Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Horn Choirs are Fun

Last night I got to play in a horn choir, which was a new experience for me. I love new experiences that are fun. Don't you? I don't relish new experiences that aren't fun, like being in your first auto accident or going to your first funeral. I have never had a root canal, but I suspect if I ever have to have one, that will not be a fun new experience.

Playing in a horn choir isn't anything like a root canal, though. It's where you sit in a chair on stage with a bunch of other horn players of all different skill levels and life experiences and occupations, and you play together, each one covering his or her part as best he or she can. It's fun.

This particular choir was conducted by my horn teacher at Mt. Union College, so there were quite a few of his students in the group. There were also other teachers, and then there was me. This is what always happens in settings like this with musicians introducing themselves—they go around the room and say what they do. They announce they are either a music major or a music teacher, and then I have to mumble about how I am neither. I'm the odd one out, the one who doesn't know what it's like to prepare for a recital and the one who isn't part of this sort of music-teacher brotherhood.

Last night I introduced myself as one of the director's students, but when viewed with all of his other students, it was clear I was not his typical student. I was more like the mother of his typical student.

There were 20 of us on stage with about 30 people in the audience, and we played three pieces. Two were four-part arrangements of something or other, and the final was an eight-part arrangement of a selection from Mendelssohn's Elijah. There were also three numbers performed by a smaller ensemble and a duet arrangement of The Entertainer performed by two students, college-age ones.

In musical settings at least, I am quite often plagued with a sense of not belonging, acutely aware of how I started this whole horn-playing business relatively late in life and acknowledging I will never catch up. For years I tried to catch up, but I have slowly begun to accept what playing horn is for me and what it isn't. I'll never be great. I'll never be principal except when no one else is around. I'll always be asking questions about how to count something unusual and always questioning the pitch that I am about to hit or miss.

I had to fight that You-Suck-And-Don't-Belong demon a little bit last night, but once we sat down to perform, I kicked that in the butt and enjoyed being part of the group. When everyone is playing, no one stops to look for who doesn't think they fit in, and the audience could care less what your role in life is off the stage. You start playing your part at the down beat, and until the cut off, everyone belongs.

And it's fun.


Rich said...

Having fun with it is what it's all about,Robyn. Seems like you got over those demons pretty well.

Shan said...

Oh funny funny. Yes, lot's of first's related to aging are especially unfun(i.e. boobograms) :D

A horn choir DOES sound fun. You needed me there to give you the confidence you should have had going in. I don't think you realize how far you've come skill wise over the years. Maybe you do but you sound like your getting a lot more confident with hitting those unpredictable lately and that's not a small thing.

I just caught up with an old h.s. horn mate yesterday on fb(shhhh). It was great fun!

Shan said...

"unpredictable notes" I meant of course.

lynn said...

lol liked your first para! Giggle.

Glad you had a great time Robyn; I love to hear about it.

Mark said...

You inspire me. Maybe I'll pick up a clarinet again. It could be my (Pete) Fountain of youth.

PF said...

I'm so glad you had this opportunity, Robyn. Sounds like lots of fun! "...the mother of his typical student." Ha HA!!

Those demons plague all of us musicians at one time or another...good that you are kicking them in the butt!

Lindsay G. (Tusc. Phil. piccolo) has a wonderful quote on her fb page. I loved it so much, I put it on mine. Here it is: "...someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft."
-Karl Paulnack

It's good to remember how we can affect our audience :)