Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

About to Play a Concert

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Tonight, I will take another step toward reclaiming my musical abilities by playing my clarinet with the University of Wisconsin-Community Band.

“But Barb,” you longtime readers of my blog may be saying.  “You’ve played concerts with them before.  What’s the big deal?”

Well, last year I played my alto saxophone in several concerts with the Community Band — a symphonic band made up of various community members from the Racine, Kenosha, and Northern Illinois areas.  I played several solos, including a memorable, lengthy one on “Roma” (a piece inspired by the Romani, or Gypsies).  But in some ways, playing the saxophone is easier on my bad hands than is the clarinet.

Consider, please, that it took two rounds of occupational therapy in 2011 to bring my hands and wrists back to the point that I could play at all.  (I have carpal tunnel syndrome, though I try not to make a big deal of it.)  That’s why I wanted to play more saxophone than clarinet, as saxophone is easier on the wrists due to the fact the alto saxophone is played by using a neckstrap to take the weight of the instrument off both hands and wrists.

I wasn’t sure what could be done to help my hands with the clarinet, but fortunately Steve Schoene of Racine’s own Schmitt Music had the answer.  Schoene told me about the Clarichord, which is somewhat like a neckstrap but does not require a hole to be drilled in the clarinet and a ring installed . . . instead, it wraps around the thumb rest, and seals with a velcro closure around the neck.

Voila!  I was able to play my clarinet far more easily, and without anywhere near as much pain and strain.

Still, two-plus hour rehearsals seemed beyond me, which is why playing the saxophone in both Community Band and the Racine Concert Band seemed like the best course unless a clarinet player was truly needed.

However, my hands have improved enough that I asked to play clarinet in the Community Band.  I am playing the first part, which is the most wide-ranging and difficult (for the most part), and I have several solos in a piece by Ingolf Dahl called “Sinfonietta for Band.”

These solos are challenging and require all of my thought and energy.  Which is why when we had our dress rehearsal last night, I came home drained — thus was unable to blog about tonight’s concert as I’d hoped.

It’s rather late for most people in the Racine, Kenosha and Northern Illinois area to decide to go out to Parkside for a concert.  (For those of you not from this area, Parkside is somewhat between the cities of Racine and Kenosha, and is located next to a scenic park.  Thus the name.)  Plus, it’s cold, windy, and worst of all, it’s Tuesday — not on a weekend, when we might have a bit more people willing to brave the elements to come see a live concert with real, live adult performers.

Still.  The concert starts at 7:30 p.m.  It’s now 6:20.  If you live within forty-five minutes of Parkside, you can still make it — and if you want to see the Community Band perform, we are second on the program, not first.  (Which means you don’t have to break all speed limits in order to get to the show on time if you want to see us perform.)

For those of you who don’t live in the area, or who cannot attend the concert, please wish me well.  This certainly is the most challenging work I’ve played in at least twenty years — and it would’ve been a beast to play even before my hands started acting up fifteen years ago.

——

By the way . . . I always tag my late husband’s name with regards to something like this.  Michael didn’t get a chance to hear me play live in concert.  He did hear me practice many times, but that’s not necessarily the same thing.

It depends on what you think happens after the body dies as to whether or not you believe my husband has finally been able to hear me play in concert or not.  But I like to think that he does hear it, wherever he is, and that he’s happy I’m making the attempt.  Because if any part of him still exists, he has to know that me continuing onward with my hands and wrists like this is far from easy . . . but this is a big part of who I am.

He’d be happy I’m continuing to try, even though it’s painful and much more difficult than it used to be for me to play either the clarinet or the saxophone.

And I think he’d get a kick out of the fact that I have solos, too.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

March 19, 2013 at 6:21 pm

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