Last month, I went on a little mini recital tour to Seattle and Victoria, and I stopped in Boston and Chicago on the way. I got to see dear friends that I had not seen in years (and meet their children!) and I finally got to see the PNW for the first time (spoiler alert: it’s gorgeous). The trip was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. Without a pianist or my very helpful husband to pitch in with the driving and other logistical matters, I was exhausted when I got back home.
Because I often have to check my cello (in its extra heavy-duty Stevenson flight case), I try to do direct flights whenever I can. In this case, I needed to stop in Boston for a couple of days anyway. I taught some lessons, caught up with a good friend over dinner, rehearsed with the always-lovely Craft Ensemble ladies for an upcoming concert and helped a student make her supplemental audition recording for her Nov. 1 college applications. I managed to cram a lot into a short amount of time, but I also got to soak up some fall colors and enjoy the changing leaves (because I had NO idea what I was about to witness in Seattle).
Stop #2 was Chicago. It’s never good when you ARRIVE somewhere before 8:00am, but getting to Chicago early meant that I got to have brunch at Walker Bros. Pancake House with my nephew. Noah has been awesome since he was born, but as an almost-16-year-old, I am pleased to say that he is turning into an A+ kickass human being (AND HE’S NOT EVEN A CELLIST!!!). I love talking with him and hearing his insights into the world around him. Also, I’m never not amazed to see him eat an entire apple pancake by himself.
That night I had my first performance of my solo recital program: The Voice of the Cello. It consists of some old familiars (Bach C Major Suite) an old favorite (Crumb Solo Sonata-which I haven’t performed in about 10 years!) the Hovhaness Yakamochi that I started doing last year-audiences always pick it as their favorite, and a new piece by LA-based composer George N. Gianopoulos. This last one is really fun, but physically demanding to play, and I was a little nervous about how it would feel at the end of the night. I ended up being really pleased. Yes-it was tiring to end with it, but it went well. Unfortunately, because of some technical difficulties with the video camera, I didn’t get recordings of any of it! What I did get, was a photo of me and my 2nd-grade teacher, Mrs. O’Malley. Because she lives there. Small world.
After the recital, I had a couple of days to unwind and enjoy some time with family and friends. My younger nephew’s baseball team made the league finals, so we went to that game (oh my god, it was so cold!) and I caught up with a former BYSO student/lifelong friend (I used to be her babysitter!) and chatted about her new life as a professional cellist (#soproud). I had delicious Lebanese food with my cousins, lots of family meals and walks and coffees and catch-ups with friends. It’s always good to be back in one’s hometown, isn’t it?
Then, finally, I was off to Seattle. My 4 days here were spent visiting various schools, meeting up with some colleagues and new friends, and a couple of recital performances. I did two workshops with the 4th-grade music classes at an Elementary School in Renton, and they were awesome. Their teacher, Ursula Sahagian Slover, is a fantastic oboist, and she has done an incredible job with these kids. They really knew their stuff! On Thursday, I went to the Seattle Girl’s School, where their middle school teacher, guitarist Christopher Lott has been teaching them graphic notation. They had been writing pieces for me to play and we had a great time putting them together and figuring out what kinds of cello sounds to use. And on Friday, I went to Hamlin Robinson School, which is a K-8 school dedicated to teaching kids with dyslexia-giving them the tools they need to succeed in high school and beyond (a topic near and dear to my heart). I played for the entire school, and they were so engaged and enthusiastic-I loved it.
I also had some time to get over to the Japanese Gardens. They were stunning. I mean, jaw-dropping colors and the trees….and….and….everyone I spoke to just took it in stride, “yeah” they’d say. “It’s just always really pretty here in Seattle”. hmm. okay.
That evening, I performed at Parkshore Retirement Community–a beautiful assisted living and continuing care facility right on the water. I always make a point of performing at a retirement community or two wherever I go. My mom lives in one in Chicago, and I know first-hand how much the residents appreciate having the concerts come to them because getting into the city to see a performance becomes quite difficult for many. You never really know what you’re going to walk into. Sometimes it’s an actual performance hall with a stage and a nice piano, printed programs, and a full audience. Sometimes, they put you in a room and wheel in some residents. No matter what the circumstances are when the audience is appreciative, it’s always gratifying. Parkshore had me performing in a large lounge-like room, with stunning views of the lake, and the residents were just relaxing on sofas and chairs. It was quite relaxed and the atmosphere allowed me to chat with them in between pieces in a more personal way. I’d finish a movement of Bach and someone would ask me a question. They enjoyed it, I enjoyed it. One gentleman, there with his visiting daughter, read that I was from Chicago. Turns out we went to the same high school. His daughter? Visiting from Boston. Again–small world!
From there I drove over to Mercer Island where I would be a) performing the following day and b) staying with my friend Miriam, who I met when we were both living and working in Miami (I was with the New World Symphony and she was with the Miami City Ballet). We musicians were friends with a lot of the MCB dancers; after all, we shared the same sporadic schedule of rehearsals most days, performances over the weekends and Mondays off. Sometimes friendships are based solely on circumstances, and other times, you find that you have remained friends with people through life’s twists and turns and you realize it’s because you are genuinely fond of each other’s character, soul, etc. Those are the people who, like with Miriam, you can manage to not see for 6 years, and one marriage (for me) and four children (for her) later, you can just pick up right where you left off. There is something magical about seeing your friends with their children, and I am so grateful I had the chance to spend time with her and her family.
I had the morning to practice (what a view!) and after some afternoon hang time (I have learned that coloring is an excellent pre-concert activity!) Miriam and I went over to the concert venue. The hall was fantastic! The audience was….err…..small? virtually non-existent? Just being totally honest here. There was so much press about this concert. Articles in newspapers, Seattle area events listings, fliers, facebook ads, etc. etc. and yet, not a huge turnout. Maybe because it was the day of the horrible shootings in Pittsburgh–and people were grieving and not in the mood to go out. To be fair, the hall was part of the Mercer Island JCC. In fact, I normally would have said a few words about the shooting before my performance, but due to the location, I didn’t want people to worry or be nervous. Maybe it was a nice day and people just wanted to be outdoors? Maybe people in Seattle hate the cello? Who knows, but the point is, that even after all of the planning that goes into a concert, it IS disappointing to walk out and be able to (almost) count the number of people in the audience. Awkward, too. But you just hold your head high and do your program, and remember that there are ALWAYS good things that come out of any performance. And afterward, you enjoy some pizza and a nice glass of Malbec with a friend-or maybe that’s just me.
The next morning brought one of the activities I was most looking forward to on the trip. I left Miriam’s in the wee hours (her 6-year old daughter came out of her room to give me a hug goodbye–cuteness overload!!) returned my rental car and hopped on a ferry to Victoria. It felt so good to just collapse into my seat with a large cup of coffee and stare out at the islands and little seaside towns scattered between the cliffs. It was 3 hours of pure vegging out. Waiting for me on the other side was one Mr. Simon MacDonald. One of my best friends from when we were both students at NEC, we did both Spoleto USA and Tanglewood for many summers together after that, and he was a frequent sub down at New World. Simon is gold. His wife, Jennifer, is better than gold (don’t you love it when your friends marry women that you would have wanted to be friends with anyway?) and their two boys are adorable. Our time was too short, but we made the most of it. WE WENT TO A PUMPKIN FARM! There was a train ride, and a corn maze and a spooky town and a folksinger performing in a large tent for about 2 people and I wanted to hug her and say “I know how you feel, and it’s okay, here, have a Malbec!” Anyway, after a fun night at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel Restaurant and then post-dinner drinks at their bar, the next day we grownups left the kiddos with grandma and snuck out for breakfast at Bubba’s and went off to explore Victoria. Some shopping, some tea, Chinatown, and general meandering. I gave a Master Class at the Victoria Conservatory of Music that evening and heard some very fine cello playing. I was extremely impressed with the program, the faculty and the facilities–what lucky high schoolers!
Alas, after the class there was hardly enough time for goodbyes. Simon whisked me off to the airport where my epic journey back to Bermuda began. Victoria à Vancouver à Toronto à Boston à Bermuda. Let’s just say that the fact that I made it to Bermuda is a minor miracle and the fact that my suitcase made it to Bermuda? Well, that I still can’t believe. A thousand thanks to all of the lovely airline employees who helped me (and cello) get to where we needed to be safely. Shout out to Air Canada and Delta, who were so accommodating and never gave me ANY problems or grief regarding my cello. I left the VCM at 6pm on Monday and arrived home in Bermuda at 2pm on Tuesday and taught the rest of that afternoon and evening.
Wednesday looked a lot like this:
I’m grateful to have had some time at home in Bermuda to rest and regroup (and learn some new notes!). Have one week left and feeling about ready for my next trip. Boston, I’ll see you soon!