SMP- Live Blogging a concert I

Well- I’m here, live-blogging the final concert of the Guildford Spring Music Festival.

It wasn’t by any means a foregone conclusion that I would be here- Suzanne is 11 days past her due date, and looked ready to burst at any moment this morning (more worrying she looks and feels different than she has). It’s a strange feeling being 140 miles from home today of all days, but I’m prepared to make a dash home should she go into labor. Of course, 20 miles from London is a good place to be if you need a professional conductor on 2 hours notice, but I’m still feeling twitchy as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.We’re starting in a few minutes with  the Beethoven. It always takes about 10 minutes for the orchestra to adjust to the change from the live, loud room we rehearse in to the rather dead Electric, and the 1st mvt of the Beethoven is so punishingly difficult for any orchestra under any circumstance (harder than Rite of Spring by miles) that it makes a poor choice for “getting used” to anything, but we’ll manage.

The symphony is a wee bit over 30 minutes long, and I have one hour to rehearse it at the most, which is (or should be) plenty, but since some of the players only come today (the trumpets, trombones and timps) we have to cover everything- topping and tailing is not really an option. This may sound insane to American readers, but it’s quite common here in the UK for budget reasons, if far from ideal. Still, as long as we have the A-team, it works fine. The only time it has been a disaster was in October, when we didn’t get our usual trumpet section and the lads that showed up were unprepared, spacey and late to rehearsal and late after the break (I was NOT impressed). The principal that day obviously hadn’t twigged that there were major solos in the Poulenc we were doing, and was unable to satisfactorily pull those together between 3 pm and 8 pm, although I don’t think the audience noticed the faking.

Fortunately, today we have the A-team.

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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

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