National Chamber Music ‘Competition’ Finals

Left Joan’s Kitchen house at about 1.20pm for the music block where I was to meet Mr Hughes and the other 4 players. The car which we were going in was a rental, it took a while for Mr. Hughes to figure out how to unlock it, and then we grappled with the seats for 15 minutes, trying to figure out how to slide them forwards. Turned out that one of the seats was not mounted correctly, in the end we took the entire seat out and dumped it in Mr. Hughes’ car (Also there had to be space for the cello). Took another 5 minutes to figure out how to start the car (everything was digital and there was no key to turn the ignition)

The drive up to London takes about 2 and a half hours, depending on traffic, and the driver. In fact, on this round sometimes it was a bit worrying seeing the digital speedometer creep up to 100mph (160km/h) at certain points on the motorway. We asked him whether he knew where the brakes were. Good thing nothing happened (Besides one point when he suddenly slowed down to 60, which was when I was a police car some distance in front!) and we got to St. John’s something building in London.

String Quartet was on at around 5.30pm, Piano Trio around 6.30pm. My fingers just refused to warm up, when they finally did warm up, it was after I had finished playing!

Anyway, the building was quite decent, quite a big hall with a relatively small audience. The piano which was provided was a Steinway Concert Grand Model D (full concert grand). Actually the first concert grand I’ve played on… although I must say, not the best experience for my first concert grand. The tone was decent, quite similar to most steinways you hear… nice big bottom strings (nicest I’ve heard so far from pianos I’ve heard, probably because of the size of the piano which I have not played before) , perhaps a little bit harsher on the top strings.. But tone was okay. The one thing I had to complain about terribly was the pedal. Not sure whether it was just me, but I couldn’t find a proper place which gave me a good half pedal sound. It went down relatively easily for the first bit, encountered a point of resistance (normal), but changes so fast from no pedal to full pedal… and I was playing the Ravel Piano Trio, in which I need the half pedal a lot, so that was really hard.

The performance was okay, except that I had no page turner, and while playing the Beethoven, I turned the page, but instead of one page turning, TWO pages turned! That was horrible, had to play the last two pages by memory and I had no idea what the string players were doing because I could not react to their parts. But it was okay, basically. The Ravel was okay, missed a few notes here and there, and my ending wasn’t really good (if you’ve heard it, I mean those soft bottom C’s at the end of the 1st movement).

Turns out that this “competition” is not actually competitive at the finals level. Everyone just plays and the adjudicator gives performance tips and advice, and that’s it. Both good and bad, I guess.

So that was okay. It does intrigue me though, how one of the groups got through to the finals – I couldn’t hear any balance/communication within their group, and the violinists intonation was a bit questionable.. and other things, besides. But I won’t comment on that.

After that Mr. Hughes took us down (or up?) to ChinaTown for supper… ate more than I have in the past month or so, but I tried not to take too much.

And then the long drive back to Millfield, I got back to house at 1.20am, shot of a few emails and was off to bed, and was suprisingly ready for school the next day. (I normally sleep around 9.30pm, so I was tired)

And so ends the ‘epic’ of National Chamber Music Competition (or to me, music festival). My first year of it, and last.

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