May 28, 2015

The First Day

Filed under:News! — Aileen @ 11:48

Hi everyone! It’s been quite the adventure already. My flight to Bari was delayed about an hour and a half while we waited for some little old ladies to be delivered on wheelchairs. I had been worried about getting from Bari airport to the main station but the airport is tiny and there a good reason service into the main station, where I easily got another train onto Taranto. That would have been perfect only the train broke down halfway there and we had to wait for a bus. I got to the apartment where I stay at about 8pm. Phew!

So you can imagine that it’s a little nerve-wracking, travelling all day before a competition and not getting to practice. What I like to do in these situations is revise my score: I get a cup of coffee, find a quiet place and think through all my notes. I try to imagine myself in the hall and imagine the sound. It works well for me.

The building where the competition is, is about 2.5km from where I stay so I left about 45 minutes before I had to be there. It’s a nice walk along the sea. The rules say, you present yourself with your ID at this room in this building at 9am. I had done my research and had marked the exact building on Google Maps and thank goodness for Street View! I could see what the building looked like. Which is just as well because outside, there was no sign whatsoever! In through the main door, to one side, was this:


See that small poster? That’s the sign for the competition. No information, mind, just the poster. In you go there, up to your left, down the hall, there’s a room with a door open – this is where we go. Here is a small room with two big tables, about three chairs and a lot of tired-looking, silent young adults.  We queue to show our documents and sign the roll.

We wait about ten minutes to make sure everyone who is coming has a chance to arrive, then a person is asked at random to pick a name from the jar. This person’s surname starts with P, so the running order starts with him and progresses alphabetically from there.

The people who do not play immediately are divided into groups and taken to another building where we can practice. The groups are small so I shared a room with another girl, we each had about 90 minutes. I was playing before her, so I went first, and then when we swapped I went to find something to eat. Then I changed beside the main hall, I warmed up on the piano provided downstairs and then played just before the jury took lunch break.

I was mostly happy with how I played, though it wasn’t perfect. The piano was quite deep and hard to manage – repeated notes became stuck, things like that. But you can’t complain because everyone is the same and nobody got to try it out beforehand. That said, it was an old Steinway and I liked the colour very much.

After lunch, I stayed quite a while and listened to others. Some were marvellous, others were awful. By this stage, a lot of the people I had been chatting to in the morning had also finished and we grew into a little band – I had second lunch with a Lithuanian and Italian, and shared a lovely late afternoon coffee with another Lithuanian, and dinner with a German. We all have a good laugh together, the camaraderie is fantastic.

Eventually, the results were posted at *11pm* – only eleven out of fifty passed to the next round. Even some of the fantastic playing I had heard earlier in the day didn’t pass. Needless to say, I also didn’t pass. The only solution?


Drinks with new friends! I’m here until Saturday so I look forward to listening to all of the others in the next rounds.


May 26, 2015

When in Rome…

Filed under:Music,Travel — Aileen @ 12:10

Hi everyone! I figured this is as good a time as any to come out of hiatus. Usually when you see a blogging lapse like this either something bad happened (it hasn’t, thankfully) or the blogger reappears with an addition, like a baby (let me check…nope!), or a new job. I’ve been preparing for some competitions. I did some small Irish ones in March and April. Now, this month (like, right now), I’m doing a small one in the south of Italy. Next month, in about three weeks, I’m doing another, bigger one in Milan in June. I figured if I’m putting so much effort into preparing the music, I should do more than one while I’m at it.

So, today I’m en route. This is my little postcard from Rome airport while I wait for my connection down to Bari. I think it’ll be fun to show you what it’s like to ‘do a competition’. (Some native readers might be wondering why I am traveling to do a competition when the Dublin International competition is on at the moment – I’m too old to participate. I did it in 2006 but didn’t pass the Irish round.)


I’ll spare you the tedium of negotiating airports, save that they are all the same – I fly south to Bari in about an hour and then take the train even further south to a little town called Taranto. I guess it’s about the size of Galway. I booked a room in an apartment through Air B&B. I’ve never used this before so I’ll let you know how it works out.

Tomorrow, I report at 9am for the lottery (I’ll explain in better detail after it happens). Everyone plays in the first round tomorrow, too. We all get to play for 15 minutes. Thursday, about half of us will pass to the second round and you play 45 minutes for that. Only a few will pass to the final on Friday, which is a free programme of 30 minutes. I don’t expect to be a finalist but I would love to pass the first round. Keep your toes crossed for me!