Sunday, January 30, 2005

Beethoven/Shostakovich (gesundheit!)

Part of the reason I haven't been back since Thursday is because I've been in the midst of Hell Week. In this case, it's the week immediately prior to the symphony's performance. That means alot of staff meetings, and generally giving up any outside life (not that I have one to begin with) for the week. Since we have a concert almost once a month, that allows me alot of Hell Weeks during the year. As the personnel manager, I have to deal with all the petty, and not-so-petty, concerns of the musicians. I swear, some of these people are SO clueless! I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say that there are some amazingly ignorant people out there. And I get to deal with that ignorance for each concert. It came to a bit of a head Friday night when I had a minor heated exchange with another staff person. She, of course, has to deal with the same people, so she was also frustrated. There were no punches thrown (though I could have taken her down, if it came to that!), and things are fine, but we both somewhat resented coming to that point, due to other's actions (or inactions, as it were). The one thing about Hell Week is that when it's over, it's a great relief. And so far, everything has worked out, and the concerts have been wonderful, and no one is any the wiser about the hassles going into it.

So how was last night? Great, of course! And exhausting. Beethoven's 5th Symphony (which you've all heard a part of at one time or another) doesn't involve trombones until the last movement. Or in other words, you have to sit there in front of 1500 people and not draw attention to yourself while the rest of the orchestra is playing. Being in the back row also means that you're sitting on risers above the rest of the orchestra in front of you, so every little thing you do can be seen. That means no talking, no nose picking, no crotch scratching, no napping, no slouching, no yawning, no .... Well, you get the idea. Often times you put yourself into a meditative state. Or catatonic state. And after sitting still for 30 minutes or so, you're expected to pick up your horn, and WITHOUT WARMING UP, start playing perfectly. It's a challenge, but those of us in the back row are used to it! But I will say that sitting on your ass doing nothing and trying to look involved is very exhausting! Beethoven would have liked what he heard last night, if he weren't deaf and already dead...

The Shostakovich 12th Symphony, on the other hand, is not as well known. If you were to make a movie about pre-Lenin Russia, this would be the soundtrack to it. Very dark, very unrelenting, somewhat like a like a Communist Steamroller (not to be confused with Mannheim Steamroller) crushing the peasant uprising. Forty minutes of driving, loud, pulsing sound. I swear to God, the tuba player split his lower lip within the first 3 minutes. Blood all over his mouthpiece, and down his chin. It was OK for the night, but after it starts healing, he won't be able to play for a day or two. It was that loud. And sustained. The entire brass section was doing deep breathing exercises before playing, just to expand lung capacity. And it wasn't enough. Fortunately, there's a softer section or two to regain your senses, but then it all starts up again.

But we pulled it off. We got standing ovations after each symphony, and that's always good to see. Not one of those "my butt's numb, I need to stand"-types, or the "oh, everyone else is standing, I should too"-types. Both times it was more of the "jump to your feet after someone makes a basket from mid-court at the buzzer"-type of standing ovation. This was a good performance last night. Very satisfying. And tiring. I don't have to deal with Hell Week again for about 3 weeks, which means now I can spend some time with you!

5 comments:

Karass said...
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Lizabeth said...

Good to hear it all went well! Do you guys tour (sorry I'm one of the symphony clueless) if you do though you should put your tour dates on your blog. I'd love to see it. Same with In Cahoots.

Osbasso said...

Sorry if I implied the public is clueless (they are, but that's expected, and not a bad thing!). The clueless I was referring to are orchestra members. But I digress. The symphony doesn't tour, per se, but we have been known to wander outside the city limits on rare occassion. No plans in the near future though. I do like the idea of putting up a schedule for In Cahoots though. I'll do that when the summer starts to fill up. Things are a little slow right now. If you're the type that goes to Butte for St. Patrick's Day, we'll be playing at the Red Lion. It's not uptown Butte, but at least we'll be in town!

Moosekahl said...

Okay...and you said my last blog entry was too long! Maybe just because I think I personally heard about each of the ignorant members the whole week. That's what friends are for right? Wish I could have been there, loud angry russian music would have fit my mood this weekend.

Lightning Bug's Butt said...

I had no idea professional musicians had it so rough. Tuba players drawing blood? Wow!