Saturday, November 14, 2009

Orchestras are Cool Part 1

I am just now back from my orchestra's concert, the season opener that featured Holst's The Planets. I normally wouldn't write about the thing until Monday or even Tuesday, but I thought I would sort this out now while it's still fresh in my head. The chardonnay is cold, and the pesky cats aren't pawing at the mactop, so here I go:

I'll start from the end and work backwards. The second half of the concert was a violin concerto by Saint-Saƫns with Bohdan Subchak as the guest soloist. Bohdan plays with us normally, but tonight was his night as the star. He is a tidy penny-loafers sort of man who you can't imagine would leave the house with his shirt untucked, and he plays beautifully. He was given a standing ovation, and his response was a delightful piece he played unaccompanied. The audience was quiet for him and stood again.

I was part of the audience because I didn't play the second half of the concert. There was some confusion as to who should play the second horn part when only two parts are needed, and I will not speak further about this matter. The two horns on stage sounded lovely together, so it all worked out for the best.

Anyway, the first half of the concert consisted of a wind ensemble playing a Holst suite for band (No. 1), and it was a delight to play. It's rare when the wind section performs without the strings, and I think we as a group did the piece justice. As for me personally, I made some mistakes I had no business making. There wasn't a note or a rhythm or a dynamic I couldn't handle with precision in that piece, yet when it came time to perform, I found myself doubting even the simplest of countings. A four-measure rest in a straight four. Here? Do I come in here? No, wait. What if I missed a measure? Is this the pitch, or am I too low? blah blah blah

All I can say for myself is that there are some demons that cannot be gotten rid of completely. You can bury them to some extent or quiet them with carefully placed affirmation, but they are never completely banished. And at the worst times, they can rear their hideous heads and make you think you couldn't possibly succeed and that you will always be something less than you wish to be.

I wrestled with this very issue on stage tonight, and I was disappointed overall. I was so looking forward to an adrenalin rush and a thrill and all that goes with a marvelous performance.

We went from the band suite to The Planets, playing only Mars, Venus, and Jupiter. I fought the tired, old demon I thought was gone but was only resting until we got to Jupiter, and that's when I put my foot down and took charge. Jupiter is a blast to play, and I can play it. I know I can. And when I was waiting for the downbeat, I reminded myself that I could play it—for five two-beat measures I reminded myself, and when my entrance came, I was ready. So, that demon was pushed aside at least for the last movement. And when the andante came with that triumphant melody that I can't seem to stop humming, I wished I could smile and play the horn at the same time. And I do believe the conductor looked a bit pleased with his orchestra.

At least I had that bit of success to take home with me, and I truly enjoyed being a part of the audience for the second half. But I'm sure I'll wake up at 3:00 tomorrow morning and run through all the mistakes I made while the demon was making noise.


E said...

Glad you enjoyed Jupiter. I'm sure you played better than you seem to think on the rest of it. The third paragraph made me laugh. : P

dive said...

Hoorah for the term "part-grabber", Robyn. Just as well you weren't on stage with one of those about!
You really must learn to relax on stage (you know I know … hee hee).
I'm so glad the Holst roused you to a storming finish, though. What stirring music! It must have felt truly awesome to be right there in the middle of the orchestra when you launched into Mars. And the emotion of playing Jupiter must have been overwhelming. The audience might enjoy it but they can never know the thrill of feeling your instrument vibrate against you while that noise swells all around you.
I only wish I'd been there to hear it.

savannah said...

third paragraph - my personal jes sayin all time favorite! ;~D

seriously, i love watching (and listening, of course) to musicians when they are in the moment, it brings another level of pleasure to me as a listener. the MITM talks about the self doubt when he plays, too. but as a friend (also a professional musician) told him, "man, you're in a studio recording with ME. i think you need to shut up and play!" you're where you are because you belong there, honey! xoxoxoxo

Lynn said...

Well done, Robyn!

Madame DeFarge said...

Interesting to hear this from the perspective of someone who plays music, rather than just listening to it. Subchak sounds like Andrew Litton.

RoverHaus said...

You know what your problem is?

You're too talented. Most people just have one tool in their toolbox with which to work.

You? You're a talented writer, a gifted chef, a superb designer, and an active community member, great mom and...shall I go on?

It's not easy being as talented as you, but you still do it with grace and ease. Wish I could have been there.