Playing in an orchestra, All together now.
Last night was my first experience in playing with an orchestra. I’d hammered away for months now learning the skills I’d need to participate in this very small, specific community. Of course it was pouring with rain and I had a sore neck from playing squash the night before but still I downed my scotch to soothe the ache and entered the night.
Playing in a collective is a difficult task, in order for it to function you must:
- Gather a group of people who own and know how to play various instruments needed for the genre.
- Find a place and a time that works for everyone.
- decide on some specific songs
- acquire, steal, borrow the various parts for these specific songs.
- arrange these parts to work as a harmonious whole
- Conduct the collective to begin playing at the same time, tempo, rhythm
Sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it? Ever been in a group project and found it a nightmare to schedule/meet? This is so much harder. But the cool thing is… Its worth it. The sound of a whole orchestra playing well together is absolutely exhilarating. Its like a wall of sound except so very varied, like going to the IMax. A total sensory overload. It cuts straight through to your emotions totally bypassing rational thought altogether.
So I sat there nervous as hell with my cheap silver trumpet and waited in the awkward silence to start. When it finally did I tried as best I could to join in. Just sitting there was enough though. Surround Sound doesn’t describe half of what sitting in the middle of an orchestra is. To my left a graceful cello bowed slowly while to my right the reedy sound of the clarinets stabbed with the melody. A bassoon solo sounds like a whale cry while me and my fellow trumpets assert our bold, bright sound. Everyone seems to be rising and falling at different times now, like taking turns to jump off a trapeze and catch each other.
When the last bar of the last song finished the silence came rushing back, It didn’t seem as strange as at the start though. Now it seemed to be an old friend shaking our hands and saying “well done”.
Feature photo courtesy of MITO SettembreMusica via Flickr.