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It definitely wasn’t Star Wars

November 18, 2014

To document another interesting playing experience–

We had a concert last Saturday night.  It went well except for the fact that the air conditioning was on so high (never mind it was in the 20s outside) that I was frozen during the second half of the concert.  I never could warm up, despite all those many notes my fingers had to play in Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8.  So my own part could have gone a little better; it’s really hard to play sensitively when your fingers are stiff and cold.  That aside, the Dvorak was quite impressive (if I do say so myself) and the first half of the concert went really well.

I remember another cellist once bemoaning Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture and now I know what she was talking about! All those many many accidentals and the cello part just never stops.  It was exhausting, but I did it!

Then we played a bassoon concerto by John Williams.  Yes, that John Williams.  Bet you didn’t know he wrote a bassoon concerto, did you?  Neither did I.  Our principal bassoon was the soloist.  He’s on our orchestra’s programming committee and suggested the piece.  Our conductor was a little unsure at first, but after hearing a recording, thought it would be a fun and interesting challenge for our group.  Interesting was right; it definitely wasn’t Star Wars! Although there were a few moments here and there that sounded more like recognizable John Williams movie music.

It was called Five Sacred Trees and each movement was based on ancient Celtic mythology dealing with a different tree.  Difficult rhythms abounded.  The fourth movement about the ash tree was the hardest.  The counting was crazy and the overall effect was that of walking through the woods with random snapping of twigs.  Actually I think it was supposed to represent a ghostly battle.  At one point, our conductor asked our soloist if the tempo was ok.  He replied that it was a little too slow.  “I don’t feel scared yet.”  Which was what the mood needed to be.  We all assured him that we were scared enough for him!  It worked out eventually although I’m pretty sure our section at least was not together, either with ourselves, or with the rest of the orchestra in a few spots.  I’m also pretty sure no one else probably noticed!  It was one of those kinds of pieces.  It was definitely a challenge, but overall, it was an enjoyable experience.

There are still so many great staples of the orchestral repertoire that I’ve never yet played; in fact, this was my first time ever playing the Dvorak.  I’m slowly checking them off the longer I play with this orchestra, but it’s also fun to try out new and interesting pieces that none of us have ever played, or even heard of, before.

Next up is Act I of the Nutcracker ballet with the University ballet department for two concerts in one day, December 6.  That means we have three weeks, well, less than three weeks to learn it all.  It doesn’t include any of the popular dances that we usually play when doing a Nutcracker Christmas program.  Only the overture is a repeat, and the cellos don’t even play the overture, so that’s no help!  Practice time around here is still hard to fit in, but we’re scaling school way back right now for other reasons and maybe I’ll have to schedule a little more practicing into my week.  We’ll see once I get the music tomorrow night.

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