I had two very interesting orchestra experiences last week. In the first, I got sort of a last minute call to play in the UN Orchestra. As in, an orchestra made up of UN workers who like to play their instruments. UM, WHAT. Although it was an amateur orchestra, it was so much fun to play with them, meet people from all over the world, and to see their enthusiasm for classical music. One of the more intimidating things was actually going to the UN (which is, in fact, International Territory and does not belong to the US) for rehearsal (the concert was at Symphony Space). I was warned in an email ahead of time that I would, of course, have to go through security, and that they might have to bring out dogs to sniff around in my car (that didn’t end up happening, I was kind of disappointed).
The two pieces I played with them were Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante defunte and Katchaturian’s Violin Concerto. What impressed me most was that the violin soloist was one of the UN musicians! It’s such a big concerto, and he did an awesome job. The audience was made up of a lot of other UN workers, who were also super enthusiastic about seeing their colleagues perform. I could tell it meant a lot to the soloist to have all of his friends and coworkers there cheering him on.
The day after this concert, I left very early in the morning for Vermont to play with the Eleva Chamber Players. We were playing this little-known piece (at least, I had never heard of it) called African Suite, for harp and strings. It was written by an African composer named Fela Sowande. I’m going to get off on a tangent, but - has anyone ever heard of him?? I never have. This sounds ridiculous, but I don’t think I had ever actually heard of any western art composers of African descent, who were born in Africa. I am currently organizing a concert of music by female composers, and this made me realize we really need to have more concerts devoted to music by racial minorities as well. I love the dead European guys as much as the next musician, but damn, our concert repertoire needs some serious diversifying.
ANYWAY, back to my story. The other thing that made this concert different was the fact that the Eleva Chamber Players are a conductor-less chamber orchestra. I had never played in one of these before, and I was rather nervous. It really made me realize how much I depend on the conductor to help me keep track of what beat we’re on, the keep up the tempo, to remind me where we are when I lose my place, etc. I thought I was a good counting person before, but playing in a large-ish group of string players really forced me to step up my game. I counted like a crazy person, and I didn’t lose my spot!
As much as I love New York City, it was really great to get out and be in the country for awhile. There were still a few of Vermont’s famous autumn leaves on the trees, and as I got further north, it actually snowed - my first snowfall of the year! People in Vermont apparently cook ridiculous things, like homemade waffles with homemade blueberry sauce made from blueberries that they picked in their own backyard. Since the only thing I could make from the contents of my backyard would be garbage stew, and maybe a roast rat, I was in food heaven.
Thanks so much to the Eleva Chamber Players for having me!! See you next year?! ;)