Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Christmas Carol: A True Story

.At the end of November, I received an inquiry from a new customer at GraceNotes, the business through which I provide program annotations, writing, and editing services for classical musicians and ensembles ( ). Here’s that first message, followed by the entire correspondence I had with this young musician. (I’ve edited the messages for clarity and to protect my client’s privacy; I also added a few explanatory comments in square brackets.) Merry Christmas.
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[From London] – Dear Sir or Madame, I am preparing for my Diploma on Piano for the end of December. I have already written my Program notes but I would like that someone proofreads them for me as I am originally from Barcelona and I may make mistakes in English. Please let me know if it would be possible for you to do so. I found your webpage and services very reliable. Thank you very much.” [The attached program notes were for a prelude and fugue by Bach, an Intermezzo by Brahms, and an early Beethoven sonata.]
[From Connecticut] – Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, wonderful! I have just read Jan Swafford’s wonderful biography of Brahms. Yes, I can proofread your notes. Please let me know when you need to have it done, whether you want just proofreading (looking for spelling errors, etc.) or if you also want some light editing to adjust stylistic matters, etc. … Sarah

[From London] – I have also read Jan Swafford’s biography of Brahms and I found it very factual and useful to understand his music. Well, I’d like if you could just proof-read my programme notes. I have allowed other musicians to read them and they say the content is good, so I think if you could just check that the grammar and expressions are correct it would be enough. But, of course, if you see anything very wrong about the content please let me know! I need them for maximum the 18th December. I live in London … I thank you for your answer and hope that you like them. Kind regards…

[From Connecticut] – Your notes are very nice - I enjoyed reading them. I do see some areas that I think could be strengthened with some light revisions - just the adjustment of a word here or there. [There followed some discussion of work to be done and my suggested fee, which was a student rate, about half of what I would normally charge.] I can take care of it today and get it back to you this evening so you have time to make changes. Let me know if that is OK with you. I hope your recital is wonderful. I am also a pianist (and singer) and I love to play Bach above all. This week I have been playing Brahms, though; I recently sang in four performances of his Requiem and have had his music very much in my ear. … Sarah

[From London] – Dear Sarah, I am sorry but I cannot afford to pay your fee. I am student and I work as well to pay my studies’ expenses and I have to be careful because my budget is very low. I have had a look at your webpage and it’s fantastic all the information from different areas that you can find it in there. I enjoyed it a lot. Thank you very much for your interest My best wishes…

[From London, a week later] – Dear Sarah, I have been ill during this past week so I couldn’t do a big search to ask someone to proof-read my programme notes. My Diploma is on Monday and I need it so urgently.... I have asked my family to help me and pay for it. I would love if you could have a look at them as all the other proof-readers I’ve found don’t know about music. I have changes some things to make them more appropriate to a bigger range of audience. Please let me know what you think. They should be for an audience who are familiar with music but not musicians themselves. For a generalist audience. I think I may have included too much technical terms... Please change or modify anything what you think would make them more appropriate. I am sorry to have emailed you so late. I have had a very bad flu and I had to stay in bed and do nothing for days, and I don’t have access to internet at home. I would be very thankful if you could inform me as soon as possible if you would be able to have a look at the programme notes before Friday night. I’ll pay the amount you think is convenient. Thank you very much. My best wishes…

[From Connecticut] – Hello…I am sorry you are ill! I seem to be on my second round of cold and flu, too… Yes, I can review your notes [and send the revisions to you tonight]. … I remember what it was like to be a student without money! In lieu of your paying me a fee, I would be delighted if you would make a donation to your favorite performing ensemble, or perhaps give some free or-low cost piano lessons to kids who might not otherwise be able to pay. ... Sarah

[From London] – Thank you very much. … Please, tell me if you really want me to pay, I’ll do it. I teach music to children while studying (I have to pay the rent!). If you really wish it I’ll teach one hour free to one child who his parents have problems with money and can’t come so often. He is 6 and has an amazing capacity for playing but overall for inventing his own music. Now we have started to write it down and he loves it so much that he says he wants to be a composer! Please, tell me whatever you want and I’ll do it. It is already a gift to be able to meet someone who still having human values and believe on people. ...

[From Connecticut] – Hello … Here are your program notes, with proofreading and light editing all done. These are very nice notes! I enjoyed reading about each piece. I corrected the spelling and grammar issues as you suggested, and also restructured a few sentences to make them easier to read. I hope you are pleased with the results. I did spell-check, but you should also read it over carefully to be sure it is as you wish. Good luck on your recital! I hope you are feeling much better and can enjoy the great music you have chosen. Now, if you would give a few lessons to that promising young musician you mentioned, I would consider myself well paid for the two hours I spent to revise your notes. Over the years, I have benefited from colleagues’ assistance, so I can pay that back by helping you this time around. The world needs good music and musicians...and we are part of that! Best of luck, Sarah

[From London] – Dear Sarah, Thank you very very very much for your revision. I loved the way you understood the meanings of my sentences and you modified its structure without changing its content. Thank you very much..... Your way of writing programme notes is beautiful! I promise you I am going to give that boy at least four free lessons. I would like to enter him to do a young composer’s competition but he needs help. His parents can’t afford to pay for more. You made me a great Christmas present, and I offer myself to help you in anything I can be useful. [Here, the client offered to do free translations for me in her native language and in two other languages!] I am very thankful to you and I wish you have a wonderful Christmas surrounded by your loved ones and by the most eternal and loyal love: MUSIC. Good wishes for the New Year!

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If this story moves you, perhaps you’ll also find a way to help someone in a meaningful way. This was my best Christmas present this year.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful story, especially at Christmas. It makes me want to pay it forward also!


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