I am SO incredibly thankful that reviewers don’t comment on orchestra members’ bodies when we are up there on the stage — or down in the pit (but can they really see us there anyway?) — doing our thing.

Dancers? That’s another story … or at least it was with one reviewer:
Jenifer Ringer, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, looked as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many; and Jared Angle, as the Cavalier, seems to have been sampling half the Sweet realm.

(Read here.)

He was criticized, so he has also defended his position. The woman dancer, Jennifer Ringer, who was accused of having “one sugar plum too many” has responded as well.

And does the “rest of the story” — the fact that Ringer has been open about her eating disorders — make one pause when commenting about things like this, or should the reviewer not concern himself with that?

Me? I have never eaten a sugar plum. Not even one. But you can bet I look as if I’ve eaten far too many. Sigh.

So what think ye? Does a dance reviewer have the “right” to comment on bodies? Hmmm. I wonder if they’ve ever commented on the ones who look like they could drop dead any minute, they are so skinny. (We had one, years ago, who was simply frightening. Turned out the audience agreed: the next day the office received a multitude of calls saying, “Why are you allowing someone like that on stage?” It was fairly clear the woman had an eating disorder and it really was tough to watch her dance. She has since left the company. I hope she is healthier now.)

Dancers are in such a different world than we musicians. I can’t even imagine! I am guessing they are obsessed with body image. They see themselves in the mirror constantly! (I rarely look at myself in a mirror. Really.) They wear clothes that reveal all. (I wear nice, loose fitting black.) And yet when I get to the hall for a ballet performance there so many are (especially the guys), smoking away. Body image and health are two very different things.

I’m thankful to be in black. On stage. Judged by my performance and not my body. Whew!

Side note: when an instrumentalist solos reviewers do on occasion, feel the need to comment on what is worn. Especially if a woman is the soloist. But I’m not a soloist — whew! — and you can pretty much bet I’ll be in black when I am on stage or pit.

10. December 2010 · Comments Off on Nutcracker · Categories: Ballet, Videos

Yep … it’s that time again. We have our only rehearsal tonight. We will not have this instrument in our production:

03. December 2010 · Comments Off on At The Ballet · Categories: Ballet

I really need to get over my “issues” with ballet. Clearly I’m in the minority, and what with Nutcracker right around the corner, I just need to get over it. Really. It’s time. So I’m taking my cue from the very respectable Canadian Brass Quintet and grow up. If they can embrace it, so can I. Right?

… sorry about the end … it just cuts off. 🙁

We begin ballet tomorrow, doing Giselle by Alophe Adam. As people who read my blog know, I don’t particularly get ballet, and I especially don’t connect to story ballets. But that doesn’t mean I don’t try to play my best. Honestly … whenever I get into the pit or on the stage I believe in the music. If I didn’t I think I’d go bonkers!

It’s not the dancing that bugs me about ballet. It’s all the gestures when they aren’t dancing. It’s all that miming. And yeah, I’m sure I’m just a grump about ballet! So sorry. And yes, I am extremely thankful for the work, and I love our dancers. So please know I’m not grumping about the dancers or anything. Just the story stuff. (And occasionally the rather lame music!)

So tomorrow we go into our awful rehearsal hall with horrendous fluorescent lights. This is the biggest problem for me with ballet; our rehearsal hall is bad when it comes to both sound and light. And both of those issues can cause me to get migraines, get vertigo and aggravate my tinnitus. I’ll be bringing a stand light with me, as it sounds as if management may not be able to provide any for me (I actually requested two; I guess I should have had my otologist write a letter about this, eh?). I’m hoping that having a stand light might help me get through the day. We’ll see. If not, and if I get ill, I’ll probably end up sick the following day, and we aren’t allowed to miss a rehearsal, so that would mean the end of the ballet run for me. I hope it doesn’t come to that!

So here’s the start of Giselle for you, to give you an idea of what I mean by “story ballet”:

So what do you think? Love it? Hate it? Don’t care …? Does it make you want to watch the next bit?:

and more …?:

to the end of Act 1?:

… or did you stop after the first video? (And did you even notice the English horn? I think it’s the second act that has a bit of a solo, but otherwise you won’t hear a lot of me. This is probably good, because the way the set up the microphones — yes, they mic this — there isn’t one anywhere near me, while they mic all the other main winds. I’m not sure why they’ve never understood that English horn usually has solos. Odd!)

If you want more I can post Act 2 later. Maybe you’ll even notice the English horn then. Or maybe not.

Okay … over and out … I have a Giants game to watch in the very near future! GO GIANTS!!!

03. September 2010 · Comments Off on It’ll Give You The Willis · Categories: Ballet, News

(Yes, I meant to spell it that way.)

A missing statue? Scary stuff, that. Or something …

For the second time, the bronze statue of an evil spirit from the famous ballet “Giselle” — which the city of San Jose for years prominently displayed at a downtown theater — has disappeared.

The timing seems mysterious too, since the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs had just found a new home for the work and its mate inside the San Jose Center for Performing Arts.

I read it here.

10. August 2010 · 2 comments · Categories: Ballet

It appears that Ballet San Jose has announced their season, in case anyone is interested. Stay tuned to find out if they will be using live music or not. I know times are tough, and it might be that they can’t hire an orchestra; I don’t see any mention of live music at their site. Time will tell. Or I will tell. Or something.

I wish them all the best … these are rotten times for the arts.

And these are rotten times for all. Which is why, I suppose, I read something else that says Ballet San Jose will allow subscribers to delay payments.

29. July 2010 · 2 comments · Categories: Ballet

I just ran across this video (it’s about an hour long … this isn’t YouTube!). I hadn’t heard of it before. What fun to see familiar names and now see faces that go with them.

I’m not sure when this was made, but I believe it was put up just a few days ago.

(You’ll see my boss, Andrew Bales, from Symphony Silicon Valley, a little over 49 minutes in.)

All of this is news to me; I had no idea how the ballet wound up here. I just had heard that at some point Cleveland Ballet came to San Jose, and I understood they called themselves “San Jose Cleveland Ballet” when they were here, and “Cleveland Ballet” when they were there. That was about all I knew. And I knew I had work in December for as long as they were (are!) here.

I’m still waiting to hear what this coming season will bring for .

18. June 2010 · Comments Off on McCartney Ballet · Categories: Ballet

Sir Paul McCartney has revealed that he’s been commissioned to write the music for a ballet.

Details still need to be fleshed out but he’s already started work on the score and says he’s “enthusiastic” about it.

“I’m interested in doing things I haven’t done before,” he said.

“That offer came up and I love writing music, the two went together and I said, ‘Yeah,’ so I just accept things before I even know what I’m doing.”

There’s no set deadline yet and when asked what the ballet would be about, McCartney admitted it was early days.

“I don’t really know that much about it yet,” he admitted. “I’m just writing music for it, but it’s a switch!”


08. March 2010 · Comments Off on MQOD & More · Categories: Ballet, Links, Quotes, Ramble, Symphony

Listen as if it were the last time your ears could hear. Savor it.

-Greg Anderson & Elizabeth Joy Roe

This is from a “music listening manifesto” I found here.

As I was playing Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet yesterday it hit me, “I don’t know if I’ll do this ballet again in my lifetime.” This season has been one of thoughts like those. Now we did just do R&J in 2004, so it is possible that I will do it again in another 6 years, but who knows for sure? At the final Marriage of Figaro performance a dear friend sitting next to me sadly said, “I don’t know if I’ll do this again. It makes me sad.”

So I’d like to suggest to performers that we play as if we may never play something again. I want to remember to relish each wonderful work. I want to attempt to always play my best. I don’t want to take anything for granted. I get sad — and yes, I get frustrated too — when it appears that musicians are playing as if it doesn’t matter. I get angry at myself when I catch myself doing that.

Romeo and Juliet was rather enjoyable for me this run. I had reeds that really cooperated. (I used one — orange thread — for the first two acts and another — dark blue thread — for the final act. The low C that has, in past runs, given me such grief and fear worked every single time!! And yes, it really is just that italicized sort of exciting! The balcony scene with a little English horn solo I love makes me happy to be an English horn player. The end of the entire ballet has what feels like a pretty darn important English horn solo (I’ll have to pull out my recording to see if I agree when I’m listening rather than playing) and I really enjoyed doing that as well, waiting just that extra snippet of time to land on the final C (G on EH of course). Man, Prokofiev knew how to write some fine, fine stuff. 🙂

And speaking of Prokofiev, after this week of no playing work I move on to Prokofiev’s fifth symphony. I know I’ve played it before, as I see my writing on the English horn part, but I do need to start working on it again; I can’t even remember doing it!

24. February 2010 · Comments Off on Advantages/Disadvantages · Categories: Ballet, Ramble
  • I love my job
  • My job sometimes interferes with family life
  • I love Prokofiev!
  • Rehearsal conflicted with a birthday party
  • Romeo & Juliet!
  • A bagel for dinner while the birthday party people were having Thai food
  • I got home sort of late
  • It was a lot earlier than after Figaro … AND leftover Thai food was waiting!

That’s my life. And of course there are more advantages and disadvantages. Just like any job, yes? But the thing is, I adore my job, I get to play incredible music with my friends (who are wonderful musicians). I feel as if I’ve really accomplished something after rehearsals, and I feel as if I have enriched listeners’ lives after concerts (and of course I continue to feel as if I accomplished something!).

Meanwhile … the first rehearsal for Romeo and Juliet is over and out. When I got to the (not very well lit) rehearsal hall at the Center for the Performing Arts I realized I had forgotten my music reading glasses. Sigh. So the stand had to be as low as possible. I was also reminded (the minute we all started to play) that the rehearsal hall is just a crummy place to play, and there’s no way I can have any idea how my reeds will work once we get into the pit, so that will have to wait until Friday’s dress.

Whine whine whine.

BUT … this is Prokofiev, folks! This is great music!