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Karen Allendoerfer

Nicht eilen, nicht schleppen

September 6, 2007 at 11:10 AM

Reality Check. Last night, I went to an orchestra rehearsal and played viola: the Arlington Philharmonic. It started off inauspiciously when I couldn't find parking, drove around the block a few times, parked at a distance, and walked in late. (The rehearsal was at a church, a pretty big church. Usually churches have parking lots, right?) They were already rehearsing, and there were only two other violas, sitting at two stands. I went to sit with the one on the second stand. I asked him for an A and it turned out his Aing had just broken. No A for me for 45 minutes.

Coupled with the small viola section of 3 players including myself, this orchestra has a small first violin section (6 players) and an inordinately large cello section (~14 players). The second violin section seems about normal-sized (~10 players).

The music is interesting and challenging, and I've never played it before, on violin or viola: Symphonie No. 1 by R. Kalinnikow, Bizet's L'Arlesienne Suite No. II, several songs by Mahler that will accompany this year's competition winner, a young soprano. All the music markings for those are in German. Cool.

It became clear to me over the course of the evening that my original goal when I started playing again last year, to play in the Longwood Symphony, is overreaching for me at this point. My sightreading in alto clef still sucks. I got all the main melody lines (at least those melody lines such that the violas get), but there were some fast parts--not even that fast--where I just ended up moving my bow along, not touching the string, to keep the rhythm and not get lost so I could come in again when it slowed down and/or came down to a part of the staff I could read. And then there were the blown G-sharps. Ack.

Reflexively, even though they didn't say anything, I felt like I had to apologize to my stand partner, and even to the conductor when I introduced myself after the rehearsal. So many mistakes. I wasn't alone in making mistakes--but I'm used to playing, myself, at a certain level in an orchestra and I was not at that level. I even ended up looking longingly over at the first violin section a few times. There were only 6 of them, maybe they could use another one . . . (They're playing the William Tell Overture at the spring concert, and I played that at Caltech in the front of the first violins and it was a total blast. I just loved it. My most sublime violin moment for Laurie's poll was playing in an orchestra).

But that's all my stuff, not anybody else's . . . and I think I can get past it, because 1. The other members of the orchestra are really nice and welcoming. Two people related completely to my story of taking time off from playing to have kids. Another told me about taking up the cello in his 50's. 2. The conductor is clear and easy to follow. 3. The music is challenging and new to me, I'll learn and grow as a musician by playing it (can't tell yet if I actually *like* it, but that usually takes time). 4. Next week there will be 3 more violas, making a total of 6, which is almost a full section. But I think they still need me as a violist, it's nice to feel needed. And with only 3 stands, even if I'm last chair, I won't be that far back that I can't see the conductor . . . I hate not being able to see the conductor.

I was really tired, too. Yesterday was my daughter's first day of school, and her first day of soccer practice. This time of year gets insanely busy. I wondered briefly if the back pain of my late teens and early 20's would come back during a long rehearsal. But it didn't--yay!

So, I think I'm in the right place. No hurry, as the Mahler part says, "nicht eilen." Time to download a recording of the Kalinnikow to listen to on my way to work!

From Albert Justice
Posted on September 6, 2007 at 3:11 PM
The music sounds fairly challenging for sure. My coach said I should play viola because of my large hands. I told her after struggling with pain the first 18 mos significantly, and a lesser demon beyond that until about four months ago, I 'shall' learn violin first.

Stretch my hands indeed. I'm buying her a cello!.

From kimberlee dray
Posted on September 6, 2007 at 10:49 PM
Wow Karen! It sounds like you're doing so well, to me. I'm so proud of you, and I think you should be of yourself too. I'm sure you'll reach your goal, and probably sooner than you think too.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on September 7, 2007 at 2:17 PM
Thanks! The Kalinnikov is really growing on me as I listen to it. I'd never heard of the composer before, but it has some lovely melodies and string parts.
From Bernardo B
Posted on September 7, 2007 at 7:07 PM
Hi Karen! Don't worry. I have the same "problem" as you i.e. I totally suck at sight reading (even if I don't even deal with alto clef!). After you practice your pieces slowly at home and figure out the fingerings and notes, you'll just rock!

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