Thursday, December 14, 2017

Celebrating 200 Years

Today’s coffee: Christmas blend

I had been planning this party for at least the last five years. My cello, built in 1817, turned 200 this year; how could I not have a birthday party?

Since it would be my cello’s birthday party, it had to be a concert, so I searched for music to perform. Beethoven wrote two sonatas in 1816--close enough. When to celebrate? Shino and I were occupied with the Rachmaninov sonata until the end of October, so we picked Shino’s birthday on December 3, giving us just enough time to learn Beethoven’s 4th sonata and refresh Beethoven’s 1st sonata, which we played at our first concert together at Christmas in 2009. Where to hold the party? It’s a birthday party, not a formal concert. We decided to try having a concert at home. It would be a good test-run for future arts ministry, anyway.

And yet… a concert at home, especially in Japan, comes with a number of challenges. I invited probably 50 people, and expected about 30 to come; where would they put their shoes or hang their coats or park their cars? I quickly figured out solutions for shoes and coats, but the parking problem actually kept me up at night. We can only fit two or three cars in front of our house (if it doesn’t snow). Thankfully, a friend from church was able to arrange for us to use a local preschool’s parking lot in exchange for the promise of a mini-concert for the kids in the near future. Another friend from church agreed to help welcome guests when they came and direct them to the parking lot.

Then, of course, a birthday party needs cake. I made three: butterscotch cheesecake (since Shino likes cheesecake), a persimmon cake with dried fruit (seemed kind of festive and English, since my cello was built in London), and a classic rainbow chip cake out of a box (as I explained to non-American guests, this was the birthday cake when I was a kid).

As we got closer to the big day, I was starting to wonder if I had made a mistake. This was a lot of work… and I’m still on leave for burnout. There were probably 40 party-related items on my to-do list. But part of being on leave has been a chance to remember and rediscover who I am--that God made me creative, and that he gave me a desire to make my home into a haven for us and for our friends. With that conviction, I kept on with the preparations, promising myself a very quiet December.

When we moved the furniture around and took the double-doors to the tea room and music room out of their frames, we discovered that if we set up for a concert in the living room, about 30 people could comfortably watch from all around. (I had lost count of who had said they were coming, so I gave up trying to remember and prayed for 30.) The kotatsu (low table with a heater underneath) ended up in the tea room; I was somewhat regretful that I would not be one of the people watching the concert from the comfort of the kotatsu. (Next time, perhaps.) Finally we brought lamps and candles from all over the house so we could avoid using the icky fluorescent overhead lights.

Clutter organized, furniture rearranged, atmosphere created, table set. Then we just had to wait for the guests to arrive. I forgot that in Japan, every concert invitation/advertisement will include the “open” time--what time guests can enter the hall. So some people came very early, and others came late. I made the mistake of having coffee during that pre-concert period, when adrenaline alone would have done just fine. The performance ended up being rather more… energetic than it otherwise would have been.

The event went over pretty well, I think. The guests seemed to enjoy themselves. There were even some old friends reunited who hadn’t met in years. The performance wasn’t perfect, but it never is (the problem being that mistakes in Beethoven are a lot more noticeable than mistakes in Rachmaninov). The general feeling seemed to be “let’s do this again,” because time spent together to enjoy art is time well spent. I’d say this was a successful experiment.

Now I’m having a very quiet December.

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