I teach and play piano for a living. It's a meagre living, to be sure, and I couldn't do it if I weren't married to someone whose job provides a regular salary and health benefits. I have days of frustration and discouragement. I have learned to practice confidence and self-affirmation. (Yes, I have to practice those things! It's all part of being a woman. And a freelancer. Topic for another day.) And some gigs are more compelling than others, to be sure.

But I keep doing this because there is nothing else, nothing, that fills my heart and soul more than learning a great piece of music with someone else. I am an introvert, and I have been able to connect with people on a deeper level through my line of work than I ever would through talking to them.

One singer I have worked with for the last year or so has shown tremendous growth just in the last few months. He's a bright, engaging young man on the cusp of adulthood, eager to learn and share his talent with others. His teacher, a wise and seasoned baritone, is capable of coaxing surprisingly sophisticated musicianship out of students of all levels. 

Today we performed this song (video and text below) in his studio class. The weather is awful - blustery and cold and just what you'd expect from November in Wisconsin. I had to leave the kids on their own and drive downtown, find a parking meter, walk two blocks in the bracing wind to the music building, where I spent all of 10 minutes in the recital hall to run through the song and work through some coaching from the teacher in front of the class. It's a pain in the ass to make a special trip to campus for such a short gig, and usually I grumble about it. But today it was worth the trouble. The singer sounded beautiful (despite being scheduled for hernia surgery next week!) and the brooding song was so fitting for the day.

I heard a wonderful interview with a fiber artist who said she knows a work is going well when the hairs stand up on her arms. That's a perfect explanation for why I do what I do. At times I wonder why I studied music. I've had to work harder to be a good pianist than anything else in my academic life. Seriously, it would have been easier for me to go into microbiology or something. But music, more specifically collaborative piano, makes the hair stand up on my arms. It's how I share the best of myself with the world. And that's why I do it.

Enjoy the youtube video. It's Elly Ameling, who is one of the best singers out there of French repertoire. Gérard Souzay would have been my first choice, but I couldn't find a recording of him singing this particular song.

Automne (Armand Silvestre)
Automne au ciel brumeux, aux horizons navrants,
Aux rapides couchants, aux aurores pâlies,
Je regarde couler, comme l'eau du torrent,
    Tes jours faits de mélancolie.

Sur l'aile des regrets mes esprits emportés,
Comme s'il se pouvait que notre âge renaisse!
Parcourent en rêvant les coteaux enchantés
    O´u jadis, sourit ma jeunesse!

Je sens, au clair soleil du souvenir vainqueur,
Refleurir en bouquets les roses déliées,
Et monter ´a mes yeux des larmes, qu'en mon coeur
     Mes vingt ans avaient oubliées!

Autumn with a misty sky, with heart-breaking horizons,
With rapid sunsets, with pale dawns,
I watch the flow, like the water of a torrent,
   Of your days made of melancholy.

My thoughts, carried off on wings of regret,
As if it were possible for our life to start over,
Travel while dreaming through the enchanted slopes
   Where in former days my youth smiled!

I feel in the bright sunlight of a victorious memory
The slender roses blooming again in a bouquet
And I feel rising to my eyes tears that in my heart
   I at age twenty had forgotten.


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