Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Catching Up with Orchestra and More....

It has been a long time since I have written a post, and a lot to catch up on.

When I last wrote, I was in the Cape Community Orchestra, preparing for a concert. I was one of seven cellists, because the CCO is not an auditioned group and seems happy to take anyone. Even with seven of us, we seemed dwarfed by the brass section.

We had a couple of easy pieces, a couple of challenging pieces, and one nearly impossible piece (The Hebrides, by Mendelssohn). At first I concentrated on the Hebrides, learning a couple of measures at each lesson. That part was fun, seeing an impossible section suddenly become playable with the proper fingering. But, in between lessons, I did not find time to practice, so the work was for naught, or next-to-naught, because even if I could play those sections, I couldn't play most of them fast enough. I loved the music, and with sufficient time to practice, might have become more proficient, but "sufficient" time was not at hand.

Some weeks I didn't practice at all. I didn't even think about practicing. It is not like I though, gee, I should practice, right after I finish this pressing project. It just didn't even occur to me to practice, until I suddenly realized that orchestra rehearsal was the next day.

After a while, when I realized the concert was almost upon us, I changed my strategy and decided to work on the easy and intermediate pieces so I would be able to play most of the concert relatively fluently. For the Hebrides, I did what I could, often playing the first note of a 4-note run, rather than all of them. For me, this was a good idea, to focus on focusing: riveting my attention to counting, and getting the first note of each group of four 16th notes, so that, at least, I would know where we were. I didn't get lost, and that is a good thing, even if I didn't play every note.

I wavered for a while, but finally decided not to continue with the orchestra in the spring season. My work schedule just won't allow it at this time. But, more than that, I have found orchestra playing not to be conducive to working on a beautiful tone, or to getting every note, two priorities for me. It is too easy in orchestra to fake it during certain passages. With seven cellos overwhelmed by several trumpets, saxophones, and tubas, how beautifully one might play a particular passage is not really a concern (at least in the back row of cellos).

I think my focus, for the next "semester," will be on myself, my own playing. I haven't given up on ensembles though. I love ensembles. I will continue to play in the fiddle group (more on that in another post) and am seeking to establish a cello choir here, perhaps with a stray flute or violin (more on that later too--we are playing tomorrow at an informal concert at an assisted living center: 3 cellos, a violin, a flute, and an alto flute. We haven't really rehearsed. The concert is sort of an open rehearsal, but I expect it to be just dandy!)

Meanwhile, I am still playing with the beginning/intermediate piano students, to give them experience in playing accompaniment, and to give me practice in playing with a pianist. I noticed one time that one of the pianists complimented one of the students for being able to follow me when I stumbled, or words to that effect. I refrained from telling her that it was me who was trying to follow the pianist.

When I first started playing with a pianist, for my Suzuki book recitals, I had to memorize my Suzuki pieces and perform with the pianist. This was too much for me, to play from memory and know the piano part as well, and know how it all fit in together. I managed to get by, at least in the beginning, by blotting out the piano, and just playing, trusting the pianist to follow me. And she did. Now, it is nice to have a sense of the pianist and how a piece should sound when we play together.

Listening to the piano recitals has encouraged me to try piano again, and I am happy to say I learned "Joy to the World" on piano and played it at the recital last week at a nursing home. I play it incessantly now and am even thinking of learning another Christmas piece on the piano, before the holidays are over.

Have a joyful and musical holiday!