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Spent half day of my day-off on this little DIY project!

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Must have got a bad flu – lost my voice since early Sunday morning (or late Saturday night?) and still haven’t recovered. Well, recovered a bit, not my voice, but sore throat is mostly gone and don’t feel dizzy anymore. I should be glad that I didn’t lose my voice during my long teaching day on Saturday. Thank God!

But I do have to teach today. How?

A marker and a whiteboard.

One good thing for teaching violin is I get to use a big room in the studio, which also means I can use the whiteboard. So the first thing I did today after arriving at the studio was grab two markers and wrote on the whiteboard:

“I’ve lost my voice. I’ll write instead."

The first student was brought in by her mom. Her mom saw it immediately and told her daughter to behave herself. The mom also told me that the 10-year-old girl was really too busy with school work this week and so she didn’t practise as much. Throughout the 45 minutes, I basically done all my “talking" with the marker and the whiteboard. The girl didn’t give me any trouble. I usually had to yell a couple times in her lesson.

The second student … got a fever and so was absent. Really appreciate the 30-minute break. The third one never gave me any trouble – he’s a 15-year-old (14? 15? 16?) boy not going for any exam but playing the piano as… just playing. The easiest 30 minutes of the day.

Then came a 10-11-year-old girl who never practice much. She, too, was coughing and was even coughing worse than me. She could be quite  a headache to any teacher who takes teaching seriously. And I am this kind of teacher. She’s not without talent but she’s pretty lazy. I need to kick her at least trice to make her play one scale normally. Today? I just wrote “A major, slurred bow" on the whiteboard. And there was A major, slurred bow. Not without mistake but she played it almost immediately and corrected her mistakes very quickly!

The Primary 1 young boy is a very nice boy. Never gave me headache except his little fingers being a bit too soft and wriggly or completely flat like sausages on the piano. His lesson ran fast like usual. I always have fun in teaching him.

The last one is always a headache. In fact, he wasn’t my student but my colleague’s. He got transferred to me partly because his mom and my colleague couldn’t get along (they’re like Martian VS Human, simply can’t communicate), and partly because my colleague thought this boy was really too much a headache for him. So, when the mom asked if her son could get another teacher, my colleague enthusiastically passed him over. The boy isn’t too naughty. He’s just like a normal 7 to 8-year-old boy: he likes exploring the room; he likes poking around with his bow; he likes talking about the silly things happened in school… so on and so forth. If his mom doesn’t mind her son spending half the lesson on doing non-violin stuff, that’s fine. But his mom does mind it… a lot. So, it’s the teacher’s job to discipline this young boy. But then, this young boy gets really negative if you get tough on him. He’d simply retreat to the corner of the room and refuse to come out. My colleague would get really aggravated but for me, it’s time for my “a spoon of sugar, a spoon of poo" practice (alright, this is purely Cantonese 一啖砂糖一啖屎). This didn’t happen today. Since I couldn’t talk, I used the whiteboard and body language in his lesson. He couldn’t play the G# on D string right? I drew diagrams on the white board explaining the difference between G and G#, and the relationship between G# and A. He played something wrong? I raise up my hand to stop him. If I did this on any normal day, he’d just ignore me. He wanted to talk back? I coughed… very hard. (Hmm… I wasn’t pretending but the timing was just right LOL.) After playing for 40 minutes and there were only 5 minutes left, he said,

“I am very tired!"

This actually happens quite often. Usually, he wouldn’t pick up the violin again before I win the fight of staring. (Right, he stares at me, I stare at him. Whoever relents first is the loser. He’s ALWAYS the loser, of course.) Today? With my really really broken voice, I said,

‘I’m sick; I’ve been teaching for hours; and I haven’t said “I’m tired" yet. So, you are tired?’

His response? He immediately picked up his violin and played that Gavotte by Lully one more time. LOL

This only works on the days when I’m sick.

And this only works if the teacher has a good relationship with the students.

Maybe I should intentionally lose my voice every now and then LOL

Powerful voice – maybe too powerful for the lieder tonight sometimes.
Her face worked very hard – she is an opera singer. However, her facial expressions are almost all the same for all the French melodies and German lieder in the program – Sometimes just totally unfit. If I wasn’t reading the lyrics along, I really couldn’t tell what the lyrics (or in fact, poems) were about from her facial expression.
In fact, it’s not just a problem of facial expression, her tone color lacks variety, to my opinion. It’s probably unfair but Andreas Scholl on Tuesday night was WAY better in terms of interpretation and techniques and such. It sounded like she rushed through all the songs.
Her best songs were probably the two encores in English (there’s another encore in Chinese: 好一朵美麗的茉莉花). Of course, the lyrics for those two songs are funny enough and the wide range also helped to show off her high notes. Her effort to sing an encore in Chinese was much appreciated but… really couldn’t tell what she was singing other than the first sentence – another proof of Chinese be ing too hard for Westerners?! She sang O Mio Babbino Caro but… too many people has sung it – too many really good sopranos have sung it really well before and Osborne’s interpretation couldn’t stand at all in front of these gems.
The recital was short: it wasn’t even 9pm yet when she’s finished her program. By the time she’s sung her encores and really ended the program, it was only 9:10pm. The concert started at 8pm.
One word about the accompanist: Have to admit that I am not that familiar with the piano part of the songs tonight but … I really didn’t feel the piano was helping much musically. There were some nice bits but then there were only some.
Conclusion: Simone Osborne is young at her early 20s and her voice matches her age… maybe too well.


A counter tenor and a lute made a perfect evening yesterday. One great concert at City Hall concert hall. Great singer, great lute player – a perfect pair. Some people may not like counter tenors (I did notice some audience left after intermission last night) but being minority doesn’t mean they’re weird. One funny thing was that Andreas Scholl choked himself as he started singing Amarili. I noticed that he started at a faster tempo than he sang it in recordings and before he could finish the first phrase “Amarili, mia bella”, he had to stop, humbly apologized and restarted the song.

Maybe even the best is not good enough to some people’s ears…

The choir members did their best this morning to offer the best they could in service. I believe so.

We joked that there were fourteen of us in the choir and there were fourteen parts. It’s true but still I believe all of us have done our parts the best we could.

Someone asked why we didn’t have a pianist and used synthetic music as accompaniment instead – because we couldn’t find a pianist. “You can play the piano part." – I have to sing.

“It makes no difference if they don’t sing." (佢地唱唔唱都冇分別 – the speaker actually meant it’s better than they don’t sing.)

The same person said to me after I played the violin in church, “it sounded awful".

The second time I played the violin in service, this same person said “you played so many wrong notes. It’s sounded so bad." (Oh well, it was my own arrangement. Ain’t I supposed to have the final say on what notes to play?)

The third time I needed to play the violin in service… I simply avoided this person. I didn’t want to give this person a chance to say something that ought not be said. Music in church is an offering to God. It’s NEVER a performance to please man.

Maybe even the best is not good enough to some people’s ears… but thank God that He doesn’t see us this way.

Took ABRSM grade 8 in Singing on May 26: had never been so unsure about my own performance in an exam before. Singing in a sound-proof room is very different from singing in any other room. Everything sounded dry and nothing seemed right. And singing seems to be more tiring than doing other instruments (at least the instruments I do – probably not any worse than winds). I even got wrong in modulation (aural test C)… almost – corrected it right after giving my initial answer. Wasn’t sure what/how I did in Part D either.

Anyway, after waiting for six weeks, the result is finally here: I got merit with 126. Yay!

The program I chose for that day was:

Ridente la Calma by Mozart

Notre Amour by Faure

Love’s Philosophy by Quilter

Someone to Watch Over Me by Gershwin

with When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (to the music of The Water is Wide) as the traditional song.

The examiner that day was a singer herself. She majored in singing when she was in RCM (forgot from which part of UK). So, I feel kinda happier to get merit in this one than getting merit in my harp exam a few years back. The harp examiner was a pianist and obviously knew nothing about harp. I’m so sure coz I missed notes on one hand for like an octave in many scales (3-octave hands together) and still got it counted as correct.

Anyway, comments show that my “Italian pronunciation required more care" for the Mozart one and “diction needed more care" in Notre Amour. I speak a bit French but not so sure about how liaison works in singing – should have asked for help from my student’s mom who’s a native French. She also mentioned arm movements in two of the songs. Other than these, comments are generally positive.

General comments from the examiner: A pleasing “merit" at this challenging grade! I hope that you will continue to explore new songs and further develop those areas which stll need strengthening.

Oh! Certainly I will =P

So, I’ve now got grade 8 (or above) in Piano, Violin, Harp, Singing, and Theory. The next one should be guitar. Joseph, we needa work harder! LOL

P.S. Special thanks to my teacher, Roy, who tolerated my lack of punctuality; my cousin, Domanica, who took half day off to be my accompanist; my friend, Iris, who played the piano part for me during lessons (hey, it’s good sight-reading training LOL).

I am awakening from a long dormancy.

Played violin in church. It went pretty good… a few people came up to me and said they’re touched. So I guess God did like it and made use of it. I’m again working with Anthony. I played the violin last Christmas also with Anthony being the praise team leader. But before the Christmas offertory music, the last time I played in church was… hmm.. probably 8 years ago maybe? I have been dormant for too long… 

But I am awakening… 

Different from what I played last time (I played Gavotte en Rondeau from Bach’s Partita No.3) , I played a hymn, It is well with my soul, which is easier than the Bach one. It proves again the most simple things are usually the things that most easily touch people people’s hearts. It also reminds me again playing music in church is really about for the greater glory of God but not for the glory of oneself. It’s  about worship, not showmanship. 

Ad majorem Dei gloriam – for the greater glory of God

One of the goals of my Kansai trip is buying a guitar for myself. My friend gave me a website and told me to get a Kodaira AST-100 from a shop called FANA. So I copied the address from the website and made a trip there on the last second day of my trip. And here is how I found that “shop": (hover over the pictures to see captions) To be honest, I only stayed in that shop for less than 30 minutes. There was the shop keeper and another young guy who seems to be a guitar student of the keeper. The keeper seems pretty nice. I tried out only two guitars of the same model and quickly decided to take the second one. My friend, who is also my guitar teacher, tried the new guitar last Thursday and said it’s good. In fact, he said I probably can use it even in diploma exams. It’s got good overtone and good intonation accuracy (referring to the frets). The one little problem is there’s some noise on D string especially on the second fret. We’re not sure if it’s a problem of the strings or a problem of the guitar itself (if so, most likely to be a problem of the fret which can be fixed). We’ll try out with another set of strings. Hope that it can pass the test =P

While Placido Domingo was singing at Asia Expo, Andras Schiff was playing the piano at City Hall. And I went to City Hall. 

The program that evening was: 

Schumann Papillions 

Beethoven “Tempest" Sonata 

Schumann Fantasie in C minor 

Beethoven “Waldstein" Sonata 

One intermission…and naturally everyone would think it’s placed right in the middle between Tempest and Fantasie. It is, however, placed right before Waldstein…much to my surprise. The Waldstein is long, 32 pages, but still…takes 25 minutes only. With an intermission placed right before it, that’d make the concert program kinda imbalanced in terms of length with the first half going over an hour and the second with 25 minutes only. 

The Schumann pieces were brilliant. I don’t mean that the Beethoven sonatas were not as good but there are certain little elements that I don’t really like that much but still…it’s splendid. 

As usual, encore is inevitable. And after the encore pieces, I understand how the program was designed so. 

The first encore piece was Italian Concerto by Bach…and it’s the complete Italian Concerto. 

Then first half of one of Bach’s Partitas. 

Then a Schubert piece. 

So, the program lasted for about 105 minutes, then encore for about 40 minutes, plus a 20-minute intermission…The whole concert started at 8pm and ended at 10:30pm. 

While most Hong Kong people know Lang Lang and Yundi Li, how many of them know Andras Schiff? Or how many of them would pay attention to any other pianists? One thing that I don’t like about Lang Lang is his extremely exaggerated body-movement – it’s so exaggerated as if he can’t play well without those movements. Typical American training. On the other hand, European pianists, like Andras Schiff, usually just sit cool on the stool and play through with minimal body-movement. It’s not like they don’t move, they do. But they only move when it’s necessary. 

Oh well, guess it’s just a matter of style. But… 

 

less is more.

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