A team functions best when the members get along well. Inconsiderateness, cold shoulders, or personality conflicts can damage unit cohesion and degrade a performance.
But we're all human, and sometimes we get on each other's nerves! Thus is the case with stand partners - musicians who share a music stand in orchestra.
Sitting together in an orchestra presents all kinds of opportunities for interaction between two people - good, bad or something in between.
Ideally, it is an experience of considerate collaboration: playing together, carefully marking the part with the conductor's suggestions, adding reminders like fingerings judiciously and in the proper place (outside on top, inside on bottom). Harmonious stand partners know who is turning pages and work to make that easy. They ask, "Can you see the conductor okay? Would it help if I scooted over a bit?" They come prepared, they count the rests. They know mistakes are part of the process and simply work on their own issues, without trying to one-up the person beside them. And a bit of friendly conversation is the icing on the cake.
But sometimes it's a more prickly partnership. There is no accommodation, communication is strained, and judgment abounds. Impatience and frustration get the upper hand. Why are you hogging all the space? Can you please not point your bow toward my eyeball? Ugh, turned the page late, AGAIN. How many fingerings do you need, this music is beginning to look like a war plan! There are misunderstandings and harsh words. In the worse case I ever encountered, the musicians' union had to intervene to separate two colleagues and ensure they would never be seated together again!
Interestingly, you might be stand partners with the same person for many concerts over many years, or you might be stand partners with someone for one concert, then never again. I remember laughing one time when a colleague had a stand all to herself, and she said happily, "I'm sitting with my favorite stand partner!"
What is your experience with stand partners? Do you tend to get along with your stand partners, or is it a frustrating experience? Have you had one stand partner for a long time, or does it tend to switch? What are things that make for a good stand partner? How can one avoid annoying one's stand partner? Please participate in the vote and then share your experiences in the comments.
Thank you to Jim Hastings for the idea for this week's vote. If you have an idea for the Weekend Vote, please e-mail me. I welcome your ideas!
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What a richly implicative photograph! They must be violinists, not violists!
I've always had good stand partners. I guess I've never played in a high enough level of orchestra to have to deal with the really neurotic types.
I've always had good stand partners. There was one occasion at a play through when a stand partner, whom I had not seen before and have not seen since, left in the middle of Brahms 4, and I suspect I might have been a bad stand partner by overplaying the part.
My standpartner and I have sat together, completely harmoniously, for over thirty years and counting. (Side note, I wonder if our longevity as standpartners is an ICSOM record.) I am so incredibly fortunate to work with her.
Always. I don’t recall having problems with any stand partners - and I must have had a dozen of them.
I did my first violin-playing in elementary school and had the childhood ambition to become a symphony player; but I didn’t start getting ensemble experience till high school, several years later.
My orchestra experience spanned about 7 years - from high school till near the end of my degree program. As a performance major, I began to sense that the orchestra field might not be my ideal medium. Three other orchestra members and I got together, on our own time, to play chamber music. In the end, it wasn’t cold shoulders or personality conflicts that made me give up my orchestra ambitions. It’s just that I found chamber-playing more fulfilling and better suited to my personality.
I do not recall having any trouble with my stand partners. I wish that I got with them between rehearsals to go over the pieces we were playing to pick up tips and suggestions.
I have always had stand partners with whom I got along well. Plus, I offer two things they love: (1) "large print" versions of the sheet music, and (2) a very bright stand light.
Usually I get along fine, the worst desk partner I have ever had, luckily for just one rehearsal, was the girl who threw eggs at Simon Cowell, about 5 years before that happened.
I wear a special eyeglass prescription so that I always am able to give more room the crowders (or last minute sight-reader).
Printed music of days past was visible easily. Today's reduced size charts are an eyestrain hazard.
It would be informative to have an ophthalmologist evaluate what the minimal staff dimension should be in order to clearly view all of the intricate graphics native to music calligraphy.
A very good point Steven! Let's hope there is an opthalmo-musicologist reading this thread. Meanwhile, I recall two young (and pleasant) stand partners I've had, who clearly found it difficult to read the music from a distance. One solved it by moving her chair incrementally into the centre of the desk, the other would hook his foot round the stand and pull it towards him.
For a new stand partner I tell them that I am a firm believer in divisi; I play one note or an easy double stop. If I am the inside player I don't add any fingerings to the part. My music reading glasses are calibrated for about 2-3 feet.
Current partner (~3yrs) is wonderful, we really are mutually supportive. However, I can't say always since an earlier one was obsessive and unreliable - once decided to miss the dress rehearsal - but did not bother to let me know, let alone provide me with the concert music copy....
@Joel - I am also a firm believer in divisi for all double stops unless the sheet music specifically says no "divisi." And, I have music glasses that are calibrated at 2 feet.
I agree - except when the double stops are ff! The need for powerful dynamics outweighs the need for perfect intonation.
But I would love to hear what the pros do.
Re. double stops and chords in the orchestra. Paraphrasing something I read about the very young Yehudi Menuhin rehearsing the Elgar concerto in the presence of the elderly Edward Elgar, went something like this:
YH: Why did you write double-stop octaves here?
EE: I wanted it to be louder.
YH: Single notes are louder.
And, have better intonation, vibrato, sound quality, all contributing to a subjectively louder sound. A lot of composers and arrangers don't know this. My favorite example of the misuse of non-divisi by a composer is a movement in Resphigi Ancient Airs and Dances that sounds awful when played as written.
I apologize for straying off-topic again.
In my community orchestra, mine is kind and considerate, but with no body image, and perhaps a little deaf.
I play in survival mode.
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March 12, 2023 at 05:24 PM · Since COVID I don’t share a music stand, and as a left hander sitting on the right who wears progressive glasses, I’m thankful. The person who would be my stand partner is helpful, gracious and fun.