Life is very full lately. There's soccer, three times a week for Erin and Noah, once a week for Sophie. There are Suzuki violin lessons and an upcoming regional concert, with extra preparation for that. There's community orchestra, and an upcoming concert, and extra repertoire to prepare for that. There's GRUBS, just about ready to kick into high gear. There's our monthly visits to the nursing home to play music, and the preparation time involved in that. There are piano lessons. And choir practices for each of the three kids. And we're attempting to trade in our minivan and buy a new one ... extra trips to Nelson for appraisals and the like. And trips to Trail for the music festival. And Chuck out of town for six days over the next couple of weeks. And a garden to put in. And a summer music camp to plan. And a chamber music concert for me to rehearse for, and (hopefully!) practice for. Not to mention a lot of book-keeping and tax preparation to catch up on.
I need to cut myself some slack. And the kids too. Tonight they're playing extremely boisterously in the living room, rather than practising, as they really ought to be. We were up early and on the road by 7:30 a.m. for the 2-hour trip to Trail for the music festival. We've always given it a miss in the past because when we've observed we've found the atmosphere quite sterile and with competitive overtones. But our piano teacher really wants Erin to participate fully next year, so I thought we'd test the waters this year. I registered Erin & Noah as a piano/viola duet, and Noah & Sophie as a piano/violin duet, performing pieces they've been playing competently for months now (Dvorak's Humoresque and Bach's Minuet 1). They put a little extra polishing effort into them, and off we went. Erin & Noah were in the "under 12" class, and Sophie & Noah were "under 9's". They were the only duos entered in each of these two classes.
We arrived in time to hear some advanced teen violinists in the Unaccompanied Bach class. The playing was mostly quite impressive, and the adjudicator was encouraging and insightful in his comments. Erin and Noah were keen to listen to the whole class and the feedback. Then my kids played. They did really well. Noah filled the church with his big viola sound. Erin had no piano stumbles. Sophie carried herself very well, and Noah, who had a tiny memory lapse on piano covered it so well that I don't suppose anyone noticed. What was most impressive was how well they listened to each other.
The adjudicator was very positive and encouraging. He had some useful comments about playing chamber music as opposed to solos. He loved Noah's viola. He awarded my kids "Certificates of Merit" and a bit of scholarship money and invited Noah and Sophie to play on the Honours Concert, an invitation we declined because of the additional travel involved.
Overall it was a very positive experience. The observation of advanced students was an excellent opportunity, the kids played well and felt good about what they'd done, the adjudicator was kind, encouraging and helpful, and there was some tangible affirmation of the kids' abilities. I think they'll feel fine about participating more fully in the festival next year.
Then we headed for home. We stopped at home to change out of recital clothes, grab something to eat and then head out for soccer practice. Then home to catch up on the dishes and cook a quick supper and ... well, they're giggling and running around in the living room now and there I'm going to leave them. They have a game out of town tomorrow morning, a couple of activities on Sunday, and then an extremely full day in Nelson on Monday.
The kids need their down time. They're so much happier, and so much more productive, when they get it. I was proud of them today, not only up on stage, but listening in the audience, and on the soccer pitch.
I'll start working in half an hour or so at winding them down and then it's a night to choose a new novel to start as a readaloud. Avi's "The Barn", which we finished in four nights, was brilliant but very sad for me as it reminded me of providing palliative care for my dad. I'm sure the kids felt the same thing. There was no animated chattering or questioning at chapter's ends like usual.