Welcome back Quaver guest blogger Jeannine Everett – violinist, chamber musician, and all around student of music!
Take it away Jeannine:
Earlier this fall, my quartet played at a benefit dinner.
We were making good on an auction commitment–the high bidder got a 45-minute performance. It was a private dinner, hosted by a lovely woman who was raising money for her church. We were there to provide background music during the cocktail hour.
The hurricane had wreaked havoc with our rehearsal schedule. We had played most of the material before and had run the set three weeks prior, but only had one rehearsal the week of the event. I was fighting some burnout and was in let’s-just-get-this-done-shall-we mode. We got there, set up, did a warm up and let ‘er rip.
People milled about, drinking and talking. It was hard for us to even hear each other. I’m used to playing in a very different environment. Chamber music isn’t a huge draw, so the audience is generally made up of people who know the repertoire. It’s why they are there. The guests at the party were there to celebrate and socialize. There was one gentleman on the sofa focused on listening, but everyone else was busy chatting and sipping wine.
I’ve never played better. I’ve never felt freer. The thought that went through my head was “Dance like no one is watching.” I’d seen the phrase on everything from pillows to posters, yet I’d forgotten what it really meant.
I was playing like no one was listening.
Usually I’m acutely aware of the energy of the audience and draw from it. I always say half of a great performance is a great audience. So what is it now, the other half of a great performance is no audience?
I think it comes back to this issue of judgment. Just as I’m learning to play without self-judgment, I need to play without assuming others are judging as well. I know there were plenty of mistakes. Because I assumed people couldn’t really hear them, they didn’t throw me off. When we finished, the party goers gave us hearty applause and gushed with compliments. They said our music made the evening unique and special, and I really think they meant it. So they must have been listening after all, and despite the mistakes, enjoyed it anyway.
Now if I could only cook like no one was eating.