not(e) perfect

DSCF5280There’s been a lot of flute playing going on around here lately, as you might imagine. I think I mentioned it in the comments on another post, but I passed my grade 8 exam! I got 27 marks out of 30 for two of the pieces I played, and 26 for the other, so I was ever so pleased. My scales were ‘well prepared and mostly evenly played’, and even passed the aural tests despite several inaccuracies.

I did enjoy receiving the examiner’s comments. When I did grade 7 (at school, er, 15 years ago), the examiner said things like ‘this piece had some life but would have benefited from a range of dynamics’, so I was most gratified this time to read things like:

‘you exploited an appropriately wide dynamic range and contoured the phrases musically’

‘some blemishes today, but the rhythmic sense of direction and vitality projected the spirit of the movement convincingly’

‘tonal control at the extremities of the range not always quite reliable, but generally a stylish and expressive account, despite small blemishes’

I confess I was rather chuffed with myself (despite the profusion of ‘blemishes’).

It’s a bit strange sometimes when you do something that takes up lots of time (flute exam, marathon, phd all spring to mind). When it’s over, you find yourself wondering what comes next. Fortunately I already had something exciting lined up for the weekend…

On Saturday, I caught the train to London for a day with the Not(e) Perfect Orchestra, formed for one day by the London Symphony Orchestra’s community and education programme.

Everyone was thoroughly over-excited, and it was great fun. I’ve been on a couple of orchestra play days in the last year, but this one had a special air of celebration about it. It also had the slightly alarming distinction of having conservatoire students and some of the players from the London Symphony Orchestra playing alongside us (they were very nice and not at all intimidating, honestly). You can read all about it here.

I’m enjoying playing a lot at the minute. I didn’t play for such a long time, and when I started again I was rather nervous, not wanting to play when anyone could hear, even in my own house. I didn’t tell anyone I played. I whispered through my flute, trying to play as quietly as possible. After a while, I found I could play in the attic if Peter was in the kitchen two floors below, and then later, in the next room. I started playing with friends, and joined a flute choir. And I signed up for a few orchestra days, playing music I didn’t know alongside people I’d never met, and even rather enjoying it.

It’s a good feeling, knowing you can get better at something if you put the time and effort in. I’ve got so much better in just 18 months, and I know there’s still so much to learn. Already I’m casting my eyes about for the next challenge.

What about you? Any long-forgotten skills you’d like to dust off? Something you’ve always wanted to try but never got round to?

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5 Responses to not(e) perfect

  1. Well done! I played the piano (and might well take it up again) and the cello (rather steered into it, won’t be going back to it) so know what it’s like to approach exams, though I ducked out of them. I think going back,,like you have, when you really want to achieve something, is wonderful; you’ll have had lots more distractions than I did in schooldays and I really admire you for getting through this! I think even though I’ve never done much with my musical education I’ve still been able to join in with jamming sessions with the kids because the music just fell into place so though I’m never going to do anything with it in some ways, I’ll always have the means to join in with silly musical stuff! You’ll be able to offer so much more to your family and friends, and join with other
    people to enjoy your own music.

  2. Jo says:

    I have been reading your blog for a little while, going back over your old posts, because you write such nice little short stories.. and the photos of your house seem to contain an enormous array of musical instruments. Do you play any of the other ones? My son’s girlfriend did her eighth grade flute exam (and piano at the same time!) in her last year of school, so I know how much work it is. She is now at the conservatorium in Melbourne. I have two girls in the house playing the flute, one just for fun, one as a beginner, one hoping to start next year. So we are a flutey family. It’s interesting how different everyone’s approach to music is. One daughter had a piano lesson every week for years, then dropped it and took up the flute for fun. My son was totally uninterested in music lessons, but last year taught himself to play the guitar, and finds it really relaxing and fulfilling. I played two instruments at school, and have never played since, but took up choral singing for a few years, then that was enough, and dropped it. There seem to be seasons for different projects. My latest is turning my yard into an edible garden. When I’m outside I can’t hear all the competing instrument practice..

  3. I’ve recently started following your blog and have also noticed the large collection of musical instruments, including a double bass – do you play it? I do! Anyway, congratulations on passing your exam and getting such good marks too. I did Grade 8 on the double bass while still at school (Trinity College not AB – the pieces were the same but there were fewer scales to be learned) and am sure I’d be far more nervous about it if I were to try it now. I’d quite like another (more portable!) instrument to try, I’ve been considering the clarinet or flute…

  4. Congratulations. You must be so proud. And “blemishes” are so much easier to solve than “inaccuracies” or worse “wrong notes” !!!

    What’s the next challenge for you now? Seems like you’ve achieved so much recently.

    Congratulations again x

  5. Robyn says:

    I missed this one somehow – what a lovely post and a lovely lot of comments on it, too! Well done again on the Grade 8 – blemishes or otherwise. You already know that you and a certain other pal of ours influenced me deciding to pick up a clarinet last time in over 30 years, so thanks for that, too!

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