Friday, November 20, 2009

Sublime to ridiculous

Here's a compare and contrast:

1. Last night, my husband and I went to hear Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. We decided only yesterday afternoon to do this because a friend found out some good seats had opened up and were being sold at bargain prices.

This was an especially interesting show because Howard Levy, the virtuoso harmonica player who was in the band originally, was going to be playing with them instead of the saxophone player who has been in the band since Levy left.

I have to admit that during the first half hour or so, I nodded off a few times, but then the music got more interesting. The playing was on a very high level. Probably the highlight was an extended harmonica solo -- about 10 minutes of some amazing stuff. They also did some good bebop style numbers, and even the Beatles' "Michelle."

The concert was at Strathmore Hall, which is a beautiful place acoustically and aesthetically. Almost every seat in the place was filled.

Anyway, it was rather inspiring. When we got home at 11:30, I practiced Brahms for an hour.

2. Tonight, the group that is planning to play the Spohr Nonet got together. This is the flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, viola, cello, and bass group I mentioned. It's been a while since I've done something like this, and it was something of a shock.

The violist couldn't find a babysitter, so she brought her 2-year-old daughter, who is very cute but spent most of the rehearsal rolling around on the floor at her mother's feet, knocking the music off her stand and shrieking, "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" This was happening directly to my right.

On my left was the bass, with the f-holes pointing right into my ear, so it sounded way too loud to me, but probably was not. Between that and the screaming kid on the other side, I could barely hear anyone else. What I could hear was out of tune and not together.

The piece is kind of pleasant, but it's certainly not deep. The slow movement is disappointing and boring. The cello part is completely uninteresting, but it has several very hard licks in it that I will have to practice a lot. It's also mostly doubling with the bass, and tonight, at least, we were extremely out of tune with each other.

So I came home frustrated and wondering if I should do this concert at all. I've gone through this before, and each time, I'm torn between wanting to fulfill what I've promised to do and not wanting to suffer unduly. In the meantime, I act grumpy and the other players probably think I'm some old grouch (well, maybe I am, but still), and my husband gets annoyed about my complaining.

It's nothing against any of these players -- they are all doing their best, and they are way, way better than the average amateurs. It's more a question of what is the best way to spend my time.

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