Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A nothing post. :-)

This is the first "meme" I've posted here, and I don't intend to make a start of it, but I thought it was cute.

cash advance

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I realize that I haven't written anything in some time.

However, I've been very busy. The weekend after the Carmina concert was the production of Pirates of Penzance, which took up nearly every waking hour of my life. Although the singers were audibly nervous on opening night, they did a really good job, and each performance only got better. The experience was made even better by the most appreciative director I've ever worked with, who bought us joke gifts, and sent out a lovely note afterwards. I'm soon going to start convincing our conductor to do an orchestra, rather than a piano, for the spring opera.

We're now working on our holiday orchestra concert, which is this weekend, and the following weekend I have a gig playing in the Roanoke Symphony for their holiday concert.

Currently, I'm getting ready for my jury, which is this Saturday, a week earlier than usual. I know what I'm playing (a Gillet etude, and the Paladilhe), but I've got only three days to really work the Gillet into performance readiness. I'm not unduly worried, though.

I've been playing English horn in a trio with my teacher and another adult oboist; we performed at a "Lunchbox Recital" (a casual chamber music program around lunchtime, where people can come and go) today and played the Beethoven Variations on "La ci darem la mano" and the third movement of the Badings Trio. It went pretty well, and there were about 8 people listening.

I'm working on the program notes for my recital this spring, as part of my Distinguished Major. I've written a draft of the ones for the Poulenc Sonata, and I think they'll turn out quite nicely. I'm using Michael Steinberg's "Listener's Guides" as inspiration. However, the notes for only that one piece are around 850 words, so I need to pick and choose what I want to emphasize. (A brief snippet:
In the Sonata, the traditional sequence of movements is reversed, resulting in a slow-fast-slow pattern which allows for a somber conclusion. As with Sept Repons, here the music is very personal, creating the feeling that “we overhear as much as hear.” The movements move from El├ęgie to Scherzo to D├ęploration, moving from the melancholic to the frantic to pensive grieving, creating the feeling of a memento mori .)

I've also been writing a couple music papers, and and my final personal statements. Yes, I have finally finished my grad school applications, and will mail them tomorrow. Now all I have is the auditions.... Well, that gives me 6 weeks until my first, and 3 months until my last.

I should be making reeds tonight, but I left my plaque(s) in my locker, making that a little difficult. Ah well, tomorrow I will catch up after rehearsal.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My life is crazy right now.

This past weekend was our Carmina concert weekend, and boy did word get around. Both orchestra concerts were sold out by 12:05 on Friday, and we also had about 400 people sitting in Friday night during our (highly publicized) open dress rehearsal. The concerts were certainly as full as I've ever seen- we actually had people in the standing room.

Saturday night I was oddly detached from both songs, but Carmina was still awesome. Truly awesome. YAY SINGERS.

The Ravel went pretty well, but the conductor was worried about it, and I think it showed in our playing. It was certainly not the best I've played it.

We had a few technical difficulties with things like risers and an unusually large number of brass cracks, but it was still a really good performance.

However, CARMINA. There are no words. The soloists were amazing, and the choir was just absolutely superb, and, so my secret audience connections tell me, was at no times overwhelmed by the orchestra. Success!

On Sunday, though, the Ravel was on- by far the best the orchestra has ever played it, and the best I've ever played it too. The conductor wasn't worried for that concert, and I think that helped. But I think we also just needed that one more time. It was sparkling, animated, alive, one of those words. (As everyone backstage said, wow...that was...good...how surprising.)

Carmina went well the second concert too, of course, though not quite as well as Saturday. Well, it was better for the brass, and not quite as good for the woodwinds. But the soloists were really on- I liked the soprano on Sunday as well as I had in rehearsal and better than Saturday. And the choir was in fine form as well, of course. They've been wonderful every time I've heard them. The end of the piece, though, was truly spectacular. The conductor held the last note just that little bit longer so that we all kind of came up breathless and grinning. I think some people in the audience were on their feet before he'd even truly cut us off.

It was a very good concert.

In conclusion, despite the orchestra parts, playing in Carmina is something I absolutely would not have missed. As my friend said, it's worth it for the very first word. Completely worth it.

(And people want to know why I want to be a musician. For the chance once every how many years to play a piece like this. It makes everything worth it.)

Also, we had fortune cookies with orchestra related fortunes inside, and some free tickets to the chamber concert. (The title of this concert, you see, was "Love and Fate".)


This week, I'm having rehearsals for our (student run) opera company production of Pirates of Penzance. Rehearsal which are every night from 9-12. I don't know how the cast is doing it. I'm exhausted, and having trouble finding enough time to practice and do my homework. Everything will work out, though, and I do enjoy the show. Plus, Thanksgiving is conveniently next week, which will allow me to catch up on my sleep and such.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A failed experiment

I have this reed. A really good reed. One might even call it a miraculous reed, as it revived itself from mediocrity to be a rich, deep, easy-blowing, full-range reed that has lasted a very long time. In fact, it was starting to look a little...gross. But it still sounded amazing, if slightly past its prime. I was trying then, since it was old anyways, to think of a way to disinfect it with something I could put in my mouth. And I though, mouthwash! It's antibacterial, and it's made for your mouth. So, I soaked the reed in mouthwash. And...well, it still plays, and sounds good, and it is "antibacterialized", but...it's blue. Stained from the mouthwash. I'm not sure I can bring myself to play it in public: who wants to have to explain that story in person to a fellow musician?

I've been doing a lot of playing on English horn lately, what with double reed trio, the current orchestra concert, and Romeo and Juliet, and the one problem that persists is that I am always sharp. Because this holds for all of my reeds, reeds which should play in tune, it stood to reason that the problem was my bocal. I only have one, and when I got it I didn't have much choice. And while I love the tone it gives, it is so sharp. So I decided to try the bocals from the school's English horn, which had two 3s, of different shape, and a 1. (All, I believe, Loree- I don't have them with me.) Mine's a 2, and it's Howarth. I found one of the 3s makes me play pretty much in tune, and it also increases my volume, which is a bonus. I sometimes have trouble projecting English horn. It's a little buzzier than my 2, but I really like it. I may have to, um, switch them. I do have permission from my teacher. :-) I also got distracted, when doing this, with the school's EH. It's a Loree, and while I've never found a Loree oboe that I like as much as I like my Howarth, I do like Loree EHs. I went back and forth between them for about half an hour or so, toying even with the idea of borrowing it for the concert, just for fun. But the keys feel really different, and I would have to do a lot of playing to get Daphnis on a different horn, and at the end of the day, it seems I always come down on the side of my English horn. Which, you know, is nice, since I own it.

For my lesson this week, I had to write half a cadenza (a continuation of one in the edition that I like) of the Mozart Concerto. It was quite hard; I'm really not a composer. I've come up with something which I kind of like, but it's very boring. I just can't get past the obvious to the more cadenza-like material. Mine's stuck in scales and arpeggios, really. But I'm going to take it to my teacher, and see if he has any suggestions.

Tonight was the first rehearsal for Carmina with the choir. It was stunning. I spent the entire time, when I wasn't playing, grinning madly. We've only heard one of the soloists, the soprano, but I highly approve of her, so hopefully the others will also be good. Tomorrow's entire rehearsal (it's orchestra week time again) is Carmina, so hopefully we'll get through a lot more material than we did today. I like the choir conductor (who conducted us for a year), but he does get distracted.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Non, ce n'est pas le jour. Ce n'est pas la louette.

This weekend I had a gig with the Opera on the James, doing Gounod's Romeo and Juliet. I played second oboe (read: tacet 2/3 of the time, and doubling first another 1/6, with about 50 bars of English horn), with my teacher playing principal (which is how they got my name). And, I've gotta say, wow I love my job.

It was done at a high school, the auditorium of which actually had a sunken pit- the first time I've ever played in one. Not only that, but because it's just sunken, not under the stage, and because I sat up against the audience side wall, I was at a perfect angle to watch everything on stage.

It was so great to play in a professional group. The conductor was in complete control and on top of things, and all of the players could deal with playing in a pit. (And it's a HUGE pit- 4 or so of each string section except one bass, a full wind section, and timpani.) He had to show us things once and everybody could then follow him. And everybody had a sense of musicality, which really helped with that too. We were able to just kind of follow the conductor, and everybody knew when he'd gone into two or four or whatever, because it MADE SENSE.

It is, of course, a French ballet, and while I knew that, I hadn't really processed it all the way before the dress rehearsal. So I was quite surprised when an entire ballet corps (with more guys than girls!) turned up. There's a tableau at the beginning of each (of 5) acts, and the choir just sang, standing behind one of those magic curtains that you can only see through when it's lit, so the dancers did the action of everyone except the nurse, the Duke, Friar Laurence, and of course Romeo and Juliet. And they were good. (Have I mentioned how this is a really truly professional opera company?) It was actually really distracting at the dress rehearsals, because I wanted to watch, but I managed to not miss any entrances during the performance.

The lead singers were wonderful- I loved Juliet's voice in particular (French opera and its sweet sopranos), but Romeo's was really good too. It was also nice having professional singers, because while we did test audibility with one of the directors sitting in the audience, they were able to project comfortably over us. We of course couldn't blast, but we could play with fullness and a dynamic range, and the singers (and the choir) were still audible.

They even had supertitles, shown on a large piece of something (posterboard? duct tape?) on the top of the curtain. It was a little bit odd, though because for everything except stuff like Romeo and Juliet's (added) dying duet, the supertitles were just the text of the Shakespeare play. And while sometimes that's what they were singing, sometimes it really wasn't. But at least that way they were well written.

Because of the aforementioned tacet numbers, my part was mostly really easy. I was pleased in the performance, though, that the super low oboe part in the woodwind chorale came out sounding nice, and I hit all of my low, soft, exposed English horn notes. Plus, it's always comforting to be able to hold one's own in amongst professional musicians.

So, a really great experience. I love playing for opera, and it's always nice to get paid as well. (Another perk of a professional company.)