Saturday, April 4, 2009

Scrambled Moon and Ives

My initial symphony job was where some of my most frightening/funny orchestral experiences occurred, in particular with my first stand partner. He was an Episcopalian priest who swore, smoked and told jokes. I remember him as nice and very funny. The latter was not so good because he would say things under his breath that made me laugh during rehearsals. The conductor at that time was scary (a bit of what I call the dictator variety) and laughing would make me very self-conscious and more apt to make an error--something I definitely did not want to do!
One of the concerts included a contemporary work called Moonwalk, I think. I believe it was written to commemorate the first walk on the moon....I do not remember the composer. It was a very weird, dissonant piece, and included a section during which members of the audience played the rims of wine glasses which had been issued to them when they arrived. When that was to happen the conductor turned around to face the audience and start them.
I thought this was goofy and just "over the top" silliness. My stand partner's reactions told me he thought the same thing (he was making me laugh during rehearsals, as usual). During the concert we had to be SERIOUS, as, of course, this was serious business and laughing would be disrespectful. We tried to comply--we really did. My only memory of that concert is trying REALLY HARD not to smile or giggle when the wine glasses began to be played. That was my only goal........the notes (or whatever else I had to produce on my viola) were totally lost at points because of my other "challenge".
Another incident occurred during a guest conductor concert at which we played a dissonant Charles Ives symphony. I do not remember which one; it was one I had never heard before.
My stand partner and I sat second stand and I was on the inside. For the uninitiated, that means we sat behind the two players sharing the lead viola stand, both of us reading one copy of music on our stand. I, sitting inside, was responsible for turning the pages.
Another nightmare was about to come true. During the concert I turned two pages instead of one. BIG mistake!! Normally I would just quickly fix it and we would find our place and go on. Not so this time----the music was so complex that I do not think I realized right away that I had turned two pages (a lesson here--really know your music, if possible). When I did fix the pages I had no idea of where we were in the music, and there were no recognizable landmarks anywhere. And we had to play constantly. I just faked....pretended to play. It was awful!! I kept looking at my stand partner out of the corner of my eye, hoping he would point to where we were. I was always met with the same look from him. So we faked away for almost two pages and a zillion notes, it seems. Too bad a GPS navigator for music didn't exist--or perhaps some kind of sign for emergencies....like a red light for "LOST IN MUSIC". Oh well.........it's funny now, but at the time I was mortified. I do not remember ever finding my place--I think we both just faked to the end. Thank goodness it was a guest conductor--someone I hopefully would never see again!!

Music and chocolate

What is it about musicians and food?! They just seem to go together. Into my head pops images of starving musicians grabbing any opportunity for a free snack or meal, or--means permitting--trying their hand at baking, gourmet cooking, or simply getting together with friends to eat. I remember many discussions about food with musician friends and a few meals.
I like to bake and am a bit of a chocoholic, although really good butterscotch will sub for chocolate any day. Years ago during graduate school I had a pleasant surprize when the lead violinist in a chamber group I played in brought a huge hollow chocolate Easter egg to rehearsal, opened it up, and placed it on the floor in the middle of our group. Inside was a variety of chocolates-YUM--and we were to help ourselves. Wow-------chocolate and great chamber music all together!!
What I wanted to do was eat several pieces...well, more like all of them!! At that time I REALLY liked chocolate. But how do you do that while playing........and what a pig I would look like if I kept grabbing them during the rests. So, they were on my mind a lot but unavailable (like a cute guy who doesn't know you exist). Warning---if you are thinking of doing this, only do it once....the candy is VERY distracting!!

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In addition to being a violist, I am a wife and mother (three sons). I dabble in writing, handwork, sewing and photography.