Last summer? At orchestra camp?

I just wanted to mention a couple things about my involvement in the local youth orchestra, before I forget everything. There were, I think, about 62 musicians this year, more than last year, including a full woodwind and brass and all that section. Oh, and two harps. Five full-sized adults, that is parents, played in the orchestra, including myself, and at 48 I was not the oldest one; but none of us were professionals or experts, but rather towards the beginner end of the spectrum, having begun learning our instruments as adults, usually in reaction to having a kid at the music school. Several of us had kids in the orchestra, which is a fun experience, playing in an orchestra with your kid.

I suppose it might have looked funny, a couple white-haired guys in the local youth orchestra, but it was nice of them to let us play and you can’t demand that they change the name especially for us.

There was quite a range of kids playing, from little violinists etc who had just two or three years under their belts, to kids like my daughter who will be turning 18 soon and has been learning harp for 11 years, and several who have sort of graduated and are in their early 20s but still hang around. A diverse group.

The tunes we played this year were harder than last year. Part of a Vivaldi concert for 2 violins. Two little ten-year old girls played the solo, and were fantastic. Grieg, a march from “Sigurd Jojrsalfar” that had some pretty tough bits. A Handel concert for organ, arranged for harp, in which my daughter and another girl had a beautiful solo. Three Lehar waltzes. Brahms Hungarian Dance #5. We played Glen Miller’s Pennsylvania 6500 as an encore.

It all went rather well this year. The kids developed so much between when we started rehearsals and our final concert. They even made progress between the first concert and the final, fourth one. The teachers and other involved people worked hard and did a really good job. And the kids made the most of it. It was cool to be sitting in the middle of all that.

When I first heard we were playing 4 concerts this year instead of 3 like last year I thought, oh god, somebody’s getting ambitious; but it turned out to be good for everyone’s playing, more time to perfect everything before the final concert in our home town.

Our music school cooperated with two other schools this year in connection with the orchestra. One was a little school in a spa town, and were really nice people. A couple of their kids played in our orchestra, and we had a joint concert with their own little orchestra, and they were really nice and everyone got a lot out of it. The other was with this other ambitious music school in a town near Vienna. We felt like the Bad News Bears. We played two concerts with them, first in their town and then our final concert at home. They had relatively few real pupils in their orchestra, and mostly teachers, kids studying at the university level and even a couple they paid. So they totally outplayed us at the first concert.

I don’t really get why someone would want to stuff a music school orchestra with so many ringers, unless they’re really uptight about perfection. Our orchestra had a few teachers playing in it in the beginning, but that was just because the kids were too small and there really was no one else. But I believe the situation was different with the other school.

I wasn’t really crazy about their choice of music, either. Beta thought it was cheap that they played Andrew Lloyd Webber, for example. With a drum set!

Anyway. We had the home court advantage for our final concert, and the kids were phenomenal. Everything you can do right in an orchestra, they did. The stage was too small for all the people we had, so I had a good look at our conductor’s face (she is a genius, by the way) and she looked so happy and proud of the kids after every number. Everything we screwed up in the previous concerts we did right this time. Everyone remembered their pianissimos and their fortissimos. No one played into a rest. (Well, almost no one. The kid sharing my music stand did once, but he was very quiet about it. Better him than me.) Everything came together into this giant inverted funnel of music that rose into the sky and exploded like fireworks into a big unicorn of light before fading.

Or something.

My wife just showed me the local paper. There’s a picture of the orchestra and you can even see me if you look close, I’m the little white dot in the bass section. Beta is even mentioned by name in the article.

Anyway. I failed again this year, but at a higher level, so I’m happy. I couldn’t keep up with the fast bits in the Grieg, although the Lehar went much better than I’d feared. The stage at the last concert was rather tiny, so I had to devote half my brain power to getting the bow directions right and not stabbing the kid to my left. By the fourth concert, I was no longer so entranced by the harp solos that I missed the part where I was supposed to start playing again, although they were very entrancing.

It’s all about failing at a higher level each time, for me at least.

5 responses to “Last summer? At orchestra camp?

  1. Suppose it would be too much to ask for a small mp3 of the performance? I’d love to hear it- I’m sure you were all awesome ;-)

  2. mig

    Heh. I’ll see if anyone recorded it.

  3. Sounds like a lovely time. And what you describe doesn’t sound the least bit like failure, on any level.

  4. Jann

    Doesn’t fit my definition of failure either. Sounds rather wonderful…

  5. Bravo! I’m just itching, now, to get a band together for a nice long evening of Arvo P