August 13, 2012 at 3:51 PMAs usual, the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra lacked string players this summer and wanted me to participate. I'm pretty consistent at declining, seeing as it would take up about five hours each evening, between the 90-mile round trip drive and the rehearsal itself, not to mention the obvious amount of practice time it takes to master any symphonic repertoire. All this takes place during my heaviest cooking load of the year: hockey camp. Working an eight hour shift as a commercial baker is no light physical task.
However, three weeks prior to the first rehearsal, I got an email from our conductor Tammy, saying that they wouldn't have any violists, and she wondered if I'd switch to viola. It would be me and guest-violist Michael Avagliano fromt he Madison string quartet. 1812 Overture? New World Symphony? Michael Avagliano? Sounds like a good story. I agreed and immediately began to schedule nightly increments with my 16" Jay Haide. My goal would be to knock the socks off everyone when I showed up and whipped out Tchaikovsky. Now to figure out alto clef...
Tchaikovsky begins with three flats, then adds three more, then switches to five sharps, then back to six flats, then none, then three. And I'm sure this is why it's so awesome, but it's hard to believe that it matters anyway, because it's so riddled with accidentals that the notes barely obey any key signature whatsoever, unless you really know your music theory and interval training. Then it all makes sense, and sharps and flats aren't any harder to play than anything else, thank goodness. Regardless, I warmed up with Mozart, first, to get my bearings before going to battle with 1812.
Likewise, the New World symphony lives up to its name. The viola part is chock full of modulating deedle-deedles and enharmonic puzzlements, so that each page holds its own share of surprises. But the colors! As I practiced, colors and shapes came so vividly to mind, I could visualize exactly what so impressed him upon his visit to America.
Between the two sensational beauties and the little Mozart gem, I had a pleasant workload in front of me. Not wanting to cheat, I refrained from listening to any recordings so that I would have to read the notes. Gradually, I became obsessed with mastering every single passage, so that hours slipped by effortlessly. I couldn't wait to meet all my violin friends and ace them with my viola.
Even better, I couldn't wait to meet Michael.
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