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Laurie Niles

October 24, 2004 at 5:32 AM

My stand partner leaned over just before the downbeat and said with a knowing smirk, “Now this is what I would call one of those 'character-building' gigs!”

He could not have said it better. What a crazy situation we were thrown into! And yet, somehow it all fell into place.

In order to stay within the Musicians Union's guidelines that define a “service,” we were playing a symphony concert that involved one forty-minute rehearsal, followed 20 minutes later by a one-and-a-half-hour concert. That's right, it was the only rehearsal for this particular concert.

That allows them to pay us just for one “service” instead of having to pay the orchestra for a separate rehearsal and concert.

Wait, did you just ask if we had the music in advance? Are you crazy? It was waiting for us on the stands.

Most people present had played much of the music in the fairly recent past, like the last year or two, with just a few sight-reading arias. Still...

I was sitting principal second violin, so I felt under a certain obligation to play the right notes at the right times. I felt really bad for the first violins, who had to plow their way through the first and last movements of Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony, which has a number of nasty licks that are on many major auditions. In general, second violin parts have their own challenges, with quirky rhythms, jarring octave changes, nonsensical backdrop stuff, etc. But the first parts are higher, harder, and more exposed, no doubt. Especially when reading a concert.

To make things a little crazier, it was a runout concert, to an isolated clubhouse in an isolated canyon about 60 miles away from the city. This small community had hired the orchestra to come out and play for them. Which is great!

But, under the circumstances, everything had to go off without a hitch. First, everyone had to find the place. With rather...well, totally wrong directions! But everyone arrived on time. And, the conductor had to keep his cool and work within the time constraints, which he did admirably.

This wasn't the only time I've arrived for a performance and thought, “You are totally kidding me, no way,” and then been amazed when it worked. It worked! And everyone loved it. They threw us a huge reception afterwards. People showered us with gracious compliments, expressed how happy they were to have this live music, to see us play, to have this opportunity for this kind of music in their community.

Now, of course, I would not want every performance to be like this. It is important to work at the art of music, to perfect things, to truly aspire to make a work of beauty.

But I also think it's important to occasionally, as a certain shoe company says, “Just Do It.” Not to be afraid of a rather, er, spontaneous playing situation!

From parmeeta bhogal
Posted on October 25, 2004 at 4:53 PM
I recently ran into my first floor neighbour (a cellist in our city orchestra), and politely said, "I'am really looking forward to the concert tomorrow" , to which he replied,"Oh I'm so glad you are coming, the way, what are we playing?"
Well, he is quite old but still...

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