Saturday, December 13, 2008

Prednisone, Paolo, and the Piano

Accidenti, I've nearly lost my voice. I've made it this far into fall with no noticeable allergic reactions. I've refrained from raking leaves, I've taken Claritin, I even stopped taking morning walks once the leaves covered the ground.

Except we did go for a walk last Sunday. Maybe that's what did it. I don't know. I just know that two evenings ago I noticed a scratchiness in my throat, yesterday my head felt congested, and this afternoon I began to sound like an alto who can't speak much above a whisper.

And tomorrow is Lessons and Carols. The "Hallelujah Chorus." "Lux Arumque." "O Holy Night." And many more. And I don't know if I'll be able to sing or not. I'm so very scocciata.

I called a kind doctor friend and asked if it would be safe to try taking our dog's Prednisone, as I had taken Prednisone in the past to get my voice back quickly. Kind doctor friend did not recommend taking Paolo's pills, but did call in a prescription for me. It all happened just in time for me to get to the pharmacy before they closed. We shall see if it has enough time to work its magic by 4pm tomorrow, 3pm for warming up....

Oh, how I hope so. The stuff tastes absolutely horrible. I took the first pills with warm tea, and then had a spoonful of sorghum, and still could taste that awful bitterness in my mouth. Bleah. I hope my sacrifice is worth it.

It will be rather a let-down if I don't get to sing, though I'm trying to just imagine how lovely it will be to sit in the pews and soak up the music. It will be lovely, if I'm not coughing!

It is something of a consolation that we had our piano tuned today. Our piano tuner is such a kind and friendly man that just having him here probably boosts the immune system.

And it's so nice to have the piano tuned! I've been having it tuned every six months, so it doesn't get terribly out of tune. But it is in a room with a sliding glass door, so I know the humidity and temperature changes affect it a good deal, and it does need that six-month tuning. I don't have perfect pitch, but I do have a quite sensitive sense of pitch. So my ears are happy each time the piano gets a tune-up.

Moreover (don't use that word very often!), something has been wrong with the damper pedal for quite some time. I thought I mentioned it last time the tuner came, but maybe not. At any rate, it was still the same after he left. Which caused me to fear that perhaps it was something so slight that he hadn't noticed it, or that I was imagining it, or that perhaps it was something that nothing could be done for.

But it was driving me crazy.

When I used the damper pedal, I could feel something with my foot that just felt funny, like it was catching or something. And it seemed that it was causing the keys to stick, and the sound to blur, but not terribly. Just enough to make me wonder if I were imagining it.

But I didn't think so.

So today I made a point of telling him about this, describing it as best I could, and making sure he checked on it.

And, yea! He did check it, and found that somehow the damper pedal dowel was getting mixed up with the mechanism of the sostenuto pedal....blah, blah, blah....I know this means nothing to anyone who doesn't play piano.

But it means a lot to me, and it is corrected, and I sat and played through Brahms' Rhapsodie in G minor, with all its fire and passion and sonority, and all that pedaling, and all my mistakes....and everything responded the way it was supposed to, and it's in wonderful tune, and that was enough to make me forget my stuffy, achy head and voice-gone-missing for a while.

In fact, as soon as I finished the piece and stood up, I noticed how cold it was. That's pretty cool, that playing piano can keep you from noticing that your body is cold. The brain is a fascinating thing.

Hmmm. I wonder if could manage to take the prednisone while playing piano, and see if that distracted me from the bitter taste....


Lucy said...

I can't believe you were going to take poor little Paolo's prednisone!

Hope it goes well, and you manage a squeak. You're so lucky to have so much music in your life!

Your shamrock is beautiful. I'm going to send you my real-mail address, and you send me yours.

Sheila said...

Joy, joy, joy!

The prednisone worked! My speaking voice is still low (in pitch and volume), but I was able to sing both services, even the high A's, and do the wonderful Isaiah reading (the peaceable kingdom passage.)

There is nothing, just nothing, like beautiful music sung live in a place with great acoustics. And in this case, a brass quartet and timpani. Oh, and a cello.

Somehow, at the 4:00 service, no one stood up for the Hallelujah Chorus. And it was just magnificent; I have sung it probably a hundred times in my life (mostly in college), and never felt such energy. I cried. When we finished, one man stood and yelled, "Bravi!" as if he might explode had he not. And then the whole church was up and applauding, and this is not an Italian opera house, so that was so unexpected, and it was just wonderful.

It is always a little strange to come back to "real" life after such things. I actually think the other is more real, in a way. The peaceable kingdom will last forever, no kingdom on earth will.

But it's over, I'm home, and life moves on along.

(And I assure you, Lucy, that I would have replaced Paolo's prednisone before he ran out! The poor little guy scratches an awful lot if I ever miss a dose.)

annie said...

Hearing about your piano tuner makes me feel cozy. It seems like a quaint and fading profession that one doesn't hear about often these days. (One doesn't often hear about pianos these days, either, unless one is in very classically musical circles.)

And hooray for recovering your voice to sing in such a special experience.

Lucy said...

Oh great! Your follow up comment deserved a post in itself!

Nice to see Annie here. Comment verification is 'sgosis', which sound like a special form of gnosis...