...or nerves, in this case. I hate that.
Since I made such a big, hairy deal about playing principal horn in the upcoming orchestra concert, let me tell you about last night's rehearsal. We usually have three to four rehearsals for a concert, but because this is a simpler "pops" performance, we only have two, and last night's was the first.
You never know how many people in your section will be there for any given rehearsal because people have other things to do, especially people who play in local orchestras. They are often music teachers with marching band practices to run in the evenings, or sometimes they also play in other groups that rehearse or perform the same night. I have learned to show up for a rehearsal knowing I might be the only horn player. It's happened before, which I really hate, and I was just hoping it wouldn't happen again last night of all nights. I tend to play more confidently when I am in a full section.
Of the four of us, there were only two—not too bad but not ideal either. My horn pal and I took our seats on stage and each took a deep breath. She's nearly as bad as I am about being nervous.
The first number we rehearsed had quite a few exposed horn parts and a solo or two. They weren't difficult, but because I wasn't quite acclimated to the situation yet, I'm afraid I sounded like a timid rabbit when I should have sounded bold and ready for the down beat. What can I say. It wasn't terrible, but instead of my "I Don't Suck" mantra, I started asking myself how I could possibly get through this rehearsal, and I found myself looking at the exit stage right. Would it really be so bad if I just packed up and walked off? Of course it would, but I was one scared horn player, and the leg that my bell rests on was shaking uncontrollably. I hate that.
It all turned around in the very next piece, I'm happy to report. It was a fun arrangement of Phantom of the Opera, and although it had two or three solos, I was able to sing through them with a tone that made me proud. And the conductor didn't have to restart the entire group because I miscounted some rests, as he had to do in the previous piece. I was so ashamed. He actually seemed pleased this time and even said "nice" at least once.
During the break, he came back and put his arm around me and said how great it was that I was back there playing that big part. I was doing fine, although he thought maybe I needed a drink or two to loosen me up a bit. We had a little laugh over that. I explained, though, that I preferred to have my drink or two after a rehearsal as opposed to before because otherwise I wouldn't be able to articulate properly.
When it was all finally over, I packed up my horn and proudly marched to my car. The first thing I did when I got home was pour a glass of chilled Riesling, and I sat back and exhaled. I did fairly well and don't have to worry about whether or not I belong in the orchestra. I have wondered that before. I do belong. Maybe not in first chair every time, but at least I've got a place there. Now that I love.
The image is from a rehearsal this past May.