Monday, July 8, 2013

"To think that I've lived here all of my life, and never seen such things!"

    And so one week has come to pass. Other places, I'd normally be tired, ready to go home, and feeling a bit guilty for not appreciating what I have before me. Here, I'm just sad that on tour, we won't have as much rehearsal time. There aren't many music programs where you look at your watch for the first time during a 3 hour rehearsal and you want more time.
    Yesterday was our day off, and though I felt a bit lost not playing after such an intensive playing schedule, I welcomed the rest. We went into the City, and my conscious effort to recall the day is a testament to how busy and exciting it was. In the morning, I went to the Met (the museum, as with this audience, "The Met" is somewhat ambiguous!) while some other groups went to Central Park, Times Square, or Ground Zero. (Note: the title of this post comes from the number "NYC" in Annie, though I have in fact been to New York before. Also, let's just say that my musical abilities have come far since my 7th grade role as Miss Hannigan!) One of the curators laughed when I asked where we could find Russian art; we wanted to brief ourselves before our tour, but he chuckled and said, "No specific thing". What a shame, and we didn't end up seeing any in our all-too-short tour of the European Sculptures and Paintings. Tonight, though, we will have a lecture on the Cultural History of St. Petersburg and Moscow, and I have the Billington book Papa gave me. In the museum, we also went through the new "Punk" exhibit and, of course, the musical instruments. I think the entire orchestra was in there..."geeking out" doesn't begin to explain the scene.
    We then bussed to Lincoln Center to hear the New York Phil in Avery Fisher Hall. It was their summer series, and brought me back to my lazy Tanglewood afternoons on the lawn. Though inside and with much more conductor-audience interaction from the delightfully witty and welcoming Maestro Bramwell Tovey (who did not hesitate to celebrate from the podium Andy Murray's drought-ending win at Wimbledon), the summer concert atmosphere was alive and well in the hall, with a diverse audience. John Adams Short Ride in a Fast Machine, Offenbach's Ballet of the Snowflakes from The Trip to the Moon, Josef Strauss' Spharenklange or Music of the Spheres, and Holst's The Planets comprised this Sunday afternoon journey to the heavens. After the concert we had the honor to meet with and have a brief Q&A with 3 members of the orchestra, and then we were off again. While we were leaving, it struck me how just within Lincoln Center, there were three world class orchestras- the Ballet, the Met, and the Philharmonic- all facing the same plaza and gushing fountain. That, and the passage on my SAT Reading section claiming classical music is dying confirmed my beliefs: the SAT really is full of it.
    We spent our evening on a cruise around Manhattan, and a spontaneous dance party in the dorm.
    Today was our last full rehearsal with Maestro Ross. I know all of us will miss his creative solfege syllables for the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto solo part, and his energetic rehearsals on the whole :(
    Tomorrow, Maestro Valery Gergiev meets the National Youth Orchestra of the USA.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Obligatory post regarding lack of internet, but inspiration nonetheless

           Ethernet cables are a thing of the past, which is why I am only now able to tell you about the activities of the past two days. To say it is a whirlwind is unfair – both to the hurricane that is 8 hours of rehearsal a day, and to the parting of clouds and choir-heralded emerging sunshine that is the progress we’ve made already. Our first tutti (full orchestra, for my non-musician readers) rehearsal was last night, and we just got out of 3 more hours of work on the Shostakovich. That reminds me! Our repertoire is as follows: Shostakovich 10, Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Joshua Bell (who will arrive next week, as will Maestro Gergiev) and Magiya, a piece commissioned by Carnegie Hall and BBC Radio 3 (on which our Proms concert from Royal Albert Hall will be broadcast) for NYO by Sean Shepard, who we will also meet and discuss the piece with later this week. Ahhh, the opening of the Shostakovich…the low strings, resonant, full and woody yet clean and clear...I think that DSCH is permanently engraved into my heart (and my ear drums). Shostakovich may have lost his identity, but he can tell you his name. (For those who don’t know much Shostakovich, the motif “D-S-C-H” using German notation translates to the notes D-Eb-C-B, and stand for Demetri Schostakovich. Mind blown? You’re welcome!)
            Maestro James Ross is preparing us for Maestro Gergiev’s arrival, and has dubbed himself our “surrogate daddy” for the next week. His extremely kind and friendly manner combined with deep experience and knowledge of the music make rehearsals engaging and outstandingly productive; I’d say that’s what I’ve been most amazed by: not just the baseline level of playing, but the leaps and bounds everyone is ready and willing to take to bring ourselves together as an orchestra. Most of us have never experienced a conducting style like Maestro Gergiev’s, and all the musical faculty have that in mind in preparing us; everything we do is looking forward. And not just to this tour, but for a future of playing music. Over the past 48 hours I’ve constantly had invaluable insight and knowledge just handed to me by the faculty and by my peers; it’s impossible to walk into a rehearsal, whether sectional or tutti, and not be inspired. We spent yesterday afternoon in a brass sectional coached by the principal horn of the Houston Symphony, the Principal Trombone of the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Principal Trumpet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Today, we played with them in tutti, along with all the other section coaches. They’ve taught us tricks and rules of the trade, of orchestral playing, and of our instruments, on top of helping us build our musicianship. I have to admit, with the thermostat stuck at 55 and a neighbor practicing the room above until 1:30, Sunday night didn’t seem too promising. Still, Madison and I were up at 6 for our run, and saw enough baby bunnies and deer to wake me up from a night of Shosti 10 lullabies.
            When I catch a moment, usually before bed, I’ve been chipping away at my reading list, which includes "The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretative History of Russian Culture" by James H. Billingham, a tome my dad suggested to me in preparation for the tour to Russia. Not only is it is a deep source of information and perspective, but it was written in ’66, so the maps and commentary provide a contemporary look at the USSR at that point. I’m also reading “The Remains of the Day” and then “The Unconsoled”, two novels by Kazuo Ishiguro, whose works I’ll be reading for my Senior Thesis.

            We’re headed soon into a workshop on our repertoire; I’m excited to go beyond “DSCH” and “Elmira” (another code in the music, read on!) and learn some more about the music. Lecture’s about to start, let’s hand over the stage to Dr. David Wallace!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Your Instrument, One Suitcase, and One Personal Item

   All summers are uncertain, whether you have it planned out to the day or leave it 'till noon to determine the day's funtivities. You might know where you will be, what roughly you'll be doing, but you can't foresee the friendships you'll make, the stifling days that leave you wiped out, or out the moments that will make you stop and smile goofily to yourself. Next summer, some things will be more certain; I'll know where I'm going to college, I'll be graduated from high school (unless calc decides otherwise). And the rest of my life will as undefined as my packing list for my trip starting tomorrow (and a slope over zero)! This summer is jam-packed, like I'll try to make my suitcase (hooray for similes!), but my brain is running wild imagining what I will encounter over just the next 3 and a half weeks. Will I get lost in a Russian city? Will Strauss 1 be recognizable when I play it for William VerMeulen? And, this is for you, Ms. Wayne: How many thesis* books will I read?

*Thesis: referring to the Belmont High School Senior Thesis, an 8 month long project beginning with reading 4 books by a chosen author.
    In 24 hours I'll be arriving in Purchase, New York for the residency portion of the inaugural season of the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (or NYO, for ease!). After our residency, where 120 players rehearse together, live together, and become an orchestra, we go on tour with Maestro Valery Gergiev, with concerts in Washington D.C., Moscow, St. Petersburg, and London. For full information about the orchestra, visit the website at and follow the NYO-USA facebook page for updates and pictures during the program! In addition to this blog, I might be blogging a bit for the NYO blog, so keep an eye out for that as well- I'll link to it here.

   As for the heat, the travel, and the one suitcase restriction, I respond with my grandmother's reaction to a rock in her way on the sidewalk today:
"I don't like you. I don't like you at all!" and brushed it aside.
Stay tuned for updates on my adventures- and I'll try to stay tuned to A442.