At the moment I’m involved in the Academy’s Chamber Orchestra, which has involved a fair bit of rehearsing in the past few days. The concert is on 25th March at 1pm, in the Academy Concert Hall, if you’re interested and want to come along. The programme is:
Mahler – Adagietto for strings
Elgar – Introduction and Allegro for strings and string quartet
Schumann – Cello Concerto in A minor (soloist: Duncan Strachan)
Beethoven – Piano Concerto No 3 in C minor (soloist: Hanna Choi)
Conductor: David Watkin
(The facebook event is here)
During rehearsals and whilst reflecting on the process of learning to be a better orchestral player, I came up with the idea of creating a (slightly tongue-in-cheek) ‘guide’ for musicians on how to play in an orchestra – for my first attempt, see below.
DISCLAIMER: I don’t want people (particularly musicians) to think I’m being obsessive or diva-esque – these are just comments from my own experience of playing in many different orchestras and ensembles and as such are not personal or directed at any individuals in particular)
Issues while rehearsing: (aka ways to annoy your fellow players!)
–Turning pages: it’s really annoying when your desk partner turns a page either far too late or too early, ie turning the page before you’ve had time to read to the end of said page, including any rests that come right before the turn (this is an issue particularly when you are leading a section and you need to *actually count* them!) I know I have been guilty of this in the past – sorry….
–Writing on music: sometimes, when you receive a part (eg from a hire library) it is so covered in pencil marks that you can’t actually read the music! Often hire libraries will try and remove as much as they can before they hire out the parts to another orchestra, but sometimes they don’t and it is a real pain to have to rub out everything the previous player has marked in. Also irritating is when players scrawl music with completely unnecessary marks (eg writing out the letter names above the stave!!) so that the music itself and printed tempo markings and bowings are completely obscured*
*This can also be quite funny, for example when players write their desk partners little messages on the music during a boring rehearsal, or encourage each other to play confidently (I’ve seen things like ‘you can do it!’ or ‘DON’T PANIC!!’ 😀 )
Sellenger's Round (cartoon is at the bottom left hand side)
- “Sellenger’s Round” cartoon closeup – stingy!!
These pictures show a cartoon drawn by a player on the music – the piece is called ‘Sellenger’s Round’ and I suppose the thought of the pub after the rehearsal was uppermost in the doodler’s mind when imagining what Sellenger’s round would look like 😀
–Counting rests out loud (very loudly and *at* your desk partner): no further comment needed… Just don’t…
–Tuning (or playing) your instrument while the conductor is trying to say something important/people are rehearsing – there are times when this is necessary eg when your instrument goes out of tune in a hot room, but there are times when it isn’t!
There are also some guaranteed ways to make your colleagues in the orchestra laugh at you (again, I’m guilty of some of these):
–Playing really loudly when it is marked pp or ppp and everybody else in the orchestra is quiet – I do this quite often, especially whilst sight reading, and it makes me cringe every time I do it!
–Playing loudly during a G.P. (= General Pause) when the whole orchestra is silent. This is often called a “mars bar moment” by conductors – so-called as the person who spoils the silence gets an ironic ‘prize’ eg a mars bar; another version is that the person who is responsible should buy the other players a round in the pub afterwards…
–Playing the wrong notes repeatedly when the conductor asks you to play the right notes (this often makes me giggle- sorry wind/brass players, I know transposing at sight can be hard! :P)
That’s all I can think of now… Goodnight!