I am not a huge fan of reviews, but yes, I do check them out. Usually my heart starts pounding as I read, fearing I’ll be mentioned in a negative way. This time I can rest easy.

From Paul Hertelendy:

The beloved hit number here is the slow movement with the spiritual-like theme (later in a vocal adaptation dubbed “Goin’ Home”), rendered with exquisite poise by English hornist Patricia E. Mitchell.

And on San Francisco Classical Voice, from David Bratman:

Patricia Emerson Mitchell’s English horn solo here, vibrato-filled and emotional, was a highlight.

… and I’m honored. Truly. Thank you both.

But of course if I accept these positive and kind words, I must also accept the negative. And the ONE review I have by memory, from 1975 or 76 is this: “The Overture was marred only by the bland English horn playing.” (She was right: I had water in a key so I had to play Berlioz Roman Carnival’s English horn solo softly and not do ANYTHING with dynamics, for fear of a huge wrong note coming out. The water had completely covered the key hole and it was as if it wasn’t opening!) I don’t remember any positive reviews. Only the bad stick in my head. I know another negative one, but don’t have it by memory: we were doing Sibelius’s Swan of Tuonela and I really just couldn’t grasp the work at my young age. The reviewer wrote something like “even Patricia Mitchell wasn’t at her best” or some such thing. (He was right.)

But anyway, being back on stage was frightening for the first night’s rehearsal, but after that I felt as if I managed to find my sea legs (or I guess stage legs!) and things fell into place. The English horn felt like “mine” again … as if it was part of my body. That’s what I want. And I could do things with dynamics that I love to do.

I had mentioned somewhere (Here? I can’t remember!) that I would write about the kind words I received after rehearsals and concerts, so now I’ll ‘fess up.

First rehearsal: Some folks complimented me. I didn’t deserve it. I played “okay”, but it wasn’t really me. Not even close. So I worried. The next day I spent in a bad place as I fretted over what I felt was very under par playing.
Second rehearsal: Ahhhh … felt so much better. Compliments accepted BUT … well … I always have a “but” … if they complimented me on the first night when things weren’t good, perhaps things weren’t as good as I think for this second night?! Hm. Still, it did feel better. BUT because I was complimented fear set in: what if I disappoint these friends who had kind words for me? What if this was the only night I was happy with things? What if I do something absolutely horrendous at a performance and am entirely humiliated? (Yeah, I honestly go through all of this … it’s kind of a lose-lose situation I put myself into sometimes!)
Dress rehearsal: I played 22 notes. There was no time for more. It felt fine, but I didn’t really have a chance to figure out if it was what I wanted to do.
1st Concert: Felt great. Played as I like to play. But was it just my imagination? I received very kind compliments. OH DEAR! What if I disappoint everyone tomorrow? (Can you believe I do this to myself? One friend who used to play with us got it … she used to always come up ONLY after the final performance, because she completely understood my neurosis!)
2nd Concert: Felt even better. But again, insecure and ridiculous me wonders if I only imagined it. But I trashed those thoughts. I was happy with my playing and I know I have to hang on to that!

Yes. That is how crazy I am! I may as well be up front about it. I’ve been this way forever. There is just this constant inner conflict between the “I think I’m pretty good!” and “I’m a sham!” It’s always been that way, so I doubt it will change.

What HAS changed is that I can tell the negative voice to shut up. It still sticks around, but at least I talk back to it now. I think that’s what many of us have to do — I don’t believe I’m the only one who struggles with this. We have to acknowledge the negative voice. We have to accept that it is going to show up. But we can yell at it. We can tell ourselves that that voice is, very often, a lie. We can tell ourselves, when it’s true anyway, that we DID do a good job. And then we can go on. No matter what, we have to go on. There are more concerts to be played!

2 Comments

  1. You are not alone, Patty. Maybe just more honest…

  2. I suspect many would say I should never admit these things, Bob. But I just can’t help myself: I prefer to remain honest and open, hoping it helps some younger musicians out there. Heck, maybe even helps some older ones!

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