Penguins at the Symphony
Yesterday was the Day of Reckoning, otherwise known as Tuesday. It’s the day (night, actually) when I go to symphony rehearsal and see how much all my practicing has paid off!
It’s concert week, and this one is a doozy! It’s also our side-by-side concert where we invite local students to join us for one piece. I’m not telling the little 8th-grade cellist who’s sitting next to me that I haven’t practiced that piece, which is Finlandia, at all because the other music we’re playing has taken all of my time and energy. It’s been several weeks of late night practices again. Toddlers and practicing during daylight hours just don’t mix! Yet. Hopefully one day I can practice while the sun’s still up again.
We’re playing Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, which is mostly ok except for the third movement, the infernal dance of the king something or other. I don’t know the translation, but it’s infernal alright! I’m getting closer to playing all of the notes up to tempo, but it’s been a challenge.
Then our final piece is Sinfonia Antartica by Ralph Vaughn Williams, which features some of the music he composed for a 1948 film about the ill-fated Scott expedition to Antarctica in 1912. (He opted for the Italian spelling to match the word ‘Sinfonia.’ Our conductor says his spell-check gives him grief every time he types it out.)
It is a quite fascinating symphony and really does evoke images of Antarctica. You can picture the vast barren landscape, and feel the cold. We get to use the wind machine our percussionist made a few years ago for another concert. And I’ll swear there are penguins in the second movement. It’s quite cute and I can almost play it! This has been a very difficult piece to learn. Even when it’s in C Major, there is a sharp or flat on almost every note. I get to the point where I can’t even hear a whole step sometimes. The tonal center shifts around so much.
It has helped to erase a lot of the previous markings. Sometimes our music comes to us clean, but sometimes it has a lot of fingerings from the previous player. I always start with those if I can to save myself some time and effort figuring out fingerings, but this time around, it was easiest to just start over. Some of the fingerings were so bizarre. You just think, “Really? Of all the possibilities, those were the fingerings you went with??” I can see why they wrote this helpful little note next to one heinous section:
Although with fingerings like those, I think you’d need more than good luck and a smiley face to get through it! I think what I have now will work out much better. I think. Unfortunately I don’t know for sure because I still didn’t quite have it last week and this was about the only page we didn’t get to this Tuesday night at rehearsal. So I guess I’ll find out on Friday night if my practicing has been sufficient. Then the concert’s on Saturday night.
And then maybe I can get some more sleep.
Anybody that is local and wants to come, it’s at Libby Gardner Hall, March 21, at 7:30 p.m. I can get half-price tickets for you on Friday night if you let me know.