Opening the Envelope

Sitting in a nice nearly empty and quiet library. People still seem to insist on using the computers in pairs who then sit next to me, but at least the pair next to me is a quiet one.

Anyway: yesterday I finally got round to Opening The Envelope…

What envelope? The one with the music in which needs to be practised by Friday.

Sorry, what music for Friday? What are you on about? Talk sense, man!

The event

Friday is interesting: I’m leading a small orchestra, for a conducting course. It’s part of a week-long event for singers and choir conductors. Both the singers and the conductors come in three flavours: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.

On the last day of the course, the Advanced conductors have the scary task of conducting a piece for choir and orchestra. Bear in mind that these are choir conductors and that conducting an orchestra is a substantially different skill. So, we’re here for them to practise on. And we’re allowed to abandon usual orchestral etiquette and answer the conductors back, tell them why their beat was difficult to follow…

For an orchestral player it’s all quite fascinating, because usually, we simply follow the conductor with more or less success and play accordingly. At the conducting course we get to discover why some conductors are easier to follow than others, and we get to compare and contrast different conducting styles. And we discover that sometimes the things that go wrong in our own orchestras are actually the conductor’s fault. It’s brilliant! And what’s more, they pay us for it!

But we have to be nice to the victims conducting students because for most of them it’s their first experience of conducting an orchestra, especially one that answers back, and they’re quite nervous. Get it right and great fun is had by all, including the students.

The envelope

Anyway, I opened the envelope. Looked at the music. Sightread most of the music. Took 20 minutes. It’s all pretty straightforward and it looks as though all I really need to do is to write a few fingerings in one of the pieces.

I was worried about having to do this after six weeks of non-playing (see earlier entry), but it was obvious that any deficiences in my playing were the result of needing to get warmed up a bit rather than any Nasties in the music. My right arm seems to have made friends with the violin bow again, but my left hand was tensing up a bit. So I spent the rest of the practice session doing some Sevcik finger exercises and practising keeping my fingers as relaxed as possible.

I suppose I now need to include a health warning post about how to practise finger exercises, but that can wait until I feel like writing it. In the meantime: Don’t practise them incessantly and with tense fingers, since that’s the opposite of what they’re for and has the potential to give you RSI and the like if you keep it up.

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