March 20, 2008 at 4:38 PMI was invited to perform in a long established amateur orchestra. They had their first rehearsal for the upcoming concert a week ago (I was unable to be there). I went last night. It is a decent group but it is the same old story. No marked parts.
I know this is largely preaching to the choir but if you are the concertmaster or conductor or music director of an amateur or student orchestra (I am presuming that this isn't a problem in professional orchestras) please do not go to the first rehearsal without parts with marked bowings --all of them. Better yet send them out in advance.
Once upon a time orchestras passed out printed parts. Marking all the parts was a job for the librarian and it was time consuming, tedious, and error prone. Now most buy a set of parts and photocopy the concertmaster's or principal's marked part and distribute it. This isn't that hard to do.
It is totally disrespectful of volunteer time to not have marked parts available. Leadership entails responsibility. Take it seriously.
I spoke to one musician friend about this. He says that you can effectively double your rehearsal time by
1. Marking all bowings
2. Marking all changes in dynamics
3. Marking articulations, ritardandos
4. Indicating conducting pattern (e.g. fast 4/4 passage conducted in 2, slow 6/4 passage conducted in 6)
5. Indicating tempo changes especially where change is a multiple of the previous tempo (quarter note = half note, mm 120-124
6. Adding measure numbers and verifying rehearsal numbers and where necessary adding supplemental rehearsal markings (A1, A2).
7. If you have a good one indicating a fingering for a challenging passage
8. In expressive passages marking where you want audible shifts to occur
9. Marking or emphasizing the string you want a passage played on (e.g. all on the G string until...)
He conducts a junior high school orchestra for a summer music clinic. He always receives comments on how well his first rehearsals go. He says its no secret. He marks everything well in advance and sends parts to attendees at least a month before the first rehearsal.
This is the most tiresome aspect of playing in an amateur orchestra. Strike for marked parts!
If I am invited to play in any more amateur orchestras I am going to ask about marked parts first thing. No marked parts = no play.
This concert, the real concertmaster is back, but her part isn't necessarily marked either. She was picking up the music at the first rehearsal the way I was. (I know, that's one mistake right there that I won't make again--the music was available a week earlier and I should have gotten it then). And for this concert I'm way in the back of the section, sitting with whoever shows up that week.
The conductor gave us some bowings for the Haydn symphony a couple of rehearsals ago, on the fly. He had us play passages a couple of different ways and then decided what he wanted. I must say, it was a real relief to just get the bowings and know I was doing the right thing.
I tend to be intimidated by talking to conductors, but I could offer to transcribe the parts next week.
I presume that all professional orchestras pass out marked parts. I hope someone will correct me if I am wrong. If they don't then shame on them for asking for more money when they don't use the rehearsal time they have well.
The concertmaster of an amateur orchestra should be glad that a professional bowed the parts.
In my community orchestra (at least in the viola section), we haven't collectively marked our bowings. It really hasn't bothered me much now that I think about it. I tend to follow the bowings of the principal by watching, and don't have much of an issue changing bowings quickly to "follow the leader". My teacher calls this a "skill". (I follow his bowings to a tee during lessons no matter how much he mixes them up - on purpose).
And when you're in the back of the section you might have people between you and the principal who are doing something different too and not even be able to see him/her.
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