We attended a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. We had the “cheap” seats, which meant we were in the front-right corner, smack behind the bases. As the symphony began, I wondered if we would hear any of the other instruments.
As it turned out, yes we did. The bases were a little louder than normal, sure, but it ended up being a small enough difference that it didn’t matter all that much. In addition, there were a number of places where the bases had a fairly interesting line that I hadn’t ever noticed. Also, at some points (especially the fourth movement), where they were playing a lot harder and faster than I would have thought they could play. I wondered how those performers managed it–it was really striking to see them working so furiously. It was an awesome performance, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
And of course there are some obvious parallels to the gospel and/or the church and a symphony orchestra. Similar parallels are much more commonly applied to sports teams. Here are some thoughts I had. Nothing really deep…
- Follow the conductor. If the conductor thinks a certain part should be soft and you think it should be loud, you should still play it soft. “Going your own way” really doesn’t work in this setting. Neither does refusing to play (in protest).
- Play your part. Not someone else’s. Don’t get worked up about whether your part is currently working furiously while someone else is resting (or visa verse). Everyone’s part is different, and important.
- Your part is not the only part. You are not necessarily the only one playing your part. Be part of the orchestra. Like it or not, you are in this together, so you’ll have to figure out how to work with each other. The ability to blend is very important.
- The best soloists know how to not drown out everyone else. Instead their voice enhances everyone else’s. In this particular performance, the soloists were in the back of the orchestra, and just in front of the choir, rather than all the way up front. I thought that worked out quite well.
- A solo part is not as glamorous as it may seem. Earlier we heard Mahler’s 1st symphony, and a base player had a very important and difficult solo part. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone as nervous as he was! I certainly didn’t envy him.
- Don’t get hung up on mistakes.