Thursday, 16 June 2016

Sunrise in June

East Anglia is blessed with many amateur orchestras. The sheer number is a testament to the enthusiasm and diligence of individuals who are willing to put the time and effort into their organisation.

The majority of these individuals are music professionals who bring their talents to amateur players like me.  The music director of the Sunrise Concert Orchestra has invited me to fill out in the viola section for a performance on Saturday evening (two days’ time).

I’ve had the music since last Friday – (Show Boat, Jerome Kern; Suite for Orchestra - from the Watermusic, G F Handel; The Hebrides - Fingal’s Cave - Overture, Felix Mendelssohn; The Banks of Green Willow Idyll, George Butterworth; Symphony No. 1, Joseph Knight - an active local composer).

I quake with a degree of real fear whenever I’m expected to sight read (more or less) Mendelssohn. He combines semiquaver passage work with key changes worthy of Schubert. The Hebrides Overture is no exception. All this is alongside some fairly fiendish changes in tempo. I suspect that the conductor expects me to look at him not the music.

Curiously enough one of the most difficult bits looks dead simple on paper. It comprises semiquavers turns, three notes two semi-tones apart at the bottom of the C string and to be played very loud – absolutely horrible. OK there’s the occasional tune but this is viola not first or second fiddle.

Showboat and the Watermusic are both playable although the Showboat tempi changes could be interesting.

The Butterworth looks easier than, I suspect, it really is. I wonder if he was having a bet with a colleague on the number of changes of tempi he could include on a single page of music. (e.g. Comodo, Allargando, Tempo 1, Allargando, Poco Tranquillo, Poco Animato, Tranquillando, Tempo 1, Maestoso, Animato agitato.) In addition Mr Butterworth also contrives to split the violas at several points. Of course, I have not the slightest idea which line I’m supposed to handle. There is no chance of memorising the music in this short space, but that’s what it really needs so that you can glue your eyes on the conductor.

Lastly to our local composer. I was complimenting myself that this didn’t look too difficult notwithstanding the numerous time signature changes. Then this happened.

Curiously enough it is not as difficult as it looks even if the timing is a bit wicked. The dotted quaver (x2) / quaver passages are each a tone apart and employ the identical left hand shape. The problem here is that it is not easy to be certain that you are in tune. Once you have reached the dizzy heights of 5th position the semiquaver descending scales are relatively easy.

And I thought I’d have a relatively comfortable life post stroke,

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