Calm before…..

I land in Seattle and have two messages on my voice mail from our principal trumpet. It seems that the third trumpet’s promise to find someone meant that he would ask the principal to find someone for him.  Actually, James is remarkably good humored about it (he would rather do the work than end up with someone he didn’t know) ,and seems to have solved the problem.
I usually go straight from the Seattle airport to rehearsal, a drive of about 4 ½ hours after a trans-Atlantic, but this time my itinerary has gotten me in too late to make it to Pendleton, so I have the pleasure of a quiet night in a hotel, where I can have a leisurely evening of studying.
I’ve covered the work twice and rehearsed it for a third orchestra, so I know it quite well. I’m now at a stage where I’m trying to make sure I go through the whole piece every day, and do consciously look for and think about different things each time. The piece is so vast and complex you could play this game endlessly. One day I might focus on key relationships, another on isolating motives, another on balance problems and details of texture. Since the first rehearsal is tomorrow, I decide just to focus on the nuts and bolts of getting the orchestra through a reading- where I’ll have to tell them what I’m beating, who’s going to need help where, and looking for conductor traps. Often a player or section might have hundreds and hundreds of bars rest, and then come in very discretely once a few bars before they have a significant solo. Harp, percussion and low brass parts are full of these. I have a nice quiet evening with the score and go to bed knowing that the next day we finally get started rehearsing.

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

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