23. December 2005 · Comments Off · Categories: imported, Ramble

That’s right … TWO more shows to go for me. (While those who are willing to work on December 24 will have one more.) Time has really sped by this year.

I still have my cold … lucky me … but it isn’t so bad that I can’t play. So that’s good.

Playing Nutcracker isn’t all bad. I fear I might give readers the impression that I hate it. I honestly don’t. What I don’t like is that we do it so much, and every year. But it has some great English horn solos, and they never get boring. At least not to me. I hope, too, that they never sound boring! I take the ballet seriously, just as I take nearly everything I play seriously; if I don’t, I get careless, and I can’t stand it when that happens. It really bothers me when people simply phone in their parts. While we may think something is old and even a bit annoying, people are paying good money to come hear and see this thing, and I like to know I did my best. (Although I’ll still complain a good amount—just ask my husband!)

Since I’m playing a combined part these days (the ballet has cut back on players) it keeps things even more interesting … especially since no one ever put a book together for this particular Nutcracker. (This isn’t “pure” Nutcracker—the choreographer adds the Polonaise from Eugene Onegen as well as portions of Cappriccio Italien to the work, and he changes the order of a lot of the music. I prefer it pure, but whatever.) Believe it or not, I play from two books and two stands! It’s a bit of a challenge for a newbie, but I’ve done this ballet since … hmm … perhaps 1979 or so, and I’ve done this specific ballet production since it came to San Jose from Cleveland. (The Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley used to be a part of Cleveland Ballet … they came here and would then call themselves the San Jose Cleveland Ballet. Eventually Cleveland folded, and thus the new name. And much smaller troupe.) So I’m no newbie. Not even close.

Going back through my Nutcracker history, I am wondering just how many shows I’ve actually done! When I began, prior to Cleveland’s arrival, I played a production at Flint Center (at De Anza College) for a dance company (I think it was a school) from San Francisco. That production claimed to be based on the original choreography, and had two intermissions (the party scene and snow scene were broken into an act each). Then there was also San Jose Dance Theatre for which I played. Much of the time I did both since they didn’t overlap. There were a few years where I played San Jose Cleveland Ballet (on English horn), San Jose Dance Theater (on a double book of English horn and oboe 2 – NOT, mind you, anything like the doubling book for my current gig) and the Flint Center job (on principal oboe). That’s a LOT of Nuts! What I liked was that I played different parts for each one; it kept things from getting dull. Of course it also sent my heart to the floor on occasion—I’d forget which book I was on and when, for instance, an EH solo came up and I was no longer playing EH I’d panic, thinking I was forgetting to come in! I doubt I’ve ever done as many as I’m assuming the San Francisco Ballet folks do each year, but I think I had around 50 one season. So these 14 services are nothing. Nothing, I tell you!

Still, I allow myself to complain a bit. Because it’s Christmas. And I get tired. And … I’m an oboe player, darn it! We are good at complaining! (I say “Run with what you do well!” and I do well at complaining.)

But ahhhh … Nutcracker memories! Pit playing, Nutcracker or otherwise, has its exciting moments. Nuts are just especially exciting. We get a lot of fog in the pit on occasion; when the stage crew goes wild with dry ice we get the joy of losing the conductor in the fog. (And in some ways I DO mean joy! Tee hee. Oh how witty I can be, eh?) The temperature variations can cause water woes for us oboists; we get water in our octave keys when we are blowing hot air through cold instruments and this is awfully frustrating. We’ve had one Russian tumbler nearly land on a cellist. We’ve had mechanical mice fall into the pit. A player told me his English horn cracked during a Nut once, due to the cold temperature. In our current production the poor bassoonists have to hold a note until a door on stage is shut, and sometimes the dancer shuts the door painfully slowly. Oh oh oh … and then there was the time my lips were so dry and chapped and the English horn reed stuck to them when I finished up playing an English horn line and then the reed proceeded to fall off my lips and down my blouse. Getting stuck. Somewhere. I had to wiggle around and search for it while colleagues looked on and laughed. Yes. That was funny.

Anyway, I’m really on a ramble road today … but rambling can be fun sometimes, and I never know where it might take me. Or you. But this ridiculous chatter has been brought to you courtesy of 12 Nutcrackers.

Yes. I am a nut. Totally cracked up. :-)
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