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Sweet potato

March 17, 2011

In honor of St. Patrick’s day, I am wearing nothing but grey and black. Because that’s how I roll. I have, however, been playing some fiddle tunes and I started in on a guitar arrangement of Sí Bhéag, sí mor. Sí Bhéag, sí mor is a lovely little tune by Turlough O’Carolan, the Beethoven of Irish traditional music. I learned it from Liz Carroll and I played it at my brother’s wedding. It’s pretty. The guitar part is hard, but not impossible. It may be the most youtubed Irish song. There’s about 90 gazillion versions on guitars, dobros, lap steel, ukeleles, fiddles, tin whistles, flutes, accordions, autoharps, regular harps, Celtic harps, hammered dulcimer, mountain ocarinas, mandolin, mandocello, cello, double bass, banjos of various sorts (4-string Irish, 5-string American), lute, Uillean pipes (Irish bagpipe), vocals, recorder, harmonium, and harmonica. And those are only the ones who spell it the same way I do — there are several other variations. I find the variety fascinating.

My Wednesday nights are becoming marathons. I taught four hours straight — 8 lessons with no break — last night. Four hours may not sound like a lot for a job. And with a new student every half hour, it goes very fast. But i’m exhausted when I get home. Each student is a completely different situation. It’s like a four-hour improvisation. It’s exhilarating, but very tiring, requiring a lot of physical and mental energy. One of my advanced students has an audition this afternoon. We’ve been working really hard on the prelude (overture) to Wagner’s Die Meistersinger. When she started, she’d only ever tried third position, and she’d only done that a little bit. But now she can launch into a long passage that goes up to 7th. But with Wagner, the challenge is not so much getting up there and staying in tune, but hearing where your headed. He’s so chromatic (meaning that he brings in a lot of notes from outside of the key signature) that it can be hard to remember what key you are in or where you are headed.

Last night it was still not perfect, but I was amazed at how far she had come in just a couple of weeks. I’m as nervous about this audition as if I were playing it myself. But it’s inspiring to me, how hard she has worked. And now I need to take some of that inspiration and apply it to my own work.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2011 9:06 am

    Four hours is a lot for giving that kind of individual attention. College professors are exhausted if they have to teach two two-hour classes back to back with a ten minute break in between.

  2. March 18, 2011 9:26 am

    That’s exactly it. It’s a whole different level of focus from teaching a lecture. But it’s never boring. I’m not sure I can say the same about my lectures.

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