07. May 2008 · Comments Off on I Haven’t A Clue · Categories: Ramble

We will do jazz in a classical music style.

-found online

I’m just not sure what that means. But it’s probably just me. Right?

I think I’m just too exahausted, although I have no excuse to be so tired. I’m just home from the final Gershwin set rehearsal, and it was a double service day, but the concert really isn’t difficult for me, so it’s not like I was working terribly hard. Maybe it’s just thinking about the 6 1/2 hours of rehearsal I have tomorrow prior to the symphony concert.

07. May 2008 · 1 comment · Categories: Ramble

As I was setting up for yesterday’s rehearsal one player was warming up on his sax. It was loud. 90 decibels loud. And he was only warming up. We have a lot of saxes for this concert. And a drum set. I knew we had trouble. I talked to our concert manager about getting a sound shield and at first was told they were all in use so I couldn’t have one. I mentioned the 90 decibels with just the one person warming up. A bit later a sound shield was brought to me.

Good thing I had my decibel meter! (Thanks, Mom!)

Still, it was going to be an awfully unpleasant situation. The sound shields do a little bit, but not enough. I knew it was an ear plug gig for the entire week. Sigh.

BUT!! We were moved prior to the start of the rehearsal. I was so relieved. I would have worn my earplugs had we not been relocated, and playing a wind instrument with ear plugs in is a very unpleasant experience. I hear my tongue inside my head (really!), I hear my sound as very tinny and ugly. It’s just awful. Where we are now I don’t think I’ll need plugs at all, and I gave my sound shield to another player who is still in front of the saxes.

There’s a good article on the problems we deal with. And yes, of course it’s the nature of the biz and all to have to deal with this (I’ve read some blog entries by non-musicians who seem to think we are just big babies and should quit if we can’t handle the noise). Our hearing, as you might imagine, is quite important. Loss of hearing is not a good thing!

It seems to me that we are playing louder these days. There’s a beauty and wonder in a hushed pianissimo and I’d love to get to that more often.

But I’ve said all that before. I wonder if anyone can hear me?

07. May 2008 · Comments Off on Well, There You Go! · Categories: Links, Ramble

You know how I just blogged about thinking of mixing music, poetry and art? Heh. Read:

Ice-T, the provocative rapper and actor, will perform with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra on June 18 at Hilbert Circle Theatre in what is believed to be his first symphony engagement.

He will narrate “Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods for Jazz,” a poem from the 1960s by Langston Hughes. The ISO and the McCurdy/Wright Jazz Quartet will accompany the poetry, while images by photographer Gordon Parks and painters Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence are projected above the stage.


Not exactly what I had envisioned, but still ….

07. May 2008 · Comments Off on The Orchestra As Teacher · Categories: Links, Ramble

Feel like no one knows your pain at work when the tempo suddenly picks up and you’re left to lead in front of a crowd?

The stage is full of sympathizers at the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.

Who knew that the tuxedoed and bejeweled musicians are also section leaders (read: division managers) running teams of worker bees through moments of grandeur and plenty of just plain monotony?

This article might be of interest to some readers. The orchestra is being used to educate FedEx folks.

As the orchestra floated through Beethoven, Loebel stopped to introduce management modules scripted to heighten business concepts.

“We have to balance our roles within the texture of the music. Some are playing constants and some shift,” Loebel said.

When he asked principal flutist Karen Busler about her role in bar 67, he got this:

“I’m the diva,” she said to snickers from the kettle drums to the strings.

Turns out, how the rest of the group supports her is the same sort of teamwork that happens every day at the Cannon Center or the FedEx hub.

“I make the diva look good,” said Robert Woolfrey, principal clarinetist. “I provide accompaniment and set up the rhythm to make her sound good.”

Salvalaggio’s role was subtler. “My sense of good taste and camaraderie tell me to play under her.”

Of course they probably didn’t hear about how we can also sink another player or conductor, or how some folks just can’t get along. Salvalaggio doesn’t mention that some players don’t have good taste or camaraderie. I won’t go there either.

Oops. Too late!

Really, though, we all attempt to work together and get along. Even if we’d not get along off stage, on stage is different. You have to put hostilities aside. You have to forget “issues”. You have to deal. And make good music.

Anyway … ramble ramble … enough of me!

… or, shall I call is a “show”?

Funny thing, that. Dan and I were talking about this a while back. I’d not call an opera performance a concert, but I’ll call it a performance or even, rarely, a show. I will call a symphony concert a concert or a performance, but not a show. I will call a musical theatre show a … get ready for it … show. Ballet? I call that a performance. If we are doing a concert version of an opera (not staged) it’s a concert performance of an opera. (I hope you’re taking notes; there will be a test later today.)

Anyway, the Merc has an article about this week’s concert, show. It includes this:

“This show,” Mok predicts, “is going to knock everyone’s socks off. We’re going to run it like a regular radio show, with real live actors. Very cute. Very glamorous.”

She has retooled the script, originally co-written with Gershwin biographer and BBC producer Rodney Greenberg, to emphasize the composer’s time in California. Putting his stamp on the updated script is Hoyt Smith, an announcer from classical music station KDFC (102.1 FM). He will appear onstage as the radio announcer, reading transcribed 1930s commercials for Feenamint laxative chewing gum, a ubiquitous sponsor of the era, and bantering with Joseph Frank, longtime professor of voice at San Jose State University and the other actor in the production.

And of course there will be plenty of music, not just from Mok and the orchestra, conducted by Paul Polivnick, but from singer Sarah Uriarte Berry, who has starred in Broadway productions of “The Light in the Piazza” and “Les Misérables.”

She will sing a Gershwin medley of “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” and ‘S’Wonderful.” The arrangements are by Bill Holcombe, a saxophone-playing alumnus of Tommy Dorsey’s big band, and will hew closely to the originals by Paul Whiteman, whose name and orchestra were synonymous with Gershwin in the ’20s.


It’ll be interesting to see and hear how all of this falls together. (I do hope we on stage can hear … sometimes it’s impossible to hear what the miked speakers are saying for some reason.)

I used to put together Christmas programs with readings, a cappella singing, and poetry. I have long thought I’d love to do some recitals that included poetry, music and photography. (Having a husband who does fabulous photography helps me dream!) So I’m all for these kinds of things. Who says every single thing I do as an oboist has to include silent people applauding at exactly the right times, sitting very still in their seats? I dream of chamber music concerts where we chat with the audience. Or even say, “This next piece has this killer thing that scares me to death … let’s see if I can get it!” Heck, why not? Wouldn’t it be kind of fun to bring the listeners a little closer to what we do sometimes?

Or maybe I’m just crazy.

07. May 2008 · Comments Off on This is a Pops Concert · Categories: Links, Listen, Ramble, Symphony, Videos, Watch

This week we are doing an all Gershwin concert. Gershwin music is one of those things … kind of like the whole opera/musical theatre thing I guess … where one wonders if it’s “classical” (in that general way, not in the era way) or pop music.

Okay, maybe no one else wonders, but whatever.

If we were doing his Concerto in F with, say, a Mozart overture up first, then a, I dunno, little bit ‘o something else, and ended with the concerto, it would be considered a regular sort of symphony concert, right? (Even though someone blogged about Porgy & Bess not being an opera, I do think Gershwin fits in the classical music genre.) But we are doing the Concerto, plus Rhapsody in Blue (another work that is sometimes on a symphony concert), and then a bunch of arrangements of his music. Also included is a singer and a radio announcer who will do old-time radio commercials (maybe with other things as well; I don’t know yet). So to me, it has become a pops concert. And I guess it is selling out, too. (I mean the concerts are selling out. I’m not saying we are. I certainly have felt that way other times, though!)

I don’t really mind a pops concert now and then, as long as it is put together well, includes good music, and includes high quality playing. It’s weird, though, to have such miniscule parts. The doublers have most of the music. So I guess this is a bit of a “coaster” for me. I do miss playing the English horn part in the concerto, but it works okay on the tenor sax. I think that, too, makes it feel more like a pops concert, though.

But I like what I do. I’m not complaining! And I do love Gershwin.