September 29 Rehearsal Notes

October 01, 2012

Saturday's rehearsal was preceded by a seating audition for the cello section. As an adult in a youth orchestra I participated only for the experience. As a cellist with less then three years playing experience I would have been unable to perform most of the passages at performance tempo. This was my first seating audition so I have nothing to compare it to.

We were seated in a semi-circle with our conductor facing us. ON the chalkboard he had listed four passages for the audition. The first 45 measures of An English Suite and rehearsal marks 3 to 5 in Adagio for Strings we played as a group. The 5th variation of Vier Kliene Stucke's first movement was played individually, as was a passage from the Air movement of Brook Green Suite. Since David knew I could play it, I performed the middle section of our arrangement of Over the Rainbow. A random player was chosen to start each time, and we rotated around the circle. When it was mine turn to play Rainbow I was aware of being very nervous - my heart was pounding - but I did a credible job. Knowing that my fellow cellist were also nervous didn't help to calm me. It's almost as if their nervousness feeds mine. It's an interesting group dynamic to experience. I am curious to see how it changes over time and as I gain experience and confidence in my playing.

After a brief break while the basses had their audition we had our normal rehearsal.

Saber Dance

We haven't played this in rehearsal for a couple of weeks. On my own I've been working on the ending. There's a rapid-fire descending scale sequence (that sounds a bit like laughter to me) near the end that has two string changes and a couple of shifts to challenge one technically. I am slowly getting better at playing rapidly. What trips me up is coordinating my left and right hands. I get my left finger movements and rigth-hand bowing out of phase so that I am moving the bow while moving my fingers. This creates, at best, a stutter (like Porky Pig in the old cartoons) and at worst a muddy sound. By staring very slowly and deliberately and gradually increasing my speed I can play the passage a little bit faster each time I rehearse it. It seems like such a simple thing, but, like all "simple" things, it is surprisingly nuanced and difficult.

Vier Kliene Stucke

We moved on to Vier Kliene Stucke next. This piece has several movements and in the interest of not making our final program too long, David has omitted some of them. We played through the first movement, and the first half of the 4th movement on Saturday. The second variation of the 1st movement is a rapid pizzicato section that I am not (yet) able to play at tempo. Saturday I just played the bottom note of each two-note pair - in effect halving the tempo. I was able to keep up (barely) that way.

The 4th movement is one of my favorite passages from our program, and I am able to play this at tempo.

Revenge of the Red Pepper

At my last lesson David changed the fingering of the most difficult passage of this piece and that has made a huge difference. I was able to nearly keep up on Saturday. And I am getting better and rapid switching between pizzicato and arco, which this piece demands several times.

Over the Rainbow

We also rehearsed Over the Rainbow for the first time in several weeks. It's a lush, beautiful arrangement, and I think this will be a real show stopper. I don't know how meaningful this piece is to the younger members of the orchestra, but it is powerful and poignant to me, and I think it will be moving for our audiences.

Adagio for Strings

For a piece that is played slowly this is surprisingly hard. The score is spare - there aren't any extra notes - and therefore there isn't any room for error. All sections of the orchestra have to be on the mark or the effect of the layers falls apart. We are already starting to sound good while playing this piece. By the time our performances in November occur I think this will be the piece of our program.

A week ago I was pretty despondent about my progress with the pieces and worried about my role in the orchestra. Most of the pieces are well beyond my technical ability and even the ones I can play are challenging. Finding ways to contribute to each piece - if only to play the first note of each measure - is helping. Treating this as a deep-end-of-the-pool learning experience is help too. Saturday evening instead of playing orchestra music I played through the first two Suzuki books. It felt good to take a break from all the orchestra music.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.