After gearing myself up for a tough day playing contemporary music for Trevor, I was pleasantly surprised how things turned out. I still didn’t fare too well in morning warm-ups – though my Reichert exercises were actually quite good, I wasn’t able to pick up on the pattern of a new scales exercise very well, nor play it at the speed Trevor was already setting! Looks like I’ll be adding that one to my practice list for the weekend.

To my surprise, Mei went quite well; Trevor could see that I mostly understood the music and had worked on it, and as a result I ended up having a really productive and rewarding lesson. There was one fundamental thing with the piece that I hadn’t thought about, and that’s the use of vibrato. We’ve been playing ‘standard’ repertoire for so long now that it didn’t even cross my mind to think about playing senza vibrato (and I had deliberately not listened to any recordings), which was a silly mistake. The piece mimics shakuhachi playing, and so “of course” should be played without vibrato, as in the Japanese musical culture it’s an ornament. Lesson duly learned.

From there, however, Trevor kept pushing me to play the music with sharper grace notes, more convincing pitch bends and a greater intensity of direction and dynamics. I enjoyed myself, and when his final comment was “some very good things happening there, but you need to do a lot of work playing without vibrato” I had to stop myself leaping for joy. His praise is so rare that it really means something when it does come!

We went to a nearby pub for dinner, and have just got back. It was a nice place – The Five Bells – and the food was yummy. Everything is starting to feel very Christmassy, especially since we head out into ‘civilisation’ so infrequently.

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