Around the beginning of June, I get a phone call from a conductor I knew for a couple of weeks... 5 years ago. She's organizing a summer orchestra festival at her university and is in need of bassists. Would I like to audition? Now, I haven't played in an orchestra since I transfered out of Ithaca College, 4 years ago. When I left the music school there, I resigned myself to basically ending my music career. I haven't continued my lessons or played in any orchestras since I left; there just wasn't time between my academic studies, work and a hefty commute. I barely had time to fool around for fun, let alone seriously practice. Suffice to say, I know my skill level couldn't possibly be anywhere near what it was.
And yet, listening to the conductor chatter on the phone, trying to get me to join, that little tingly feeling in my stomach starts acting up; this might be a second chance. I'm done with undergrad, and I'm taking the summer off from my grad program. There'll never be a better time (at least for the next few years). The only crux is that I have to take bits and pieces of days off work with only a month's notice (nowhere near enough time as far as my bosses are concerned - to many people with shared responsibilites and independent skills). Whatever, I make it happen.
Now I've got one week to beat myself back into shape for an audition that's more of a formality than anything else. And yet, coming in from the cold (4 YEARS!), I was afraid that I really didn't have any skill left. It certainly didn't sound like it the first day. I complained to some of my co-workers, "Ah! I'm finally getting old." But clearly I was exaggerating, as I pulled it off.
One month of cooling my heels later, and group rehersals start. The music was only released to the musicians two days before (not nearly enough time) and it was HARD. Most of the pieces are very fast and have a lot runs with plenty of accidentals. Needless to say, I was nervous going into this. I show up at orientation, and the first thing I think is, "Oh god, they're all kids." It wasn't true, but at some point I did grow up when no one was looking. Weird. Most of the orchestra is in high school, but since orientation I've found a few with wrinkles in the foreheads. I'm bracing myself for seating auditions, but when I come back from the bathroom (oh, the timing!) a sheet is already being passed around with placements. Thank god I didn't have to worry about that. Then I realize one of the other bassists has moved my bass (it is a little rude to touch another person's instrument without permission - they're very expensive and a livelihood for some) to the first stand. Ass to floor. Oh shit.
I take a little break and still come back section leader.
So now, not only do I have to play well, but I have to help other people play better. No pressure. (Although some guilty satisfaction, oh yes.) The other two bassists I'm playing with are actually quite good, and at first I can't believe the conductor put me ahead of one of them.
As rehersals get underway I eventually settle into my place. My hands are now callused again, my tendons and muscles no longer burn after a mere two hours, and the music is musical.
And so tonight's the big night, oh god. I still don't have every bit of music down yet, and I probably never will, but I think we still sound good. I hope all goes well. I'm going to miss playing again once this is over.
Beethoven's Coriolan Overture, Op. 62
Mozart's Oboe Concerto
Dvorak's Czech Suite
Reinecke's Flute Concerto, Op. 283
Wieniawski's Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 22
and god help me, Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony, Op. 90
There's enough music to warrant our own intermission, apparently. I think we have over 1.5 hours worth of playtime, let alone stop time for the audience to clap, the winds to clear the stage, soloists to have their grand entry, conductors to give speeches, etc... this will probably be a long night. But hey, tradition, Friendly's afterparty!