The rest of this week proceeded much as it started: lots of rehearsals, paperwork, and some classes.

Thursday morning I managed to get both the rehearsal venue and the rehearsal time wrong. Somewhat fortuitously, they cancelled each other out, so that when I arrived at the correct venue (expecting to be 15 minutes late because I went to the wrong place first), I was actually 75 minutes early. Thankfully, I had a book with me. I would have preferred to spend the time practising but one cannot have everything.

Thursday afternoon I chased some paperwork, then went home for a reasonably early night.

This morning I woke exceptionally early, which gave me an hour to walk around the park before I could start to practise. There was another Symphony Orchestra rehearsal and I went to the correct venue this time. Then more chasing of paperwork, then arranging class, then home.

Tomorrow I have some social things planned but nothing too strenuous; Sunday is teaching, as always, though it’s looking like I’ll have a quite extended break in the afternoon. I may try to re-schedule my evening students to fill the gap, or I may just take the break and enjoy the weather.

It’s been a busy week and it isn’t even done yet.

Monday I was teaching, then wandered around a bit and found a silk sari for £5 in a charity shop. That prompted me to come home and do some simple sewing, so I now have two new sarongs (hey, I said it was simple), lovely and cool for the hot weather. I was absolutely shattered, unsurprising after my late night on Sunday.

Yesterday was a day of much rehearsing and some minor slaying of paperwork. I was still very tired and found it a struggle to concentrate well, but managed to have a reasonable day anyway.

The first two rehearsals were for the Trinity Symphony Orchestra, preparing for the final of the soloists competition. I’m playing 2nd horn in the Brahms violin concerto and the Ravel piano concerto, both gorgeous works. The rehearsals were productive but very poorly attended by some sections. The weather was glorious and I accidentally caught a slight sunburn eating my lunch on Blackheath. I was still feeling chilly when inside the Great Hall though. Maybe there’s a passage to some sort of frozen netherworld under the stage.

The third rehearsal was Brahms horn trio. We finally got through the whole last movement… slowly. I would have liked to go faster but slow practise does pay off better in the end, and as my part is probably the easiest of the three I don’t feel I get much say in when we get to play faster. B, the pianist, is definitely interested in trying to organise some recitals. It’s looking like we’ll try to play in some lunchtime concerts in August. Meantime we’ve got a couple of rehearsals booked for next week.

Today was good as well. I’ve just about recovered from my sleep deprivation exercise on Sunday night, in that I found it much easier to wake this morning, but was still flagging quite a bit mid-afternoon. But I practised, and got an assignment handed in, and went to improv class but hardly anyone turned up (probably because of aforementioned assignment as well as the truly beautiful weather), had some lunch and did some banking, and went to horn class.

Horn class today was excellent. We had Johannes HinterHolzer visiting from Austria; we’d all been instructed to learn Mozart’s 4th horn concerto (K495) and be prepared to play it. For the first half we talked about horn stuff in general, as well as the first movement of Mozart 4. Then we took some tea and sunshine and returned to actually do some playing.

A bit of context: when I was busking on the London Underground I played all of Mozart 4 two or three times a day, four or five days a week, for a year and a half. After a certain point it doesn’t really get any easier. I know the piece pretty well by now, and to be honest I didn’t prepare as much as I might have for today’s class. I learned an incredible amount despite both of these factors. Johannes is very precise in his ideas about what makes a line musical and what general phrasing techniques will give the desired effect; the result is that instead of saying, “Do it like this” and then demonstrating, he will demonstrate and then explain exactly what he did to achieve that result. He’s also very clear about the more nitty-gritty techniques for producing a good, accurate sound on the horn, and has an amazing ear for rhythm (or perhaps I just need to spend more time with the metronome). His manner is combination of encouraging and demanding that really inspires students to do their best. I’d very happily take a few lessons with him next time he’s in London, and I’m sure others who were there would also jump at the chance.

The result of all this is that I’m now ready to actually work on Mozart 4 properly again, although I’ll leave it until after my performance exam. I consider this a small miracle given just how much I’ve played it.

I do miss busking, both on and off the Tube, to a certain extent. There were good days and bad days, as with anything, but there’s something very encouraging about standing up in public to play music and having people give you money of their own free will. I had to stop busking in 2006 after injuring myself rather badly when I took a tumble down the stairs in my home. I don’t think I’m physically up to getting back to it just yet. I also don’t think I want to do it for 4-6 hours per day for more than about a month at a time, because it is physically and mentally incredibly taxing, but it would be good to have the option of doing a month a year or perhaps three pitches a week after I’ve finished my degree.

Splat

Today has been very, very long. I got up and taught and went on an impromptu picnic and taught some more and rehearsed and missed my last Northern Line tube toward home and messed about with night buses and ended up walking back from Bank with a semi-random person who turned out to be rather lovely.

I’d do it all again except it would be nice not to have the hour or so of messing around on night buses.

Unfortunately I have to get up again in a Very Small number of hours, so small it is smaller than the first non-prime. Tomorrow is going to be quite a challenge on that amount of sleep.

The Show Must Go On

It goes without saying that one should always be on time for concerts if one is performing.

I usually aim for arriving at the concert venue and being ready to play 30 to 60 minutes early, and also add 50% onto my expected journey time. I’ve not yet been late for a performance.

At Sinfonia on Thursday night we had a problem. Our first horn player was stuck in traffic. This wasn’t a huge problem for the Biber, because it has no horns in it.

The Vaughan Williams Folksong Suite does have four horn parts, but they are printed with 1st & 2nd on one set and 3rd & 4th on the other. Since we each had a copy of a part, all the parts were there. It is possible to cover most of the harmonies with three horns, because the work is quite heavily scored with lots of doubling. The third player jumped up to first; I played the third and fourth parts, alternating based on my own knowledge of the piece and the other parts. This is really not ideal but I doubt anyone in the audience noticed, except for the empty seat beside me.

The Mozart was going to be problematic, even though it has fewer horn parts. There was only one copy of the first horn part, and it was with our delayed first horn player. I hadn’t been scheduled to play in that piece at all, though I believe I have performed it before. The first part and the second part are fairly similar, it’s basically all octaves all the time except for a few bars in the last movement, but those few bars are fairly crucial. We had a very quick look at the score and decided that the thing to do would be to have the second player jump up to first (since he’d been rehearsing and knew what to expect), and let me sightread the second part.

Thankfully it didn’t happen that way. We were in our seats and about to tune when our first horn player arrived, flustered and rushed but with her horn and her part. I must admit I was almost disappointed as it would have been fun flying by the seat of our pants like that, but it’s probably for the best.

This is what happens when you are late for a performance: other people have to take big risks. That is why it is considered so awful. Every part really is crucial. And what would have happened if I did not know the Vaughan Williams so well, or if our first player had not made it in time for the Mozart and there were no other horn players available to try to cover the part?

Is it any wonder I don’t post much?

I’ve not been posting so much this past week; between having a cold, finishing up the last bits of moving house and trying to keep up with paperwork I’ve been short on computer time.

I’ve just come out of an information session with representatives of Impromptu Publishing, who publish Muso magazine. They will have a stall in the UNPLUGGED section of the forthcoming London International Music Show, and they wanted students to help out. There are two positions and six or seven of us turned up, and I figure as I can’t do the Sunday due to teaching I’m unlikely to get hired, but it’s a useful networking opportunity in any case. I might get some flyering work out of it, for example.

I hadn’t previously been aware of the Muso website. It looks to be a reasonable resource. They have a sheet music shop which stocks scores from several different publishers, a small forum, and you can set up a profile and add media and so on. I think it could be interesting but will have to wait and see whether they have caught the true spirit of user-created content as described in Gin, Television and Social Surplus. So far? It’s too small for me to tell, not that I claim to be some oracle of Whether Things Work Online.

Enough, enough links. What have I actually been up to?

Tuesday was busy: practising, Sinfonia rehearsal, lesson with Mark Bassey, Sinfonia rehearsal, trio rehearsal minus the pianist, which ended up being very short (because really? There’s not much you can do with the Brahms horn trio without the piano there). By then I was feeling all lurgified again.

Wednesday was also busy, I got myself up and out early enough for a brief walk around the park, then it was practising followed by two meetings (one with my personal tutor, Douglas Finch, another Canadian in London, and one with the head of Student Services here at Trinity), class, and horn class. Except about a half hour before the start of horn class, my energy levels took a very swift dive, so I went home early and went to bed. Ugh. I do feel better for the extra sleep, but it’s a shame to miss horn class with so few left in the year.

Today has been good so far. Again with the park, which was a cacophony of birdsong this morning. A short bit of practising, just a warm-up really, then up the hill to BlackDeath Blackheath for orchestra rehearsal, back down again for the information/recruitment session, and in a few minutes I’m off to vote in the mayoral elections. Silly me managed to lose my voting card but happily you can just turn up anyway; the system is rather open to fraud but I guess at least it gets people voting.

This evening there is the concert all these Sinfonia rehearsals have been held in preparation for: Biber, Vaughan Willians, Mozart and Schubert. The concert is in the Great Hall of Blackheath Halls, starts at 7.30pm and costs £10 (conc. £7).

No rest for the wicked, though, or even for the mildly impish such as myself. Tomorrow Symphony Orchestra rehearsals start for the TCM Soloists’ Competition Final.

I hab a code

Yesterday I didn’t practise. I was far too coldified.

Today I still feel like death warmed over, but managed to drag my sorry self in to Trinity anyway and got a good hour in before 9.30. Yay!

I’m looking at repertoire for next year’s final recital. It’s going to be problematic, I think, because there is a 45-minute time limit, and I’d quite like to play more than 45 minutes’ worth of music.

Some of the contenders:
Martin Butler, Hunding, about 4’33″
Mozart 2, around 20 minutes
Dukas, Villanelle, 6-ish minutes
A selection of Brahms lieder, transcribed for horn
Bach ‘cello suite in C major BWV 1009, around 20 minutes

If I play both Mozart and Bach then I can play only one other piece, but that’s a little sad. Playing Bach without the other movements is not great, though, and nor would I really like to do the same with Mozart. I guess if it comes to it I can choose one or two movements of the Bach and play them on their own; then everything else should fit, at least.

I wonder if I can apply to do an hour instead of 45 minutes. It would make life much easier.

Yesterday I played the Dukas Villanelle in horn class, on a piston horn in F. It was… interesting. The Besson piston horn that the College has for student use has a fairly large wrap and very awkward placement of the pistons themselves, so I’m glad I didn’t play most sections more than once, because even what I did was making my left arm hurt. On the bright side, the horn itself is so much lighter than my ancient, modified Alex 104 that I didn’t need to use the support stick at all and was able to play standing up.

On the whole, playing only on F horn is quite tiring, especially on that particular instrument which doesn’t have an amazing high range. I’m definitely glad I spent a week playing the Villanelle on my own instrument using F fingerings. I didn’t have a whole lot of trouble with changing from one fingering to another, probably because my own horn has the Slowest Valves in the West (I’m awaiting a quote from Paxman to have it fixed).

We also got to play with Vienna horns. Like the piston horn these are single horns in (one in F, one in Bflat) rather than double, so very much lighter to hold. The tone was rather amazing, as well.

So, now I’m considering playing the Dukas Villanelle on a piston horn for my final recital next year (but not on Trinity’s Besson, that would be a recipe for left-hand RSI), and also considering whether I might get a single F horn again at some point just because they are just so lightweight. I’d really want something that doesn’t interfere with my ability to play the Alex, for obvious reasons, so any horn shopping will involve quite a bit of looking around. And of course I still want a good natural horn, and while I’m at it I may as well get hold of a serpent. Perhaps after I graduate…

Practising this morning… ugh. I wasn’t feeling terribly well. I don’t know if it’s something I ate, the feeling-icky bug that’s been going around Trinity, or a particularly bumpy bus ride this morning, but I’m still feeling a bit delicate.

I did the only thing that one can do in such circumstances: play a bit, rest a bit, play a bit, rest a bit. I’m glad I did.

At 11am the Brahms trio (we still haven’t a name) had a two-hour coaching session with Stephen Stirling. We seem to be on the right track technically and musically, at least in the first two movements. I still want to rehearse in a larger room at some point, but of course this is easier said than done.

I met briefly with J, a mentor for my Year 4 Project. I’m not yet ready to announce it here, because there are still many decisions to be made, but I think I’ve scaled it back to make it a little more manageable, at least.

Now? A little more paperwork, and then home to rest.

Thought for the day

Nothing new here, really, but it struck me again this morning as I was practising just how important it is to always listen, always make the best sound I possibly can when practising. It doesn’t matter whether I’m playing scales or Bach, trying to make a lip trill work or doing range-stretching exercises, the most important thing is to use a good sound.

Now, that doesn’t always mean the tone colour will be conventionally beautiful. There are times when it’s appropriate to make an ‘ugly’ sound for effect. But it has to be on purpose… it should be for effect, not because I’ve stopped thinking about it.

I did tell you it was nothing new.

Miscellany and some good news

Yesterday was a day of many errands; I feel like I didn’t get a lot done, but really it’s just that the things I did get done were mostly not music-related so much as life-maintenance related. If there is anything that could convince me to try to earn more money than I need to survive, it’s the prospect of being able to afford a personal assistant, even part-time.

Today I’m a little sleepy, but practising went well. The Villanelle isn’t going to be perfect tomorrow, but it’s going to be reasonably good. It’s amazing how much more endurance it takes to play it on F-side only, I’m finding it quite tiring to play, but I’m sure in the long run that’s good for me.

Since then I’ve been quietly productive in the library. I have a rehearsal later up at Blackheath, and if the weather holds I might eat lunch in the park on the way there.

Some very good news indeed: IMSLP is coming back! The International Music Score Library Project was a repository of more than 15,000 public domain musical scores. Universal Editions, in Austria, threatened to sue them over a legal difference in what constitutes public domain, with the result that the database had to be taken down as IMSLP was not in any financial position to take on a legal battle. I’m very, very glad that this resource is coming back.

What’s in a name?

We decided at Friday’s rehearsal of the Brahms not to compete in the Cavatina Chamber Music Competition at Trinity. There were lots of reasons, but mostly it’s just that we haven’t quite got the final movement of the trio learned well enough to be able to play it confidently and convincingly. We’d rather take the time now to learn it properly, and perform better at a later date, than skim it now, learn it superficially, and have to undo that later to make a performance we can be proud of.

I am a little disappointed, I was looking forward to giving all those string quartets a run for their money, but I know that this is the right thing to do musically.

On the not-so-musical bright side, this means we have more time to think of a name for our little ensemble. “Triceratops” has been floated as it is a horn trio, but I think that would be more appropriate for a trio of horns, rather than a chamber trio with a horn in it. And I’m leaning toward trying to put together some sort of loosely-associated chamber group, because there’s so much out there and not all of it is with the same instrumentation. It feels like all the good names have been taken, and what we’re left with will be boring (“The Greenwich Chamber Group”) or pretentious.

Ideas? Suggestions? Your answers on a postcard, please.