Impromptu

The audience is audibly awaiting:
chattering, anticipating, alert.
Now obbligato applause, a white noise,
greets our soloist, striding then still,
biding by keyboard, lid glinting, spotlit.

A waltz by Chopin, a mazurka or two,
insinuate themselves into the silence.
Tinkles and ripples and staccato notes
stipple the auditorium airwaves.

Seconds pass, minutes; a barcarolle beckons us
for an aural tour right round Europe,
through France and Poland and then into Italy.
But now a crescendo glissando, fortissimo:
an impromptu motorbike adding its basso
to the soundscape again and again.
And again. Then diminuendo.

Now, as Greig’s trolls begin their march
a monotone idée fixe intrudes
its extruded ostinato from the street:
the persistent trill of burglar alarm riffing its repetitive roundelay.
Through the Norwegian notturno it rings
and on into rippling brooklet arpeggios
till suddenly conspicuous by absence.

Interval over, Fauré leads us back
to La Serenissima with a barcarolle.
His nocturne’s punctuated by a percussive bark,
subsiding, stifled, as cough-calming,
transcendental Liszt breathes un sospiro,
his sighs and harmonies du soir checking chair creak
and soft yet sonorous snores.

Tumultuous hail-like clatter greets our virtuoso.
He smiles, he acknowledges, he returns
and settles to our final reward:
Schubert’s G flat Impromptu.
You can hear a piano drop to pianissimo;
a few tear drops are shed, and shared.


Inspired by a recent recital given by Llyr Williams

4 thoughts on “Impromptu

    1. Calmgrove Post author

      Thanks, Dale. I confess this is mostly my experience as part of an audience: I used to be easily distracted whilst performing but over the years I’ve found myself more able to focus on the music of the moment. I think it’s the act of doing that allows that, because though I try hard to be an active listener that mental effort is less effective at blocking out extraneous noises and movement than physical input.

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      1. earthbalm

        Hi Chris. Part of the reason why I have performed so little solo with the acoustic guitar is because I’m easily distracted in that context. In folk clubs in particular, I’ll listen to the audience ‘harmonising’ and then find myself ‘lost’ and forgetting lyrics. I can’t ever recall having the same problem when playing electric guitar as part of a group. Currently, I’m infatuated with the electric bass in preparation for recording the bass parts of my ‘songs’. I wonder if I’d have the same problem playing bass live. I suspect not as I still have to think consciously in order to place chromatic notes effectively in walking bass lines or visualising / hearing ‘correct’ modes. Personally, I’m very much an active listener. Perhaps it’s the conditioning of my previous ‘career’? Apologies for the extended comment.

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  1. Calmgrove Post author

    No apologies needed, Dale, it’s interesting to hear your experiences in this respect. I wonder if, like me, you’re uncomfortable with being in the spotlight: I am happiest supporting, either accompanying or being in an ensemble, when—I don’t know—there’s maybe less chance of being judged, you’re focused on listening to and watching for cues, you get your satisfaction from the success gained by the entity you’re part of.

    You mention being an active listener: I think that’s part of the problem of being in the audience at a live performance, that other people are willy-nilly part of that ‘performance’ with their fidgeting, coughs and sniffs and it’s hard to ignore them, to cut them out and purely enjoy the music.

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