Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Travel Stories - "Variations on a Theme by Mozart"

Sandra Kipp
I have played from memory many times in my career, but never felt completely comfortable. I have always preferred the comfort of having the music in front of me, even if I use it as one would use note cards in a well-prepared speech. But one hot day in a small town in Thailand, I truly regretted not having memorized more pieces!

I was on a two week tour of Thailand, traveling from Bancock south to Surit Thani. (Also spelled Suri Thani and Surithani) We had a very long drive in front of us, so half way through we stopped in a little town where some of the people I was traveling with knew some very welcoming and hospitable folk. They fed us, let us rest, gave us generous gifts, and well wishes for our travels. I was traveling with a pianist, a singer, and the organizer of the tour. Just before we were ready to leave, the organizer announced to our hosts that as a gift in return for their hospitality, we would perform music for them. The pianist looked around and said, “There is no piano, so I can’t perform.” The singer looked at us and said, “Without a pianist, I can’t perform.” So, all eyes turned to me. All of our sheet music and equipment had been transported to our next location in another vehicle, so I would have to play from memory. No problem, I have played countless unaccompanied works. This will be fun! Suddenly, it occurred to me that I had no idea what I should play. So I started the Andante in C Major by W. A. Mozart. No problem…how many times have we played this beautifully sublime work? I finish the opening phrases and thought this is sounding quite nice, as I see a supportive grin on my pianist’s face. Then as I continued, my mind went blank. I simply couldn’t remember the next phrase. So, I began to improvise, “variations on a theme by Mozart,” if you will. I see the look on my pianist’s face change from “How lovely” to “That’s not how I remember the piece going” to “What on earth is she playing????” I saw her starting to smirk and look down as I looked away myself. I knew if our eyes met, I might not be able to keep up this charade. She was doing everything she could not to laugh!

My improvisatory skills are quite lacking and I wish I had a recording of what came out of my flute!!! Thank goodness, this was before YouTube!!! Our hosts thought it was lovely and thanked me for my musical gift to them, as I walked away feeling so silly for having not been able to remember a piece I have played so many times. That was many years ago, but I remember it as if it was yesterday! If you see me traveling somewhere, ask me to play the Mozart! I can now! Anytime, anywhere!!!

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