Practise to perform: clocking performance time

For a chamber music duo like ours, not only do we have to practise alone, we also need to rehearse together. Just putting in the hours, however, is not enough. I have come to the conclusion that we need to clock in performance time. Performers use tryouts — a concert before a concert — to get ready. It’s the step between the last rehearsal and first important performance.

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On Carnegie Hall’s website, it says “While it takes some people a lifetime of practice to get to Carnegie Hall (as the saying goes), others just have to follow these simple directions.”

Question: “How to get to Carnegie Hall?” Answer: “practice, practice, practice!”

Before our first concert in 2010 in Doorn, Netherlands
Before our first concert in 2010 in Doorn, Netherlands

For a chamber music duo like ours, not only do we have to practise alone, we also need to rehearse together. Just putting in the hours, however, is not enough. I have come to the conclusion that we need to clock in performance time.

A pilot’s flying experience is often measured by his flying time. No amount of flying inside a flight simulator can substitute for actually flying a plane full of passengers. However, not all planes and routes are equal. Cargo and passengers are different. Short haul is different from long haul flights.

Similarly, not all concerts are equal. A house concert is very different from a big public concert hall. Playing at a nursing home is different from playing in a museum. Is it then possible to practise performing?

After our first concert of our 2010 programme in Doorn in January, I practised even harder. At our second concert in Amsterdam, I realised that I should focus on what I thought were easy pieces. I had spent so much time gaining confidence on the difficult pieces, that I had underestimated the challenge of playing the easy pieces in sync with the guitar.

Robert Bekkers studying his score during the intermission at Doorn
Robert Bekkers studying his score during the intermission at Doorn

The more we perform, the sooner we will be ready to record our second CD. That is our ultimate goal: to record a CD so that we can move on to new repertoire. We want to reach that stage, as we did in 2009, of being so confident in our playing that we can perform anytime anywhere without any advance notice. Having reached that point in 2009, I long to get there with our new programme.

And so, we accepted a last-minute request from a composer to perform his work at a private party. We offered to play a few pieces from our new programme at another private party the following week. We deliberately challenged ourselves to play to a knowing audience of culture vultures, composers, musicians, and real aficionados of classical music. We were the invited guests, just like everyone else, but we put ourselves to work before we could indulge in the wine and festivities.

Those two occasions in Amsterdam were “tryouts” for us.

“Tryout” translates to “please forgive us if we make mistakes or don’t deliver the quality we intended.” Tryouts are usually free because the performers need the audience, not the other way around. Performers use tryouts — a concert before a concert — to get ready. It’s the step between the last rehearsal and first important performance.

Next Saturday 13th February 2010, I will go to a “tryout” house concert of a violin / piano programme of Grieg, Prokofiev, Debussy and De Falla. I will attend to support the pianist who is a good friend. I will also attend out of curiosity. I’m sure there will be others in the audience that I know and want to catch up with. It’s nearby and it’s free. [See my blog entries on why musicians attend concerts part one and two.]

Perhaps our duo will offer to “tryout” a piece as a surprise. Probably not.

Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

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