I played in my first concert with the orchestra one and a half weeks ago now. It seems such a long time ago already, and it seems even longer since I attended my first trial rehearsal with the orchestra, and nervously tried to play the parts set before me. For much of that first rehearsal, I was sitting there feeling totally overwhelmed. The orchestra played so fast, and they all seemed to be really good at sight-reading (which, by the way, is something I find really hard).
However, I went back the next week, and I was moved from first violins to second violins, where the music seemed a lot less daunting and more playable. The second half of that rehearsal was much better, and I felt I was actually playing. I decided to join the orchestra.
I think I may honestly say that it has been a totally new learning experience. Playing the violin solo is totally different. I am at liberty to slow down in the hard places, a liberty which I think I probably take too often! I can set the speed, so I don’t have to try to play those fiendishly hard parts of the music twice as fast as I would like. Even when with the piano, I still ultimately get to set the speed, and when it comes to the crunch point, the pianist is accompanying me!
In the orchestra, it is another matter. I have to keep going in the hard places; if I stop, the rest of the orchestra will go ruthlessly on. I have to follow the speed set by the conductor which means that I have to face it if I don’t like the speed he chooses for those fiendishly hard parts. It is so much less “me-centered” and so much more team-work. It is about playing with the rest of the orchestra – not before, and not after.
It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that it was some of the hardest and fastest music that I have ever played yet. I joined an orchestra which suggested it was suitable for people who were Grade 6 standard, but I found parts of the music very challenging – far harder than my Grade 6 pieces. On a positive note, it did serve as an incentive to me to practice more!
I have enjoyed learning the new skills, despite those moments when I felt like crying out, “I can’t do this. It is too hard for me.” I am learning to get that bow moving faster (forget what the notes sound like for the moment, if you please). I have learnt how to air bow (which is, quite simply, moving the bow without really touching the strings or making any sound)! I have also learnt that the difficult parts which I can play fine at home tend to fall to pieces on me when I am with the rest of the orchestra and that not being able to count is a serious handicap in orchestra playing. Yes, I still have some learning to do yet!
To conclude: I played in the concert. I felt that in some ways I was abysmally prepared, despite doing a reasonable amount of practice on my parts. It was far from perfect – lots of room for improvement – but I enjoyed playing! The rest of the orchestra was amazing – my personal goal is to work toward becoming more proficient in playing so that I actually feel I earn my place in there!