Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Practice Tonight, Concert Tomorrow

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This week, I obviously haven’t blogged very much, and there’s a reason for that.

You see, even though I’m still far more “off” than “on” and have little energy due to being sick for nearly three months in a row, I was asked months ago to play a concert tomorrow evening at the Case High School theatre in Racine, Wisconsin with the Racine Concert Band.  (I regularly play with the RCB, but mostly in the summer months.)

And of course, at the time, I said yes.

When this concert’s first rehearsal came up a few weeks ago, I told them that I was still recovering from bronchitis and that a new therapy had been started.  (True.)  I had hopes the new therapy would help, but I didn’t know how long that it would take to restore my energy level to the point where I could play.  So I said at that point that I’d prefer not to play this concert — not because I didn’t want to play, but because I feared I would be completely and totally unable to play.

An aside: My degrees are in music performance, mostly.  (My Bachelor’s of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside had enough credits that I could’ve taken a degree beyond music, had I wished, and I certainly had enough credits for both an English and history minor, if Parkside did minors.  But I didn’t.)  So performing music in front of people, no matter how terribly I feel at the time, is what I’ve trained for my entire life.

This is why, when the RCB wasn’t able to get a substitute clarinet player — they thought they had one, but that person backed out — I decided to play the concert and the subsequent rehearsals, even knowing that the rehearsals would take a good deal of my available energy along with my available concentration, and also would keep me from blogging very much or doing much in the way of editing, either.

Of course, there’s no guarantee even without playing this concert, as lousy as I’ve felt, that I’d have been able to do that much more.  I’ve been told that I’m exhausted for the past five or six months, including before I was diagnosed in mid-April with acute bronchitis.  And while for a time I was able to keep “bulling through” and accomplishing what I needed to accomplish as a writer, editor and musician, after that bronchitis hit me I had nothing left to “bull through” with.

What I’m trying to do now is to manage the exhaustion, get as much rest as I possibly can, and to limit stress.  These are not easy things for me to do at all, but because I was able to do some of them, plus that medical therapy I discussed before (basically I’m taking twice as much of one type of medicine as before in order to limit acid reflux, as reflux plays into both bronchitis and asthma), I’ve been able to play the rehearsals and will play tomorrow’s concert.  (Well, tonights concert, as it’s clicked over past midnight as I’ve been editing this.)

Now, am I playing very well right now?  In my own personal (and professional) estimation, no, I’m not.  I’m at about fifty, maybe sixty percent of what I’m capable of when I’m healthy.  (And that’s not what I’m capable of when I’m at the top of my game, mind you — that’s just when I’m healthy and able to play.)  So I’ve been able to completely learn the parts, which is good, but I’m not able to fully play them, which isn’t.

What I’m doing to compensate for the areas I can’t play is to take longer breathing breaks than normal, so I don’t get too tired out to play.  (I’ve also been smart about taking my asthma inhaler and such, as there’s no need to be any more stupid than I must.)  And if I have to, I take things in two- or four-measure chunks . . . whatever it takes in order to play the music as written, at least as much of it as I’m able to play at this time.

But the band knew this.  The conductor knew this.  And they still wanted me to play.

Which is why I will take the stage and do my best on May 16, 2013, at 7:30 p.m. out at Case High School in Racine.  The RCB has one “combined piece” with the Case High School’s best and/or senior class musicians, plus four other pieces by Robert Ward, Germaine Tailleferre, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Percy Grainger.  The “big piece” is Tailleferre’s “Suite Divertimento,” written in 1977.  It’s a mixture of 20th century French and Renaissance idioms, and if we play it as well as we’re capable of, it should be most impressive.

However, the piece I actually enjoy the most is “Prairie Overture” by Robert Ward.  Ward is an underrated American composer who died in April at the age of 95, and his piece was written in 1957 for concert band and was only later transcribed by Ward for the orchestra.  (Usually a composer writes for orchestra first and band later, if at all, which is why the concert band repertoire consists of so many arrangements.)  This piece sounds both American and Western in flavor and style, but has some unique orchestration throughout that was Ward’s trademark.

I’m uncertain how many people in Racine even know about my blog, much less read it regularly.  But if you live in Racine and you enjoy real, live music played by real, live musicians, you owe it to yourself to get yourself out to Case High School on Thursday night and hear these pieces for yourself.

As for my plans for after the concert, I plan to take it very slowly until I regain some more energy or strength, even though I really hate having to do so.  The medical people I’ve consulted have all told me that since it took months to wreck my health, it’ll take months for me to regain the energy I no longer have.  And the only way to regain that energy is to be smart, stay within myself, and try not to push myself overmuch.

All I can do right now is promise that I’ll do things as I’m able, as my health allows.  This wasn’t a situation I’d expected to get into by any means, so I have no “playbook” in order to help me get back out of it.

That’s why you may, or may not, see regular blogs from me over the summer months as I do my best to slowly regain my health, strength and stamina.  But if I’m able, I’ll continue to comment on whatever strikes my fancy, just as I’ve always done, in the hopes that it’ll intrigue you.  Inflame you.

Or at least keep you amused.  (Whatever works.)

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Written by Barb Caffrey

May 16, 2013 at 12:16 am

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