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The Living, Breathing Orchestra: My First Rehearsal with a Real Symphony

Lily Dunlap

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Published: September 16, 2015 at 3:22 PM [UTC]

Last night was the first rehearsal this year for the local Symphony, and my first rehearsal with them ever. I was so extremely excited about it, I was scatterbrained the entire afternoon leading up to it. Finally, I thought, I get to play with a real symphony where everyone's practiced their parts - yes! I get to play with the pros! It was a glorious way to spend the evening, and I can't wait for the next rehearsal.

What came as a bit of a shock to me was the rapid tempo the conductor started with - boom! Right into the piece. It was exhilarating, racing along at breakneck speed through Nielsen's Symphony no. 4 (The Inextinguishable). I'd been used to the Youth Symphony's plodding and halting tempos during the first rehearsal, the conductor steadily beating the conducting patterns as everyone sight read. It was bliss to play the music, really the music and not the notes, from the very start of the rehearsal. Sure, the ambitious speed we were going at left me in the dust a couple of times, but I got back on track. And then in the fourth movement - hear those timpani go! When the timpani are having their "duel", you can feel it reverberating through the floor and in your bones.

That's truly what I've missed most about being in an orchestra: being inside the sound. I can listen to the pieces as much as I want, but it's not even close to being part of the living, breathing orchestra.

From Lydia Leong
Posted on September 22, 2015 at 5:37 AM

Now you know that the standard for professional symphonies is, "Show up at the first rehearsal fully prepared to play the all of the notes correctly, at tempo". :-)

From Tom Holzman
Posted on September 22, 2015 at 10:08 PM
Even in my community orch, we always rehearse the first time at full tempo. Over time, as the conductor finds places that need some sort of work, he may take it once through more slowly. But, you always have to expect to be going at full tilt. Very exciting but hold on tight!
From Juergen L. Hemm
Posted on September 23, 2015 at 3:55 PM
The energy and exhilarating force emanating from a true professional orchestra is indeed something that one has to experience onstage in order to believe it. I've attended many performances as a listener, but that is nothing compared to being on the stage itself.

Yours truly, a humble amateur violinist/violist, had the opportunity to perform with the pros of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra as part of the viola section. We played the finale of Dvorak's "New World" symphony and it was an awesome experience I'll cherish for the rest of my life.

See for details.

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