The con recently announced it was having a three day workshop for a youth orchestra. And even better, I was able to do it. I felt pretty happy. I’ve never done a real orchestra before. (Well, there was an ACE concert once, but that wasn’t…an orchestra as such. I think it was more of a large ensemble.) I play in a concert band, but an orchestra? What is it like to add the strings?
Day one. I’d say it came through mostly successful. Only two people (in the woodwind sectionals, that is) broke down and cried. Poor kids. One was an “I can’t do it, it’s too hard”. The other one was an “I’m not playing my part–the part I can’t play–in front of the whole sectional, please leave me alone”. Luckily I don’t get stage fright any more, because they got me to demonstrates parts twice. Nervous. I’m glad I figured triplets out a while ago. Thank you, Mercadente, for writing the Rondo Russo!
End of the first day. Verdict? We’re horrible!
Day two. We started with a new song. I couldn’t get my rafter-high part at first (ah, the joys of being first flute), but eventually I think I nailed it. (It fit with what the others were playing, anyway. That helps.) This piece was a tango, for the concert band instruments only. And we sounded so good by the end of it.
The whole orchestra came together. End of day two. Verdict? We don’t sound as terrible as we did yesterday!
Day three. Starting with a completely new (and very hard) song, we woodwinds killed it. Brutally. I don’t even think we were all playing in the same key. Luckily when we all came together as an orchestra, the brass and strings had drilled that song into wonderfulness, so the woodwinds were more or less drowned out as the saxophones tried to find their notes, and the flutes struggled to stay in time. Note: Being first flute does not mean you are amazing. Unfortunately.
We relocated to the theatre for the performance. Exciting. We still murdered that song.
The girl next to me said, “The conductor looks stressed.”
“Yeah, well,” I replied. “It’s three hours till the concert, and we sound as bad as this, so I’d be stressed if I were her, too.”
Rehearsals. That song was not okay. The rest were either great or tolerable.
The concert. We lined up on the stairs leading to the stage, well drilled and knowing exactly which step to stand on.
One of the violins said, “I’m so nervous. I hope I don’t make a mistake.”
I laughed and said, “Well, as my Mum always says, if you make a mistake, glare at your neighbour.”
She laughed. I hope I helped her. I don’t get nervous in orchestras. If you mess up, it’s not like you wrecked the whole thing.
We were introduced, we filed down. Took our seats. Tuned with the concert master (mistress?) and stood for the conductor’s entrance. The concert started. And you know what? We could actually play! Sure, there were a few mistakes, but who really cares if flutes one and two get out of time with each other? On the whole, we were really good.
The strings left the stage so that the concert band instruments could do their solo. It was amazing, grand, and well prepared. (And I did my soli right. Oh, and I also learned that soli is not a solo. Soli means that I was the only one playing that line, but everyone else was still playing. Phew.)
The concert band instruments left so the strings could do their solo. It was a pizzicato polka. Great song, well done, but the plucking of stringed instruments sounds rather weak after a brass, woodwind, and percussion grand tango.
Two flutes giggled to themselves. “Plucking chickens.”
Was it a joke that the violins were chickens, or that when you say plucking, chickens always goes with it? I still don’t know, but the bow versus blow war is always fun to think about.
We all reassembled for the final rock piece. Belted it out. Once everyone found the beat, it was great. Oh, I had a sort of solo-like part in that. Creepy. But I did it just fine. (It was a whole four bars long.) We ended grandly, and the audience asked us to play again, so we played the second half again.
Concert over. Workshop over. The youth orchestra dispersed. It was finished. And the music was a thousand times better than I’d expected.
Verdict? That was so much fun, I’d love to do it again. My first Youth Orchestra Concert? I’m sold.