Last weekend was a bit of a blur. I know as the spring comes on things really start to get busy. From now until the end of the school year, it just doesn’t let up.
And, this year I have tulips:
Two years ago, I planted tulip bulbs, but last year the bunnies or the squirrels ate them all. This year they seem to be protected, hiding there in among the daffodils.
The arrival of the daffodils and tulips also signals the arrival of our church talent show and my orchestra’s Sponsors’ Concert. Usually those two are not on the same weekend, but this year they were: talent show, Saturday night, concert Sunday afternoon.
I’ve performed violin or viola solos for several years. Last year I played Ashokan Farewell with piano, which worked out nicely. Usually I try to get one or both kids to join me, but this has had mixed results. My son, a cellist, has been more willing to do it than my daughter, who plays the violin and bassoon. The first year he played “Simple Gifts.” Other times it has been his recital piece, or a carol at Christmas. Performance seems to be working a bit more as advertised for him than it ever did for my daughter (or for me as a child). This year we played “Entrance to the Queen of Sheba,” by Handel. I found the arrangement on a site called Free Gig Music, which I’d like to give a little shout-out to. This site has good arrangements of classical standards and old favorites, for many instrument combinations, and at an intermediate level appropriate for students and sight-readers. I first used it last December when a septet from my orchestra was playing at a Winter Market for the holidays. I was playing viola with that group, and there was an awesome viola part to “Wachet Auf” as well as other nice Bach pieces appropriate to the season.
Invariably, a few hours before we go on, the feet start to get cold. “Do I really have to?” “I don’t want to.” “Maybe we should just stay home.” I recognize echoes of this in myself too. It gets better, I want to tell him. Sometimes I do tell him that. And when we play, neither of us is perfect (that piece, intermediate arrangement or no, has a lot of 16th notes!), but it’s fine. And it’s fun.
A few acts later the band comes on and plays a Stones medley, complete with dancing, and nobody remembers those few flubbed 16th notes or the missed shift (except maybe the person who played it). That’s one of the many beauties of a talent show.
The next day was something entirely different: the Philharmonic Society’s Sponsors’ Concert. This concert had an eclectic musical program: Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, our Young Artists’ Competition winner playing Stamitz viola concerto in D, and Rossini’s Stabat Mater with full chorale and orchestra. We perform this concert in honor of our sponsors, local businesses who donate to have ads included in a yearbook. Rushing home from church to eat lunch, we didn’t get much of a chance to bask in the show’s afterglow before heading to the warm-up.
The viola soloist was awesome from start to finish. We haven’t had a viola competition winner before now, while I’ve been in the orchestra. He played the Carl Stamitz viola concerto in D, the one in every violist’s repertoire (as opposed to the Anton Stamitz viola concerto in D that I learned a few years ago). I’ve been looking for a new solo piece to work on, and this might be it.
I had been a little concerned with how the Rossini was going to go. In the course of learning this piece I came to wonder why Rossini isn’t a more well-known composer. He is well known, of course, by classical music people, and fans of Looney Tunes cartoons can sing his overtures. But the Stabat Mater, an ambitious choral piece with many key changes, ostensibly about the suffering of Mary, Mother of Jesus, is something else. We had a quartet of awesome professional soloists to sing with us, and some folks from a Rossini society came to the concert. It seemed to me, and this impression was confirmed when I did a little reading about the piece, that the music is more secular than its subject matter. It is highly dramatic, has soaring melodies, is even witty and charming in places, as well as being grandiose.
The final fugue is great fun to play, and you really have to memorize the last page of music in order to keep up. The conductor wanted to take it really fast–and he did.
We have a week off before starting rehearsals for POPS, and at least I need it!