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The art and craft of performance (part two)

6 years ago
Lucy North

Lucy North

Lucy is Content Producer at ABRSM looking after the blog, our online magazine, Libretto, and a range of other written materials and resources. She has a musical background and studied the piano at the Royal Academy of Music. When not writing, commissioning and editing for ABRSM, Lucy enjoys spending time with her two young boys, baking and exploring the Essex countryside.

Following on from last week’s blog, discover what five more expert musicians and educators have to say about musical performance.

A first ever performance

Louise Matthew: flautist and teacher

Working in a primary school, I often find myself helping pupils to prepare for their first ever performance. I introduce this in stages starting with informal performances, leading up to more organised concert opportunities. Together we think through the practicalities of where it will be, what they will play, how to introduce their piece and what to do when they finish. We talk about how nerves can effect performance and how we can manage these nerves. We rehearse in the venue where possible and practise performing so that they have an idea of how it is going to feel. And then it's time for them to take the plunge! I hold my breath, willing them to get through positively and hoping that they enjoy the experience. It is a responsibility and a privilege to be part of this very special moment.

A window onto the musical landscape

Gary Matthewman: pianist, coach and repetiteur, and teacher

I love the idea that as performers we strive to effectively remove ourselves, to become a window through which our audience can enjoy a beautiful landscape: the music. Of course, people admire interesting windows. The design of the frame may change, the glass may be of varying thickness, and the light may shift endlessly, but the thing that really matters is our listeners' focus on that stunning landscape.

Free communication, imagination and authenticity

Luis Parés: pianist and teacher

Performance at its best combines the rigorous study of a score and understanding of the composer with stylistic and technical mastery. But above all it’s about free communication with the audience through the creative expression of a captivating sound world – with imagination and authenticity.

Make performing part of your practice

Anthony Williams: pianist and teacher

Musicians can over-focus on notes, physical control and memory and hope this, coupled with inspiration on the day, will result in a successful performance. This mistake-spotting approach trains the brain to stop and correct stumbles and mentally switch off from performance. The act of performing is then unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Instead always make performing whole sections or complete pieces with musical conviction a regular part of your practice, negotiating and convincingly playing through less comfortable passages. Decide what you will think about, what mental image, sound, colour, emotion, word(s) enhance your playing best. The transition from practice room to performance will be seamless and comfortable if this has been a regular part of the preparation.

An act of giving

Paul Harris: educator

Performing is an act of giving. If we perform with artistry and skill - at any level - and unconditional generosity, then everyone is the better for it.



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