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Last weekend I played in the orchestra for Mendelessohn’s  Elijah (reviewed on CVNV here) with the Tar River Orchestra and NC Master Chorale.  It was a small orchestra and a pretty large choir, so there were few issues with covering up the choir (not to mention some really good players in the orchestra who knew what they were doing).  Elijah is a really long work of about 2 hours, maybe a little over that.  A typical orchestra rehearsal is two and a half hours long, including a break in the middle.  So, you can see that there is barely enough time to play through the entire work in a rehearsal, much less stop and fix things.  I sometimes wonder if people ever know what goes into making a performance like that come together.  Al Sturgis is a master at this type of thing, but I can promise you, its not easy, and there is a lot of uncertainty involved, I am sure.

The orchestra met once a week before the performance to run through the work.  There really wasn’t any rehearsing going on.  We played through it, made mistakes, stopped a few times to adjust some things and that was it.  Out of time.  The next rehearsal was with the choir two days before the first performance.  Finding space to rehearse an orchestra and 200 voice choir is not easy.  I know, I had to do it in December when the brass band and Master Chorale did a holiday concert together.  This rehearsal had the choir in the audience and the orchestra on stage of a small middle school auditorium.  Hardly ideal to rehearse.  Well, it was just a run through as well.  Out of time after a few comments and hitting two or three spots.

Last Saturday was the first performance in Rocky Mount.  There was a rehearsal in the afternoon in the church where the concert was going to be held.  Just enough time to run the piece with the soloists.  Forget rehearsing.  The orchestra was in a strange set up due to the space we were in.  It was not ideal, but not that big a deal.  Sad to say some of the players in the orchestra were a bit snippy about it and it created a bit of tension for a while.  Surprisingly, I wasn’t one of them.  I didn’t care.  Let’s just play the darn thing and move on ( I was also content playing NBA Jams on my iPhone during my 34 movements of rest…life of a tuba player).  The performance went rather well, and the chorus was just powerful.

Sunday afternoon was the concert in Raleigh at Meymandi.  This is a great venue for this type of work, and the choir filled the place up.  Now, when it comes to performances, I am usually a go with the flow type.  I stay out of the way and just play my (usually insignificant) part.  Few things bug me because I am really only concerned with doing my job.  So facing a 2.5 hour concert I was ready to get started.  About 5 minutes to start the stage goes quiet.  No one is warming up.  I hate that awkward silence, so I noodle around a bit hoping others will as well, and they did.  3 PM gets here, not lights dim.  5 after, no lights dim.  About 10 after the 2nd flute player comes out and talks to the clarinet players and they all scurry off stage.  WTH???  Turns out the 1st flute (I have no idea who it is) didn’t show up… got the time wrong supposedly, and was gonna show up at 7:30 to an empty hall.  So they are trying to secure a 1st flute part, I assume by fax, for the 2nd flute to play.   mutters go around the orchestra, and finally get to me, being the furthest away from anything…and I am pissed.  Damn thing is long enough as it is, now we have to wait for the dang flute player who can’t read an email…much less three reminder emails about when the freaking gig is?  Not sure why exactly, but it really irritated me.  I can only imagine Al backstage.  Man, what a terrible spot. Long work to perform.  Ton of people on stage waiting, and a ton of people in the audience waiting… for something so stupid and unprofessional.   Flute part copied, we finally start.  Worth mentioning, Beth Kupsko did an awesome job sight reading the solo part at the gig.  Well Done!!!!

So kids, let this be a lesson to you.  Read things carefully, and write them down correctly in your datebook, and dont screw up not showing up to a gig.  It will piss off a lot of people, puts colleagues in uncomfortable positions having to cover for you, and ruin your reputation… not to mention prevent you from ever getting hired back to play with that group again.  This is one of my biggest nightmares… that I let this happen to me.  I am so paranoid about this one.  Just get to the gig, the rest is easy.  hahaha.  I was so lucky a long time ago, to have someone show me the way to be a professional musician and I follow his advice all the time.  Show up on time.  Wear the right cloths.  Thats all ya gotta do.  FAIL!!!!

Nevertheless, the performance went extremely well.  The audience would have little idea that this was put together without any serious rehearsal.  Rather, it was a couple of reading sessions and two concerts.  This is the real world of making music.  When you have to pay musicians for their time and skill, it’s very expensive to get time to rehearse them.  Its almost critical that the musicians are able to play their part before they ever meet and play one note together.  I guess my point is this…rehearsals are not designed for you to learn your part, or for someone to teach you your part.  You have to do that on your own at home.  Rehearsals are for getting the group to play together and to attempt to make music in a cohesive way.  The sooner everyone learns this, the better every ensemble will be.  When everyone buys into this concept…man could some great music happen.

I wish.  Rehearsals are lame for the most part.  The fewer the better.  Put the crowd out there.  Make it count!!!!