Thursday, July 9, 2009

Patron Saint for Working Pianists

In a previous blog I mentioned prayer as a last-ditch effort to avoid art song slaughter. Further reflection led to the idea of the patron saint: some religions include prayer to saints, who then intercede in heaven on behalf of their chosen patronage of a craft, activity or person. Catholicism has a patron saint for musicians, Saint Cecilia, who apparently sang to God as she lay dying (after surviving suffocation, being boiled alive, and a botched beheading). She is an excellent role model for never giving up, but I don't think she can effectively advocate for the special needs of today's musicians, who find themselves infrequently boiled alive.

I have decided to appoint Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus, also known as Gregory the Wonder Worker, as the patron saint for collaborative pianists. His intercessions deal mainly with impossible, desperate and lost causes (also earthquakes and floods). Collaborative pianists tend to be a hardy bunch; our pleas for intercession will occur only when extraordinary effort has failed to save a stupid situation. And we can't worm out of the gig.

Collaborative pianists develop supernatural abilities to deal with most musical malfunctions. ESP (the musical anticipation of almost anything) and teleportation (following a partner to a totally unrelated part of the piece) keep many performances on track. We can cue entrances with a sharp *sniff* until audience members think we suffer incredible allergies. We can highlight pitch cues in a clear-but-subtle manner. We can rein in a galloping tempo with a deliberate left hand. We can lean the tempo forward through singer's held notes when their air is flagging, and pause long enough for their deep gulp of air afterwards. But we cannot alter a performer's ability to publicly remember a piece's melody or lyrics, cause ensemble pitch retention within an a cappella piece, or correct an instrumentalists' intonation. Sometimes the circumstances are that the show must go on, but it really, really shouldn't.

So it may be advantageous to appeal to this patron saint of the desperate, forgotten, impossible and lost causes. Because if Saint Gregory can stop floods and earthquakes, he can avert onstage disasters as well.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I can so relate To what you are saying! Thank you so much!!
Only working pianist understand your post and I totally appreciate it