Sunday, May 27, 2012

The French Concert

It's not something I've mentioned very much on this blog, but I play viola with the Nottingham Symphony Orchestra, and I love it! I'm not an amazing player (very definitely an orchestral player rather than a soloist!) but I think of myself as being a solid player and I can count well, so I usually know where I am in the music! This has been particularly helpful for the last few concerts, as by dint of some strange confluence of events, I have ended up on the front desk next to the leader... Very scary especially as I have to turn the pages of the music for us so I really need to know exactly where I am all the time.

This is usually fine, except for this concert, our main piece was the music for the ballet Daphnis & Chloe. This is a piece not performed very often - and having played it I can see why! The score is complex, meaning both the players and the conductor have had issues sorting out where we are at any given time. When we did the first play through, I found it incredibly scary as I had very little idea where I was in the music most of the time (let alone being able to play it), and consequently fluffed a load of page turns. This terror continued through a large number of the rehearsals, but by the time of the concert, fortunately I was much more slick!

So, back to the concert - it was a break from our usual programme of overture, concerto, symphony, and we were joined by 3 local choirs and a huge number of percussionists, including a wind machine, and 2 harpists. We played 5 smaller pieces and then Daphnis & Chloe. So picture the scene - Friday night's rehearsal, we only have 1 rehearsal left after this before the concert, it's only the 2nd rehearsal with the percussion and the first rehearsal with the choirs, the harps and the solo violinst for Tzigane. We have had 2 intervening concerts between our last main one and this one, so rehearsal time has been slightly limited anyway and each week we've been practising Daphnis, the conductor has been looking more and more panicked at the amount of work still needed. We have already weathered one crisis to find a replacement celeste player as ours had dropped out! Okay? So not a stressful rehearsal at all.

We started with the Royal Hunt and Storm (Berlioz) - half-way down the first page the thundering timpani were nowhere to be heard. The percussionist for those particular timpani (we had 3 sets for the concert - 2 off-stage!) had not turned up and hadn't given her music to anyone else. Nice. Pavanne (Faure) went well and is beautiful with the choir. As we started Daphnis it came to light that the alto flute player had lost her flute. She turned up without flute having searched everywhere - conductor slowly turning purple. At a pre-arranged time, the concert venue had tea ready for everyone downstairs. Conductor wanted to press on, but he was advised we had to stop. Huffing and puffing, he let us go for a break but you could see he wasn't happy! And then the choir wanted to rehearse a huge section all again. Through gritted teeth the conductor agreed. At this point it's 10 to 10, we have rehearsed 3 and a half of the 6 pieces we are due to play, and the conductor says that he 'just wants to go over the orchestra only bits in Daphnis and then run through Bolero.' The sigh rippling through the room was audible!

Fortunately the concert was stupendous - everything went very well and I enjoyed it all! Roll on the next one.

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