Sunday, April 22, 2007

Practice makes perfect

I have a violin and piano recital next month a few days before we leave for Italy. I haven't performed much in the past year, concentrating mostly on sacred music in the parish setting. So I'm in a slight panic. There's nothing like the bareness of a stage save instruments and performers to strike fear in one's heart....especially if you're that performer. Even worse, if it's Mozart on the program. Worse still if you've not had much chance to really practice seriously.

So what am I doing to prepare? It may sound odd, but I've been playing Bach Toccatas and Fugues. There's nothing like the perfect architecture of a toccata to bring discipline to unruly fingers that have been playing typical church fare for the last six months. Marty Haugen isn't exactly conducive to maintaining fitness.

I remember years ago when I was working through a Mozart piano concerto, a girl came up to me and said rather snidely, "Oh, Mozart is easy. So's Bach. Give me Rachmaninoff any day." I was too chagrined to say anything clever as a rejoinder. It's one of those episodes that I keep replaying in my mind and wished that I had said, "Sure, yeah, Mozart's easy...to butcher that is." And I in that scenario would've flicked my hair at her and walked away. Alas, that was not so then, and here at present, I just hope that I don't butcher Mozart.

Practice makes perfect. Slow and easy. Which is what I tell my children when they try to practice cadenza passages in dizzying tempos and get tripped and snared in all the notes. Slow and easy. Something I have to heed for myself.

The neophytes in Mystagogia will start gathering for rosary prayer. Some have said that they're having difficulty remembering where all the prayers go, let alone keeping all the mysteries straight. I don't know if they expected that Easter Vigil would have turned on some proficiency switch, but I tell them not to be afraid of making mistakes and that it's perfectly alright to have a printed guide on their laps while they pray. We practiced saying the rosary in class throughout the past year, which must have been a bit like learning the parts of speech. Now they're learning to string those words together and trying to be grammatically correct at the same time. Someday, eloquence will come. Slow and easy, I say to them, with persistence. Soon they'll gain mastery and pray from the heart. For now, they tease, they'll pray awkwardly together.

I'm happy to see them learning the great devotional prayers and have their sponsors help them along the way. Some of the class members have started attending the rosary prayers at church. So much has happened to them this year, and maddeningly continue to happen to them. They'll need the prayers, especially the rosary, to get them through difficult days ahead.

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of death.

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