Our Holiday Concert Performance

Last Sunday we played at the Christmas Concert of the Frauenchor Erkrath in the Stadthalle Erkrath. While Linda has performed in this concert for almost 20 years, it was the first time we both participated together. In addition, it was Linda’s debut performance on the piano (read about her piano preparations in our Blog: Pt.I and Pt.II).

We’re super happy that it went so well and wanted to share two selections from our performance. We hope you enjoy!

– J&L

 

Re-Learning the Piano pt.II

One month ago I wrote about starting to play the piano again and I’d just like to sum up my progress.

It’s been very fruitful and fun for me. I practiced the exercises I’d attached to the other blog entry and started to be more precise and strict with myself. Now I’m using the metronome with basically every exercise to refine my timing and to make my scales more smooth. It’s important to me, that the finger change is not hearable while I play. Furthermore I discovered that I would always look at my left hand while I play scales. So I tried to look at my right hand instead and it appeared that I was making far more mistakes with my left hand. My eyes had become a security web. So I started to practice with looking at my right hand. But after a while my right hand would make mistakes if I had looked at my left hand again. So I decided to practice the scales with my eyes closed. So far I’m pretty “fluent” with C-Major and a-minor, G-Major and e-minor, F-Major and d-minor, and currently I’m trying to master D-Major and b-minor.

I also discovered that my ring finger and my middle finger are not bending back anymore. They stay in a nice round shape. Only my pinkies have problems with the round shape. It looks like they fall into some kind of cramp and need to be stiff with the tip bent in to press the key down. But I’m confident, that this will eventually vanish as well 🙂

There is an interval exercise that has been an extra good help for my muscles. I tried to keep my hands as still as possible so that the fingers are doing most of the work. In addition to practicing with the metronome, for this particular exercise I use a timer as well to make sure that each finger gets the same “work-out time”. I started with 30 seconds and now do 60 or even 90 seconds per finger. It seems like the “posture” of my fingers evolves on its own through that.

I remembered that I had some exercises from my piano teacher at the Conservatory and I was able to find them. This is like a next level. I’m attaching them for everyone who likes those kind of finger exercises. For me practicing is almost like meditating. I love it!

–  L

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Re-Learning the Piano

Recently I started practicing piano again in preparation for our gig on December 16th.

I started taking lessons when I was 5 or 6 years old and stopped when I was 13 or 14. My mom says that I was really good and if I had continued I might now be just as good on the piano as Joe is. Parents tell you that you will regret stopping the lessons at that age of puberty when you’re just too lazy to practice. No kid will listen of course because they are the ones who have to do the work. But in the end the parents are right. Every adult who learned an instrument and stopped playing it at a certain age regrets it afterwards since they know what they could be capable of now.

I guess I’m proud to say that I am taking a turn there now. Instead of thinking about how good I could’ve become and feeling sorry for myself I’ve started to practice and re-learn the piano. I have some exercises that I created for my piano students last year and now I am the one benefitting from them. I figured it’s not enough to just learn the parts for the concert. I want to train the muscles in my fingers and slowly build up the skills to really play the piano. Now I am practicing every day and often an hour goes by without me even realizing because it is just so much fun! That was so different when I was a kid. 🤔

For anybody who feels inspired to do the same, below is a link to a PDF-file with some useful exercises to build up the muscles and independence of your fingers. 😉

Finger Exercises

– L

 

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Bohemian Rhapsody

Yesterday we saw Bohemian Rhapsody (in Germany it was released on Oct. 31st so we got an early start 😉 ) and we really, really liked it. The movie shows how Queen came to be, grew bigger, and particularly how Freddie Mercury evolved throughout this whole time. We liked how the movie tastefully hints at certain details (such as the crazy parties and Mercury’s sexual life) without being too graphic. It focuses on the music and the development of the band members and the characters around them. It was great to see how the dynamic of the band was on stage as well as in the studio, and even in private as friends. I also thought that it was a very interesting choice to let the movie start and end at the Live Aid Concert in 1985 (which by the way is an exact copy of the original; every movement was recreated just as it really happened!). Some information about Freddie Mercury’s life after Live Aid and his death (1991) are mentioned during the end credits next to pictures of the real Freddie Mercury.

Still, this movie is very inspiring since it shows how hard and passionately Queen worked their way to the top of the music industry. I was reminded of a quote by Quincy Jones who said, “I think you have to dream so big, that you can’t get an ego. ‘Cause you’ll never fulfill all those dreams. There’s always more to come and learn.” In this movie you continually see Queen attempting to reinvent themselves and do what had never been done before. Not only is Freddie Mercury (with his extraordinary taste in clothes and powerful stage presence) a huge part of the creative process, but also Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon. All of the band members needed each others input and were searching for that extra bit of different that made their music so exceptional. The whole band and their dynamics are portrayed in such a likable way, that as musicians, we left the cinema full of gratitude to be able to do the best job in the world.

It’s a fun movie with a lot of touching, entertaining, and funny scenes. It also features top-notch actors (who seemingly play their instruments) and of course many selections from Queen’s extensive catalogue. If you’re a fan of their music, you’re sure to enjoy this film!

– L

 

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3 Ocean Documentaries Worth Watching

When I finished my blog post yesterday I was thinking that I should advertise some of the documentaries Joe and I watched that we think are simply amazing.

 

The first documentary we watched with the ocean as the topic was Chasing Coral (2017). It describes how corals all over the world are dying due to global warming. Even a few degrees make enough of a difference that the corals are vanishing and what used to be a colorful, lively reef, slowly turns into a graveyard of coral skeletons. It’s disturbing and sad to see how quickly this beautiful world on the bottom of the ocean vanishes and since it’s so hidden from the eye of the everyday person, nobody really seems to care because they don’t know.

You can watch Chasing Coral on Netflix here and take action here.

 

We were shocked after watching this documentary and followed a recommendation on Netflix called A Plastic Ocean (2016). The writer Craig Leeson started to research the current situation of the ocean after noticing that more and more plastic was floating on the surface. He shows where plastic comes from, how it ends up around the neck of sea lions, in the noses of turtles, and in the stomachs of sea birds and how it turns beautiful beaches into landfills.

You can watch A Plastic Ocean on Netflix here and take action here.

 

Finally we learned of Dr. Sylvia Earle who is one of the leading activists for preserving ocean life. The documentary Mission Blue (2014) tells her life story and how she continually fights for the ocean. Mission Blue is also the name of her campaign which has the goal to create a global network of marine protected areas, so called “Hope Spots”. There is so much to learn in this documentary; not only about the marine life, but also about activism, being brave, and standing up for what is right.

You can watch Mission Blue on Netflix here and take action here.

 

Joe and I highly recommend these documentaries and if you have any recommendations yourself, thoughts, and/or other platforms where one can take action, please feel free to share!

– L

 

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The Ocean Cleanup

I feel like I’m pretty late with this but today I stumbled across this video about The Ocean Cleanup project.

I’ve heard of this before, that a young man from the Netherlands developed something that would filter the plastic out of the ocean in an easy and eco-friendly way but I never really researched this myself. So today, I researched briefly because I was very curious after watching this video. What is the story of this project?

It seems like it started with a TED Talk of the then 18-year-old Boyan Slat. He had this vision to clean up the ocean by fishing out the plastic.

5 years later, after tons of research, lots of crowd funding, and building up a team of over 80 engineers, researchers, scientists and computational modelers, The Ocean Cleanup could go into production. On September 8th 2018 the first cleanup system was finally launched into the North Pacific.

In another TED Talk I heard that the plastic in the ocean is like a sink that is flooding. It doesn’t help much to clean up the water on the ground, you have to turn off the faucet. In this context that would mean to stop the production of plastic first and then cleaning up what is laying/swimming around on landfills and in the oceans. But since it can take so long until laws change to force companies to produce less to no plastic (besides the possibility that the consumer avoids buying plastic as much as possible) it seems to be such a wonderful project to me. The Ocean Cleanup Foundation expects 50% less plastic in the ocean within 5 years, which I can barely believe. So I decided to write about this project so that others not familiar might become interested in knowing more and maybe even support The Ocean Cleanup.

You can fund the cleanup here

You can join the team here

And here’s a whole documentary about the project:

It’s just a very short blog post about the whole thing but it’s important to me to talk about this discovery and help spread the word, at least this little bit 🙂

– L

 

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