Our high school-aged daughter takes voice lessons and had a recital this evening with her teacher’s fourteen other students. They were accompanied by a woman who played like she only had a vague acquaintance with the piano, and read the music as I might read German–something that I’d see long ago and could make out but only slowly and with difficulty. Her posture was leaning forward and squinting. The only thing missing was her saying “oh, wait” and redoing a measure or two.
It’s not clear if the kids knew about this going in or not. The first kid appeared somewhat surprised as to the hesitancy of the accompaniment and the variety of errors. Every succeeding kid approached the piano knowing something bad was going to happen, but just not knowing exactly when or how awful it was going to be. They looked like they were invited to jump into a pool knowing that there already was a plugged-in toaster bobbing in the water.
It became so uncomfortable that eventually the voice teacher herself took over playing. What her style lacked in subtlety it more than made up for in pace and volume. I was lucky enough to have seen Ray Charles perform in a very small room and at very close range, and I’m confident in saying that she played harder than Ray did (and faster), and he was trying to stay up with an eight-piece band behind him. The night’s final singer sprinted through two verses of O Holy Night in about two and a half minutes.
All performers made it through the experience with tremendous poise and aplomb; their talent overcame the conditions. That was not a surprise.