Greetings, all. I had my Grade 8 exam yesterday afternoon. It was a fairly strange experience.
First let me say that the examiner was great. No complaints about him at all. I think he found it as strange as I did.
I was the last exam of the day. Fine, somebody has to go last. They were running early, so I pretty much went straight into the exam when I arrived at the center (which was a church). Again fine, 20 minutes of practice on the cheap electric in the practice room wouldn't make that big a difference.
The piano was terrible. It was an old (very old) and unresponsive Kimball grand. Between the horrid old piano and the bad acoustics of the church sanctuary, it sounded like a [email protected]#$ harpsichord. Furthermore, the piano was elevated on cast-iron risers, so the pedals where high (the pedals didn't bother me) and the bench was low. The bench was not adjustable, but thankfully they had some rubber floor mats that I put on top of the bench to raise me up a bit. (I like to sit high.) But all that I could live with and just laugh about.
I started with scales and chords, which were pretty much perfect. I wasn't very nervous, and my hands were fairly steady. (My hands always shake, as did my father's, but usually it doesn't interfere with my playing. I should have been a brain surgeon!)
Then as I was preparing for the Bach, a workman came in the side door and started fiddling with some equipment! The main entrance to the hall was guarded, but the side door was not. (And probably has to remain unlocked while the hall is occupied due to fire code.)
The examiner was very polite, explaining that we were having exams and needed privacy. But the workman didn't speak English! This went on for a few minutes, then finally I broke down and explained it to the workman in Spanish. When he finally understood, he left, but took his time about it. The examiner was unhappy about the disruption, but thanked me for assisting.
But get this - by the time the workman left the room, my nerves had really kicked in. My hands were shaking disastrously.
I made a stupid mistake in the first line of the Bach prelude, but the rest of it was pretty good. The fugue was nearly perfect - probably my strongest playing of the day. (BWV 875, Prelude and Fugue in D minor, WTC Book 1)
The Beethoven sonata movement (Rondo from Op. 14 No. 1) was okay - a few stupid mistakes due to nerves. Not my best performance.
The Brahms (Intermezzo in A minor, Op.76 No. 7) was pretty good - almost as good as the Bach fugue.
Sightreading was... well, it was sightreading. I think I did okay.
Aural was a mixed bag. Mostly good, but some stupid mistakes in sight singing and I don't think I did so well on describing musical features.
At least it's done now. After the exam, my wife and I went for tacos to our favorite Mexican taqueria (one of the advantages of living in Texas) and then went on a six mile evening hike.
Now I'm just keeping my fingers crossed for a good score. I know I passed, and most likely got merit. Hopefully the examiner kept the disruption in mind when scoring my playing!