Friday, January 8, 2016

The Harvest

I've been sick this week--for the third time since November. It's not a lot of fun, particularly coming right on the heels of the Christmas season, which for me is the busiest time of the year, and usually leaves me looking forward to January. And then I get sick again.

I was looking forward to getting back to several projects, but that would have involved expending energy I don't have. So instead I'll have to wait. That beautiful piano piece I was going to play this Sunday--not happening. Those organ pieces I wanted to record--too bad.

Sometimes I'll get lucky and no one will actually notice the slackening production. No, it's not luck. It's planning ahead. If you've done enough work far enough ahead, you can make your deadlines even when illness cuts down on your preparation time up to the last minute. Some concerts of mine have succeeded that way. You can't assume you'll have all the time you'll need or that it will come when you need it. So I've developed a plan that sounds downright Wesleyan:

do all the work you can whenever you can for as long as you can however you can.

(John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, said "Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.")

There is a real upside to this. It is like establishing a bank account. Whenever time permits, you work harder than necessary, learning music that you don't have to, making recordings you can post for your internet audience now and at a later date, writing blogs for later--then when illness or busyness come along you can with a withdrawal from the account. Since I work entirely as a musician my schedule is consistently inconsistent. There are periods of a few days here and there, and a few seasons here and there, in which it is all I can do to get through and then sleep for a few days afterward. And then those times I have all to myself, to plan, to explore, to prepare. I've learned to use those well.

Unfortunately, this last reverse came right after Christmas was over (my last concert of the season being New Year's Eve--two and a half hours of being continually on stage accompanying a choir or a singer, and entertaining the audience at the theater organ). I've learned to prepare all of MY music for the entire Christmas season--that includes Epiphany Sunday (last week) in the summer so that I am guaranteed to make it all the way to the end of the marathon season. But I can never seem to get the following Sunday ready in time. It's the 27th mile that is the doozy.

So I'll have to improvise this week at church. I can do that, fortunately. You plan, and you prepare, and then you learn how to succeed without doing either. A musician's life.

But while I was convalescing I got a chance to do something else, which was to put some recordings in order. I made them last summer, intending to post them later this spring. I did that because in a few months our lives are going to be turned upside down for a few months and I wanted to be able to have something to share with you during that period, even if I'm away from the instrument for a while. So some seeds that were planted several months ago are coming to fruition. It got me excited about the upcoming semester and all the music and blog topics I'm going to share with you.

I'm not going to spoil the really good ones. But since I got to the end of a fairly large project I was working on last summer, I'll give you one recording to whet your appetite. It's the final Gloria verse from Francois Couperin's "Mass for the Parishes." I'll blog about it later. For now, just listen. It's short. And energetic. Just like I'm not right now. Isn't that a bizarre, out of body experience? To lie around, exhausted and sick, and listen to yourself when you were bristling with all kinds of energy, waiting to share it with the future.

Which happens to be now.

Couperin: Gloria, verse 9

I'm going to take a week off the blog now to finish recovering and to start the next semester strong. Topics to come include a series on "flashy French organ toccatas" "Improvisation is for everybody" and "Changing the culture at your church" as it relates to the role and acceptance of the organist. See you back here on Monday, January 18!

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