Plays with others (‘well’ might be a stretch)

Tuesday night’s “audition” went something like this:

I walked in all sweaty palmed and trembling.
I was seated next to the violist.
I unpacked and introduced myself to the two other cellists (also new).
Introductions were made followed by light chatter with my new neighbor.
I was handed a stack of current sheet music.
We played.

Turns out, they’re a “non-audition orchestra,” so that’s just how they roll. The idea being if you’ve got some skills, and are really trying/interested, they want to play with you. Lucky me.

At first I was a little (okay more than a little) frustrated with my inability to keep up/read music/stay on time/hear myself. I was wondering what I was doing in that chair, what the bow was for exactly and how on earth I was going to make this strange hunk of wood and strings between my knees do anything but shriek and twang. My brain refused to recognize musical notation. My nerves jangled in my ears. Panic edged up against my skin making me feel flushed and freezing at the same time. I considered telling everyone I was coming down with string fever and needed to get home ASAP before I exposed anyone else. I expected at any moment to hear the conductor shout at me: “Thanks for coming, please go home. Do the world a favor and throw your cello in the lake while you’re at it.”

If I was closer to the door I might have actually tried to sneak out somewhere between Rondeau and Brandenburg. It occurred to me that maybe that’s why they put the new people furthest from the door – as it was, i would have had to hurdle four violins to make a break for it.

Of all the half brained, impulsive, ridiculous ideas, my ego screamed at my brain, how could you honestly think you were ready for THIS?

After an hour, it was like that ego, exhausted from screaming and short circuited by panic, just collapsed in a twitching heap the back of my head.

More remarkably, without the ability to resist (the deadly “I CAN’T”), I gave up fighting the attempt. I told myself: I was there and I had an hour left to go, and in case I wouldn’t be back next week, I might as well make the most of it. After all, playing with others is one of my goals this year.

I acknowledged that playing at speed while sight reading new music was sorta like well…walking rubbing your head and patting your tummy while walking backwards, or…like playing at speed while sight reading new music. I owned it. I started breathing again; the same, measured belly breaths that have gotten me through many a “quadricep on fire” moment in Warrior II. I decided to focus on one note at a time – just like during practice. I picked the first note from each measure, kept counting and breathing, and played that one note best as I could. As we often stopped to repeat a section, I was able to add a second, and a third note.

By the time we got to Tres Gymnopedies, I could actually hear myself (ouch, time to work on tone) and I was actually playing WITH the rest of the strings. At the end of the night, I got a membership form and I got to keep that fat stack of music I was handed on my way in the door. I also get to add a new category for posts to my blog (see, Map of the World in Sidebar): Orchestra

I have to say, it was the friendliest, most welcoming, forgiving group of any organized activity that I have ever been a part of. The conductor was awesome – periodically calling out measures for those of us who got lost (cough, cough). Overall there was lots of praise and excitement all around from the rest of the section at going from celloless to celliful. Thankfully, one of the other two cellists is a vastly more experienced musician while other is at about my level. Suffice to say the former pretty much carried the cello section while we focused on staying in the game. It’s a pretty perfect scenario for me, I would not have been comfortable being the only cellist.

Excited is too small a word to describe how I’m feeling. Tickled, elated, delighted, terrified and giddy thrown into a bucket and shaken might be better suited. There are already two pieces that give me eargasm (remember skin orgasms?):

Trois Gymnopedies (Satie) – The violins just make me tremble, but my line is pretty boring.
Ferdinand and Miranda (Foster-Pilkington) – Serious brain numbing, ear twichery, this one. Good stuff.

We’re also doing the uber-dignified Rondeau (from Masterpiece Theatre) and Brandenburg Concerto No.5 among others.

The next performance is April 2nd. So I have a lot of practicing to do. Better get on it…


PS The coolest part was when I got home TBF pulled out his copy of Gymnopedies (classical guitar) and we spent another hour playing… together. Well, mostly trying to figure out who was in the “wrong” key 😉 But we’re working on it.


About Eddie

Watch what happens when you give a writer a cello.
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2 Responses to Plays with others (‘well’ might be a stretch)

  1. The Neophyte Cellist says:

    Congrats on your first night! It’s good fun isn’t it?

  2. Eddie says:

    Thanks! I can’t wait for next week’s rehearsal.

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