Friday, October 10, 2008

Little by Little, Part I

Sometimes I feel like I'm sliding backwards. The same thing all of you feel, I bet, sometimes. Whatever metaphor you want to use: an uphill battle, filling a sieve with sand, one-step-forward-two-steps-back. I feel like the small things I get done are not the great things I once dreamed of getting done (Oxford, Carnegie Hall, The Atlantic Monthly---things that probably wouldn't have happened anyway, but at least they were possibilities back then).

[It surprised me, however, when I had Abraham, how much I LOVED being a mom. I wasn't really one of those girls that always wanted to hold everyone else's baby, that picked out names and planned baby showers. But after a few weeks (yes, it took a few weeks), I found that my own child was able to interest me, engage me, in a way that other people's children hadn't (thank goodness). And that feeling has only increased with each baby, until now I find I AM a "baby person," and I truly enjoy my kids. And even some other peoples'. Which is something I count a great blessing.]

Many parts of my former life, though, are not what they once were: Writing, for example,(although resurrected in part by this blog, thankfully) has dwindled from scholarly papers and essays and poetry, to mostly writing books for Abraham to read ("Here is a bear. His name is Honey. I see Honey. He is in a tree! Honey wants some honey. Oh no! Here come some bees! Come back, Honey!"). And music: it is still present, but now in the form of lullabies and silly made-up songs and marching around the house rather than practice sessions and challenging repertoire and performances.

And playing in church, of course. There is always playing in church. And here, again, I am being challenged. Now, as you may know, I play the piano. This is my piano.
I am also the organist at my church. This is an organ.

As you can see, they are quite different. (Okay, the organ I play is not actually this complicated. It only has two manuals [keyboards] and not nearly so many buttons. Still, it is not as simple as a piano. And you have to play a line of music with your FEET!!)

I like playing the piano. I am quite comfortable doing so (certainly with the hymns). I did take Organ 101 in college, so I know the very basic rudiments of the organ, but although I've been church organist before, I have never really gotten good at it and I am NOT comfortable on it at all. However. This time, rather than simply faking my way through the music every Sunday, I am trying to learn what I'm doing. This means playing the bass line on the pedals (with my FEET) and dividing up the other three lines between my two hands, which seems like it would be simpler but is actually quite difficult---because I have to read the same music I'm accustomed to reading for two hands, but NOT let my hands play what I see in the same way. That element, leaving out the bass line in my left hand so my feet can play it instead, is one of the hardest things for me.

But the thing is, it isn't noticeable. Oh, I'm sure people hear all my mistakes and my wrong notes and when I hit the wrong pedal, but if I simply play the organ like a piano, leaving out the pedals altogether and not worrying about proper technique, it sounds fine! An organist would notice, certainly, but since NO ONE else in my ward plays the organ (hence the calling to have ME do it) there is really no reason for me to make the effort (and believe me, it is an effort) to play correctly---except that I feel like I want to, and so I am. And it sounds bad. Oh, it sounds so bad sometimes. It sounds even worse during sacrament meeting than when I practice, because I get nervous and the sound is different when the chapel's full and the chorister goes too slow and the bishop sings too loud. (Or wait, maybe it's just that I'm not very good) :)

I tell Sam, "You are the only person who is going to notice when I improve. So I NEED you to listen to me and give me positive reinforcement, or I'll never be able to keep this up!" And he tries, but he does have to deal with three boys all by himself, which leaves him not much attention for being a critical and kindly ear.

So basically, it's just me, and sometimes I'll say approvingly to myself after a practice session (I go over at 5:30 Sunday mornings to practice), "Sounding good this week!" and then I'll have to laugh because I know it's so untrue. But I AM improving. For whatever that's worth.

And what IS it worth?

(to be continued . . . )

1 comment:

  1. I wish I could help more with the organ, even giving positive reinforcement. But even if I say you did a great job, it sounds hollow because you know I wasn't listening; I was trying to get a new toy for Sebby while looking at Abe's drawing and collecting Malachi who is climbing under the pew to get the scriptures of the people sitting behind us.