Over the past couple of weeks I've been involved in various performances: horn in concert band; a flute obbligato with the community chorus; flute and alto flute with the Presbyterian Ensemble Christmas morning; guitar, horn and alto flute with the great nieces at the nursing home; and horn with the brass group and a pipe organ at an Episcopal Sunday service yesterday morning.
Something about playing flute or horn with voices really moves me and seems to put me in a much better position to experience flow. I didn't get there this time, but was tantalizingly close. I think it must have to do with my experiencing the intonation and the balance blend with voices as being far more delicate than, say, the concert band. I think that's also why I so enjoy playing alto flute with flute and cello, and playing horn in the brass group - getting that wonderful ensemble feeling seems much more in reach, and that wonderful ensemble feeling is a big (necessary?) part of flow.
Right at the beginning of this series of performances I got the very sad news that someone I've been close to for forty years had passed away. She was a wonderful musician, which always seems to make it worse. So while playing all this wonderful Christmas music, there was this constant undertow of sadness. People didn't seem to really notice a change in my playing, but I sure did. If I were a higher level player, maybe I could have played joyous music more successfully while feeling sad.
The other way not being a high level player came into play was having technique issues to clear away before being able to interpret the music on the various instruments. Were I to give up all instruments but one, I could spend way more time on technique so as to not be caught short when wanting to perform. I really enjoy making music on various instruments, but there's a price to pay in having to drill on the various technique deficiencies that pop up in phrases here and there when prepping for performances.
In several of these performances we used carols I'd transposed down into flat keys some years ago, having added a keyboard book in the new keys for piano/organ, and people really enjoyed our playing and sound, and we really enjoyed playing in the comfort zones of our ranges. It's sort of like the old hymns mentioned in the previous post. Simply putting music in easy to play keys, just like playing music people want to hear, is a very high reward endeavor and I'm sort of baffled more people don't do it.