Saturday, 19 February 2011

Saturday morning, coffee in hand.

Really a lot to write about - as usual the weeks where lots is happening I don't get the chance to post!

The Bach cantata went well - the slide trumpet chorale went particularly well after I decided I didn't need to play it loud at all. In the rehearsal of the Telemann cantata which followed, I was quite enjoying listening to the decadent last chorale when the conductor (from the organ, of course) asked if I'd like to play along. Of course! So I put down Sophia (who had been on my shoulders) and ran and got my tenor trombone from the kitchen - I hope Sophia didn't feel her position usurped! Then he asked if I could double the top part... well, I ran and got my alto trombone instead, adding yet another instrument to the cantus firmus count.

In the rehearsal it was a glorious feeling to ride on top of such a gorgeous sound. In the concert it was ok but not more I'm afraid. The band got a spontaneous urge to play and sing very, very quietly, which was quite magical and which I highly approve of in theory, but it was extremely difficult to join in on in the high register of a cold trombone. Still possible though. It was one of those moments that felt mildly traumatic in how hard it was, but then afterwards everyone said how the trombone added quite a lovely colour, and I'm forced to remember the helpful words of Dave Martin: It doesn't matter how it feels, it's how it sounds. Right.

But wait, did no one care that I split the high d the first time 'round? Maybe not...

The next day on lunch break, I got a call to do something I haven't done in a while - to play in a symphony orchestra. Covering for a sick friend, it was a last minute thing - concert was last night. The last few days I've had my modern trombone out (fourth instrument of the week and only Monday!) and have been, um, relearning it. This mainly consists of abandoning a bit of sackbut technique: for renaissance music I've developed a sort of a falsetto way of playing high, which lets me play in the alto range for long periods of time and quite delicately. It's bad trombone technique though. While it works brilliantly for renaissance music, where parts rarely span more than an octave, its inflexibility makes it basically impossible to use when playing over the whole range of the instrument. So, knowing what I had to do, I dug out my old International Edition of Bach cello suites transcribed for trombone (am I really posting this to the Internet?) and blew lots of air until the chesty feeling of being a modern trombonist crept back into my body. Also a very good feeling.

On Wednesday I had a singing lesson, the first in far too long. Funnily enough it was about not switching completely into falsetto to sing the high bits but keeping a chesty feeling. Hmm...

During last night's concert I was more comfortable than I had thought I would have been* after just a few days of modern playing - yey! I indulged in a bit of wholesome SFT (Slavonic Fortissimo Therapy, of which modern trombonists will be familiar) in the Slavonic Dance. I was still not as loud as the trumpets by the way. The last piece, Dvorák's Cello Concerto, is just a phenomenal piece of music.
*apologies to non mother tongue English speakers for that bit of syntax. Ok, to the rest too.

I enjoyed a few "Eureka" moments in the rehearsals. I like to think that all renaissance and much baroque music has a text. Well, after we played three short notes, the bass trombonist exclaimed "Chuk chuk chuk!" Maybe romantic trombone parts do have a text too! Perhaps it looks like I'm being facetious, but really I'm not. I find it much easier to play in concerts if I can activate the language part of my brain in music-making, so texted music is easier to play than untexted. Otherwise my brain tends to blather on anyway about this and that, whereas if I can focus it on the text of the music, it shuts up in the random department and I play better. "Chuk chuk chuk!"

Another Eureka - I do suddenly understand why early music people are stereotyped for liking organic products - in comparison with the relatively transparent music we play, romantic music seems to be steeped in musical MSG. Of course, the cellist was so good last night that I completely enjoyed his ubiquitous vibrato: it didn't seem chemical at all, but would more accurately be compared to a bit of added umami.

I had a strange moment last night redoing my falling-out braid (UK: plait) at intermission (UK: the interval). I looked in the mirror and thought to myself, it would be ok if I started to get a few grey hairs now. Gosh.

I won't be surprised if I do, either. I had kind of thought that the restful, sit-back-and-wait portion of university applications might last a bit longer than two and a half weeks from submitting my last application...but news is, well, flooding in and the suspense of where I'll go next is almost unbearable....


(...Go on, is it?)


(...Mu ha ha.)

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