Saturday, 17 May 2008

The First (and Last) Concert

Last weekend saw my debut public performance on the guitar. It was awful. So bad that it's taken me a week to even think about writing about it. When I mentioned it to Rachel this morning, she referred to it as the "guitar fiasco". And she's supposed to be my number one supporter!

As some of you will know I took up learning to play the guitar last year and signed up for weekly lessons with the Yamaha Music School. Every so often the school organises a concert for the students as an opportunity to 'showcase' their musical skills for friends and family. I said I'd play something, and opted for playing "Walk Don't Run", an instrumental written by jazz guitarist Johnny Smith (and apparently a hit for both the Ventures and the John Barry Seven). As it was the first piece in the Guitar Encounters Book 2 (yes, Book 2... be impressed!), and we'd been learning and practising it in class for what seemed like ages, it seemed the obvious choice. By the morning of the concert, last Sunday, I think I could play it pretty well, even though I do say so myself. With or without the backing track.

In the afternoon, we battled through a torrential downpour to the community centre where the concert was to be held. I was already feeling nervous, but as we went in to the hall, I became really nervous (possibly even more so than before the Skeptics in the Pub talk!). A quick look through the programme revealed that my slot was about half way through the proceedings, which meant about another nerve-wrangling half-hour of waiting but at least I could get a feeling of how good the other performances were before me. That didn't help. They were all really good, and what's more we're talking kids aged between about 6 and 12 years old here. (For the record, I'll be 38 next month.) They would each just get up, go to their instrument of choice (which was mainly the piano but there were a few guitar players), play their piece, and return to their proud parents in the audience. I was hoping for a few cock ups. Just one or two that made enough of a mess if it to lower the audience's expectations. No such luck. They were all pretty much note perfect. Gits.

Before each student's performance we were given a bit of background about the performer: "As well as playing the piano Sara is 8 years old and likes football and maths...", "Tommy, aged 6, is fluent in Spanish and German, and has a black belt in Aikido...", "Emily, 12, has a degree in Nuclear Physics and has built her very own particle accelerator in her back garden...". You get the idea.

My palms were sweating. Just two more to go then it would be my turn... Marc with "Minuet by Mozart" (show off), followed by Cara with "The Camel" (should be interesting), and then Matthew with "Walk, Don't Run". I felt sick. From the other side of the hall, Vernon, my guitar teacher who would introduce me, looked over and mouthed "are you okay?". He could probably sense my nervousness by the fact that my face was now almost the same colour as my green t-shirt. I looked back at him and shook my head.

Marc concluded his near perfect rendition of Mozart's Minuet. Vernon walked to the front and announced "Next we have Matthew...". Eh? What about Cara? Where's Cara? I was looking forward to hearing Cara play "The Camel"! Cara must have bottled it. Either that or she was unable to make it because her Karate lesson had ran over. Either way, it was now my turn. I took to the stage, sat down and picked up the guitar. Vernon continued, "...this is Matthew's first time playing guitar in public, ever!", "...and I'm very, very nervous!" I quickly added. As if it wasn't already obvious how nervous I was, "Oh, and I like football but I don't like maths".

After what seemed like an age, the backing track kicked in. This was it! Now the first note was fine. I think as first notes go it was faultless. I had nothing against the first note. It was the second note and the vast majority of all the notes that followed that seemed to cause the problem. (As Eric Morecambe once noted: "...I was playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order!"). Once I'd missed the timing on the second note it went from bad to worse. I might have hit the occasional note after that but probably more by fluke than by design. It was indeed a guitar fiasco.

As the backing track came to an end, the very sympathetic audience gave a cheer and a round of applause. They were probably just pleased it was all over. Either that or they were being sarcastic. I went back to sit next to Rachel in the audience who, along with my mum and dad who had come along to give support, said she was very proud of me. She was probably just pleased it was all over. Either that or she was being sarcastic.

The rest of the concert I could actually enjoy now that my bit was out of the way. The guy on after me, Daryl, was perhaps even more nervous than me. But then he was even older than me. Which goes to show that it's adulthood that seems to bring out the performance anxiety in us. Still, Daryl held it together better than I did. His "Theme for Young Lovers", though a little nervey, was very good. The highlights of the concert were Charlie Powell, with is own composition (a Jean-Michel Jarre type keyboard fest) and Andrew Wignall, with a superb rendition of "Le Onde" on the piano. Both aged 16 or so, they were as confident as anything, and I mention their full names here so that when they become famous you can say you heard it here first.

All in all, a good concert apart from the contribution from the guy with the green face who liked football but not maths. It was his first concert, but I think it will also be his last.

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