I participated in a Christmas Choir this year. We practiced for about 2 months before the concert. The music was VERY ambitious. Our conductor was so encouraging and so much fun. The energy he put into every rehearsal and preparing practice materials was astounding. He wrote 3 of the pieces we performed himself and arranged another. The music he wrote was absolutely beautiful. We are super lucky to have him living in our little corner of the world.
Five weeks before the concert, our conductor mentioned that he was still looking for an organist to accompany the choir for the final number. None of the usual organists in our area were available. So being me and wanting to help so much that I forgot my own limitations–why is it that my desire to rescue so far exceeds my ability? I offered to work on the piece–warning the conductor that I haven’t had very much experience with organ beyond a 1 semester class that I took in college.
I went through all kinds roller coasters of despair and hope as I practiced. The piece was really beyond my ability. But I practiced every day–our church is unlocked every morning for Early Morning Seminary, so I would practice during that time rather than have to pester someone about borrowing a key to the building.
Because I am homeschooling, it was possible to do this. My 11 and 12 year olds could take care of the babies if they woke up while I was gone practicing.
I did borrow a key over Thanksgiving break. Those days I practiced more hours. Pumpkin Pie practiced with me, pushing the stops and working the crescendo pedal because my feet were both busy with the pedal pedals. I have to admit that from Thanksgiving up to the concert day, our homeschool routine suffered some (a lot) because this organ piece pulled so much of my mental energy. I said lots of prayers along the lines of, “please let me make no horrible song stopping mistakes.” “Please let me play it during the concert the way I just ran through it this last time.” I did not pray for zero mistakes because I felt like that was asking too much. I know that my performance on piano or organ is never quite as good at the concerts as what I can can do practicing. Seriously, it’s like I go blind from stress. Music that I have perfected to auto pilot so that my fingers can just do their thing independently of my brain, that’s what I can do for the performance. Everything else flies out the window. Pretty much my mind abandons me under high musical anxiety. This anxiety is always highest when I am accompanying because:
A-if I mess up, I could mess up everyone.
B-I have to keep up with the choir, no wiggle room to slow down if I need to. No going back to fix a mistake.
C- The accompaniment is the support, not the star. If I make too big of a deal out of my part, then I’m hogging the glory that rightfully belongs to the main performer(s). Sadly, reminding myself of my relative unimportance doesn’t lessen my anxiety because I know that good support is important, bad support can be devastating, and I start worrying about worrying too much. Yeah. Mad.
The concert day arrived much too quickly. My three oldest sang with me. My sister babysat the babies so that my husband could come enjoy the concert.
As a choir, we sang the best we had ever sung the music. (That can happen with singing, it can be better than practice because of synergy and energy and sudden unity that hasn’t happened before.)
The final number came and Pumpkin Pie and I scuttled over to the organ. The singing was strong. I made many many mistakes, even on bits that were easy, but none of them were awful showstoppers. The final bars were not as good as I had hoped and much below what I knew was possible. Someday I hope that all the yoga I’m doing will help me to find a way to calm my mind when I’m under stress so that I don’t freeze up so badly.
All the audience were so kind. So many people said how good it was and how incredible the organ sounded.
I am full of relief and pleased that everyone sincerely enjoyed the concert and especially commented how awesome my organ work was.
At the same time, I am embarrassed by so much praise of my playing, especially when I made so many mistakes, and especially when I was the accompaniment–that whole supposed to be awesome yet invisible support thing.
And I’m really worried that people have an exaggerated idea of my abilities now– they seem to think I can just sit down and play anything because I could play one piece that I spent weeks and weeks working on.
I loved the practices. I loved making more time for myself and music in my life. I loved preparing for Christmas in a way that kept my joy in what Christ did for me In the forefront of my mind.
And I am really glad that the concert is done and over with!!