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Mendy Smith

Big Viola Sound - with 3 violas

January 21, 2009 at 3:37 AM

My CO is playing Psalm and Fugue by Alan Hovaness in our next concert.  It is being conducted by a guest conductor who is very active teaching in the public schools as well as other endeavors.  The viola section was fore-warned that he was looking for "The Big Viola" sound in rehearsal.  This piece is one of the few that I've played with an orchestra or ensemble where

Our regular rehearsal location was changed due to the holiday on Monday, and out of 5 violists, 3 of us made it.  We were challenged to be heard over 8 cellos and 16 violins as it was.  At the very end of the piece, the sections divide (2 for viola, I think 3 for each 1st & 2nd violins, and 2-3 for cellos).  There is a very interesting 2nd viola part in that section.  I was the only one playing that part last night, and when we are "fully staffed" there are only 2 of us.  Never before had I been so challenged to be heard over so many other stringed players, while keeping the tone clear and crisp.  So, I employed every trick my teacher has taught me on producing The Big Viola Sound, and viola!!!  I was heard!!!! 

Luckily for us, the violins got more of a work-out at rehearsal than our meager viola section.  I still don't know if that is because we played so well, or the guest conductor took pity on us since we were so few in this rehearsal.  I'd like to think that we played well.

In other news, I was the first to arrive for rehearsal.  The alternate rehearsal site is only a mile from my home, so I was EARLY.  So I went ahead and set up the chairs, and began warming up.  As a warm-up, I tried my hand at playing the Bloch from memory (left the sheet music at home).  Surprisingly, I was able to make it more than half way through before my memory failed me.  I haven't tried to memorize this piece, it just seems to be happening of its own accord. 

Which makes me wonder...  how did I develop memorization skills?  I used to not be able to do this a few years ago... 

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