How to play the violoncello in public with a facial disfiguration

I was brought up to play and sing classical music. My focus instruments in my early years were ‘cello, piano and my boy soprano best. Part and parcel of that was public performance. I’d regularly play in venues from primary school playgrounds to our city’s main auditorium, the Auckland Town Hall.

Shortly previous to one of these occasions, around age nine, I was in an accident. To be specific, I misjudged while trying to get across a busy road so I could keep up and stay hanging out with the older, cooler kids. I remember seeing the car coming towards me, thinking “I’m not going to make it”, and then… nothing, for a while. I then remember waking up beside the road, not really feeling sore but very shaken. An ambulance was called, and I was taken to hospital.

I was a light child so my body wasn’t greatly injured. I did have some surface injury to my head. I required seven stitches to my forehead, and my entire left cheek had been grazed, leaving an enormous scab while the healing took place.

This was still my condition a couple of weeks later when my music school orchestra was to play at our local high "Orchestra layout" by Darkdoc - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - Cellos sit along the right hand side of the stage, facing the conductor. It was thus that my scar and the large scab that was my left cheek were facing the audience.

As I sat down I noticed a reaction. A ripple of shock went through the audience. At that point black thread stitches were standard. I imagine evidence of my injury was stark. I recall being amused and gratified by the reaction, for a second at least.

That wasn’t my first public performance but it’s the first one I remember with clarity. Participating in it, I learnt a key lesson in performance. A lesson I’ve used in public speaking engagements, meeting facilitation, achieving workplace goals, and, yes, playing music in front of people. The lesson: Whatever you’re doing, engage in it. Acknowledge the context. Acknowledge the difficulties, the strangeness, the reactions of others – but do what you are there to do.

As to the answer of how to play the violoncello in public with a facial disfiguration:

Put your left hand on the fret board. Using your right, place the bow on the string. Smoothly draw the bow along the string, producing sound.


State of the Nation Address

OK, so here it is.

Sometimes I am near the world, some times I… wander off a ways. #blogjune pretty much pushed the limit as far as my need for intimate communication goes at the age of then 40 and counting.

That’s, the age. As for the stage; I’m easy with it – a good course of group therapy (DBT, do it if you’re a bit stuffed up eh) and an increasing engagement with meditation may have helped.

That’s not to say I’ve thrived; but I haven’t suffered every single minute, nor have I felt an excessive amount of genuine concern – I say excessive, because being bipolar gives two sets of circumstances to manage against, and two different lenses through wish to interpret.

Better yet – therapy helps us to move from the poles and create a middle. Sometimes it feels less exciting than a good dose of hypomania – more’s the pity. Weaning one’s self of “excitement” is a hard sell, but I’ve learnt to do at least a few things for the pure wonderment, and a few for their pure necessity. Both are good for the soul, and better than all the pizazz in the world.

Not that I’m not still a song and dance man – so to those of you who are sometimes commenters – please nag me to do some rehearsal for my upcoming gig. Then the ball will be in my court. It might be a little bit exciting.

#blogjune 16: Lightning post: On the creative use of insomnia, with a tip of the nib to @hodgman

I’m feeling ripped off. I head a productive and enjoyable day, a healthy walk at luncthimes, good conversations throughout, modest meals but enjoyable meals and my last coffee at 12pm.

I still can’t sleep. Still, I did have excellent sleep the rest of the week. Improvement is improvement, which makes my second deliberate tautology in a learning situation to day. You gets the cheap laffs where you can.

Experiment: Tomorrow night I shan’t join Sal if she wants to watch Criminal Minds.

Also: I’m going to use the excess mental energy from my insomnia to write raps, then sleep the sleep of the pious. After that it’s Friday, Friday and then I’ll be singing the Weekend Song (C) me and my homeslice.


#blogjune 9: We belong dead…

Or at least I’m dead tired.

The library peeps today were cool. My talks seemed to go over well, and once we got onto discussing licencing models (it was around eBooks) I had some seriously had and interesting questions thrown at me… only some of which I had to deliver my version of “no comment”, which apparently runs thusly:

“I wouldn’t be able to make a meaningful statement at this time.”

The secret is not letting on that I struggle for coherence most of the time.

Protected: A tale of woe

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