Interlude: ‘Tis the Season

Taking a break from talking about opera at the Filene Center. Today happened not to be all about opera, so the blog will reflect!

‘Tis the Season

Friday, 12/ 2/2005 – A typical arts administrator December day:

Morning – “Jingle Bells” and “Frosty”. Rehearsal with the Marine Band for this weekend’s Holiday Sing-Along at the Filene Center. Yours truly will be co-hosting – leading the singing and trying to contribute witty banter.

Afternoon – Mozart and Tchaikovsky. Programming and marketing ideas for next summer’s National Symphony Orchestra line-up.

Evening – Couperin and Rameau. French Baroque music of the season with the Aulos Ensemble at The Barns.

Shop Talk – More Audition Pianist Rants

During the lunch break at the Cincinnati stop on the audition tour, Donna Loewy, Thomas Lausmann and I decided to expand the audition pianist advice I offered in an earlier post. We figured that we have at least 75 years of accompanist duty among the three of us, so our pet peeves probably have some staying power.

  • Cuts. A follow-up to my previous advisory. Don’t just mark the cut clearly with pen; rather white out all of the irrelevant music with post-its or white paper.
  • Xeroxes. If you travel with copies in a binder, please make sure they’re first-generation copies. Nothing worse than trying to read grayed-out notes in dim rehearsal room lighting.
  • Cadenzas. Whenever possible, write out your cadenzas. It’s sometimes unnerving to guess when you’re headed toward the final cadence.
  • Double-sided. Half as many page turns.
  • Staples. Exposed staples in the center binding are a rare but serious hazard. As a last resort, pianists will press down the center fold to make a book stay open. Each one of us has ended up bleeding on the keyboard after a run-in with center staples.
  • Clean copies. Get rid of old pianist fingerings (fingerings from previous pianists, not fingerings from elderly pianists. Sorry… :)
  • Tempo indications. As I mentioned before, it almost never works to conduct or clap to demonstrate your tempo. And comparative instructions (faster, slower…) are useless without a baseline. What does work, however, is putting a ballpark M.M. (metronome) marking on your music. Pianists aren’t human metronomes, but most of us have a pretty good feel for M.M. markings.
  • Pages in backwards. Or upside down. Or not there at all. You laugh. It happens.

In the Audience

Back to the French baroque. I had some trouble acclimating to tonight’s concert. Took me almost half an hour. Not that it wasn’t marvelous in every way. Aulos played with spirit, virtuosity, and heart. And some of this music was cutting edge in its time. It’s just that in order to reframe the experience, it always takes me a while to enter into that sonic world.

Truth be told, the colors, harmonies, and rhythms of this music occupy fairly narrow and fairly conservative bandwidth to our 21st-century ears. In order for this music to speak to us, we have to enter its world. Once we do, its rewards are many. Until we do, it’s marginalized.

Musicians’ Love-Hate Relationship with December

From tonight’s holiday baroque concert to Sunday afternoon’s sing-along to a Sunday evening Messiah (Advent portion only, thank heaven.), it’s a typical start to a musician’s December. My email messages from colleagues are full of Nutcrackers and Messiah’s, with the occasional Christmas Oratorio, Ceremony of Carols or Amahl and the Night Visitors thrown in.
Freelance musicians love it because it pays the bills, hate it because it steals personal time during a season that purports to be about families. Someday we’ll get legislation introduced that re-schedules a Musicians’ Christmas in March. :)

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