applauding.

They played several other pieces, all relatively short. My favorite was Gabriel’s Oboe by Morricone, which was played to “provide some peace to all of you during this time.” It’s just beautiful, if you have time, sit somewhere comfortable, close your eyes and listen.

The whole concert was a little less than an hour. Watching was a bit surreal, even the fully orchastrated pieces had at most 15 people on the stage. Those playing strings wore masks. The woodwinds had plexiglass sitting in front of them, and a cloth on the floor to capture any drips. At the end of each piece the solists were recognized; they stood and bowed slightly to the empty house.

I was grateful to watch a live concert but I wonder how the musicians felt playing it. Did it seem strange to have no applause? Could they feel us out here, our faces lit by the glow of a screen, leaning forward and letting the music fill us up? Could they sense the emotion we were feeling? Did they feel something similar?

I hope they did. I hope the music filled them up as well. And I hope someday we get to sit, shoulder to shoulder with strangers, in a packed hall. I hope we get to spontaneously and as one rise to our feet with applause at the end of a piece. I hope we get to grin at each other and shake our heads in wonder.

I hope we get to clap until our hands hurt.

Until then I’ll gladly spend $12 to watch them on my laptop. It’s money well spent.


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Music decompression smile

You know how astronauts, when they come back to earth, need a period of time to adjust to their normal lives again? Though I haven’t been orbiting the earth that’s how I feel now that I’m back in Michigan after twelve lovely days in the sun.

Not to say there’s never any sun here. But it seems to be rare. And it hasn’t stopped snowing since we arrived home. Today the windchill temperatures will be in the single digits, and the driveway needs to be cleared of last night’s snow. Perhaps we can just wait until it melts sometime in April.

I’m still battling the major cold I got while I was out there enjoying the sun. I’m not blaming Arizona for my cold, I figure I got it on the plane ride home from Washington DC the week before. I almost always get some sort of sniffle after I fly, but this one is a doozy.

I’ve been taking over the counter drugs every four hours for more than a week. The cough is low in my chest and the tickle in my throat is constant. I should buy stock in Kleenex and my nose is raw.

I’m pretty miserable.

We took the red-eye flight home from Phoenix on Sunday night. Our plane left at midnight and we arrived in Detroit at 5:00 a.m. By the time we got our luggage and got out to the car we were looking at driving home in rush hour traffic. Yep, that was fun.

I got a couple of hours of sleep at home, then went to pick up the Princess from camp. I hoped that she would be exhausted from all the fun she had and we could all settle down to a long winter nap.

I was wrong.

So anyway, by the time Tuesday night’s community band rehearsal came around I was really dragging. And I still couldn’t breath well, was still taking drugs to function. And I hadn’t practiced in almost two weeks. I really wanted to stay home.

But have I told you that we have a concert in one week?

So I went, not expecting to be able to stay the entire two hours. Uncertain if I could even play. And guess what?

The music filled me up with such peace. Even the hard parts. We didn’t sound too bad, and though there are definitely places we each need to work on before next Tuesday, some of the time we sounded quite beautiful. And my head cleared and my throat stopped hurting and I only coughed once.

That’s the power of music.

So this is a long post to relay a simple idea. If you’re feeling down, emotionally or physically, if you’re stressed and tired and worn out, if you need to get through another cold, dark, snowy day, well…play some music. Whether it’s on the radio, or your mobile device or an actual instrument or your very own voice, play some music.

It’ll make you smile. And that’s the first step to feeling better.

Guaranteed.


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Cello Tales

A year ago, January 9th, 2019, I posted a list of fun stuff I hoped to do. Better than resolutions, these were things that I’d thought about doing over the years but just hadn’t accomplished.

Making a sound on a cello was one of my crazier ideas. It was so crazy in fact that I could never successfully explain just what I meant – or even why it was a thing for me.

A cello at rest.

Probably because I wasn’t even sure myself.

But as of Wednesday, one day short of a full year later, because of two lovely ladies who went out of their way to make my wish come true, I can check hugging a cello off my to-dream list.

Learning the basics, with Joan, our host, standing in the back and Carol with her cello.

And I’m not so sure I can find words to share the experience with you.

Joan got a lesson too.

Our host was a professor from my days at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. We’ve kept in touch off and on over the ten years since I graduated and last month she read about my cello hugging dream and knew that she could help me realize it.

Learning how to hold the bow.

She coordinated with a cello playing friend of hers who, it turns out, didn’t mind at all letting some novice stranger sit with her cello and hold her bow while making noises unrelated to music.

Carol was so patient.

There’s a lot to playing a cello. Two hands doing different things, one bulky instrument leaning against you, knees and arms encircling it’s girth. Fingers to grip the bow just so, relax the shoulder, movement from the elbow only, the angle of the bow on the strings, how the fingers of the left hand press down just from the tips. What to do with your left thumb.

Turns out Joan’s husband was a natural.

So much to remember.

But when I got everything right a low round tone would swell out of the instrument. Not as beautiful a sound as when our instructor played, but still pretty nice. And each time I played a clear note I could feel the sound reverberate right though my soul and fill me up.

Not quite a virtuoso, but smiling.

Amazing.

There was so much to remember that I couldn’t take my eyes off of my own hands to look at music. Which is just as well. Because, well, cello music!

I thought it was written in base clef and it often is. But when the notes get high enough it switches to treble clef! So you could be reading along and suddenly your brain would have to switch clefs? And to make it even more insane, there’s also a tenor and an alto clef!

Carol played for us after we were finished making noise on her cello.

I saw at least three clefs on one of the pieces of music she shared with us. The different clefs are needed because the cello has such a wide range of notes, from very low to quite high. All those notes won’t fit on any single staff…so the composer can just include several different clefs in a single piece, and those talented cello players deal with it.

Mind boggling.

The next time I’m enjoying cellos playing in the symphony or a quartet, or even in a DC subway, I’ll have a better understanding and admiration for their talents. The sounds are spectacular. The brains and hands of the artists are astounding.

Those fingers on the left hand had no clue what they were doing.

It was so much fun. I am indebted to the women who willingly shared their lives and time with me just so I could learn something about an instrument I have always admired. If everyone could hug a cello the world would be a better place, and I’m grateful to have had the experience.

I drove home in late afternoon sunshine under fat, purple bottomed clouds that were chasing a three quarter moon. I tried to pinpoint what the experience had felt like.

It felt round and strong and deep and soft, sort of like the golden light falling all around me as I drove.

It felt beautiful.

The moon rises over a wonder filled day.


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Holiday smiles

Trent is still hosting the Weekly Smile, and though sometimes I don’t get moving fast enough to include my smiles in his recap, this week I wanted to make sure I shared. This week’s smile is all about music, specifically the Christmas music our community band played last night at our annual holiday concert.

Getting ready for the concert.

I love it when our concert is early enough in December to feel like it kicks off the holiday. This year it seemed perfect, just after Thanksgiving and with a few weeks until the big day.

We shared the stage again this year with a high school choir group. They add just the right touch of elegance to the music, with their formal attire and lovely soaring voices.

Look who arrived!

And of course we had a visit from Santa, who showed up right after the children in the audience came up on the stage and rang their jingle bells as we played Here Comes Santa Clause.

The little ones were in awe of the big guy in red. We kind of like him too.

Children ready to shake those bells? OK, let’s go!

And he stuck around to conduct our last piece, Sleighride, the perfect way to end a fun evening.

A perfect way to end a lovely evening.

You couldn’t count all the smiles that were in that auditorium last night. And that makes it my smile of the week.


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Sharing a smile – musically

You ever have one of those weeks that just flies by and you’re pretty sure you had plenty to smile about but you can’t really remember anything specific? Well, that’s been my week. So this week’s smile comes to you from this very afternoon, the last afternoon of the week.

Today I attended a band concert at our local high school. But this isn’t just any band – it’s made up of band directors, private music teachers and a few assorted graduate music students. Talk about talent filling a hall!

Though the house wasn’t full (and it should have been, all the students of all these teachers should have been there) those of us in the audience were serious appreciates of good music. During one piece I noticed a guy up one row and to my left conducting along with the music. And there was plenty of head bopping going on all around me. Yep, the place was filled with musicians and musician’s families.

And in the middle of their last piece, Danzon No. 2 by Marquez, where the piece gets extra wild and a bit raunchy, (about 7:38 into the piece, see link above.), I actually got goosebumps.

That was definitely cause for a smile.


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Worrying about the music

This coming Tuesday night is our community band’s first concert of the season, and as usual I’m worried, not about the band’s performance, but about my ability to contribute.

Band started this fall two weeks after I fell and broke my finger at the end of August. I missed the first three rehearsals because my hand was still in a splint. And even now, though my fingers are free to move, they are swollen and sluggish.

Or maybe that’s my brain.

The concert is all John Williams music – things he wrote for movies and other events. And though it’s been arranged by people to make it work for a concert band, it’s still hard. At least for me. He likes to use different meters and key signatures and switch stuff up. A lot.

Tonight, the night before our dress rehearsal tomorrow, I was intent on going through every one of the ten pieces of music, playing along with groups I found on YouTube who were playing the same arrangements.

I found this (you can opt out of the advertisement after about 4 seconds), for Schindler’s List – a high school group from a town about 30 miles south of me, the town I used to work in. This was recorded in 2014 and as I watched their faces I realized all of them would have graduated by now. I wonder where they are today, if they’re in college or out working somewhere.

I wonder if they are still playing music. I hope they are.

We will have a guest violinist on Tuesday night too. I think it will be a treat for our audience. And as for the other 9 pieces of music, well, I can play parts of all of them. We’ll sound just fine.

As long as I stay out of the way.

You sounded fine to me mama, but then I was sleeping.


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Musically smiling

My goodness the weeks are flying by now that summer’s abandoned us. But there’s still time to stop and recognize a smile or two.

I usually have plenty of things to smile about, so choosing just one each week can be hard. But this week it was obvious to me what my smile post should be about. And it’s music.

Those of you that know me know I fell last August and broke a finger on my right hand. Six weeks later I’m still doing physical therapy, and I see my hand doctor tomorrow morning for more ex-rays.

My physical therapist says there is progress, but it’s frustratingly hard for me to see. I do know the pain has lessened, almost down to zero some of the time, while other times it catches me by surprise as it throbs.

Still, I’m not in a cast or a splint any more. I do my exercises at home, attend my therapy sessions, try not to jam the finger into anything during the day and wrap it up to protect it at night.

And this past Tuesday I attended my first band rehearsal of this season in the hopes that I could play at least a little bit that night. Two hours flew by and my finger was never a problem except for a certain extended trill with a base note of C. Not going to lie, I won’t be playing that at the concert. But the rest of it? Oh yea, I’ll be there.

And that made me smile.


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This week’s smile

Trent, over on Trent’s World, hosts a weekly blog post that collects smiles from bloggers all over the world. This week his featured smile is the bees that survived the Notre Dame fire.

And he wonders what all of us have found to smile about lately.

I did plenty of smiling this week, given the first part of the week I spent in Florida, walking beaches and exploring parks, and especially hanging with good people and wonderful dogs.

Hi mama!

And of course I flew home on Wednesday to my husband and my Katie-girl. Lots to smile about there too.

Then last night I attended a community orchestra concert in a small town about an hour from here.

A fun evening.

On the early evening drive over to the venue the sky was filled with big beautiful blue bottomed clouds. I wished I had my camera and time to find a place to stop.

I had neither.

The concert was fun, and it was good to see an almost full house to support a community orchestra. There were some really talented people playing, and you could tell they were having a great time.

Pretty amazing!

After it was over I emerged from the high school to see the clouds were thinning, but still in evidence. And they were turning purple and pink.

The barns were glowing.

With only my phone to capture the beauty and in a community I didn’t know I set out trying to find an open field with a place to pull over before all the light was gone.

Everything was beautiful.

I got a few good shots, and that, in combination with the evening’s music, made me smile.

What made you smile this week?

The last glow of a great evening.


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Still smiling.

There have been plenty of things to smile about this week. A couple days with sunshine, my hands are healing, Katie is feeling a little bit better, I did my grocery shopping in the middle of a Thursday when most people have to work, (that one made me smile pretty wide) and beautiful morning light two days ago that made my world glow.

Oh yea, lots of things to smile about this week.

But the biggest smile happened for me and, I think, a whole lot of other people on Tuesday night during our Clarkston Community Band concert that we played in conjunction with the Dave Bennett Quartet.

We’ve been working on our portion of the concert for weeks – most of what we played Tuesday were movements from Shostakovitch’s Jazz Suite no. 2. Though the music isn’t jazz like we know it today, it was fun, kind of tongue in cheek, sometimes almost circus like.

And some of it went really really fast.

To break up all the Shostakovich we preformed Oblivion by Piazzolla, which was slower and featured our oboe player. She sounded wonderful, with a full, rich tone filled with mystery. (The Oblivion link above takes you to our full concert; Oblivian is # 3.)

And we were honored to accompany Dave and his jazz clarinet for two of his own pieces, Blood Moon (#6 in our concert at the Oblivion link above.) and Falling Sky (#7). During Blood Moon I actually stopped playing to watch him and be mesmerized.

I couldn’t help it.

We played the first half of the concert, (through #8 in the link above) and while the Quartet played the second half I got to sit out in the audience and just listen. To be honest I had to wipe away a tear during his rendition of Hallelujah (#12).

Magic.

I couldn’t stop smiling. Couldn’t stop clapping either, even though my hands, wrapped up so that I could play my own clarinet without further injury, didn’t make any sound. And even though it hurt to clap.

I just couldn’t help myself.

Winding up, the music and the evening.

What a night! The crowd gave us a standing ovation after our portion was complete. And they stood up and clapped and a few even danced through Dave Bennett’s entire last piece. I don’t think anyone (except maybe the quartet) wanted it to end.

It was fabulous.

Things got a bit crazy. In a good way.

I just got the link from our recording engineer and listened to a few of the pieces. OK, we weren’t always in tune and there were some things that went a bit awry. We’re a community band. But overall I’m so glad that I get to play music with this group.

And I’m extra grateful that I had the opportunity to hear Dave Bennett play his clarinet. Check out his website, see if he’s going to be playing near you. And if he is, make a point of going to hear him. He’s a young Benny Goodman with a bit of Jerry Lee Lewis breaking out on occasion.

Guaranteed to make you smile.

A full moon greeted us at the end of a magical evening.