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A Musical Reawakening

From time to time my work takes my around the country examining music students of all ages; piano,violin, voice and other areas. I've recently just returned from examining in the South East of Ireland, where I had 6 days of up to 35 exams per day. Most candidates were reasonably well prepared so my job was straight forward enough, just write a few complimentary comments, some constructive criticism and total up the marks usually awarding 'honours' (80% and above) or distinction (90% and above).

The theme to the week however was that exam after exam, the performances weren't really enjoyable, either for myself or the candidate; okay so I tend to hear repeat performances of pieces but I can still enjoy an individual's interpretation if they show some personality and passion. It soon occurred to me that none of these students were actually enjoying what they were doing, whether it be through nerves, not loving the music, or not wanting to be there.

On my final day I got speaking to a girl who was working at reception. It turned out she was currently a music student in college. She mentioned she had a piano recital exam coming up within a couple of weeks and as I had some free time between exams I offered to listen to her pieces as an opportunity for performance practice. To be honest I expected her to decline politely but to my surprise without thinking twice she immediately lifted up a piano book, walked into the examination room, and sat down to perform. Unlike every performance I had witnessed during the week, there was no sense of awkwardness or nervousness, just the feeling of a young musican eager to perform.

She performed three short pieces, one in particular captured my attention.

Grieg's Notturno from Lyric Pieces op.54 isn't a piece of music I am overly familiar with so I quickly became absorbed in the performance. Although not a particularly complex piece of music technically, the gentle ease of this performance and beautiful cantabile of the melodic line kept my focus throughout. There was a real sincerity and honesty to her presentation, no gimmicks, the music was simply allowed to 'speak'. I felt a connection to the music to the point I was almost transported to another time, perhaps when music was nothing but an incredible possibility and journey for me, without the added stresses of trying to earn a living.

Although to the outsider this won't sound like an unusual experience, to me, this was a very strange and eye-opening moment. It reminded me of what music should be about - the simplicity of a musician performing a piece they love and wanting to share this with an audience. In this case I was the audience.

In the most unusual scenario my love for music was reawakened, and I now feel excited about the possibilites the future may hold. So thank you to the girl at reception! :)

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