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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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Deirdre and Sara

Jeff and I went to Sara's piano recital on Sunday morning; Ruth had already saved us seats. Sara was a lot more confident than I ever was in my piano recitals, and actually seemed to enjoy performing. We were all beaming with pride, of course. :-)

Watching the young students fidget nervously in their seats as they waited for their turn, clutching their music books, brought back memories of the recitals I had both participated in as well as the ones I had organized when I taught piano. I had always hated playing in recitals. Even the word "recital" brings back immediate memories of sweaty palms, triphammer heartbeat, trembling hands.

My worst piano recital was also my last, a Christmas recital in 1988 at the Royal Conservatory of Music. I didn't know anyone in the audience (not even my piano teacher could attend), and my mother was dying of cancer in the hospital.


The students at the recital were from a number of different piano teachers at the Conservatory. Because I was the most senior student, I was scheduled to go last, and would perform a challenging Rachmaninoff piece by memory.

Finally it was my turn, and I walked up the stairs to the main stage where a grand piano sat gleaming in the lights. The lights made it difficult to see the audience; their faces were blurry splotches in the darkness, a sea of strangers who were waiting for me to finish so they could claim their young ones and go home. I heard the rustling of programs, a shifting of bottoms in creaky seats.

I remember launching into the opening measures of the Rachmaninoff: full-bodied chords, confident and full of promise...but then I stopped. My mind had gone totally blank. I tried again, but stopped in the same place. The silence in the audience was deafening; I could feel everyone's eyes on me, urging me on, pitying me. I started sweating. After several agonizing minutes of more aborted attempts, I finally gave up.

Stood up, faced the audience, looked at the Director of the Conservatory (who had introduced me in glowing terms, telling the younger students that if they worked hard, they might someday be able to play like me) and apologized, saying that I couldn't go on. It was an awkward moment; the Director didn't want the recital to end like this, but what could he do?

After he made his farewell speech, I numbly went to my seat and got my coat and music book, filing out with the rest of the crowd into the cold night. I didn't look at anyone, couldn't look at anyone - I just wanted to get home. I had wanted to do the recital as a kind of tribute to my mother, but now I was glad she hadn't been there to see my failure. She had always been so proud of my piano playing.

On the way out, one sympathetic mother put her hand on my shoulder and told me that she had enjoyed the part of the piece I had played. I managed to thank her before dissolving into tears as I turned away, hurrying away into the winter night, hiding in the crowd.


In retrospect, I realize I shouldn't have been doing the recital at all, but people aren't always that rational in times of crisis. Perhaps part of me had originally imagined the scene as it would have been written in a movie: a young girl whose mother is dying in the hospital gives a final virtuoso performance for her mother, gets a standing ovation from a misty-eyed crowd. The scene would then switch to the mother's hospital room, where the mother is watching the recital on television (no, my recital wasn't televised, but there had to be some way of the mother finding out, wouldn't there?). As she watches her daughter's success, the mother's heart is filled with such joy that she finds renewed strength to battle the cancer which she finally triumphs over, against incredible odds.

But life doesn't always happen the way it does in movies.

That recital experience left a permanent imprint on my life, making me somewhat more cynical but stronger. I suppose I could say the same about most negative experiences in my life, but then that makes me wonder what I'll be like when I'm 102 (I fully plan to live past the age of a hundred, by the way), and what will keep me from turning into one of those bitter old women you see in grocery stores, who glares at the kiwi fruit as if it has just reached out and pinched her bottom when she wasn't looking.

(This entry was written as part of an On Display collaboration. Assignment: Choose a photo and write about it.)


Posted several new Waiting For Frodo strips over the weekend. I heard from Jill Cainey, who reports that Shane has been going through more good-natured ribbing at Weta Digital because of his reappearance in my strip. Apparently the situation was compounded because he had worn pretty much the same outfit to work today that I drew him wearing in the comic, PLUS they had to reboot Eric. :-)

Don't forget to post your New Year's Resolutions! Here are mine:

My 2002 New Year's Resolutions:

1. Don't neglect my fiction writing even if it may not earn as much as my non-fiction writing! -- Complete and submit two young adult novel manuscripts to my agent by the end of the year.

2. Be more organized re: financial and work-related record-keeping throughout the year. --One day a week will be "Marketing and Admin day", where I do finances, do paperwork, research markets, writing queries.

3. Music Goals: Write at least five new songs or pieces of music. Learn to play the harp well enough to be able to perform Christmas carols in public by December 2002.

Deirdre and Sara

Today's Blatherpics:

-- Sara and Deirdre, her piano teacher, perform a duet in the piano recital yesterday.

-- Deirdre.

-- Sara performing a solo.

-- Some of the other students who performed at the recital.

Today's Poll:

Have you ever performed in a piano recital?

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