Monday, October 12, 2009


The chamber orchestra I'm in played its first concert of the year this afternoon.  Even though this was a very short program, there were not enough rehearsals. Or rather, there were not enough rehearsals with everyone attending. This is a big problem with amateur orchestras. I've experienced conductors who fired people if they missed too many rehearsals and others who gently suggested it would be a good idea to be there for every one. I don't know if either is very effective, but when you're dealing with people who are donating their time (i.e., without all these volunteer players, there would be no orchestra), the latter course is more likely to obtain the most positive outcome, net.

The conductor of this orchestra follows the latter course, probably after doing the calculations.

My husband (who is no slick-talking complimenter) said the orchestra sounded pretty good, though in the Brahms Academic Festival Overture, the strings were overpowered by the winds (not surprising, considering that we had only six first violins, four seconds, two violas, four cellos, and three basses versus the full complement of woodwinds, brass, and percussion. The Haydn symphony (No. 92, "Oxford") was actually going very well until the last movement, when someone came in wrong (or something else happened -- I'm not exactly sure) at the beginning of the development, which happens to be a fugal section, so there were about 10 measures of confusion, but rather impressively (at least, my husband thought so), we kept playing and pulled together.

The Hummel (Introduction, Theme, and Variations for oboe and orchestra) was not too bad, though unfortunately we rushed the soloist in a few places. The Bloch (Suite Modale, for flute and strings), probably was the best overall. Although it has a lot of shifts in meter and the tonality is a little out of the ordinary, most of it is slow and soft, so it was less difficult than the other pieces on the program.

I continue to have mixed feelings about these concerts. On the one hand, you could go to any number of places on almost any day of the week to hear professional musicians playing similar programs perfectly. You could even go to a university music department and hear much more polished performances. On the other hand, there's something worthwhile (even sweet) about a group of adults who all have busy lives spending their time contributing to the cultural life of a community. It keeps music alive in a way that the professional stuff does not.

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