Wednesday, December 12, 2007

'Tis the season to be busy.

A lot has happened since the last time I wrote something here. Our orchestra had their holiday concert with the choir, which was silly and fun and involved a version of The Night Before Christmas with a narrator and music that sounded like John Williams after a little too much eggnog. Although, sadly, it had grown on me before the end. If it hadn't been accompanying a cheerful poem about Santa I think it would have been a lot better. Because Santa is in fact not an alien.

That week we had the music department party, and I got a department recognition for the recital I gave last year, which made me really happy. They gave me a certificate, and a gift certificate for a music store around here. I haven't decided yet, though, if I'm going to spend it on useful cds or frivolous ones.

Then this past weekend, Thursday through Sunday nights, I was in Roanoke, playing with the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra for their holiday concerts. It was interesting, because the three concerts were in three very different locations. One in a cavernous civic center/gymnasium, one in a ballroom, and one in a high school auditorium. The civic center was really horrible to play in, because it was so huge and the stage was so big. They were actually using microphones to allow us to hear each other and to balance the sound within the orchestra and with the choir. The other two concerts were much better in that respect, because I could actually hear the other woodwinds.

They were silly little holiday pops concerts, and the director was more concerned with putting on a show than paying attention to his orchestra, but still, it was nice, especially coming right after juries. Because that, playing in a symphony, is what I want to do. I really can't emphasize enough how much I prefer orchestra to solo performing. And I got to play with very good musicians, although nobody was being particularly serious. It's hard to be, during a concert like that, especially when your conductor is wearing a badly fitted santa suit and zooming around on a scooter. I did feel like I was being taken seriously as a musician; I didn't have people asking me what year in school I was and then telling me slightly patronizingly that I sounded good. I was just one of the players. I really hope I get the opportunity to play for them again. That would be brilliant.

Also, a couple of the principals from my school were also playing in the symphony, and I went out to lunch with the viola teacher and the bassoon teacher and had fun and helpful conversations about music, grad school, reeds, bocals, instruments, double reed things, etc. with a side of (gentle) gossip about both people about my school and the viola section. I brought up the conversation about tone that I had seen on the Oboe BBoard, as well as the idea that almost all oboists are obsessed with having a dark tone despite the fact that most of the top positions are filled by oboists who don't particularly. The bassoon teacher said that it was the same for bassoonists, which I suppose is logical. It was interesting, though. I also had a conversation with one of the cellists, who coincidentally used to work in admissions at Mannes and informed me that a lot of people lately have been unhappy with Tom Stacy as a teacher, which I appreciate her telling me. It's a wonderful feeling to know that all of these people, who you look up to, really want you to succeed.

Last night was the 40th Annual Messiah Sing-in, which I played at, and had a blast. It's really casual, and there are a lot of good musicians who come to play and sing. They fill our hall, minus the balcony, with people who come to sing. Handel, whatever my opinions about his music in general, wrote good oboe parts. He was still in the era where orchestra meant strings plus oboe and horn. Also, I got to play first oboe, which is always nice.

I'm very close to being done with exams; I have only my diction exam and a short music paper for my American music class left. I'm going to write the paper on Copland's Quiet City, which should be pretty interesting.

Unfortunately, I'm having a practice slump, which I need to get over immediately. I have all of my grad school auditions except GMU's, which is nice, but the first one is still on January 12, which is rapidly approaching.

On a different note, I am becoming fascinated with Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, seeing as it's being made into a movie. I approve of casting- I was wary because of the need for, well, singers, but having heard several song clips on the movie website, I heartily approve. In fact, I like Helena Bonham Carter better than Angela Lansbury, which I'm pretty sure is musical blasphemy. I've finally listened to the whole soundtrack (Original Broadway), and there's some pretty cool music. I especially like the choir numbers with the Dies Irae, which I'm a complete sucker for. Include that in your piece, and I am almost guaranteed to think it is pretty cool. In fact, somewhere I came across this podcast
about the use of the Dies Irae in music, done by Doug Adams, who wrote extensive liner notes for the complete recordings of the Lord of the Rings movies. I haven't listened to it yet, but it should be really interesting.

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