by Kerry Turner
Recently, during the deepest part of the Covid19 lockdown, a close friend of mine had a small breakdown. It’s not unexpected that this happened. I believe most of us have experienced a similar type of thing. I’m talking about this bizarre dilemma we find ourselves in when it comes to practicing our instrument during this terrible time in 2020. We unpack our horns, sit down and start warming up. We organise the music on our stands, choosing the various self-appointed projects that we have planned out. I mean, eventually this pandemic crisis will end, and things will slowly get back to normal, right?
So there’s my friend, practicing religiously every day, even up to two hours in an afternoon, and that with no foreseeable opportunities to rehearse let alone perform any music whatsoever. After a couple of months of this, my friend, who has been very methodical, starts to really sound great. And then, of course, the reality hits- “When will I ever get to play my heart out in a concert again?” A hopeless feeling takes hold, mild panic and a sense of futility.
And then I remembered my days in college. I so very much dreamed of being a grand soloist, travelling the world, performing the greatest concertos to packed halls. But I was young, naive and definitely at the bottom of the career ladder. There were really no opportunities to perform concertos with anybody. So what did I do? I plugged away at it anyway. I convinced myself, perhaps fooled myself, that in time, I would indeed take the stage and play Strauss, Mozart, Gliére, Haydn, Hindemith, Weber, and, and, and…
I would even go so far as to retire to the kitchen, acting like it was backstage. Then I would make my stage entrance into the living room to thunderous applause, taking a bow, nodding to the imaginary conductor and proceed to concertise. And I did this for a number of years before I actually had the chance to make this fantasy a reality. I worked hard during that time. I drilled the basics and studied every concerto I could get my hands on.
When I finally began to actually tour and perform as a soloist (something I admit I have not done nearly enough of in my career), it came natural to me. It was as if I had been doing it all my life. Well, I kind of had been, in the privacy and determination of my own mind.
So I advised my friend to simply rewind the life tape. Go back to that place of imaginary concerts. Warm up and do etudes as if you were booked to play the Weber Concertino with the London Symphony on Saturday. Drill the repertoire until you sound spectacular. Someday the “Archangel Raphael” will heal the world of this plague and you will once again find yourself standing in front of, or sitting in the horn section of an orchestra, waiting for the glorious music to begin. And you will be ready. It will feel natural. As if you had been already doing it all year in 2020.