Friday, April 6, 2012

Child's Play

As if I didn't feel guilty enough that my two daughters have a violin studio recital on Easter Sunday, I heard the almost-seven-year-old tearful in the other room this morning, struggling with Vivaldi. Her tears certainly had nothing to do with my wonderfully patient wife, who just happened to be the one helping with the practice. But, I did feel some satisfaction in being able to diffuse the tears by walking in, taking the violin, declaring that it is indeed difficult to play as well as I do, and then playing in my own inimitable way. (I know just enough from cello-playing to get around on a violin in the most excruciating way possible.)

My stunning playing brought out a big smile quickly, and I don't think the collateral damage to our musical sensibilities was too bad. This also reminded me that I once posted my own special brand of fiddling right here on MMmusing in an effort to show how a musical sequence might be overtextended:

In that clip, I'm playing on the half-size violin of my other daughter, who now plays a full-size violin and full-size repertoire, but I was also reminded that I'd once written a poem for Daughter #1 about stage fright. It is in a more sentimental style than my typical musing banter, so I almost hesitate to produce it, but let's face it, the blog's been gathering virtual dust since my Spring Break series ended, and the rest of the semester isn't offering a lot of daylight. So, I'm releasing these sonnets into the wild.

Belèn's Recital
Upon a time, once lived a little
sweet girl who called herself Belèn.
She loved to play her little fiddle,
(which you might call a violin).
She practiced almost every minute,
Each place she went had music in it.
She played while strolling down a path;
she wished she could play in the bath.
Yet anyone could stop her playing,
as sure as nighttime stops the day,
because, you see, she wouldn't play
in front of other people, saying,
"Just seeing people makes me fear
they will not like the notes they hear."

Of course, she'd play songs for her teacher
and she would play for Mom and Dad
and any furry, four-legg'd creature
who'd never think her playing bad.
But for some reason she'd decided
that no one else would be delighted
to hear the sounds that she might make;
What if she made a big mistake?
What if a finger slipped and landed
upon a spot upon on a string
it hadn't in her practicing?
What if the people then demanded
for her to put away her bow
and told her it was time to go.

The problem was, the big recital
at which Belèn was supposed to play
(you might have seen that in the title)
was coming in just one more day.
She'd learned the notes, she'd learned the bowing,
but there was no way she was going
to go up on that frightful stage;
she'd rather hide inside a cage.
"Belèn," her mother told her gently,
"I know that you're a little shy,
and that you don't like any eye
to watch you while you play intently.
But maybe you can just pretend
you're playing for one single friend."

"But even my best friends are scary
when I'm on stage," Belèn declared.
"Except," she said, "for little Mary;
my ragdoll never makes me scared."
"Let's bring her then," suggested mother,
"and then imagine there's no other
distracting person in the room."
Now Mary was the doll with whom
Belèn would sleep to help her sleeping.
And Mary often listened when
Belèn would play her violin.
She thought, "if I can just keep keeping
myself from thinking of the rest
of them, I'll play my very best."

The time at last had come and many
excited people waited for
Belèn, who told herself not any
but Mary had come through the door.
Each seat was filled by someone seated
and yet Belèn said and repeated
to Mary that they were alone.
It wasn't true, of course, she'd known.
But using her imagination
was something that she did quite well.
why, she could smell a not-there smell.
She even once went on vacation
to London, Amsterdam and Rome
while never, ever leaving home.

She looked at Mary who was sitting
in front of her in the front row.
She had a little thought of quitting,
but then she lifted up her bow.
Belèn could hear her Mary cheering.
She started playing with no fearing.
A finger slipped and missed a note,
it sounded kind of like a goat.
She looked and saw the peoples' faces;
she knew they'd been there all along.
And yet, they still enjoyed her song.
They sat and listened in their places
and now Belèn was glad that she
had come to play and they to see.

"Belèn" is the name of an imaginary character we'd been telling stories about for years, so it was handy that her name rhymes with violin. As for the sonnets, they follow the pattern used in Pushkin's novel-in-verse, Eugene Onegin. (I've got another set of Belèn sonnets on the shelf; perhaps they'll appear here some day.)  For those of you keeping score, this isn't the first time that such poetry has bloomed on the blog.

My very first blog post was about the wonderful Joyce Hatto story, and that inspired a six-sonnet scandal summary not long after. (I rhymed "Jocye Hatto'd" with "overshadowed!") By the way, I just read that the Hatto story has been turned into a docu-drama; I'm a little jealous, since I proposed turning that into a movie years ago. I still think my casting choices would be dynamite, although Alfred Molina will make an excellent Barrington-Coupe.

Then, when Joshua Bell made blog headlines with his busking misadventures, I summed it all up in another pair of sonnets.

And, for reasons that I don't have the energy to explain here, I once posted a "Casey at the Bat" send-up related to an NCAA basketball game. It's even got my own soundtrack that combines Ashokan Farewell with One Shining Moment. How is this not the most popular blog on the planet?
Getting back to the children's poetry thing, I've always had this thought that I should write children's books. Goodness knows, I've read plenty that are...not so good. I'm pretty sure I could write children's books that are...not so good. And, I did write Rex the Stickman. Perhaps some day I'll convert Belèn's Recital into book form, but at least now it's out there for the world to see.

Let's review: