It’s been a while.

Recent acquisitions.

In the two weeks since my last post…

The band my husband and I joined earlier this year performed its spring concert. What a lot of fun! The flute section recently decided to form a small performance group, so in addition to the weekly rehearsals for band, I’m now practicing with the flute choir.

Our “pollinator pockets,” which we finished planting over Mother’s Day weekend, suffered a bit in last week’s heat wave, but we were able to protect them with a canopy and extra watering.

The bird feeders remain down until May 31 — or longer, if that’s what advised.

Spring

Seen on our walk yesterday.

All of the plants for the “pollinator pockets” I’m planning for the two raised beds we prepared last month are crowded into three-season room. It’s a beautiful mess — and hell on my allergies. “They” say that the last frost is behind us, and the warming trend begins this weekend, so I hope to plant early Sunday morning. In the meantime, I’ve mulched the other beds, repaired the borders, tidied the patio, readied the containers for perennials, repaired a few bare-ish lawn patches, removed all the feeders, and, yes, already mowed. Twice. (Hey, when you keep the grass a little longer, it’s critical to keep it tidy.)

And now that I’ve typed this, I realize I’ve procrastinated long enough. It’s time to practice my music. Our concert date approaches, as do this semester’s final three private lessons.

Catching up

Recent acquisitions.

My commitment to annotating my reading list has waned primarily because enough note-taking, peripheral reading and studying, and discussion occurs in the assorted groups in which I am participating that I feel as if I’ve said what I need to say. Of course, I haven’t said it here, but music practice (1), band rehearsal (2), planning raised beds for pollinators, backyard birding (3), plus studying and reading have all conspired to keep me off the computer (except when I’m in Zoom meetings). We’ll see if I can remedy that.

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(1) My current solo piece is (still) Howard Ferguson’s Three Sketches for Flute and Piano. I’m also working on No. 15 of 18 Studies for Flute by Joachim Anderson, Op. 41, in Robert Cavally’s Melodious and Progressive Studies from Andersen, Gariboldi, Koehler, and Terschak for Flute, Book 1, and Sonata No. V (Handel) in Selected Duets for Flute, Volume II (Advanced), as well as scales, rhythmical articulation, and music for the spring concert.

(2) Yes, we joined a band of adult amateurs, who range from late beginner to early-advanced. During the 1.25-hour commute there and back, we’ve been listening to The Great Courses (TGC) on Dante’s Divine Comedy, which I’m reading for 100 Days of Dante. We’ve also been sampling TGC lectures on the bible. Neither of us has read it, cover to cover, so to address this educational gap, we’re using a reading schedule we found online, (usually) doubling the daily commitment, so that we finish this summer.

(3) For the last week or so, we’ve had a tiny flock of Common Redpolls at our feeders, a first in the eleven years at the forever home. This article shed some light on what may be going on. (Is it too much to ask that some of the sandhill cranes we’ve espied in the neighborhood stopped in our yards?)

The flip side of ignorance

Image captured last week at the Conservatory at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

Since my last post, I’ve read:

■ Macbeth (William Shakespeare; 1606. Drama.)
In advance of watching Joel Coen’s film. Related story/review here

■ Six Characters in Search of an Author (Luigi Pirandello (Trans. Edward Storer; 1921. Drama.)
Cannot recall the precise path that led me to Scallydandling about the books, but I can say that I enjoy poking about in her video lists. Six Characters was her January drama selection.

■ Late Migrations: A Memoir of Love and Loss (Margaret Renkl; 2019. Non-fiction.)
For the commonplace book:

p. 7
But the shadow side of love is always loss, and grief is only love’s twin.

p.17
Holding a useless camera, I suddenly realize that something extraordinary is happening right before me, a great serpent slowly on the move and all the songbirds aware of its presence and calling to each other and telling each other to beware. The miracle isn’t happening in the sky at all. It’s happening in the damp weeds of an ordinary backyard, among last year’s moldering leaves and the fragrant soil turned up by moles.

p. 73
[…B]ut the flip side of ignorance is astonishment, and I am good at astonishment.

p. 155
When I didn’t die, however, and then didn’t die some more, I came one day to understand: I wasn’t dying; I was grieving. I wasn’t dying. Not yet.

p. 186
Human beings are creatures made for joy. Against all evidence, we tell ourselves that grief and loneliness and despair are tragedies, unwelcome variations from the pleasure and calm and safety that in the right way of the world would form the firm ground of our being. In the fairy tale we tell ourselves, darkness holds nothing resembling a gift.

What we feel always contains its own truth, but it is not the only truth, and darkness almost always harbors some bit of goodness tucked out of sight, waiting for an unexpected light to shine, to reveal it in its deepest hiding place.

With the month closing and only nine books on my list, I’d say this year has begun at a far more leisurely pace than last year (twenty-five books). That said, I’m reading quite a bit. With 100 Days of Dante, I’ve nearly climbed Mount Purgatory. With book groups, I’m reading Anna Karenina, Moby-Dick, and Debt (see sidebar). I’ve just begun A Clockwork Orange, the February Cardiff BookTalk selection. And my husband and I have embarked on a read-the-bible-in-a-year schedule. (It pains me to confess that I haven’t read the complete bible. Do you have a recommendation for a “bible as literature” resource? We’ll take it.)

I began listening to State of Terror (Louise Penny and Hillary Rodham Clinton) on the drive to and from  Michigan last week — not Chief Inspector Gamache but certainly entertaining. While away, I also tried to finish Noah Hawley’s latest novel, Anthem (review here), but no luck. Unlike S. Kirk Walsh, I’m finding it a bit… tedious.

Before heading out on my mini-vacation, I gave a Zoom* performance for an audience of one, playing the Rondeau, Polonaise, and Badinerie from Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067. Was it flawless? Nope. But while I was away, my teacher wrote, in part, “Really, really excellent work on the Bach! So pleased and proud that you put your all into it and did such a great job.” Yes, I’m still grinning. My new solo piece is Howard Ferguson’s Three Sketches for Flute and Piano. I’m also working on the ninth of 18 Studies for Flute by Joachim Anderson, Op. 41, in Robert Cavally’s Melodious and Progressive Studies from Andersen, Gariboldi, Koehler, and Terschak for Flute, Book 1, and “From Duetto No. IV” (W.F. Bach) in Selected Duets for Flute, Volume II (Advanced). My practice schedule remains much as it was in the fall.

Our walking schedule, however, does not: The snow and ice (to say nothing of the extreme cold of days like yesterday) make early morning walks in the neighborhood untenable, so we’ve been using workouts on DVDs, after which, I hop on the exercise bike while my husband gets ready for work. We have the equipment needed to walk the conservation district paths, though, so we head there on the weekends during which the weather cooperates.

* Given the continuing uncertainty surrounding the virus, I requested that we return to the virtual format until at least February.

Flute adventures

When I last wrote about my music studies, I was working on the second of Petites Etudes Mélodiques by Ernesto Köhler, Op. 33, Book 1. I am now working on the second of 18 Studies for Flute by Joachim Anderson, Op. 41. Neat symmetry there. This means that I am about halfway through Robert Cavally’s Melodious and Progressive Studies from Andersen, Gariboldi, Koehler, and Terschak for Flute, Book 1.

I returned to in-person lessons with my private instructor in mid-May, but I have decided not to return to band. By the time I checked in for a few Zoom rehearsals with them this summer, the group had shrunk to seven members. In-person rehearsals resumed this month, but for now I will fulfill the “play well with others” aspect of my music education by working on duets with my husband. After some success on a few short selections from Rubank’s 78 Duets for Flute and Clarinet: Volume 1, we are tackling Nick Homes’ arrangement of George Gershwin’s “Summertime.” It is much harder than Homes and Charro Flores make it sound, but we’re enjoying the challenge. My teacher also continues to assign duet work; I am polishing the last two (of ten!) pages of Haydn’s Duetto No. VI, Op. 101 (Based on Quartet, Op. 17, No.6), which is the second selection in Selected Duets for Flute, Volume II (Advanced).

I prepared “Scherzino” (Joachim Anderson, Op. 55, No. 6) from Robert Cavally’s 24 Short Concert Pieces for the spring recital, but when the program moved from the recorded Zoom format to an in-person venue, I withdrew and simply supported my studiomates from the (live) audience. (I also attended two delightful senior recitals this summer.) My current solo is “Hungarian Sérénade” (Victorin Joncières), also from the Cavally edition, which I will present for the last time at next week’s lesson.

The flute organization I joined last year sponsors a vibrant and motivational program of online seminars with such artists and teachers as Paul Edmund-Davies, Gaspar Hoyos, and Raimundo Pineda. Some of their exercises, tips, and practical wisdom have made their way into my daily practice, which has expanded to include the additional duet:

— 20 minutes: long tones and scale work
— 20 minutes: Melodious and Progressive Studies
— 20 minutes: assigned duet
— 15 to 20 minutes: second duet
— 15 minutes: rhythmical articulation
— 15 to 20 minutes: solo

As someone who feels she achieves more if the day has reliable rhythms (unintentional pun), I have taken to rising by 5 a.m. each day to complete daily chores and walk three or four miles before my husband starts his work. Over the last few months, I’ve added thirty minutes on the exercise bike and some simple stretching and weight work. After showering and catching up on paperwork and whatnot, then, I now generally begin my music practice by 10 a.m. and finish in time to prepare lunch, which leaves me the remainder of the day for reading and other pursuits.

As I said last September, music ameliorates the isolating effects of the pandemic; I remain so grateful for the opportunity to continue my studies.

Whimsy

It’s a flute hat from my music teacher, who is not ordinarily whimsical in lessons, so I found it that much more delightful. It looked birdlike to me, but my husband remarked that it looks like Greek warrior, and I can’t unsee it, especially since I just read Oswald’s Memorial. So… Achilles the flute hat.

Further flute adventures

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Currently working through the second study in Köhler, Op. 33, Book 1.

The last in-person rehearsal of the band I joined in January was March 5. The director cancelled our March 10 and 12 meetings, and, of course, by the end of the following week, well….

For the seven weeks I participated, though, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Developmentally, it was exactly where I needed to be, and the flute teacher who led the sectionals not only was as credentialed as my private lessons teacher but had also performed with her.

In April and May, the band director gathered us via Zoom once a week. Although the meetings were strictly social in function, many of us did contribute to at least one of those collage performances that became ubiquitous in the early weeks of the shutdown. The quality of both our playing and the videos was dubious, at best, and eventually, participation waned. But, to my delight, flute sectionals continued. Rather than meeting as a group in Zoom, though, the sectionals teacher delivered individual lessons via FaceTime, a process my regular teacher and I had mastered by week two of the shutdown. Throughout the spring, then, tedious Zoom meetings were the small price I paid for excellent and unexpectedly abundant additional private instruction.

In late April, I also worked on a video performance of the first movement of Handel’s Flute Sonata in G major (HWV 363b)), my contribution to the annual recital my teacher hosted in mid-May.

Weekly band meetings continued into the summer, but despite the addition of stretching, warm-ups, and some playing, they remained, for me, simply a pathway to sectionals. In June, I suggested to the other flute players that we work on something as a section, and we eventually landed on the lovely “Sarabande” by Claude Debussy, with the goal that the director would dovetail the videos of our individual performances as he had for the collage performances of the band. The deceptively simple Debussy piece and tone and scale work were the focus of my remaining sectionals.

In my private lessons, we have continued to focus on P. Bona’s rhythmical articulation studies; Robert Cavally’s Melodious and Progressive Studies from Andersen, Gariboldi, Koehler, and Terschak for Flute; my new solo, “Morceau de Concours” by Gabriel Fauré; and a weekly duet. You probably already know that it is impossible to play or sing together in Zoom or FaceTime. Well, each week, my teacher randomly selects a piece from the Rubank collections, notes the metronome setting, and within two days forwards me a recording of her playing the second part. During an in-person lesson, she readily adapts to my tempo issues, reading errors, etc., but a recording is a merciless duet partner, which is an unanticipated  benefit of virtual lessons: I have vastly improved my duet work.

I hope to bring that improvement to my recording of “Sarabande,” which the flute section has rescheduled for the spring semester. In late July, I indicated that I would not return to band until then. Although there have been murmurs about in-person but socially distanced rehearsals later this fall, it seems unlikely: All but two band members are over fifty; more than half are in their sixties and seventies. Much as I have adored the additional private instruction, I am through with Zoom “rehearsals” until January at the earliest.

My current daily practice schedule remains much as it was in early January, then:

— 20 minutes: long tones and scales
— 20 minutes: Melodious and Progressive Studies
— 20 minutes: duet
— 15 to 20 minutes: rhythmical articulation
— 15 to 20 minutes: solo

In July, the music program with which my teacher is affiliated sponsored a series of free, multi-week seminars, and the one she led featured the scales and études high school musicians must prepare to audition for regional and state ensembles. She invited me to attend as either a participant or a viewer, and I chose the latter, which was both wise (those students are terrific and didn’t need this old woman slowing them down) and edifying (the scale work alone has added a new dimension to my practice). They also spent time working through “Dr. Sánchez’s Epic Flute Warm-up.” My teacher had introduced me to this a while back, but in the seminar, she reviewed every bar, and the benefits became more readily apparent to me. Now, once a week, I substitute the warm-up for long tones and scales.

Another change I’ve made to my practice is punctuating each of my first four practice sections with five minutes on a stationary bike — nothing overly exerting, just a bit of movement before carrying on with next bit. I’m not the sort who can abide exercise equipment as home decor, but we scored an incredible deal on a sturdy, folding model that I put away after practicing.

Studying music has ameliorated some of the isolating effects of this pandemic. I remain so thankful to be able to continue.

Flute adventures

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It’s impossible to explain the brain tic that made the Rimsky-Korsokov completely readable, while my repeated errors in 34 finally reduced me to writing it out during a particularly grueling practice session. (Yes, I probably should have erased it once I had “mastered” the passage, but that is, after all, how this sausage finally got made.)

With ornament exercises 34 and 35 (which, coupled with 33 in December, kicked my amateur musician’s capacious ass), I completed the Rubank Advanced Method: Flute, Volume II, at last night’s lesson. That’s kind of a big deal. Even my no-nonsense teacher took a moment to appreciate the accomplishment.

In addition to scale and tone exercises and P. Bona’s rhythmical articulation studies, I am now working in Robert Cavally’s Melodious and Progressive Studies from Andersen, Gariboldi, Koehler, and Terschak for Flute, Book 1. And in addition to my solo piece (currently Handel’s Flute sonata in G major (HWV 363b)), I prepare my part of a new (reasonably short) duet each week.

My current daily practice schedule:

— 20 minutes: long tones and scales
— 20 minutes: Melodious and Progressive Studies
— 20 minutes: duet
— 15 minutes: rhythmical articulation
— 15 minutes: solo

Later this month, band rehearsals begin: twice weekly plus sectionals. At that point, I think I’m looking at another increase in practice time:

— 20 minutes: long tones and scales
— 20 minutes: Melodious and Progressive Studies
— 20 minutes: duet
— 15 minutes: rhythmical articulation
— 20 minutes: solo
— 20 minutes: band music or other

I’ve already met with musicians in my section and reviewed the selections from last semester. The music is fun but not too challenging — perfect for someone who wants to (re)learn how to play well with others before tackling the challenges of say, the first and second flute part of “Variations on a Korean Folk Song” or Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture.” * Preparation for duets with my husband, who has recently taken up the clarinet, and some exploration (e.g., sight reading exercises and revisiting the pieces in my repertoire, such as it is) will comprise “other.”

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* Which is what I was assigned when I joined the community band of the local college two years ago this month. The group is lovely, and the flute players I sat between were not only solid musicians but kind, patient teachers. Still… The music would represent a challenge to me now. Then? It was almost impossible. “Play what you can,” everyone says, but I felt as if I had missed a key step in my development as a musician. In high school, you usually do some learning and growing in concert band before you earn a spot in wind ensemble, you know? So I have joined the adult equivalent of concert band.

Playing the flute

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Image taken yesterday in the Avenue of the Chinese Musicians at Allerton Park.

It has been two weeks, two plays, two band rehearsals, two flute lessons, one dental emergency, and one and half books since I lasted posted. So much for writing about books over my four-day weekend! My schedule is smoothing out, though, so I remain optimistic: One of these days, I will have time to write about what I’ve been reading.

I know.

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Posting a pic of new books (and, yes, these latest acquisitions did violate my resolution, so I lasted, what, six weeks?) is not writing an entry. In sketching out my plans for the upcoming four-day weekend, though, I added “Write about books read so far this year,” so fingers crossed. (I don’t think I’ve contributed a single post to this year’s version of 52 Books. Here’s hoping they remember me when I finally make my way over there.)

My part-time job is not the culprit, by the way. It’s the flute. Deliberate practice requires time, and in addition to my weekly lesson, I must prepare my band pieces. Yes, I joined a community band, and what a lot of fun it’s been! But also a lot of work. Although I played clarinet in middle and high school, my music education was spotty, at best; so much so that I generally maintain it truly began when I took up flute in late 2014. By that definition, I am the least experienced member of the band and require a great deal of practice time to feel prepared for our rehearsals.

I do love it, though, even it means Nerdishly is heavy on photos for a while.