Let me share with you the 24 hours that were the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s A Day with the Orchestra. I went with Kate (of Kate and Wendy fame) to Brisbane on Friday. We left early. Much earlier than I like to get out of bed anyway which if you know me probably is a normal time for you.
We went to Villanova where Kate became Miss Kate and conducted St Patrick’s Senior Strings to a Gold. I helped tune a lot of small violins that have a tendency to go outrageously out of tune really quickly after being tuned within an inch of their lives. Miss Kate was very patient. I played the piano accompaniments for the group while they performed.
Then we skedaddled out of there. It was after 3 and we had to make a flying, unplanned visit to the string shop (new set of strings for me and a beautiful new lightweight case for Miss Kate who now turned back into Kate). And then it was off to South Brisbane to book into our motel with my Mum.
We had to be at the ABC Studio at Southbank by 6 for a 6:30 rehearsal start. Were we excited? Yes we were. Were we a little bit nervous? I think we both were. Well I was. Had we practised our parts enough. We blinking hoped so. As Kate so articulately put it as we walked through the bougainvillea arbour with our instruments “Shit’s about to get real”.
What is A Day in the Orchestra? It’s one of QSO’s community programs. Normal peeps like us (that is non-professional players) apply to take part in rehearsals and a public performance alongside QSO musicians. We’d spent a month learning a program of music and there was 24 hours to get it all together.
First rehearsal Friday night was everyone together. Read through. With Richard Davis stepping into the breach as conductor as Alondra de la Parra was unable to be there at the last minute. We met our desk partners from QSO. Good. Nice. Helpful. Hopefully understanding of the fact that it had been years since I’d had the opportunity to play in a group of this size. Time flew! We’d survived and we’d survived intact.
Weary though, we stopped off for chai and churros before heading upstairs to bed. Where both of us proceeded to toss and turn all night as fragments of the scores danced relentlessly through our heads.
No time for naps though. Saturday morning we headed in to the Studio for 9:30 sectional rehearsals. This was great. Details. Articulation. Accents. Geography of the bow. Fingering options. All discussed. I liked our discussion of the various “gathering points” for my section. That is, if all else fails, get to THIS BAR and get back together. The difference between orchestral and solo/small group playing was discussed. Survival is key. Do everything (and anything) you can to survive. This is a philosophy of playing I can get on board with 🙂
Then a break and back together from 2pm on Saturday for another full orchestra rehearsal. This time we went for details. And key sections. And details. What’s more, it was fun! Really playing. Feeling confident.
And then a quick dinner of rice paper rolls before a final rehearsal at 6 and then a concert in the Studio at 7.
Well that’s all very interesting Wendy but what did you learn? What were you reminded of?
Here’s a list in no particular order:
- Keep your expectations high. Of others. Of myself.
2. Always always try harder than you think you can. You will surprise yourself.
3. Never get complacent. That way leads to boredom and frustration.
4. Enjoy the process as well as the performance.
5. There are many ways to solve a musical problem. Find the one that’s right for you. It might not be the same as the person next to you.
6. Turn up to every rehearsal prepared. Practise at home. There is no time for note learning in a rehearsal. In fact that is not a rehearsal.
7. Love the music. It’s all about the music.
8. Remember a pencil. You will always need it.
9. Good enough is not good enough. Strive each time.
10. Help whoever you can. Smile. Be encouraged and be encouraging.
11. Be grateful for the family and friends who support you. They are indeed rare gems of people.
Here is one of the great pieces that we played…..from the Youtubes. It’s a new favourite.