This wouldn't be much to write about except for the fact that she is legally blind and she played a piece by ear that most college piano majors couldn't sight-read. In addition, she is slightly autistic, and shy around people, which made it all the more shocking to her teacher when she told her that she wanted to talk to me after the recital was over. It was there that I learned her story, including her new goal: to learn the piece I performed. (Her teacher, more familiar with the technical demands of the Concord, tried in vain to contain her enthusiasm.)
I found it a heartwarming human-interest story for many reasons, but I thought rather little of it as 2013 ended and 2014 began. But a new year brought with it another recital - this one sponsored by a different music club and featuring many of the same faces. I finished a rousing Brahms waltz and Gershwin's enigmatic Impromptu in Two Keys, but the star of the show was once again the young prodigy, who in a span of a few months taught herself to play the violin and perform a fairly technical piece complete with double stops - something she figured out how to do herself.
I congratulated her at the reception following the recital and - although she could barely see me - remembered my performance that past November and reiterated to her teacher her immense desire to learn that movement of the Concord. The conversation turned to her skill at jazz improvisation, which she and her teacher demonstrated on a rickety baby grand in the church basement the reception was held in. The next thing I know, I'm in the mix too, and we're playing a six-hand arrangement of a tune that the prodigy was improvising. It was, quite easily, some of the most fun I've ever had at the piano.
On the drive back, I thought intently about the way the recital had gone and decided to write some piano music to dedicate to the young prodigy. After wondering about structure, I decided to go with a 23-piece suite, roughly arranged by technical difficulty. With no other major compositional projects on my hands at the time, I knocked out 18 pieces between January and April. Another piece, which I wrote for my honor society's graduation ceremony, became the 19th piece (and one of my favorites).
I put it on the back burner during the third Great American Road Trip and it remained there through the summer's composition workshop (where I premiered eight of the suite's pieces) and then through the always-tiring BrickFair (#teamfarmanimals). Last month, most of my time was spent orchestrating one of my pieces for a local youth orchestra contest. If my entry wins, it'll be played and recorded - let's just hope the music director doesn't have any qualms with its difficulty. (I submitted it today - wish me luck!)
With another (much larger) orchestral piece progressing smoothly, I have returned my focus to the final movements of this suite, knocking out two more pieces over the past week.
I have two more pieces to write and edit while I'm putting all 23 into notation software, then editing all of the music so it can be compiled into a PDF, then printed and bound, all before November 2nd.
Why November 2nd?
That just so happens to be the next recital, almost a year to the day since I performed part of the Concord Sonata. This time, I'm playing Sunset by Frank Bridge, and The Tides of Manaunaun by Henry Cowell. (My piano teacher took a class from Cowell back in the day - to quote him, "it was a counterpoint class, but he didn't teach counterpoint so much as blow his nose into a handkerchief he never washed."
At the recital, I'm also giving her (and her teacher) a copy of the finished score. I'm expecting the final total to be somewhere around seventy-five pages of music, although with double-sided printing this number would obviously be halved.
I don't know why I stayed up so late writing this when I should either be sleeping or composing.