Tag Archives: eisteddfod

Wondering if I should enter the Freo Eisteddfod

Well, it’s come to that time of the year again – I’ve looked up the Fremantle Eisteddfod website and they have the 2011 schedule online!   The closing date is 18th March and the Eisteddfod will be held between the May 12-21.

For the past 2 years, I’ve dusted off my violin, and used the Freo Eisteddfod as a goal to work towards – to learn one of the great violin concertos.

In 2008 I learnt the Wieniawski 2nd, but didn’t compete.   In 2009 it was Sibelius.  In 2010 it was Tchaikovsky.  

Both experiences created MUCH stress in my life.  But it actually helped me keep up my violin.   You see, after the month of May in the past 2 years, I really haven’t picked up my violin at all (except for the YouTube Symphony thing).

So I’m wondering if I should do this again in 2011?   Learn another movement from a great concerto in 3 months? 

I really have left it quite late this time around.   I was hoping I could do the Brahms, Barber or Beethoven, but there’s really not enough time.   I guess I could learn the 3rd movement from the Sibelius or Tchaikovsky?    Or tackle something different like the Carmen Fantasy?    Or maybe play something with less notes to learn like a Mozart concerto.

Or shall I just leave my violin in its case this year…

Played the Tchaik at the Freo Eisteddfod

It’s all over!!

I was nervous ALL yesterday.  As soon as I woke up, at work, during meetings.   I thought to myself, “Why am I putting myself through this?”

I came home a bit earlier to play through some sections of the Tchaik, had dinner, and before I knew it I was warming up in the cold echoey room at the Fremantle Town Hall with some other musicians.

Initially I was meant to be first after the dinner break, but I ended up being fourth (the order of entrants varies quite a bit in the Open Concerto section I’ve come to realise).

At least this year Miss 9 and Miss 11 came along to see me too 🙂  Apparently Miss 9 was clapping very enthusiastically for me and enjoyed seeing her Dad on stage!

So I strolled onto the cold large empty stage with my young accompanist, tuned up, peered out into the sparse dark audience, and started to play.

Boy, I was still stressed, and although I tried really hard, my muscles were all tensed up too.  But I tried to make my violin sing and soar through the long journey of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto.

This year I even worked up a sweat on stage.  From stress, being tense, or just the 20 minutes of mental concentration required?

And then it was all over to what seemed like raptuous applause!

No memory lapse, but one too many intonation errors to make it a performance worthy of the finals. Something that really requires lots of slow practice and scales and arpeggio practice, which I obviously don’t have time to do.

Things that went well – opening, parts of the candenza, ending, interpretation and tone (mostly).

Things that didn’t go so well – intonation in parts, some of the shifts to nowhere I missed the top notes, clarity in the faster double stopped semiquavers and runs.

But I was so glad that it was over.  A personal milestone achieved for my violin this year.  And especially thankful that my young (Year 11 only!!) accompanist learnt his part in less than a week and really held his own too!

So in the last 3 years I’ve slowly worked my way through some of the violin concerto repertoire I had been lamenting not learning before – Wieniawski 2nd done.   Sibelius (although 1st movement only) done.  Tchaikovsky (1st movement) done.

Whatever “done” means.  For me (at my age and time to spend on the violin), setting the goal to perform it in public with an accompanist for my father and wife (and kids) is enough for me.

Getting to the finals or winning would be nicer still, but I’m secretly glad that I don’t have to go through all the stress again on Friday night!

But I’ve already started thinking about what concerto to learn next – Brahms or Beethoven or Barber?

For more posts on the Tchaik journey: https://jasechong.wordpress.com/tag/tchaikovsky/

Less than 10 days until the Freo Eisteddfod!

OMG!  Less than 10 days until the Eisteddfod.

Two nights ago I did my first play through for someone else – my Wifey!  Yes she sat down through ~20 minutes of it.  All went OK except I had 1 major stop where I did the wrong run which stuffed me all up, and I was quite nervous and tense through the whole thing that came out through my tone and body posture.   Hmm…  I have to do some major practise with a metronome over the next week – I’m just totally rushing some semis, which just makes life hard for myself. 

The other problem – no accompanist!!!  Over the last week I’ve contacted 20 different accompanists in Perth, but they are all either busy with another performance, too busy during the week accompanying school exams, not doing the Freo Eisteddfod, accompanying too many people at the Eisteddfod, or haven’t played the piano part before and it’s too late to learn it!!  Oh no!!! 

It’s really looking like I’ve left it too late.  One accompanist suggested I should have lined this up at least a month in advance – but they obviously didn’t realise I wasn’t even sure whether I could finish learning the whole piece until last week!

Might be time to face the reality and go with plan B – don’t do it, take a few lessons on it, and possibly aim to play it at a different Eisteddfod or music festival later in the year.

Hmm…   I wonder if there’s a backing track for it 🙂

Sibelius at the Freo Eisteddfod

All yesterday, I was just riddled with nerves.  I had that weird sick feeling in my stomach all day at work, knowing that my Freo Eisteddfod heat was later that day.  I did try to calm down, clear the worries out of my head.

As my Wifey told me, I shouldn’t need to have nerves.  I mean, I hadn’t even played yet!  No-one is going to die, no-one is getting injured, the audience aren’t there hanging on the edge of their seat waiting for me to make a mistake, they’re there to enjoy music.

But that still doesn’t help.

So I turned up after 8pm and found that there were still 4 or so to go before me.  Bad.  It meant I had to wait.  I didn’t want to watch the others so I hung out in the main hall.  There was no real place to warm up as the whole building has so much echo that it would leak into the main hall.

But all that circulated through my head for that hour was the thought of having a memory lapse.  I was replaying the concerto in parts in my head and would find a part that I “forgot”, rush to the music to check what’s next.  Bad.  My hands were cold and clammy which would make it harder to shift and play the fast passages mroe agile.

The other players before me played really well.  Pianists, violinists – I resigned to the fact that I couldn’t compete with them.  Many are Uni music students.  I wasn’t there primarily to compete anyway.  That was not my prime objective.  But that still didn’t stop the adrenalin from rushing in my head.

Then it was time for me.  I was called up, I walked to the bare stage at the Freo Town Hall, a place I hadn’t played a solo on since my Saint-Saens Introduction and Rondo Cappricioso with WAYO so many years ago (is it 14-15 years ago?).

I tuned up and tried to loosen up, listen to the acoustics in the hall, playing some long notes on open strings.  I looked out on the audience, saw the judges sitting in the upstairs gallery seating.

A thought went through my head that I was going to forget some part of the concerto again…  but I took a deep breath, looked at my accompanist, gave him a small nod and we started.

I was going in cold – not having warmed up.   F1 drivers have that warmup lap where they try to get their tyres to the right temperature.  I was thinking – why couldn’t I?  Oh well..   The nerves definitely died down once I had my bow on the string.

I played my heart out on that violin.  It was definitely more passionate and had more feeling than I usually play.  I really “milked” it.  But my intonation was a bit more shaky in parts.  And my left hand was still stiff from adrenalin, making runs not as crystal clear.  Luckily I did get the huge interval jumps and most of the double stopped octaves and sixths were OK.  The cadenza part came off better than I expected.  It was weird, at times I almost felt like I was observing myself play.  It wasn’t in “automatic” mode, but almost like my soul had lifted out of my body and was watching from outside myself.

All of a sudden, it was coming to the 2 last pages in my head.  No memory lapses so far – good.  But I started my run into the high E trill a little too fast because of nerves and so my accompanist thought I wanted to go fast.  But no!  I didn’t mean to!  I tried to pull the tempo back but too late, the horse had bolted.  I stressed – I knew I couldn’t play the last runs at this speed, but I had to try.  We got a bit of out sync with each other with all the action and passion and notes speeding by, and my last fingered octave scale run was not good at all. And then it was all over so quickly!

I was disappointed.  I know I can play those last 2 pages MUCH better.  My performance was definitely not indicative of how well I could play this piece.  But a different setting, nerves – it all adds different elements than just playing in trackies in the comfort of my lounge room.  But then, all competitors are in the same boat – it’s your performance on the day that counts.  It’s not just who can play, what you can play, or how you play it – it’s also a test of how well you can play in public under stressful conditions.  Not having played like this in public for 14-15 years wouldn’t help.  Maybe I need to do some small public recitals for Musica Amica or the Royal Schools.

I was so relieved.  It was over.  No more nerves or sickly feeling in my stomach.  What a blast!  My Wifey and my Dad who came along thought I played really well, better than they expected 🙂   Wifey said I even put a tear in her eye and didn’t realise how beautiful the Sibelius violin concerto is.

I didn’t get through to the final 4.  Interpretation and passion are not the only factors adjudicators judge by.  Ensemble and my last 2 pages definitely was a negative.  They did say that they were clear on 3 of the finalists, but not the fourth.   I’m going to live with the hope that maybe I was a potential candidate.     I was disappointed, but I keep reminding myself that that wasn’t my goal.  My goal was to work on the Sibelius first movement and play it at the Freo Eisteddfod, as something to work towards and because I LOVE the Sibelius violin concerto.   Actually, I am relieved that I don’t have to go through all the nerves again to play it on Friday night!  But it would’ve been nice to play it in front of a larger audience.

So from here, I get to put that aside and work on something new.  I think I’ll do the 2nd and 3rd movements, then move onto the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, and then the Brahms.