Days 13 and 14

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I'm starting to feel ready. The past two days, I've had one P Crest rehearsal, but otherwise about all I've done is practice. A good example of the way things are going with these pieces: with "One for Mark," I started out this month with no idea how to play it, unsure whether I could even learn. Now I play it with the recording every day and it's starting to seem fairly simple. Of course, in most ways it is simple, but rhythmically it's very complicated. At first it seemed daunting; now it's under my fingers, I make all the transitions in the arrangement by instinct, and I'm almost sick of it. I'm very excited to play it in rehearsal tomorrow with Spencer and Duncan.

I've also been working a lot on the Chopin Ballade, which is more and more of a joy to play. With classical music, the real work comes after you learn all the notes, although many people (myself included) never get much past that stage with a piece. On the Chopin, I still struggle with some of the harder sections technically, but with some of the other sections I've been playing them for a long time now, and it's all about nuance. I work out minute details of pedaling, which affect the emotional tone of a passage dramatically. I work for a perfect legato - an even flow of notes in a melody or run, the notes coming out in a connected and controlled stream like toothpaste out of the tube. (Legato at a high level is very beautiful - it allows for phrases that sound more like a singer - and it takes more chops than just about anything else. Play a slow melody with perfect legato, and you impress the serious pianists more than you would with any number of fast runs.) We never feel as though we're really prepared for a performance, and this will be no exception. I still have technical issues with some parts and they won't be perfect by Tuesday night. Still, I'm glad I've had the chance to work out the fine details on parts of this piece. It's a very rewarding type of practice.

The same story applies to most of these songs: having worked on them almost every day for at least a few weeks, they're all solidifying and nearing performance level. Much of the set involves improvisation, which means that pieces never "reach performance level" in the same way that composed music does. Still, I'm starting to feel ready.