Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Playing the Messiah

I played in the sing-in/play-in Messiah yesterday. Because of the overwhelming amount of music, and the short period of time I had to work on it, I had decided, with my teacher, to choose a few of the choruses and play them well, rather than try to play them all. I chose the easier, more well-known pieces, and threw in a couple of 4-sharp pieces, just for the learning experience.

I was sure the other cellists could pick up the slack, especially since a lot of the music is marked "Senza rip," or without most of the orchestra (only first stand players, and I did not expect to be first stand).

So, the first rehearsal was December 18, and I was the only cellist. The conductor decided to jump around, skipping the easy, well-known pieces, and concentrating on the more difficult pieces, some of which which, for some reason, tended to start with a cello solo, or have a extended cello solo, and several of which I had never even attempted to play. I was not prepared, and, rather than admit that, attempted to sightread. To sightread music that I had decided I didn't have time to learn. Insane.

My bow arm felt rigid, moving only from the shoulder joint, completely paralyzed otherwise. The notes sounded squawky, as if I were playing with the side of the bow hair very close to the bridge (my general tendency is to play too close to the fingerboard). The French horn player came and sat next to me to help, transposing clefs, even tenor clef, and key signatures on the fly, and we managed to get few a few choruses in unison. It was nice being about to matching pitches with the French horn. Or at least try to match pitches; I have no idea how it actually sounded.

So, I'm thinking, as I am churning out these barely audible, imperfect notes, probaby a half-measure behind or ahead, that these people will never want to play with me again; I'll have to find another orchestra, maybe another town in which to reside.

The conductor was kind to me (I had told him I wasn't really ready to play, and was thinking maybe I could do it as a reporter), and the first violin player (who has played the Messiah for years) sent me an e-mail later about how brave I was to play, and that there should be 2 more cellists on Sunday.

There was some question about the performance, given the predicted huge snowstorm, but I was actually hoping to play, hoping to do a little better.

So, on Sunday, rehearsal started at 2 PM, and the performance at 3:30, after only a slight break. There was one other cellist on Sunday, and things went much better because of that, though by no means perfectly. I felt reasonably good about a fair number of the pieces and people were kind.

The photo above (which shows only a section of the orchestra--there were first violins, flute, and oboe on the other side) was taken during one of those cello solo sections. The bass voices are singing, and the pianist is playing, but, neither were there for the rehearsal. I am so pleased to see that we two cellists seem to be playing the same note at the same time. :-)

I have decided to play again next year, but to work on the pieces intermittently during the year and ask a violinist or two to practice it with me, so I won't be unprepared for rehearsals.

All in all, believe it or not, I am glad I did it. The music is magnificent and it is wonderful to be a part of it.


Gottagopractice said...

What a terrifying rehearsal, but glad it was worth it in the end.

BTW, been missing you since NaBloPoMo <g>.

yarnplayer said...

Sounds like you have made new friends and enjoyed participating in the concert. I bet everyone enjoyed it. Kudos! That's a big chunk of music you played!

Melissa said...

Isn't that the worst feeling in the world? I always want the floor to open up and it never does.

I sit first stand in orchestra, and I always make it a point to learn any solos as well as the first chair just in case. And one concert I had to.

But good job!

Maricello said...

I loved it. It felt great to be part of such an endeavor, and even contributing at times.

I guess NaBloPoMo wiped me out, and I have been besieged with work. And most of my posts would have been excuses for not practicing as much as I should. But it is nice to know I was missed. :-)

Maricello said...

Hi Melissa,

Just saw your note--it must be great to competently play first! I don't think that will ever be me, but I am hoping to competently play second stand next time. :-)

Marisa said...

Congrats. It's scary but worthwhile. Always good to be pushed out of one's comfort zone.
NOT that I volunteered to play at our local Messiah sing-in this year :)

Maricello said...

Next year, Marisa!