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Corwin Slack

Marked parts

March 20, 2008 at 4:38 PM

I 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...)
10. etc.

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!

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 20, 2008 at 8:55 PM
You are so right, Corwin! Thanks for bringing this up, it would save a lot of valuable rehearsal time. I had wondered if it was just me who was bothered by this lack in my own amateur orchestra. What does someone do if s/he is not the conductor or concertmaster but would like to help?
From Corwin Slack
Posted on March 20, 2008 at 9:56 PM
Karen, I suppose you could volunteer to "transcribe" the concertmasters parts to the violin and viola principals' parts. Actually if you're not a new member like me you ought to state an expectation of the conductor and concertmaster and see what they say.

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.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on March 21, 2008 at 9:40 AM
Laurie wrote something about this a while ago. I couldn't find it on a search so I have to rely on my memory. Laurie was playing in an orchestra with a famous solo violinist who gave copies of the score with his own markings to the players before rehearsals. She said that this made playing both easier and better. She noted that the solo violinist was a "big name," but I can't remember who it was. Laurie, can you fill in the details?
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 21, 2008 at 11:07 AM
I'm a pretty new member, this is only my second concert. For the first concert, I sat next to the concertmaster, who was himself filling in for the real concertmaster, who couldn't make it. And people were already asking me about bowings when I was sitting there. I get a little wiggy when I don't know the bowings. I find it hard to practice the part when I'm unsure how to bow it.

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.

From Corwin Slack
Posted on March 21, 2008 at 1:52 PM
Laurie wrote about a performance with Pinchas Zukerman. Zukerman sent his own set of parts. The concertmaster chose to take some liberties but Zukerman set it back to his way.

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.

From Karin Lin
Posted on March 21, 2008 at 5:56 PM
One of the reasons I left my previous community orchestra was a lack of leadership. The concertmaster didn't like the conductor sending out the parts to his colleague to be bowed for us (which he had been doing) so we spent an entire rehearsal debating every single slur in the New World Symphony. ARRRRGGGH!
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on March 22, 2008 at 12:48 AM
Thanks, Corwin. That's exactly what I was referring to in my comment about Laurie and marked scores.
From Corwin Slack
Posted on March 22, 2008 at 1:19 AM

The concertmaster of an amateur orchestra should be glad that a professional bowed the parts.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on March 22, 2008 at 7:19 AM
Interesting discussion - it should really be on the discussion thread...

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).

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 22, 2008 at 11:30 AM
Mendy, it is a skill. One that I really lack. I find I can follow the conductor and also look at the music and play and that's about it at the same time--and sometimes it's iffy remembering the conductor. I can't also keep looking at how the principal is bowing.

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.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on March 23, 2008 at 10:33 PM
Corwin, in a professioanl orchestra it is the job of the concertmaster to prepare the bowings ahea dof time unless the conducter has already chosen his own whihc is not uncommon with the great conducters. baremboim for example knerw what bpowing he wanted. it is the job of the librarian to make sure all the parts are bowed in accordance with these.
This is a really crucial issue to my mind because the cocnertmaster has a huge responsibilty for vizualizing , creating and inlfuencing the total sound of the whole orchestra. The tyrouble with amateur orchestras is they tend to pcik the @best` payer to sit as cm without recognizing the full responsibilty of that person towards the over sound and interpretation of a work. Thus, the secondviolins, violas, cellos all strat throwing in their bowing preference (many of them exclelnt in their own right) and the end rsult is a mish mash of ideas adding up to a less than whole totality.

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