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Strolling and Holding on

Monday was not an ordinary day. Florence went back to work at th insurance underwriter in La Défense. I found out – since I stayed here – I liked to be surprised by the outside noise, to learn everyday was particular. Sunday morning was silent. Instead, when the week began, there were a lot of specific noise. Several engines got going, car doors were slamming heavier than usual. Then, the streets filled with pupils talking loudly.

This morning, I got several phone calls? Despite the pains of my soul and body which had not still accepted my old man stroll up to the chrch, these calls gave me hope. The organization of the summer festivals and gigs was going to remain under my artistic direction but ‘correpondencely” and “distancely”. This summer, everything will take place but without me. But I will be there for sure next year!

I was informed of the last details. Everything was alright. The places were arranged, the participants I employed were impatient. The programs were elaborated by the local managers (associations, choristers, friends, public servants, territorial agents) and the related departmental councils even brought capital in some cases and essential workers for the good organization. Sponsors who followed me and trusted us for years met my demands.

When the details were fixed, I felt perked up and ready to try new experiences. In order to create a diversion and especially not to lose time, I went to sit at the piano? The left hand played its scales while the right one tried to imitate – first hesitatingly – the to sing with it. It was laborious. I did focus, closed my eyes only thinking about how I had to measure out the fingers effort bit I was unable to do something. My fingers were numb, as hard as pieces of chalk, and hit the keys anyhow, like the fingers of a novice. However, as I insisted, I managed to play about with my two synchronized hands.

First, the C-scale which only pressed on the white keys. Then the G-scale which integrated a black key, the F-sharp. This insignificant change of appearance caused me a lot of troubles. The middle finger had to lean on the black key refused to unfold or slid and pushed the natural F. I started the exercice at least one hundred times but still no result.

I decided to take my viola. It was here, just in front of me, in its velvet box. Since I was back, I avoided to look at it, to listen to its silence in which I thought I made out an anguished call. I knew the both of us were gonna suffer because I won’t know how to wake upright away its voice full of force and majesty. I will be angry at my clumsiness. Very quickly, I realized I was inefficient and still had a long way to go in order to stand for France in “Timisoara International Music Festival”. I had always believed the wire instruments favored left-handed people because it was the left hand which made notes and the right one which made music with the bow, translated the most delicate feelings. It was like the breath, the air column and the lips of a trumpet player for instance.

Once I put in place the instrument, I noticed my fingers took correctly their place on the key. From this side, nothing had been spoilt!

On the contrary, the right hand was always messy. First at all, I tried to grab my bow. It was complicated to measure out the pressure of my middle finger in comparison to my thumb and in the same time, to adjust the place of the other fingers. After I tried carefully several times, I succeeded in and tried to touch the wires. Catastrophe: the bow slipped in an unpleasant meowing. Impossible to measure out the pressure of the wick, to direct it in order not to touch two wires in the same time. My right arm was out of control. I focused my whole attention on this so simple, usual move I couldn’t do. My disability to control my body turned into a fainted anger. I wanted to throw my viola against the wall like a capricious child and to give up my resurrection definitively. I screamed of rage. I’d like to cry. Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin ‘s looks – painted in the ivory – and the so tenderized one of my dog brought me to reason.

I finally calmed down… After I gesticulated and risked almost a disaster. Inside me, a voice – the voice of my conscicne – whispered I was wrong, too proud. I thought about my concert in Angouleme when I had done my first stroke without knowing it and I had managed to play the last times of “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” up to the end. My voice whispered to keep faith because everything will be OK.

Two hours later, I sat at the piano and started to soften my right hand. I had just put it under warm water and for about ten minutes, I played the C-scale. My left hand led the game and I was sure all my fingers progressed since the day before. It might only be an illusion but it was enough to give the taste to keep going.

In the same time, I set a strategy up: every morning, I will play scales for one hour to practise my right hand; 10 minutes of CDEFGABC without my thumb, just to measure out the impulse of my fingers. Then I will play the fisrt five notes of the G-scale with the F sharp. First, I will begin from E with the F sharp on my forefinger. Then, I will start with D with the F sharp on my middl finger and so on and so forth. Hard-working and tedious exercices but usual for professional musicians. It was my way – more motivating than pressing a plastic foam ball in ordinary rehability.

For the moment, my viola was going to stay in the box. I had – inside me – all my old reactions and I only had to wake them up. And it started with the piano.

I was in pain everywhere. No way I went to walk outside. Besides, it was rainy. My scales I repeated with my left hand until I was hurting badly gave me a little hope because the fingers of the right hand seemed to be suppler. The small improvement was enough for thr moment.

New calls at the end of the morning: the organization of the “French-Amercian Music Festival” in Thiais was on the right track. The elected representatives and the cultural service from the city hall will be there every night. My friends Marie-France, Audrey (a long-standing student, diligent for twenty years), her mom and my four boys will take care of the refreshment stall and the ticket office by turns. I was both really happy about it and bothered. Political men were generally not great music lovers and used this kind of events to enhance and highlight their actions for a so-called culture I didn’t like. This year, I couldn’t do many things and everything was “locked up” for a long time and everywhere where I should be. We’ll see next year!

On the afternoon, always under the careful, watchful look of our white golden retriever seated or laid next to me, near the piano, I played the scales tirelessly and added something new:I used my thumb to play seven notes in succession. At the beginning, I worked very slowly because my thumb didn’t obey and refused to follow my thumb from the left hand which had to move unlike. Little by little, I introduced a variation: the scale of the major with its three successive notes beginning with D. It was much more complicated than it seemed and I had a hell of a job stretching my fingers in order to press the black keys. But the impulse of the left hand helped and I did it plenty of times. I worked like that almost the whole afternoon without counting time. When the boys came home, they found me in front of the piano. Raphael – who understood very fast – realized how interesting these apparently futile exercices were. He went to look for his cello in his bedroom and played with me. This sound , different from myself, helped me a lot so much so that I rose my left hand and let the right one make its notes all alone. I was in harmony with the cello. Raphael knew me and understood I couldn’t wait for taking up in a small improvisation. He gave me a leg up and played arpeggios which indicated a melody line. Roles were reversed, the cello accompanied whereas the piano looked for melody. And it was pathetic. The melody I heard in my head was not understood by my fingers. It proved I still had to work, I had to do some little exercices with five notes as well as my scales and integrate a progressive rhythm. Every failure leads to success if you know how to understand and analyze it. Tomorrow, I will get things more difficult: I will replace the crotchets with quavers.

It was almost time to meet with the whole family. I had to go upstairs. I wanted to prepare the meal cooked “à la Michel” (my boys named that “daddy’s mixes”) and laid the dished by myself. The stairs didn’t scare myself, I knew I could do it with my half-right body which started to obey me. I began to be used to live with my numerous pains.