Friday, December 01, 2006

In the pit

Ok, so I'm still not sure if we'll be literally in a pit, but I am definitely officially a member of the "Merrily Orchestra". *bows deeply*

Last night was our fourth rehearsal out of 5 total. The very first one last Monday went pretty well. I didn't feel very nervous because I figured that they weren't expecting perfection anyway. Driving into the City for my second rehearsal, however, I was a lot more nervous. I had had the music for 3 days and could no longer play the "oops, this is my first reading" card. Luckily, my slow solos are technically easy so I wasn't nervous for those. Well, maybe just a tad nervous on some high hard-to-tune notes. But really the only nerve wracking part is near the end of Act 1 where I am playing a witty little EH solo (on oboe). I messed it up the first time and wanted to make sure it came out correctly. I'm all alone (besides the rhythm section) and the timing has to be perfect with the singers. Oh, and the piano and bass are quite syncopated and I have to tune them out in order to stay on time. Oh, and there is one 6/4 measure thrown in when the rest of it is in 4/4 cut time. It's only 7 measures long but those are the longest seconds ever. By the time I finish my heart is pounding. I've managed to not mess up the notes but even last night one of the directors still wasn't happy with my phrasing. I'll work on it some more tonight.

My favorite pieces to play are the one song that's in 3, just because it's funny and the bass line cracks me up, and the last slow piece of the play because I have a pretty solo which I get to play multiple times.

Even if they never call me back again to do this sort of thing, I am very grateful to have this opportunity now because I am learning quite a lot. For example:

* The absolute most difficult part of this has nothing to do with intonation, sight-reading, or even endurance. What's killing me is dynamics. I never thought of the oboe as being particularly loud, especially after my latest gigs, but if I am not being careful I feel that I stand out too much. Maybe it's a timbre thing too I guess. Obviously if the three trumpets and trombone and the 3 saxes are playing, I get lost, but when it's just reeds I have to work VERY hard to blend in.
* Related to the above is the whole "quiet entrance" phenomenon. NOW I FINALLY understand what other oboists are talking about when they complain about this. I am not playing in every song and sometimes my breaks are a few minutes long. Why then do I have to come in pianissimo on some low note?? Have they any idea how hard that is to do? Especially when you haven't played on your reed for a while and it has dried out. You (or at least I) have NO clue what the thing is going to sound like.
* Clarinets and flutes can play very very very softly. *boggle*
* Thank God I have been working on scales with more than 3 accidentals. These folks love B-flat and B major.

All in all, it's really turning out to be a fun experience. Our last full run through is tomorrow and then we perform Friday evening and Saturday afternoon and evening. I'm not sure if I already mentioned this, but Saturday will be my 2 year oboe anniversary. I feel that it's a good sign that I will be performing on that day. Though I have played a few times at church functions with the oboe these upcoming performances are my first "real" ones (i.e. it wasn't my friends who just let me play for fun). And potentially the audience may be quite large and may include other musicians. *gulp* No matter, I will try not to let nerves get in the way and will simply think of it as celebrating the anniversary of my best decision ever.


Waterfall said...

Hilda, congratulations! That's so exciting. Important events like this are always nerve-wracking, but the feeling you get afterward is like no other. I am so looking forward to your post-concert report.

I'm so excited for you--wish I lived up there so I could go listen! Good luck. You'll do great!

Pattyoboe said...

Some tricks of the trade:
If you have low notes that need to be soft, and nothing below a D, you can "mute" your oboe with a wadded up swab or piece of felt.

If you are pinching too much on a low note because you are scared (and that often causes us to pinch!) turn the reed slightly sideways in your mouth (I turn to the right) because you can't compress the reed as much then.

You are never as loud as you think you are. And it's better to be louder than having nothing at all come out. Most of the time.

Enjoy yourself! :-)