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The Crucible

It is Guitar Circle tradition to play during mealtimes. In 2021, I had been working on Bach Prelude from Cello Suite #1 and Tony recommended I play it during mealtime. The first time I intended to perform, I brought my case into the dining room, but another group of friends played before I had breakfast, so I postponed my performance.

Then the mealtime arrives with no other performers, so time for Prelude. Once through. Some notable mistakes. RF: again! OK, again. RF: third time’s a charm. So a third time. <wild applause> The third attempt is the best of the three.

The second year is a greater challenge than the first, like putting out the 2nd album after a debut. So the bar has been set. I perform an arrangement for NST guitar of Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring mostly arranged by Tony G, but the last page or so of harmonization completed by me. After a year of work, I am somewhat off book, with a series of “tags” on an index card to remind me of the arrangement, but we have plans to further refine the piece in the coming year.

I decide to plug in this year. The “golden cord” is a 20 foot instrument cable with “gold” fabric weave, which of course, imbues it with special powers of.. being an instrument cable. It becomes the house cord. Tuesday. I have run through a couple of times in the room before sitting time, and I determine that Bach is not really going to get substantially better with repeated practices after the hundreds of times. It is still early in the course, and Tony has recommended that I play at least once per day at meals, if not more. I don’t need more encouragement. Still, I am dusting off cobwebs after intentionally not practicing the previous week. Last year, I take up a position behind a mic, but sitting down I cannot be seen by most of the room. This year, plugging into the board, I have positioned my seat nominally facing the head table.

I play the Bach piece on 3 consecutive days, breakfast is a good time. The first performance is, I think, a bit of a shock to everyone. Am I really doing this? Is he really doing this? I make it through, with a bit of repetition to recover from losing my place. On Wednesday, I am reminded of a new friend who is having real difficulty, so I begin with some words of encouragement. The speech feels like it draws some of my energy away from the music. Also, the head table begins chanting my name. David! David! David! I find it more difficult to play the second time than the first. I have repeated problems with not remembering the music, which is unnerving, since I have all of the individual bars memorized and I only need to remember which part I am playing. I have different tags for phrases like “Boom1” and “Rock” for the part I consider the rock section. The third performance on Thursday appears to go very well, playing more smoothly. Then I completely lose my mind for the final couple of bars. I cannot recall the notes at all! So completing .. C.. G.

I don’t feel disappointed with any of the performances. My mistakes remain fairly musical, at least in my memory. I am able to somewhat play through my mistakes and at least make it sound like a “version”. I have no idea what it sounds like, but I imagine it is uneven, going along well and then errrt! .. and there he picks himself up again and… bam! You know, as things go. There is a surreality of being on stage, playing for some of the best guitarists in the world. The aim is to develop as a performer, burn in the fire a little. Or a lot.

Others are ready to step up. Ken! Ken approached me after one of the performances and said that he felt like he had been a true audient for the first time. He asked to borrow my cord and is encouraged with the opportunity to repeat once again, and then again in the back. Thanks Robert! Ken is moved, as are we all. More fantastic work from Eric and Albert. Eric, experiencing similar mental anxiety, is supported by the presence of two friends on either side of him. I am standing about 15 feet from them, holding my empty coffee cup, taking this in.

Dev mentions that it is important for them to see me struggling, persistence.

There is a feeling of real work being done. Grateful to all.

I am moved to tears daily in this course, only the gratitude kind. So much of the music, the Guitar Craft classic pieces especially, are etched into my memory. As soon as I hear and see some of these being performed, I am a puddle.

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