Chilling out and preparing for a short night on the plane from Toronto to Munich I take the opportunity of the wireless service here in the Air Canada Lounge to write about my thoughts of my past week. I played the Dvorak with the orchestra of Kitchener/Waterloo (near Toronto) conducted by their very talented young chief conductor Edwin Outwater. I met him before in San Francisco and heard such wonderful things about him from the musicians of the SF Symphony that I decided to come to Canada for only these performances to open his 2nd season – and I didn’t regret that decision: each performance got more flexible and more profound, a real treat for a maybe over-played concerto.
No, I don’t get tired of it, the music is just too strong, and if conductor and orchestra are joining in trying to create something fresh and new then it is hard not to enjoy every second on stage. In intermission after the first concert a bunch of young cello students showed up to ask me all kinds of questions, and one of them really stuck with me. She said that she liked my facial expressions and asked if I was really feeling all that or if I was putting it on. Strong question, yes, but I appreciated it because it made me think.
My answer was a bit wishy-washy since she had surprised me with the question, but what I should have said was that I do feel very strong about that piece (who doesn’t) but that I can’t see my own expressions nor can I actually hear if that what I want to express arrives in the audience. So while my facial expressions are definitely not “put on”, I can only hope that they correspond to what I feel inside myself. The for me interesting thing is that about 10 months ago I did decide to open myself more towards the audience. Before I was playing with the eyes closed 95% of the time, the head a bit declined, in a way ignoring my audience.
Inspired by watching some singers who do have to face their audience and by that engaging them much more into their music making I started forcing myself to look at this anonymous crowd in front of me at least once in a while, and it didn’t come easy. But in doing so I felt a much stronger connection to the audience and after a couple of months I realized that I started relaxing my facial muscles and that indeed I dared to let my face become in a way a mirror of what I was feeling while playing, which is more or less the same what happens when I just listen to music. I haven’t watched myself in a long time, maybe I would be deeply embarrassed, but while being on stage I really don’t think at all about how I look. You could say that I liberated myself of the inhibitions I used to have while being among people I don’t know. It does help that my eye-sight is not very good and I can’t really differenciate faces – this way I think even less what people might think about me.
So I was a bit shocked being confronted by this young woman about the fact that people not only listen but do watch me while playingÂ -Â oops, I guess I have to forget about this as quickly as possible otherwise I get all self-conscious and don’t manage to stay natural on stage which for me is almost as important as playing the right notes.