In three hours I’ll be sitting with my ensemble harp-mates, waiting for our teacher to count off the tempo and introductory measures for our first piece, Jesus, Jesus Rest Your Head. With a large infusion of grace, and a minimal infusion of adrenaline, we will not begin the piece like the run of the Spanish bulls, but instead will take it at the sweet, lyrical pace we’ve practiced.
We’ll play a second Christmas carol, and then I’ll play my solo, my own arrangement of The Grenadier and the Lady. This tune is way too hard for me, and I can only blame myself for that. I’m the one who wrote the arrangement, which contains in one three-minute piece absolutely everything my left hand ever needed to learn how to do. I’ve spent the last three months learning to play it.
My performance nerves are in high gear today. I had a lesson scheduled this afternoon, so I got to run my solo again. And again. And again, with my teacher repeating “Slow down” about every third measure. I couldn’t find the brakes the first two times I played it. The adrenaline surge kept propelling me towards a crash-and-burn tempo out of my control, which required creative improvised passages to get to the last chords.
But with any luck, or another helping of grace, the worst of my playing today was in the privacy of my teacher’s studio. And by the end of my lesson, I played the piece well. I silently counted out a glacially slow introduction. But with starting slow, I not only got to the end of the piece, my teacher said that it sang as I played it.
This afternoon, I’m tired and drained. Hopefully that means that at my lesson, my hair-trigger adrenal glands gave me the last roller coaster ride of the day. Though I’m reminding myself that world peace does not depend on how I play my harp tonight, I would like to play my solo and all the concert pieces as beautifully as I play them when I’m alone in my practice room. I want my ladle from the Lake of Music to be full of water for tonight’s audience. I want to make music.