Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"Sneeze Louise"

Allergy season in full bloom around here. I take prescription allergy meds sometimes twice a day, and over the past week or so, they are fighting hard in an inevitable loss of a boisterous battle. It's always this time of year that is the worst but I do have problems year round. As a pianist, sneezing--and my vociferous style of doing so--always ended up making its way into some of my final year concerts in high school, summer band camps (I can play flute, french horn and percussion, too), and even simple practicing for such things. When all of these fluffy white seeds go flying through the air in June and the temperatures start to rise, people switch on fans, fire up air conditioners, and open windows. Actions like these bring on the sneeze.

As a senior in high school, my piano teacher and I constructed a "final recital" for the end of that year. In June, of course. Public schools run until the end of the month here and start after Labor Day. Off to college in the fall with a strong cache of piano pieces and techniques under my belt. My teacher taught at a local college, and was "prepping" me for the collegiate music world, I guess. Anyway, I remember playing Chopin's Prelude in D-flat Major Op. 28 No. 15, nicknamed "The Raindrop Prelude." What a piece. And, it goes with the weather around here (see past posts for more on that)! Each section of this piece is fun to play as a pianist. Chopin's writing, as well as Brahms' and Debussy's, FEEL good to play. All knew how to write for the pianist while writing idiomatically for the piano itself. Good stuff.

ANYWAY, my parents, other assorted relatives, neighbors (who had heard this stuff streaming from my parents' house for over a decade), friends, boyfriend, teachers and whoever else graciously came (I always throw "big" events) and it turned out to be a lot of fun and a great experience. Including the now oft-told "sneeze" incident just as the "stormy" section of Chopin's little piece had begun.

I could feel the first tickles in my nose just as I started playing the opening melody for the second time. Thank goodness I had that thing memorized. I had the music up there, though, a practice that would disappear in college. I sat on the stage, poised and pretty and still playing away, and for the next 10 measures or so, tried desperately to wiggle my nose in a way that would eliminate the sneeze--or at least delay it!--while not drawing attention to the fact that I was doing this at all. Not easy. I am nothing if not a multi-tasker.

It hit just as Chopin's storm did. I had no recourse but to keep on keepin' on, holding those quarter notes steady with the left hand while the storm raged in my right and then, suddenly, out of my nose and mouth as well. I turned away from the audience, sneezed as if it was my last day on earth, kept playing, turned back to the music, then sneezed again. And again. Things come in 3s, they say.

I'm not sure what most people remember about my performance of that piece. I hadn't stopped at all and when I finished, I stood, turned to the audience, bowed, and then looked at their faces. Smiles all around, tremendous applause, and much chuckling (in a friendly way, I'm sure).

I won't even go into the events that arose in my nose during the Mozart piano sonata that followed...

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