Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.


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#Selfie 12: My face belongs to you

As a musician I know this – that I am most effective as a performer when I get my Self out of the way, and simply allow the music to flow through me and out.  People who are listening are then much more able to hear and recognize themselves in what’s being played, and can then respond more deeply.  Who I am matters, of course, and whether I’m grounded, healthy, emotionally honest and stable – but only in the way that a conduit should be strong and wide enough for the greatest amount of energy to travel through it.

cellobelly

In the weeks of working with the ubiquitous #Selfie phenomenon I’ve come to wonder if in fact it works this way with my face, too.  I know my voice is, but my face also?  An instrument?

A strange sensation, looking at this photo of my cello.  It's like looking at my own back.

I feel a strange sensation looking at this photo of my cello. It’s like looking at my own back.

I can’t tell what I look like when I’m in conversation with other people.  I suspect, because of the wide gamut of responses I get, that I look differently to close friends than I do to colleagues, differently again to family than to strangers.  A good and longtime friend remarked some months ago that he’d never seen my face look so open.  In response I immediately closed it, and said, with some gruffness, “Nobody sees my face this open”.  Certainly not I.

the latest #Selfie painting - 5 feet wide by 6 feet tall - about the way negative and positive are both required to describe an object, an idea, a person.  Who one is, and also who one is not.

the latest #Selfie painting – 5 feet wide by 6 feet tall – about the way negative and positive are both required to describe an object, an idea, a person. Who one is, and also who one is not.

At this point I believe that my face is like a sketchbook for use by whomever I engage with.  I wear it in public knowing that it’s up to me to keep it clear of furrowed brow or clenched jaw, since if that is written there I will most likely encounter anxiety, repressed anger, rigidity and emotional blocks in the people I meet.

There are at least ten thousand songs written about this.

I suspect that this painting will be mostly finished by tomorrow morning.  Art factory, here...

I suspect that this painting will be mostly finished by tomorrow morning. Art factory, here…

It’s also up to me to keep my cello in tune and my bow tightened, with good rosin on the horsehair.   In between painting tasks I habitually run through finger exercises, dissect and practise tricky solos to ensure that I’ll present well at the concert tomorrow.

There is personal expression, yes.  But I would say that it’s an exchange of sensibilities, awareness, perception and empathies between me and you.  A live improvisation, if you will.  In a good conversation we reflect all of this for each other by changing the shape of our mouths, foreheads, moving our eyebrows, opening or closing our eyes, shifting our gaze away then back from each other.

My face is more familiar to you than it is to me, when all is said and done.  You can tell, often before I can, whether something is wrong or right in my internal world….

a posed #Selfie.  Always less comfortable, since I'm looking at a camera through my face that I don't know.

a posed #Selfie. Always less comfortable, since I’m looking at a camera through my face that I don’t know.

I have the same odd feeling looking at this photo as I do with the back of my cello.  Is THAT what I look like?  It resembles me, but no, it’s only one of many possibles.  I suspect I look quite different when I’m with people.

But then we need all parts – including the shadow – to describe the whole.

 

I have a PS.

Anyone in the area who loves smart, engaged young people should come to this concert at Meaford Hall tomorrow (Monday May 26).  The GBSYO is an incredible team of folks with great energy and skill.  They’ll be joined by more excellent string players from the Georgian Bay Secondary School in a massive string orchestra.  I’m very excited and honoured to be part of it.  Do come – I know you’ll love it.

GBSYO_May2014_finalB


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#Selfie 8: due diligence

There’s a subtle art to avoidance – one can accomplish a great deal when motivated by discomfort with a project’s requirements:  Go work out – more often.  Coach at GBSS’ annual music clinic; play at elementary schools in Bruce County for GBS.  Go see Art of Time’s Cadmium Red with Aruna; wander introverted and happy through Toronto; visit an old friend & musician colleague in Guelph; rehearse for and perform at Kiwanis Music Fest with my cello kids; teach. Rent an electric cello and test drive it in a bar with two groove-great acoustic guitar players.  This past week:  Wed to Fri rehearsal & performance for the Georgian Bay Symphony Youth Orchestra with Owen Sound’s Choir that Rocks.  Two shows to packed houses in a beautiful old church which is now an arts building/soup kitchen.  We raised the roof both nights, and the kids are on fire.

Photo of Friday's show by John Fearnall of Goodnoise photography.  I love his work - well worth a visit to www.goodnoise.ca

Photo of Friday’s show by John Fearnall of Goodnoise photography. I love his work – well worth a visit to http://www.goodnoise.ca

Yesterday Larry Jensen and I played an impromptu set at The River Cafe at 1pm before my big paintings came down off the walls there.  The Mayor dropped by, and 20 or so others, to help us say thanks to Karen Rosalie (River Cafe Queen) for her hospitality.  I could have played all day long, despite my impairment from celebrating until 4am …

This one was still drying when we hung it at The River in January.  It's good to see it again.

This one was still drying when we hung it at The River in January. It’s good to see it again.

It’s easy easy to swim in the big wide river of life here.  On the same night as GBSYO & The Choir that Rocks, Don Buchanan played excellent, tasteful jazz at The Frog Pond and there was a live 60’s revivalby great players at the Legion, along with other events I couldn’t possibly list.   Last night, a classical concert with Eric Osborne (organ), Sebastian Ostertag, Joachim Ostertag, and Syl McIntosh, and Open mic at The Bleeding Carrot.  This little tiny town is buzzing with arts activity – what we can’t get to will be seen by someone, and photos posted.  Thanks  John Fearnall & Goodnoise; thanks Amber Brown; Richard Mascall; thanks Trev MacKenzie, Tara MacKenzieJim Ansell & the Bleeding Carrot; Kelly Babcock and Andree, Kimmer, Steve Zamin, Mossy,  – these are some of the folks who keep the place spinning at a healthy clip, and hold up a mirror for us to see ourselves. We’re lookin better and better all the time.

Another by John Fearnall of GoodNoise (https://www.facebook.com/GoodNoise). The Choir that Rocks Owen Sound.

Another by John Fearnall of GoodNoise (https://www.facebook.com/GoodNoise). The Choir that Rocks Owen Sound.

 

Today I come home  – to the work I love more than I love myself, as Elizabeth Gilbert would say (go Here for her recent TED talk).  This is like rest.  Away from the madding crowd, the interaction, the sharing of experience and joy, the assertion of identity within the crowd or tribe of people, I can soften my gaze and look inward and outward at the same time.

Hip Cello, from 2008, recently come back to me.  I've missed this one.

Hip Cello, from 2008, recently come back to me. I’ve missed this one.

I see the cup on my desk I shared scotch with in a long yesterday afternoon (lovely time, L & C), and I think of performance and introversion, the sweet fragility of both artist and audience when they come together in music.  I see tulips on my piano, paintings that have returned to the place of their birth, music stands and microphones, and I feel comforted by the rhythm of time.  I see the patches of sun on my floor, and feel my heart beat, steady.

SunPatchonFloorApril2014

#Selfie is requiring due diligence from me.  Early on I knew that my intolerance (see #Selfie 1) could lead nowhere but back to my own insecurities and blind spots – sure enough, it did (see #Selfie 2, then #Selfie 3, in which I confess my internal shock).  Predictably, I reacted to my own shock by going abstract again (#Selfie 4 (I prefer my hands), #Selfie 5 (mirror), #Selfie 6 (Mask)), and then #Selfie 7 (Easter) referred to, but did not describe the quite intense process of self- discovery, self-pruning, self-clearing I’d experienced that weekend – I chickened out, and that will not do.

So – to rectify.

SunPatch2

#selfie 9 will go direct.  See you back here after I’ve done some digging.


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Ravel and the Moon

Although I can’t see it through the opaque winter sky I can feel it:  the moon is full.

With the able help of cellists Carol Mulder and Sibylle Ruppert my excellent mom and I performed David Popper’s Requiem for three celli and piano for our Industrial Ancestors yesterday evening.  Folk came out to witness as we played to a photo of two-term Mayor of Owen Sound, Matthew Kennedy Sr, my Great-great Grandfather, and the man who ran the shop at Kennedy Foundries, where 90 % of the propellers for the Merchant Marine were made during the wars.  Matthew didn’t believe in libraries or higher education, just in hard work. He died from the cancer one gets from spending long hours in a big foundry.

This event was the final of Tom Thomson Art Gallery’s ‘The Wave Passes’ series, which Gallery Director Virginia Eichorn describes thus:

…an ongoing project involving art installations, video and performance that connect the stories of Owen Sound’s past with the present. Tonight, from 6:15 to 7pm, outside of Council Chambers on the 2nd floor, there will be a concert honouring two of cellist Keira McArthur’s ancestors, one who was a former Mayor of Owen Sound (Matthew Kennedy), and another who served many years on City Council (David John Kennedy, who also ran Kennedy Foundries through the depression years). The quartet will perform the Popper Requiem for 3 cellos and piano in their honour, as well as seasonal songs everyone can sing to. All are welcome; bring your voices. Admission is free.

So we played Popper and Bach for Matthew and his sons & daughter (who was brilliant), for their sons and daughters, for my Grandfather and the woman he married, whose family came here from Pennsylvania.  I never met Lois Keebler, but I have her watch, which still works.  In photographs she is beautiful.

Here’s a YouTube version of the Popper.  It’s worth listening to.

I went straight from that lovely event to play with the Georgian Bay Symphony Youth Orchestra – a short program since we are in a re-building year, but deeply satisfying, nonetheless.  In talk afterwards, the GBSYO String Quartet decided to take on a new challenge for the spring….

Lyndas_Backyard_April24_2012

This morning at 5am I wake to messages from 3am until now about Ravel String Quartet in F, including pdfs of the cello part.  It’s been playing on loop since then :  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNVVONYkivM

While Ravel played on, and without much forethought I wrote and sent a window-rattling note to a dear friend of mine …. This is full-moon permission – to shine an uncomfortable light in dark places.  Not all is harmony, which Popper and Ravel knew.   Sharp edges and tender places will always co-exist, as will the learned ability to disengage and fortify against both.   Playing music well requires that all of these things are conscious, and revealed in a way that makes it good and right to feel human.

one of Sibylle Ruppert's cellos, made from tulip wood.  She is an excellent luthier..

one of Sibylle Ruppert’s cellos, made from tulip wood. She is an excellent luthier..

To my ancestors:  rest in peace.  It was an honour to play for you.

To my Friend:  … with great love, always.

To the moon:  thanks for the light in the dark.

God I love music and what it does.


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What I get to do

Last Friday, I was part of a packed house at Georgian Shores United Church, listening to the Concert Choir sing Mozart’s Requiem.  This mass is one of my favourites – I’ve spent long long hours painting to my recording of it over and over again.  It’s a difficult piece, by any standards, but especially challenging for an amateur choir.  But This Choir, conducted brilliantly by Regan MacNay, sang it with dignity, joy, and good honest grit.  I was so moved I cried through the entire performance. I was glad to be there.

Last night I rehearsed with another musical family – I’ve been playing with them since I was 13, initially because Edouard Bartlett insisted that it be so.  Of course he was right – over the years I’ve been able to learn and perform beautiful, challenging works by Mahler, Beethoven, Strauss, Dvorak, Brahms, Bruch, and countless of other composers both classical and contemporary.  My playing has stretched and grown with the musical direction of GBS conductors – most recently my dear friend John Barnum.  The other players in the orchestra are like a family to me – deeply loved, eagerly met each time I’m able to join them.  I’m a lucky girl.

This April 28 (in 2 weeks and 2 days!!) is our 40th anniversary concert for the Georgian Bay Symphony:  Manitoulin  (Premiere), by Richard Mascall; Piano Concerto No.3, by Sergei Prokofiev – with our own brilliant Kati Gleiser; Symphony No.5, by Dmitri Shostakovich.  We’ve never tackled such tough music – but at rehearsals we’re doing well & sounding good.

I do encourage everyone who can to come – Kati is worth seeing and hearing WHENEVER you get the chance – I’m eager to hear her performance of the Prokoffieff.  Richard’s Manitoulin is big and fun and OURS – it’s not often you get to play a premiere of this stature.  The Shostakovitch is complex and brilliant – I recommend the pre-concert talks so you can hear it in context.

I also work with the GBS Youth Orchestra every Monday.  We are playing movements from Beethoven I, VII and IX (all at breakneck speed); Faure Pavane; The Death of Ase;  the Bruch Violin Concerto and the Rachmaninoff Piano concerto – all very difficult, all very fast.  This orchestra takes every corner on 2 wheels – they’re extremely exciting to play with.  Come and see us – May 30 @ Georgian Shores United (used to be called Division Street Church) in Owen Sound.

This is what I get to play this spring.  I also travel to see Yo Yo Ma and the TSO play (late May), and to Mississauga for John Barnum’s final concert with the Mississauga Symphony on May 5th.

What an incredible music season!


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New Moon

They call it the ‘dark’ of the moon.  For me, without knowing much more than that about new moons, I imagine a greenhouse in the dark; a pot of seeds pushing out roots under the soil; the invisible emergence of a small thought that can grow to become The Idea That Changed it All.  It’s a very private, very personal time – when above all else, one Must listen carefully and gently to oneself.

A century-old wicker chair from an island cottage on the St. Lawrence River. This room is above the Boathouse.

I have Handel’s Passacalie playing in my mind – the string quartet played at a very satisfying wedding this past Saturday – and played and played, until every muscle in my left hand and arm was in pain.  Even days later as I type I can feel the bruising on my fingertips – and yet this is far less important than Handel, than four people gathering to make and share live music.  Last night the Youth Orchestra played through some breathtaking Respighi – thank you Richard Mascall – that I shall also learn well enough to play in my mind.  This is the kind of thing that changes the world.

Boathouse Stairs

And so it comes, the moment of the September New Moon.  I have music in my thoughts.  Four new students, all of varying levels, all fully committed to learning how to play the cello.  They will all help to build resonance in this community, and wherever they go.  It has taken some time for me to get to the stage where I could teach again – I consider it an essential service, in the great community tradition of Edouard Bartlett, Donna Steinacher and many others.  I am fully aware that to teach well one must also challenge oneself musically – and I welcome it.  Writing, playing, practise, performing, studying – ever in search of more refinement, more subtlety.

We just ate the pie from the fruit these elderberry flowers provided. While they bloomed, the flowers sparkled like lights in the firmament. What a wonderful plant!

I have also this marvelous winter light festival in my thoughts which has grown to have huge resonance for me.  The Festival is a quarter-century old, and attracts visitors from around the world now (do we know this here?  I wonder). It’s also about the light in the folks who put it together every year – passionate, dedicated, rock-solid loyal, kind and full of pure, simple fun – I’m honoured to work with them.

baby snapper (at Leith) from this past June.

I can just begin to see colour now in the leaves, and above them a payne’s grey watercolour-washed sky.  The clouds move from SE to NW, which is unusual for here.  In the garden there are seven huge blue morning glories blooming, as if in answer to stars- they glow against the dark of the cedars behind them.  All is quiet in the house – G&D lie abed, the cat is still.

My quiet thoughts have grown as I write, into a feeling that as yet cannot hold words.

Or, perhaps it can hold one. Just one word that holds great promise, and requires safe passage through the months and years ahead:

New.