Saturday, December 16, 2006


Getting back on the horse

I didn't quite fall off the horse last night, but my feet slipped out of the stirrups and the horse galloped off in its own direction for a while there near the end.

A brief rehearsal just before the Christmas concert went very well. Joining us were another cellist along with a bass and several violins, from the larger orchestra. They definitely helped round out our sound - and we did sound good. I hit all the notes and timing and felt pretty good upon retiring to the warmup room. We had an hour and a half to wait before going back on, so I slipped into the back of the hall and enjoyed the other performances.

When our turn on the block came after the intermission, I felt really comfortable, my intonation was actually quite good, my rhythm and timing were perfect and we all played well together for the first 3/4 of the piece. Then somewhere, somehow, it went awry - I could feel it. While most of the group plunged on I - and I think several others - got lost. I thought I nailed my re-entry after a ten-beat rest, but I'm not positive. It took me a few measures to realize I was lost, and I started air-bowing until I could tell for sure where I really was (air bowing turned out to be harder than I thought). Finally after a dozen measures or so I spotted an opening and got back in and finished on time with everybody else. There was plenty of applause, and no boos, so apparently it was well-received (or at least sympathetically-received) by the audience.

We were playing a medley of tunes that included less than four measures for each christmas tune. Normally I'll learn the melody and then be able to tell where I should be as I hear it being played by the others around me. That wasn't so easy for this piece, because the cello part had so little to do with the melody of the 18 tunes mashed together, and except for the rehearsals, I never really had a chance to listen to the entire piece.

Whew! For those few moments I was totally at sea, adrift without a clue. What a strange sensation. It sure soured my initial elation at playing well. I knew that piece.

But, from this perspective (24 hours later), it really wasn't so bad. I feel a lot better than after my first fiasco in October. Our next performance is in May, where we'll put on our own concert with five pieces... We're taking a three week break and then will start back in after the New Year.

Today, I got up early and played two and a half hours on my various lesson pieces. It was relaxing to not have to stress about the performance piece for the first time in weeks. Tomorrow I'll work with the electrocello.

Congratulations! The audience enjoyed it and you found your way back in. That is success by anyone's definition.

Something I've learned by hard experience that you might think about in the future: cues. Sprinkled liberally throughout, but especially in the tricky ensemble parts. I usually just make a note about entrances ("trumpets" or "clarinets") but sometimes sketch in a rhythm motif that heralds the cello entrance. Also useful in chamber music to note who is giving the cue for an entrance (and thus whom to look at).
But isn't it the conductor's job to get everyone back together?
Great job, Guanaco. You should be proud of yourself. There is always room for improvement, at any level. You do inspire all of us! Congrats on your "electro-beast" as well!
Thanks for the support :)

. I do feel better about the whole thing. I've given up trying to figure out just where things went wrong, it was hard enough to figure it out as it was happening. In the end we all did come back together and finish in unison, that's good.

GTGP, I'll watch for various "cues" when we start working on our next set of pieces. Thanks for the tip.
Sounds like you did well. Of course you're going to get lost occasionally playing with a group under performance pressure. Good job faking it and coming back in.

I never considered "air bowing" when I get lost with my band. I just sit there, bow in hand, staring really hard at the music.
It's all about "air bowing"! All 3 cellos in our pops orchestra got lost at one point in our holiday concert this past Sunday, but that made it even more memorable as far as I was concerned .. esp. when the conductor was whispering out the rehearsal letters to help us catch our place. And then what a great feeling to jump back in.
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