Updated: Jun 15
I remember a time when I felt fearless. I remember it as a young little girl, always exploring adventures on my own outside the house, playing and climbing secretly across fences into random neighbour's yards, and walking in dried up drains, pretending to be a ninja. I was ready to do anything in my imaginative world of play.
When I first came across this piece, I was drawn into its fiery, raging flow. But I was not fearless. I've never been good at fast pieces. To be honest, I've never felt I was good enough to execute technique to perform fast pieces such as this.
However, my teacher guided me very patiently through my lack of confidence, and in 6 months weaving in between teaching, mothering and lessons ... I was able to perform this for my studio recital. Fearless came back - I threw myself into unknown territory and performed it live.
I started my piano teaching business at a turbulent time. Only 6 months into the business, we were hit with the Covid pandemic and I was immediately thrown into a world of planning online lessons, and virtual recitals. There was chaos within that, but also chaos within myself. I related to this piece in many ways the pandemic had affected everyone's daily lives. There was a constant, uncertain storm brewing even with the calmness that the
lockdown brought to communities.
It was both emotionally, and physically challenging as with the movement of Scotch Poem (Op. 31, No. 2) by Edward McDowell. The frustrations I felt ebbed and flowed like a raging storm.
As I read the poem in which McDowell sought inspiration to composed the music, I felt a familiar sense of exploding emotions:
Far on Scotland's craggy shore,
An old gray castle stands,
Braving the fierce North Sea;
And from a rugged casement,
There peers a lovely face,
A woman's, white with woe.
She sweeps the harp strings sadly,
And sings a mournful strain;
The wind plays through her tresses,
and carries the song amain.
- Heinrich Heine
Revisiting this stormy piece today was exhilarating. I'm polishing this up for an exciting opportunity next year, which I shall not reveal at the moment. I enjoy feeling the ride with the storm when executing the sounds. It is also very relatable when the calm, harp-like section with the rolled chords, appears after the gloomy passages come to pass in the music, only to return again with a vengeance.
It sometimes reminds me of super windy days here in Grande Prairie, and some time back when I visited Edinburgh, Scotland. These winds are careless but strong, yet architected to flow or gust a certain way.
The woman character expressed in this poem allowed me to connect the depressing feelings of isolation I felt during the pandemic as a mother. There were times I wanted to cry, but couldn't. There were times I cried, alone behind closed doors, and couldn't stop sobbing. I had a heavy burden on my shoulders, and found many instances I could not say no, because as a mother and an educator, we sacrifice.
We sacrifice for our passion, for our children. As with all musicians, who find many ways to express and re-tell a piece, I will leave you with my version of Scotch Poem. I hope you enjoy this wonderful masterpiece by Edward McDowell.