Tuesday 14 January 2014, 09:42
Happy New Year, dear reader, I hope you had a very restful festive break.
This year, my Christmas break was slightly more restful than usual. When I go home to Ireland, I normally take my viola with me, and, like a very good girl, do a little bit of ‘maintenance’ practice.
However, the airline I was traveling with charges an extra seat for violins and violas, which would have positively bankrupted me (exaggeration, yes, but it would have put my journey in excess of £500, just to travel to Belfast). So, my viola stayed in Cardiff while I travelled home.
The advantage of being separated from my instrument by a whole sea meant that I really did have a complete rest. By the final Christmas concert, I genuinely felt that I had reached saturation point; my body felt tired, heavy, and full of little niggles and aches, and after the full on September-December period, my mind felt incapable of absorbing any other information, even simple Christmas melodies.
That’s the thing you see, no matter how great your passion for your instrument, for music, for the arts, there does come a stage when you really do need a break (although this is normally about two weeks before you’ve realised you need a rest).
This is something I’ve struggled with lots over the years; I’ve always been afraid of taking a break and consequently missing something, or inexplicably forgetting how to play the viola overnight.
With my viola in Cardiff, and me in front of my parents’ fireplace in County Antrim (with a cheese board balanced on my belly, and an intravenous drip of mulled wine), my rest was enforced, and the instrument was not staring at me balefully from the corner of my parents’ living room either.
I can honestly say I feel all the more rested for it, and all the more capable of facing the latter half of the season!
The downside of having had a break is getting back into the swing of things. I hadn’t forgotten how to play the viola, but my goodness, my fingers felt like stiff, insensitive boards during my first practice session.
However, it has been quite therapeutic - revisiting the basics, sinking back into the strings with the bow, relishing the feeling of the strings below the fingers and concentrating, slowly, self-indulgently, upon the minutiae that make up a string player’s technique.
Sometimes, in stepping away from the instrument, we can gain a better perspective of many things - how to approach or change something we have perceived to be a weakness in our technique, or the ability to come to a work with fresh eyes/ears. It can be as simple as giving yourself the opportunity to come up for air in order that you can continue your work with renewed enthusiasm and energy.
Monday 13 January 2014, 16:34
Tuesday 14 January 2014, 15:01