ERFORMANCE. Much could be written about performance. For instance, one could discuss phenomenal musicians who had days of music memorized. I’m referring to musicians who had so many pieces memorized they could sit down and play—hour after hour—for days without the score. Three such musicians were: (1) Josef Hofmann; (2) Glenn Gould; (3) Sviatoslav Richter. On the other hand, playing the correct notes at tempo is only the tip of the iceberg. The most important thing is the artist’s interpretation. Many of today’s pianists can play billions of pieces without hitting a single wrong note—but they have nothing to say! In other words, their interpretations are boring, lifeless, uninspired, and stale. They lack the ‘personality’ of a Hofmann, a Rachmaninov, or a Cortot.
Jeff Can’t Do It • At the conservatory, we were required to memorize thousands of notes for our juries. That is to say, at the end of each semester we were forced to play a brief concert (by memory) in front of the entire piano faculty. The pieces we had to learn were quite difficult: sonatas by Prokofiev, Chopin’s Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise, Schumann’s Papillons, fugues by Bach, and so forth. One semester was particularly difficult because I had injured my shoulder—but I still had to play my jury. (I can’t remember the pieces, but one of them was a Beethoven concerto.) I will never forget standing in the green room, waiting to go on stage. I was so nervous, dreading a memory lapse. I experienced monumental anxiety! Somehow I managed to complete my jury, but it came to me in a powerful way that I wasn’t cut out to be a concert pianist. I remember asking myself: “Who invented this monstrous ritual? Who can tolerate such intense pressure?” [Those who have had a limited time to memorize thousands of notes will understand what I’m getting at.]
“Anxiety” Vs. “Focus” • Playing those juries each semester was a nightmare, but the experience was useful to me. It taught me a lot about performance. Essentially, there’s a world of difference between practicing (alone) in one’s practice room and performing in front of an audience. Obviously, anxiety should be avoided. On the other hand, “excitement” before a performance can help one focus—and that can be a good thing. I felt that same excitement last night, when I was putting the final touches on this draft booklet for the Sacred Music Symposium:
* PDF Download • 2023 “DRAFT BOOKLET” (320 pages)
—This file is 134.2MB • Participants will be given a hard-copy.
Typos? • This year’s symposium is going to be magnificent. We’re going to have an enormous amount of fun while we learn so much. Believe it or not, creating a booklet like the one above requires a formidable amount of work. It is three things: (a) a musical score; (b) a reference book; and (c) a teaching document.
If you notice any typos, I hope you’ll let us know via email. Thank you!
As of 6 May 2023, anyone who wishes to may download the COMPLETED BOOKLET (330 pages) which was created for participants of Sacred Music Symposium 2023. Those who were accepted to participate in this year’s conference will be presented with their own (hard-copy) printed version of this breathtaking booklet. The faculty this year includes Professor Charles Weaver of Julliard, Dr. Alfred Calabrese of Texas, Richard Clark of Massachusetts, William Fritz of California, Kevin Allen of Illinois, and several others.