• Monique Mead

Taming the Inner Diva

Updated: Sep 19, 2019

Performance #21

July 17, 2019

This performance was for the employees of Jewish Family and Children’s Services to honor their work and give them a moment to relax together, particularly after their tireless efforts in the aftermath of the Tree of Life shooting.  Luz Manriquez was my pianist.

I had wanted to move the performance next door to Weinberg Terrace, where there is a nice grand piano and decent acoustics but they wanted be to bring the digital piano and perform in their conference room.  Sometimes I just need to check my inner diva at the door and realize that it is my job to make any space and acoustics work.  This experience has given me greater empathy for pianists who have to make adjustments to their “ideal” every time they sit down at a new piano.  In hindsight, it was clear to me that performing in the very space where people work was important and it also allowed them to serve refreshments and mingle afterwards.

Their marketing department asked to Facebook Live the event, which is always a scary thought, “What if they broadcast a note that’s out of tune??!!”  Once again, it was a good moment to silence my inner diva and own my reliable fallibility.

I was amazed at the great diversity of the JFCS staff and their rapt attentiveness to the music. Some were leaning in, others tapping toes to the 3rd movement. I felt slightly more nervous…was it Facebook Live, the size of the audience (60 people), my impression that they really knew this piece, the very honest acoustics, my desire to make it really special for them in light of all they have been through?   Regardless of where my mind races elsewhere in the concerto, there’s always a certain magic that happens in the second movement where I find myself completely engaged and in flow.  Nothing else exists at that moment.

My inner diva rants…why is that? How come it’s not happening in the first movement?  Is there something about fast notes that puts me on edge or creates unnecessary tension? Why is it that I can play the cadenza perfectly at home and yet slip on the same banana peel in performance?

Despite all of my inner adversity during this performance, the JFCS staff gave us a hearty and lengthy standing ovation at the end, then enjoyed refreshments and took time to write many heartfelt comments on my yellow roll of paper.

One nice thing my inner diva contributed is the observation that in every concert hall, there’s always a phone that goes off, candy being unwrapped, someone talking or snoring, or COUGHING, but at these Beethoven in the Face performances none of that happens! People are focused and engaged. Whatever distractions they have usually settle down within the 1st movement and then by the time the 2nd movement comes along, everyone is in sync. It’s a beautiful thing. Perhaps it’s the proximity of musician to audience, the lack of anonymity, or the fact that this type of performance is not part of their usual routine.

In every case, I walk away enriched and enlivened having shared the beauty of this glorious masterwork, the Beethoven Violin Concerto.

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