Sunday, November 26, 2006

Symphony Chronicles:

So today was the first day of rehearsals for Handel's "Messiah" It's Handel's most famous work, and it's pretty much a huge Christian Choral Orgy. It's all about the life of Jesus or something. I'm not really sure. I'm basing this off of the fist sentence off the wikipedia article I linked, and the lyrical cues that the conductor kept singing during rehearsal today.

Anyway, for many reasons, I am excited about Messiah. First off, the music is challenging, but not so hard as I struggle badly to play parts of it. It's hard, but I'm actually really happy with the sound I'm making.
This is probably in part due to one thing: our temporary new addition to the cello section!

In a feeble attempt at protecting the innocent** let's call him Neo.

(**I do this under the assumption that only one of my readers is actually doing to attend this concert. I hope he wears his suit)

Now, most of you don't know Neo. This is fine. He's a nice guy. He majored in Minimalist Music in university, and he lives with his mother. His interests include teaching himself how to play cello, and figure skating. He's at least in his 30's. And he lives with his mother.
But we'll start this story off at the beginning:

Rehearsal got off a bit late because the symphony's new curator was a bit late. (She had to pick up the conductor from the airport, and didn't unlock the church doors for us, so the principal violist had to get keys) So I unpack my cello, and take a seat in my usual chair. The third chair. Right behind principal. My usual place because we only have three cellos generally. But, I remembered! We have a new player! How exciting!

So the cello section settles, but we're short one player, our second chair. I figured the good Dr. would arrive shortly, so I ignored the empty second chair, and seated myself comfortably in the third chair. Our new addition, Neo, sits down beside me. Now I've played before with him. He was first chair that time, and it was at a Strauss Ball last year. I was sight reading bass parts for that concert, so I didn't pay much attention to him, but I still had a vague memory of what it was like being in a section with him. Even with that experience, I had no idea what I had in store.

The first thing I remember Neo saying to me when he sat down beside me was: "it's good skating weather. I'm trying hard to get myself in great physical condition". I'd forgotten what Jordan had told me about him last year. This guy has aspirations to be an olympic figure skater. In fact, a few years ago, when a bunch of professional figure skaters came to Prince George, he allegedly cornered one, and asked them what it would take for him to make it on the Olympic Figure Skating Team. He was told to keep it as a hobby. But! that apparently didn't phase him. I'm pretty sure at this very moment, he's getting prepped to win gold at 2010.

Now, before I go into this any farther, I have to let this be known: This was the most difficult symphony rehersal I have ever attended. Much harder than the first Nutcracker rehersal, where I was sweating, and nearly in tears because I was convinced if I miss a note, that the conductor will kick me out. Much worse than having to sight read tenor cleft for the Magic Flute. No, this one took the cake.

Not that Messiah is that hard. It's quite easy compared to other pieces I've performed. Its baroque, so the rhythms are simple and metronomical, and everything is pretty much just simple scale runs in first position. But the music was not what was making this taxing.

No hard bowings.

No legnthy fermadas.

No odd time signatures.

In fact, it's almost entirely in common time....4/4....and I was reminded of this...every time there were any rests....because I could hear 1...2...3...4...1...2...3...4... constantly being the other cellist. And when he wasn't counting beats, he was loudly tapping his foot. Only, sometimes he wasn't on the beat, and it would throw me off.

Now, I'll be the first to admit, no one is above counting beats. No one. It's actually a good habit, to just always have the numbers running through your head, helping you keep your rhythms in check. I've seen the best of them do it. Juan Alderate De la Pena, bass player for the Mars Volta, mouths beats in performance during parts with weird time signatures. It's cool. Because he's playing through a 1000 watt ampeg cab, and NO ONE in the audience can hear him. I do it. Constantly. But in my head. You know, that little voice you hear in your head. It chimes beats for me when I'm reading music, much like as you're reading this you may be hearing a voice in your own head (unless you read my blog out loud, which is kind of weird....) Well, I guess this guy eliminates the need for that internal voice, because the ENTIRE string section can hear him. Or at least hear him TAPPING HIS FOOT. At one point Les, the conductor, noticed this. The look on his face was priceless and sad.


Authors note: I never finished writing this. But I'm going publish what I have done. If anyone is at all interested, the performance went very well, and my one expected attendee didn't wear a suit, but it's okay because he didn't know the concert was happening until 15 minutes before the performance. My brother also came to watch, and was disgusted by all the religious content. I'm glad he attended.


xoxo said...

Interesting. Sorry you have to deal with that.

When I come up in May you have to play some cello for me. I'll photograph you with my fancy new camera.

Naomi said...

It's not like I loathe any of this. I love it, actually. It's very entertaining.

Also, sure! I'd love to embarass myself by playing cello infront of you! If you're lucky, me and Josh will play some shows in may. And remember! I'll probably be in Victoria in April. We must hang when that happens.

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