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The Very Sung Hero - A Blog Series about my last minute engagement with the Bay Atlantic Symphony

Amy Beth Horman

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Published: August 20, 2014 at 12:01 AM [UTC]

Photo credit Art C New Jersey

I am writing this blog series to detail what has happened since I was asked to step in as the replacement soloist with the Bay Atlantic Symphony last weekend on the Brahms Violin Concerto.

I have entitled this blog series "The Very Sung Hero" because my willingness to step in and help in this situation was met with incredible appreciation and warmth from all involved. It was an experience I have had before on occasion but never on this short notice on something so large and it was somewhat of an exercise in faith for me. Faith in good technique, training, and strength of spirit.

I hope it inspires a few and that it ignites some conversation about how our bodies store information, the longevity of muscle memory, the value of deep focused practice, and the strength of the human spirit combined with music this powerful.

Tuesday is a fairly regular day in the studio with people in and out for lessons and my own practice taking place in between. Perfectly routine until a text message comes in. My children are out of the house so I check the text to see if it is anything important. It states a “violin emergency” is taking place in NJ. Their soloist has pulled out due to injury on the Brahms Concerto and they need a replacement for this weekend. My heart skips a beat.

I haven’t played the Brahms with orchestra in a few years so it isn’t completely under my fingers but I have performed it quite a bit with orchestra in my lifetime. I wonder if it is just lying dormant in my reflex memory ready to go. I do teach it pretty frequently. I excused myself for a second from my student and got my head together. I texted the conductor back that I would love to help and will get back to him by 4 after lessons are at a break. There are more than a few things to consider.

The Brahms takes physical strength in both hands that is not always called upon in other concerti. I just performed the Prokofiev No. 1 in June so I am in good physical and technical shape and this is a blessing. But it is 45 min long and has a considerable cadenza. The second movement is not for the faint of heart either. I try and remember my last performances and what it felt like to play it with the orchestras. Glorious…but incredibly challenging. Can I do this? Do I know someone else I can refer?

The conductor is a great musician and we are already booked to perform together on the Mendelssohn in December with another orchestra. This would be my fourth collaboration with him so I do know him and his work very well which is reassuring. But I definitely don’t want to let him down and the question remains as to whether I am capable of such a tall task. More details are texted in to fuel my inner questions. Rehearsals start on Friday. I wont be able to practice until Tuesday evening because students are already on the road coming to me for lessons leaving me with practice on Tues evening, Wed, Thurs, and then a long drive to NJ on Friday. That is not even two and a half days of practice. My heart sinks for a second.

I called my husband and with two toddlers in a grocery cart in the cashiers line he said yes very quickly. Of course I can play the Brahms at the weekend. Always supportive, he sees no issue. He will simply be with the kids and stay at the house holding down the fort. He has never heard me play the Brahms so he isn’t quite sure what it entails which makes me smile.

Can I cancel my whole schedule? We are in the tail end of workshops in my private studio. The kids have accomplished so much and timing is important to me so I don’t want to delay the end classes for things. So I start emailing inquiring about flexibility in group scheduling. My students are happy for me, wondering where it will be, if they can go, even happy to change the schedule. So everyone at work is giving me the thumbs up.

I suddenly remember my 4-year-old daughter has a Washington Ballet audition on Saturday we will need to move it since it is the only one of the year. All three kids (ages 2, 4 and 15) have pediatrician appointments to reschedule. Two of our kids are changing schools this year so there is that transition and orientations, parent meetings, etc. Life is never simple. But when I am fluid enough solo work is something I manage to do very regularly. I love it and it is a part of my training and who I am.

After 20 minutes of pondering it still comes down to one question. Can I raise up this concerto and everything it requires in 2.5 days? I am able to embrace that it might not be my cleanest performance of the Brahms but there has to be some standard set in my mind so that this beautiful music is delivered. Where is that line on short notice?

So I did what any solo violinist who was trained to play this concerto would do in my circumstance. Before I said yes, I picked up the violin, closed my eyes and heard the running 16ths that precede the opening…then I ripped into the first page cold. And then, with a look of determination on my face, I called him back and said yes.

Stay tuned for more of this blog series. Next up: DAY ONE Practice.

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