Mistakes and the Beauty of Music

One of my hobbies is choral singing. Both in church choirs and at adult singing vacations in summer.

A choir director whom I follow tells the following about how professional muscians handle mistakes.

“The Baroque trumpet is really just a piece of bent tubing with a bell on one end and a mouthpiece on the other.

On a modern trumpet there are valves to change the effective length of the instrument, and thus to make notes more playable.

On the Baroque trumpet it’s all done with tiny and precise pressure adjustments of the lips with the difference between the notes shrinking as the range rises.

It makes the instrument famously difficult to play.

Historically, trumpet players have had big, bold personalities, something akin to fighter pilots. He or she must be confident in their abilities with even a touch of well-earned swagger.

A player hits a lot of notes, and makes them sound beautiful, but sometimes, a note will just fail to sound, or worse, come out in a loud and rather atonal squeak.

“What do you do when that happens in public?” I asked of a player who is a frequent soloist in the Messiah movement, The Trumpet Shall Sound, “like when you’re standing at the high pulpit playing out over the cathedral packed with 3,000 people?”

“How do you keep from having your confidence shaken for the notes that are yet to come after something goes wrong?”

I was speaking from experience. As an organist with many notes to play, some of them quite obvious if they go wrong, I’ve felt my confidence shaken after a mistake. Voices within berating me for many measures that follow. A wry smile came across his highly trained lips.

“I don’t even think about my mistakes,” he said. “I’m focused on the beauty of the musical line I’m playing.””

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