KCYO Stage Two

Day three of KCYO, and I’m well knackered.

At this point, I can report the orchestra is getting better, even getting fantastic in places. I can also report my wasp sting seems to be getting worse- the giant red welt that I didn’t get on Monday has appeared today, and is swelling and getting itchier and itchier- I feel very dignified standing in front of 90 musicians with a big red bump on my throat… I think it will be a turtleneck tomorrow.

I had a little bonus activity first thing today. Geoff’s bass tutor had to withdraw late in the game, and his last-second replacement couldn’t do today. As a result, I had the rare privilege (for me, at least) of starting my morning with a double bass sectional. Fortunately, I do know a bit of bass, having occasionally taught it in earlier years, but they didn’t know that. We worked tons on intonation, not because the play out of tune (they don’t), but because the whole orchestra can only play as in tune as the bass section. You’d think that most of the sectionals are very focused on instrumental minutiae, but actually 90% of what the coaches do is just working on musicianship and the music, as and conductor would. The difference is that, in those few instances where there is a specifically instrumental challenge, they have the experience and expertise to quickly sort it out. I think it would be fine for any conductor to lead any sectional (and I’ve done most of them at some point), but it is definitely to everyone’s advantage that we don’t lead all the sectionals.

We (I, actually) had a distinguished visitor from London at rehearsal this morning who was in to see my conducting- one always wants to do well when distinguished colleagues are present, but my approach is always to take every rehearsal as seriously as possible, so when high powers are watching, you don’t have to do anything differently. I don’t know if it works, but that’s my approach.  Anyway, it was very nice of him to come, and we had a pleasant lunch afterwards at the wonderful Star and Eagle. Time will tell what he really thought of it.

The evening rehearsal found everyone in really high spirits- the players are really in festival mode by this point, and you can tell. All the announcements were punctuated with lots of laughter, so it seemed a pity to start the rehearsal with Martinu’s Memorial to Lidice.

The Martinu was written in 1943 when Martinu, a Czech living in the USA, learned that the village of Lidice had been completely exterminated by the Nazi’s as retribution for the assassination of one of their commandants in Prague. Martinu’s genius in this piece is to complete avoid any hint of descriptive music- he purposely avoids a musical depiction of the atrocity. Instead, the work unfolds in one great paragraph, deeply somber, but never sentimental. It’s eight minutes of music that can change your life.

We said goodbye to the coaches today. It is inspiring to see the bond that forms between the players and their mentors in so short a time, although many have worked together on past courses. In such a frantic few days there is no way I could say I got to properly know them all, but I have met some new friends here, which is always good, and discovered some great artists, which is even better. It seems a little desolate with them gone, but it means I get more time with the orchestra, and that is a good thing for me.

c. 2006 Kenneth Woods

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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.

Learn about Kenneth at www.kennethwoods.net

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