the orchestra world

work is good, and harder than I’d remembered

I just finished, along with 20+ members of the Oregon Symphony and Music Director Carlos Kalmar, a week of rehearsing and recording audio/video captures of seven works for string ensemble. I don’t know when the videos will be released, but I promise to post here when they are available to view. We rehearsed for four days, starting this past Monday, and recorded on Friday and Saturday.

Photo: Oregon Symphony

A rigorous set of COVID-19 protocols was in effect for the week. Everyone on set was tested before the rehearsal period began, and there was a health questionnaire and infrared thermometer temperature taken at the beginning of each day before admittance to the venue was granted.

The musicians were also distanced both backstage and onstage. Offstage, we each had a table with a disposable top layer, six feet from our nearest neighbor. Onstage, we were all distanced from at least six feet from each other. We were at a cavernous event space in the Pearl District (a former warehouse district just north of downtown), and with the distancing, the curtains hung both to provide visual interest and to shield street noise, and not having played in a large ensemble for nearly a year made for an initially challenging rehearsal experience.

Hearing each other was challenging, and even getting good visual cues from our peripheral vision was nearly impossible due to the distances involved. In the Mendelssohn Sinfonia we recorded, the violas were divided into two sections of three players – the second tier players were all at least twelve fee away from me – they barely seemed to be in the same room! But, like playing chamber music at a high level requires, the challenges made us grow ‘big ears’ and as the week went along, things got a bit easier.

We recorded a pretty diverse set of works: music by Ruth Crawford-Seeger, Richard Strauss, Johannes Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn, Jessie Montgomery, Benjamin Britten, and Gioachino Rossini. [I won’t discuss the individual works here, but when the videos are released, I’ll revisit them in subsequent blog posts.] But, needless to say, it was so wonderful to see my colleagues again – some of whom I hadn’t see in person since last March – and to make music with them again. I was once again struck by the incredibly high standards that we have as an orchestra and as individuals, and though that made for some pressure filled moments in the recording sessions, it also made for some really remarkable music making, and for an intense feeling of satisfaction once the sessions were complete.

In the end, I’m struck by how dog tired I am! I came home Saturday afternoon and lay on the sofa watching a world tour bike race (the UAE Tour Stage 7, if you’re interested) and felt utterly wrung out. But it’s the kind of tired that comes after hard and productive work, and which is completely satisfying.

So stay tuned – when details on the release of the videos is known, I’ll post here!

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