My musical career

When I turned 50 I was on sabbatical in London, England. One of our sons – an excellent pianist – was a final year student at Pimlico secondary school. We chose Pimlico because it had a highly-regarded music program. The father of one of his classmates played and collected clarinets. Our son thought this would be a suitable birthday gift and persuaded my wife to buy it for me. I then found an excellent teacher who lived nearby and began taking lessons. My teacher quickly persuaded me to change to a more modern, lighter, clarinet. Because it had fewer keys it helped me overcome many fingering challenges. Subsequently I enjoyed practising and developed a reasonably good tone. Unfortunately, my timing was poor and is still pretty awful.

After returning to Montreal I found a new teacher at the Mcgill Conservatory. Under his patient guidance I managed to pass the Grade II examination. That was truly a proud moment. I continue to play, but as I age I’m definitely slipping.

For my 80 birthday the same son, gave me six lessons with his splendid teacher.  Her unusual teaching technique got me off to a good start. Interestingly, however, the first piece she chose for me to learn was a Bach prelude from the Well Tempered Clavichord.  Six years later I’m still struggling to master it. (‘Master’ is actually a much too strong word! I just want to be able to play the darn thing without making mistakes or having to look at the score!)

The question for readers of this blog is whether I should persist or give up? Having asked questions previously and received few answers, I’m forced to conclude one of the following: few actually read this blog, all the readers are shy, or they simply can’t be bothered with my silly questions. I will continue to ask until I get a good answer. And I will persist with the Well Tempered but not well-played Bach.

PS… I am also trying to learn a Satie ‘Gnossieme’ which is actually a much greater challenge because my hands are not large enough. (That is the best excuse I can come up with.)

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4 Responses to My musical career

  1. Tamara Pless-Amonte says:

    Of course you shouldn’t give up! And yes this counts as a silly question – becauase if it indeed makes you happy – why would you even think about giving it up? If you need some things to give up I am happy to provide you with a short but impactful list… 🙂

  2. Evan says:

    Do not give up. Barry! Us octogenarians need an inspirational leader. We look to you (do we have to listen to you as well? May be a bridge too far).
    When I am stuck working on a print I have learned to put it aside. Often (not always) on later returning to it, the solution is evident and the resolution satisfying. Not sure musical frustrations work out that way.

    • barrypless says:

      If I were to put the bloody piece aside for any length of time I fear I would have to start all over again. As it is I have a pretty good idea where about half of the notes are… at least I do on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 3 pm.

      Barry Pless

      My blog: ________________________________

  3. Cheryl Lifshitz says:

    Oh my gosh! Dr.Pless,I just wrote a whole lovely shpeal about learning something new from you and I especially have to note how bright and with it you are…so admirable!! Long story short, NEVER give up you can do it ! With fond wishes, I miss seeing you at the pharmacy,and I will continue to learn from you and follow your blog!

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