Beat Girl | Chapter #12 Practising

With my hands resting on the piano in the music school rehearsal room, I was only half listening to Ed. I imagined the violinist, cellist and flutist were equally focussed on the piece we were about to practise and were not fully taking in Ed’s speech.
‘Thank you for joining us. These were Claudia’s favourite pieces and I’m honoured to be presenting them in memoriam,’ Ed began.
The other three students nodded and I purposely kept my eyes on the music sheet for fear of getting too emotional.
‘We’ll be moving at quite a clip in order to get this concerto ready,’ continued Ed, ‘but if we’re all committed we can make this happen. As a matter of fact, Claudia herself used to say that being a musician is like forfeiting your own life.’

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1. Chapter #12 | Practising

 

With my hands resting on the piano in the music school rehearsal room, I was only half listening to Ed. I imagined the violinist, cellist and flutist were equally focussed on the piece we were about to practise and were not fully taking in Ed’s speech.

 

‘Thank you for joining us. These were Claudia’s favourite pieces and I’m honoured to be presenting them in memoriam,’ Ed began.

 

The other three students nodded and I purposely kept my eyes on the music sheet for fear of getting too emotional.

 

‘We’ll be moving at quite a clip in order to get this concerto ready,’ continued Ed, ‘but if we’re all committed we can make this happen. As a matter of fact, Claudia herself used to say that being a musician is like forfeiting your own life.’

 

‘Tell me about it.’ The violinist nodded his head and the others laughed.

 

‘The end of her life was difficult. It lacked the financial comfort another profession would have given her, but Claudia never regretted the choice she made. And I think we are all thankful for that.’

 

Ed walked over towards me and put his hand on my shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze.

 

‘Fortunately, Claudia leaves behind not just the legacy of her sensitive performances and technical mastery…’ I could feel all eyes on me and was growing uncomfortable, eager to start the piece. ‘As Claudia’s daughter, this concert holds special significance for Heather. I know that you will all support her.’ Ed’s tone suggested he’d reached the end of his speech, much to my relief.

 

I just about managed a quiet ‘Thank you’ and then it was time to begin with the music.

 

Ed tapped his baton on the music stand and I took my cue. Their instruments at the ready, the others waited for my solo intro to finish before they joined in.

 

Ed was watching me closely. Although I was concentrating hard, I gave him a slight nod as a little sign, indicating I was okay. Once I was past the tricky start, my confidence grew and I found I barely needed to look at the notes. Carried away by the melody, I was acutely reminded of my mother. 

 

Thinking of Mum, yet looking at Ed, I suddenly found myself entertaining thoughts that had never before occurred to me. Listening to Ed speak about Mum in such an intimate way made me wonder if they had ever been more than just friends. I don’t know why I had never asked that question before; perhaps I was young and only too willing to read situations at face value. I had certainly never witnessed anything to suggest as much - but then again, the two of them went back a long way. They had met as teenagers at music school and, after that, they continued to see each other regularly, even though Ed had not followed Mum on the concert circuit, but had chosen education early on as his career path. 

 

Later, Ed had provided a shoulder for Mum to cry on when Dad – Tom, I corrected myself - walked out. He was key in getting her the teaching job after she could no longer juggle the travelling and motherhood. It was strange to think of them as being possible lovers and I wondered if I’d ever pluck up the courage to ask Ed directly. Probably not, as it might be better not to know. 

 

A few days later, I was in the middle of playing a piece on the piano in one of the classrooms, with Ed pacing the room, eyes closed, as he listened intently for any mistakes. His hand shot up abruptly, prompting me to stop playing. With his left hand waving an imaginary conductor’s baton, he hummed the music the way it ought to have been played. 

 

‘Da da dah, dahdah-dah. Watch your phrasing,’ Ed corrected me.

 

I apologised and started again.

 

Ed shook his head almost as soon as I had begun. ‘You’re not playing the music!’ He picked up the sheet of music to make his point.

 

‘It was an interpretation,’ I replied. The first time I hadn’t said anything, but now I felt compelled to defend my choice of style.

 

‘First and foremost – you’ve got to play the music.’ To my disappointment, Ed refused to give me any such leeway.

 

‘I just wanted to give it a bit of feeling,’ I persisted, mulish.

 

‘Heather, listen to me. Your technical skill will blow people away. Just focus on that,’ Ed instructed.

 

‘I’m not interested in just technical skill, Ed. I’m not a friggin’ robot.’ I was getting frustrated.

 

‘Walk before you run, Heather.’ Ed sat down, trying a more friendly approach. ‘Look, call me old school, but it worked for your mother. And if you want a hope of getting into Juilliard, you’ve got to let it work for you too. Trust me. You can worry about nailing the feeling after you’ve mastered what’s on the page.’ Ed looked at me searchingly, hoping to break my resistance.

 

I just returned his look. My scepticism was obvious.

 

‘Unless, of course, you don’t want this…’ Ed was now hitting me where he knew I’d flinch. 

 

Annoyed, I sighed, as both he and I knew the answer to that. Of course I wanted this, more than anything in this world.

‘Okay,’ I finally agreed. 

 

‘From the top.’ Ed resumed his pacing and I started over, this time playing the piece without a single technical glitch. He nodded in approval as I continued to deliver a note-perfect rendition, yet I didn’t feel the usual satisfaction. A sense of hollowness nagged at me, and I couldn’t understand why. I had never before felt anything but bliss when playing music the way it should be played. 

 

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