Sunday, November 01, 2009

 

Halloween Concert Report


Concert Notes

The best part: I played the entire "In the Hall of the Mountain King" piece at tempo with no mistakes! I've mentioned before that this piece was my first "classical" favorite - from second grade. Being able to actually play this particular piece - with its intense cello part - in my first performance with a full orchestra is a milepost of sorts in my cellomania. Yeah!

Another high note - our strings orchestra's two pieces, "Joust" and "Deep Sea Fandango" went really well - the best we'd ever played them.

My costume did not interfere with my playing, I made sure to keep it loose and to avoid possible entanglements of the cloth strips in the strings. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of me playing the cello in costume. If I do this again next year, I think I'll try something a bit less elaborate.

I didn't do that well with the "Funeral March for a Marionette", but not really so bad. Also, "Pirates of the Caribbean" was OK. I avoided some of the runs in Brahms' "Hungarian Dance #5" and most of "L'Arlesienne". The rest of the pieces were fine...


What I Learned

I don't feel as if I'm really ready for this level of performance, yet. It was gratifying to have this chance to play, and for a few brief periods I actually did feel like I belonged...

I devoted two full months of two- to three-hour practice sessions - at the cost of my lessons - along with lots of additional rehearsals. I did manage to "learn" all the pieces, but I wasn't able to get them quite up to speed. At the rehearsals and the two performances, I easily played the slower parts, but when we got to the fast sections my fingers seemed to forget where they were supposed to go. For most of it, the sound of the full orchestra was distracting (especially the five trombones and the tuba just behind my right ear - especially in "Pirates"). On several occasions, I couldn't even see the notes - they all seemed to blur together...

At my lesson this past week, I spent quite a bit of time fine-tuning some fingerings and bowings, but mostly we discussed my list of "issues" that I've been putting together:

1. My first finger extensions (x1) to Bb/A#, Eb, and Ab; and my fourth finger extensions (x4) to Eb, G#/Ab, and C# are sloppy. Worse yet are the transitions from x1 to x4. I need some etudes, I think...

2. I have difficulty playing scales and chromatic runs rapidly, going up and down. The problem seems to be both with coordination of bow and fingers and with the left-hand fingers simply getting in the way of each other.

3. I have trouble with rapid bowings, such as repeated short strokes - even on the same notes.

4. I need to work on ways to increase tempos, although I did succeed with "Hall of the Mountain King".

5. "L'Arlesienne" will stay on my music stand. It's a familiar tune, the cello has a strong role, at least half is in tenor clef, there is a lot of position work, and one part is made up of rapid double-stroke chromatic runs.


I took the day off, today, from my cello - it's funny how I felt so guilty skipping practice. Tomorrow I return to my lessons. And at tomorrow night's rehearsal of our strings group, we'll start working on Christmas music.

Comments:
Playing in an orchestra at beginning and intermediate levels can be a real trade-off. One might achieve "better" long-term growth by continuing methodical skill building in lessons. OTOH, playing fun music in a social setting can motivate creative work and sticking to it. I think the balance is what you have discovered - pull out the important "next step" technical stuff and work on it in lessons, letting the rest go for now. Oh, and my cardinal rule is to never ask my teacher to work out fingerings during lesson time. As I discovered with T1-, that is a total waste of time on both parts.
 
You may feel you aren't ready to play in an orchestra quite yet, but I disagree. The reason you feel not ready is because you have never done it before. The things you cited as being troublesome (the sound of the orchestra, couldn't see the notes) will not be helped by additional practice by yourself, you need to throw yourself into the new experience...its hard sometimes, but it will become easier the more you do it!
 
The best of way learning is by doing. Having a real life goal of playing a piece in an orchestra and being able to participate in a concert and feel part of a group just doesn't have the same bang for the buck as studying an etude. True, it's a "real dinner party" versus a controlled "how to cook" course (Today's lesson is on how to slice onions). There will be plenty of room for improvement. But it sure is nice to have that moment or two where it all comes together where you enjoy playing the music.
 
Really enjoyed the concert! The musice was great, and the "plot" was clever and festive. Your costume was ghastly (that's a compliment)! I was encouraged to see so many cellos in little ol' Kenai! I'm still screeching away on my own, but hope to have a violinist over for tea soon to pick her brain (no zombie pun intended) about what I'm doing right and wrong.

Thanks for a great performance!

Renee
 
Our band played a couple of those songs as well for our concert. Wish I could have heard yours!
 
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