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My First Orchestra Experience
Hopefully an ongoing discussion... topics on beginning in orchestra, dealing with learning the music, following the conductor, playing with the section, being a positive contribution to the orchestra.
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (3 votes) 
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Gordon Shumway
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Although we have fixed upon Sibelius, Puccini and Karlowicz for our Xmas gig, we are still sight-reading stuff for the hell of it. This was last Friday's torture (3rd movmt of John Ireland's Concertino Pastorale): -

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AndrewH
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CyndieZ said
I am really enjoying reading this thread - keep sharing everyone!

I'm hoping to join my first orchestra in the spring. There are two within traveling distance for me. My gut is telling me that one does more challenging music, but I'm going to try to go to a couple of their performances to see if I'm correct. I'd like to ease in to the orchestral experience by joining the who's rep is less challenging. I still call myself a beginner (well maybe adv. beginner), but my teacher tells me I am an intermediate player. 

I've been taking a Chamber Ensemble class to get experience playing as part of an ensemble, and I'm hoping that will help. 

Excited at the prospect of joining, and a little nervous too!

Cyndie

  

Let us know how it goes! Have you had a chance to talk with anyone about the two orchestras? Local musicians, teachers or even luthiers can often give you some insight into what to expect, even if they don't play in those orchestras. It's always nice to have some advance information, given the amount of variation in how community orchestras operate. Another thing you can do if you have the time and inclination: maybe contact the conductors and see if they'd mind you sitting in on a rehearsal.

 

Gordon Shumway said
Although we have fixed upon Sibelius, Puccini and Karlowicz for our Xmas gig, we are still sight-reading stuff for the hell of it. This was last Friday's torture (3rd movmt of John Ireland's Concertino Pastorale): -

  

I found the Ireland Concertino Pastorale on YouTube. I like it. And I've considered Karlowicz to be a very underrated composer for quite a while.

As for how my season's going...

I've cut back to just one orchestra, the semi-pro orchestra, because of my ongoing shoulder injury. (That means I won't be playing Beethoven's 6th with the mid-level community orchestra I normally also play in. Which is actually fine with me, because it would have been my fourth time playing it within three years.)

I'm still crossing a piece off my musical bucket list this weekend: the Brahms German Requiem. It'll be my third concert this fall. The Brahms needs no introduction. The piece that opens the program is a quite fascinating contemporary piece based on whale song, "Alice" by Qing Yang. Our performance will be the US premiere, and we'll have the composer singing the solo soprano part in her own piece.

After this weekend, I'm sitting out of orchestras for the rest of the month, playing a Messiah sing-along in December (which will be on just one rehearsal), and then resuming in late January with rehearsals for Bruckner's 7th and the Clara Schumann piano concerto (concert February 22).

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AndrewH said I won't be playing Beethoven's 6th with the mid-level community orchestra I normally also play in. Which is actually fine with me, because it would have been my fourth time playing it within three years.

My teacher is almost driven crazy by how much of the same old Strauss and Tchaikovsky she has to play every year. She tempers this by working for the Bootleg Beatles.

The Dulwich Symphony Orchestra, which I hope to join next September, are doing Shostakovitch 7, I think. That's a plan! It will be a trial by fire if they try something like that next year.

Karlowicz died in 1909, so maybe he was quite advanced in a way - no offence, but his music reminds me of a lot of 1930s/40s B-movie musical filmscores: - Marx Brothers meets Disney meets the Gypsy Prince kind of thing.

There's some Grieg in there too, I think. We're only doing the March (1st movement), though.

Andrew

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Fiddlerman
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Gordon Shumway said
Although we have fixed upon Sibelius, Puccini and Karlowicz for our Xmas gig, we are still sight-reading stuff for the hell of it. This was last Friday's torture (3rd movmt of John Ireland's Concertino Pastorale): -  

Poor you Gordon. moony-2173

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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AndrewH
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I think of Karlowicz as most similar to Richard Strauss or Scriabin. The String Serenade was something he composed as a student. Look up his "Eternal Songs" or "Stanisław and Anna Oświecim" for something more typical of him.

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AndrewH
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As for playing the same stuff repeatedly... sometimes I wish conductors in the same area would talk to each other and avoid programming the same stuff around the same time. Last year, I was playing Beethoven's 8th in two different orchestras at the same time -- one in a "classical" interpretation at the upper end of the range of recorded tempi, and one in a "romantic" interpretation at the lower end of the tempo range. The performances were two weeks apart. In the really extreme case, a few years ago, Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony was performed by every single orchestra in my area capable of playing it (six orchestras in all including professional, university, and semi-pro/amateur orchestras) in the space of five weeks, because none of the conductors noticed that all the others were playing it at the same time. That's not great for audiences either.

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Gordon Shumway
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AndrewH said
I think of Karlowicz as most similar to Richard Strauss or Scriabin. The String Serenade was something he composed as a student. Look up his "Eternal Songs" or "Stanisław and Anna Oświecim" for something more typical of him.  

Thanks, Andrew, I'll bear this in mind.

Andrew

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Gordon Shumway
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Fiddlerman said

Gordon Shumway said

Although we have fixed upon Sibelius, Puccini and Karlowicz for our Xmas gig, we are still sight-reading stuff for the hell of it. This was last Friday's torture (3rd movmt of John Ireland's Concertino Pastorale): -  

Poor you Gordon. moony-2173

  

Your lack of sympathy is noted!violin-studentviolin-bang

Andrew

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CyndieZ
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@CyndieZ, I'm sure you'll be fine, it's just a matter of taking the first step. You haven't heard them playing yet ? Do you know anyone in those orchestras ?

  

@wtw, I have not heard them yet. Found both of them with an online search. One is located about an hour away from me. The other is more like 90 minutes (or maybe a little more). I don't know anyone who plays in either of the two, but I will ask my teachers if they know anything about them. Thanks for the vote of confidence! thanx_gif

Sorry for the late reply - I was out of town last week and didn't get online at all. 

Cyndie

Cyndie 

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Fiddlerman
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Hope it works out for you and you enjoy the group Cyndie.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Gordon Shumway
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Anyone who is thinking of joining a community orchestra should join one.

And I recommend they practise the Sibelius at home to give themselves confidence, so here's the IMSLP link to V1 and V2.

http://ks.imslp.net/files/imgl.....Violin.pdf

It is however, probably the easiest piece you will play, unless you join an orchestra that will be doing Christmas carols, and nothing wrong with that. Just go for it!

Last Friday some little kids came with their mother to listen, so we had a dress-rehearsal of the Sibelius. It was exhilarating. When I first saw the part, the double-stopping frightened me, although I knew third position was how to play most of it. I had never heard of divisi. But during the run-through I played with full confidence and no holds were barred. I will play the double-stopping unless the conductor spots me (or hears me, lol) and tells me not to.

Here's the ending of the Karlowicz march. I don't think anyone plays the Sul G bit sul G, but I'm trying to. I'm not confident of the fingering from there to the end (the fingering I'm attempting applies to the lower notes, not the upper notes although some of it is written above). Suggestions are welcome.

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AndrewH
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Just so people who are not as far along don't get intimidated by the Sibelius Andante Festivo: there are community orchestras that play mostly easier stuff than that. The Sibelius is at the easy end for pieces in their original form, but some community orchestras accept near-beginners and play a lot of simplified arrangements (the kind of stuff that gets arranged for school orchestras). And there is an increasing number of adult beginners' orchestras that only accept beginner to early intermediate learners -- in fact there are now two of those in my area.

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AndrewH said
Just so people who are not as far along don't get intimidated by the Sibelius Andante Festivo: there are community orchestras that play mostly easier stuff than that. The Sibelius is at the easy end for pieces in their original form, but some community orchestras accept near-beginners and play a lot of simplified arrangements (the kind of stuff that gets arranged for school orchestras). And there is an increasing number of adult beginners' orchestras that only accept beginner to early intermediate learners -- in fact there are now two of those in my area.

I was conscious of these caveats, but I decided that if a person was considering joining an orchestra, then they were likely to be a bit better than beginner and with some confidence in themselves and some ambition. However, there are no absolute beginner orchestras that I know of here, so perhaps I wasn't thinking enough about them.

In my defence, though, I think we should be aware that beginners' orchestras may even be a little problematic - for example, my left-hand's shape is not that good, and being in an orchestra isn't doing it any favours, as the need to play the music at all overrides the need to learn to play it with good style or technique.

However, what I really wanted to convey was that it wouldn't harm to practise the Sibelius at home whether you were ready for an orchestra or not.

Andrew

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AndrewH
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Beginners' orchestras tend to be run by a string teacher (whereas other orchestras' conductors may or may not be string players at all), and usually have very long rehearsal cycles, so I would think focusing on the notes to the detriment of technique isn't as much of a concern.

I do think playing in an orchestra with people above your level is a double-edged sword: you can get a lot of technical tips from other people, and you get a good idea of what techniques you need to learn, but at the same time I would agree that it's easy to focus too much on just playing the notes, especially if the rehearsal cycle is too short. Usually, stronger orchestras tend to have fewer rehearsals per concert.

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Fiddlerman
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I love Sibelius. Granted, it tends to be overplayed but it's hard not to enjoy Sibelius.
In MSO, we had Finlandia as a pocket encore, especially when we were on tour.
Are you familiar with it?

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but the one who needs the least."

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Ok, I have a question. Somewhere I read something about “faking” it in section where you have issues playing that section. Exactly how do you do that? I am not going to be doing it because I am not playing in groups, but I am trying to picture it.

I would assume you have to keep bowing in the proper up bow and down bow pattern to keep in sync with those in your area. How do you do that without accidentally hitting the strings and making an off-note sound? Even holding the bow away from the strings while pretending to bow would have issues with hitting the strings. 

How do you ever manage to join back in smoothly? Actually, how do you actually start faking it smoothly?

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Maybe it's like playing air guitar?? Only you hold an instrument.violin-student

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Gordon Shumway
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Fiddlerman said
I love Sibelius. Granted, it tends to be overplayed but it's hard not to enjoy Sibelius.

In MSO, we had Finlandia as a pocket encore, especially when we were on tour.

Are you familiar with it?

  

We often did Finlandia in the Gosport and Fareham Youth Orchestra in the 1970s. I don't know how simplified our version was. 

Andrew

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cid
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@starise  But how can you do it smoothly switching from faking it, faking and not accidentally hitting a string, and smoothly transition to actually bowing the strings? I am seriously trying to picture this. I think

Pete said he fakes when he has to, which I totally can see that needing to be done at times when playing with a group. I just can’t see how it can be done. I am assuming you can’t just not play those sections by placing the instrument on your lap or whatever, because they say the fake it. So, I assume you have to look like you are playing that part. I wonder about this every time I read it. It would be the same for someone playing a cello in an orchestra. 

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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AndrewH
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cid said
Ok, I have a question. Somewhere I read something about “faking” it in section where you have issues playing that section. Exactly how do you do that? I am not going to be doing it because I am not playing in groups, but I am trying to picture it.

I would assume you have to keep bowing in the proper up bow and down bow pattern to keep in sync with those in your area. How do you do that without accidentally hitting the strings and making an off-note sound? Even holding the bow away from the strings while pretending to bow would have issues with hitting the strings. 

How do you ever manage to join back in smoothly? Actually, how do you actually start faking it smoothly?

  

There are two situations where you may need to fake.

One is in fast passages where you can't play all the notes quickly enough. There the answer is usually to try to play some of the notes but not all of them. People are playing short bows anyway, and the audience doesn't really see individual bows in the orchestra very clearly. What this means is: you can get away with just playing the first note of every beat and then retaking in time for the next beat.

In slower passages, the more likely reason you'd be faking is getting lost. If you get lost in a slower passage, hold the bow off the string, pretend to bow (it's easier when the bow is moving slowly), and listen to the rest of the orchestra until you know where you are and join in.

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