Due to Covid19 the planned International Society of Music Education Conference to be held in Helsinki was cancelled. However, presenters who had been accepted to deliver papers at the conference were invited to present online. Rae’s presentation is part of the Forum for Instrumental and Vocal Teaching which combines with a special interest group focusing on Musicians Health and Wellness.
The performances listed on my website are few, since in spite of my active career for more than 15 years as a concert pianist, I have little record of those performances. Both radio and television recordings were on large expensive reel to reel tapes which were reused and not kept, and making a CD was something that never quite happened.
Therefore it was special for me last year to record a CD with my son-in-law Andrew Joyce and my daughter Julia. As well as a sharing of music with my own family, this CD has been something of a land mark in my personal story. Twenty five years ago I suffered a massive overuse injury, and the chronic pain that followed was to end my busy career as a concert pianist. Although, in time, my arms seemed injury-free, my pain system was out of kilter, and I was never able to play for more than 40 minutes without upsetting my whole nervous system. When I experienced a flare-up, it was as if the muscles would contract one after the other, creeping through my whole upper body and triggering a searing neural pain. In spite of seven years of therapy, when I tried every possible treatment in my search for recovery, I came to the realisation that my musical voice had to be channeled through my many talented students. Teaching is an exciting and rewarding career, but I have never quite recovered from not being able to play, even for my own pleasure.
During some down time following a brush with cancer three years ago, I started to play a little, and my wonderful son-in-law Andrew suggested that perhaps we could make a CD together. For many years he had wanted to explore song transcriptions, and this repertoire appealed to me as a reasonable goal. Brain research has progressed immeasurably in the last twenty years, and I now realised that all my previous treatments were based on symptoms; my pain moved around, and the practitioners would simply treat each location in turn. This was not the problem, and recent research has shown that chronic pain is due to a malfunctioning in the brain. Through my PhD research, I had learnt about the necessity of retraining the technique to find new neural pathways in order to overcome focal dystonia. Chronic pain is no different. I had to retrain my brain.
I took two courses, ‘The Lightning Process,’ and ‘Life After Pain” and both helped me to make sense of my pain reaction. The body doesn’t forget, even after all this time, and the memory associated with sitting at the piano was still there. Working towards the recording of this CD was not without flare-ups. However, my new knowledge helped me to understand and divert this reaction, so that after some months I was able to enjoy the recording days and emerge without significant problems. The joy of being able to make music again was overwhelming; I would never have dared to embark on this journey without Andrew’s encouragement, and am so grateful that he made this opportunity possible. It was a thrill too to be able to include my daughter Julia, and to enjoy working together for the first time since she became a professional musician. I feel truly blessed in being able to join them both on this CD, and calling our CD ‘Morgen’ after Strauss’ beautiful song seems fitting as a new dawn for the years ahead. It will be launched soon!
Rae de Lisle