Musings on Everything

I muse, therefore I write.

On Concerts


A violin. I mean, what else would you put here?



So you may not know this, but I play the violin. It’s a common enough thing for people to play, I suppose. I never really wanted to, but I was sorta forced into it by my parents when I was in third grade. See, they had been hearing about how people who play instruments have higher IQs and such, y’know, do better in school, in life, that kind of thing. So they cajoled me into signing up to play. And, I have to say, I never got very good at it. I mean, honestly. I haven’t picked the thing up more than a hundred times in my life. Never liked the sound too much, either. Violins sound screechy. Reminds me of my mother’s voice when she’s angry, and that’s not a very good thing to associate an instument with, now is it? 

But I stuck with it, if only so that I get graduation credits by taking orchestra class (which isn’t really a “class” at all, more a group rehearsal during school hours). So, of course this means that I have to particpate in public displays of the orchestra’s so-called skill to the proud parents (of which there were surprisingly many, this time around) twice a year. This time, we played four pieces:

  1.  Haydn’s Finale From Symphony No. 45
  2. Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus
  3. American Mass by somebody named Schumacker
  4. Bridge Over Troubled Water by Paul Simon

Of these pieces, the Haydn, Mozart, and Simon pieces were relatively OK, but the Schumacker piece absolutely sucked. I mean that it was probably the most terrible thing that our orchestra has ever played. It was worse than listening to cats draw their claws along chalkboards. Half the orchestra missed notes, what notes that were played were mostly wrong ones, and I think we missed a cue somewhere. Needless to say, it was not one of our better performances, and everybody knew it except those poor parents who weren’t told in advance not to come.

But that’s not what makes horrible concerts like this one fun. The fun comes in seeing what the directors do in response to our ineptness. In our case, the fun started way before we ever lay eyes upon the sheet music. 

Our new orchestra director  has been trying to get the orchestra up to a decent standard, and his  method of doing so involves not allowing us to do whatever the hell we want, and actually playing music, both of which our previous director would never even think of. I guess you could relate our reaction to this to waking up with a hangover after an awesome, alcohol-drenched party. In short, it sucks. And just as a man with a hangover will try ever so hard to ignore it and go back to sleep, we in orchestra have been trying ever so hard to get back to having fun again.

Furthermore, from the beginning of the year, Mr. Director was threatening us with said Schumacker piece, saying things like, “Man, if you guys can’t even play this right, you’ll never be able to get through the Schumacker piece” and various other foreboding utterances.  So, of course, most of us wondered what was so wrong with this piece that we were going to play. Well, in due course, we did receive the sheet music, and guess what? It didn’t look that bad. Mostly, it looked boring, what with all the rests. And it was only one page! Wow, a short, rest-filled piece was being billed as hard? Some of us privately started questioning whether our director had as high a regard for us as he let on.

But alas, after a week, the second movement landed in our hands, and immediately, everyone understood why our director had been threatening us all year. It was badly written, called for the violins to come in at odd times, and required good excellent timing, fast speed, and high notes. This combination is the anathema of any violin player, even a good one, not to mention our crew of lazy layabouts. And, of course, it turned out miserably, but what was very interesting was that in the weeks leading up to the concert, we were told that if we didn’t get this piece down pat, there’d be hell to pay. Not even that dire threat was taken to heart, and so we struggled along. However, at the final rehearsal, our director said the most amazing thing:

You guys did really well on this piece. You did a great job, and I know this piece was a bit more difficult, but you really pulled it off. 

Um, what? Seriously? You’ve been yelling your ass off at us for weeks now, not to mention how you completely just ripped into us fifteen minutes ago for missing three cues in a row, and now it’s all “good job” and stuff? That’s the thing I don’t understand about concerts, and group performances in general: Why, exactly, do the people in charge give empty encouragement? Is it supposed to make us feel better? To give us hope that we really are doing well, despite all the invective? I mean, how can you say that stuff with a straight face? You know your orchestra knows full well that they suck at this piece, and yet you have the gall to stand there and lie through your teeth? What the hell, buddy? It makes no sense. What do you think his reasoning was?


Written by Sri

December 7, 2008 at 9:12 PM

Posted in Musings

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3 Responses

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  1. We didn’t do as badly today…though it still was funny. Joseph didn’t really let us goof around much either; the problem lies elsewhere. Basically, he has low expectations of us, so he gives us worse music. Therefore, we just give up practicing (or in your case, not even thinking of practicing in the first place :P), and he then gives us even easier music. Then, just a few weeks before the concert, he gives us a hard piece not even really designed for the orchestra, setting us up for failure. However, the choir is fortunately very loud, and most of the first violins, violas, and cellos got the majority of the notes pretty well.


    December 7, 2008 at 9:29 PM

  2. It’s definitely more of a choir piece. And also, it actually didn’t sound that bad with choir. And that’s just the way he is (director)…that’s what he says when he is tired and just wants to get things over with because he feels obligated to say it. And besides, our orch is doing better than it was before now that the freshman rule has been reinstated. People from the newspaper cult (hee. Don’t worry, I love them too.) are actually coming of their own free will. Same with Camerata.

    And another thing. People shut up now in class, which is wonderful. I think chorale and orchestra switched or something because now Chorale is the sucky group that doesn’t stop talking and has teachers walking out on it.

    Don’t take Mr. Director’s actions too seriously. He’s a busy man and most of the time he’s pretty stressed out. Those teachers have it pretty hard, worse than you’d think anyway. Orchestra isn’t very high up on his list of priorities.


    December 7, 2008 at 10:12 PM

  3. The choral part of the Schumacker piece actually sounded pretty cool, but quite frankly, the song would’ve been better overall if an orchestra part had been completely omitted. I mean, you can’t hear pizzicato over the chorus, and you certainly can’t hear one violin playing a solo. Also, I get the feeling that the director (hahahaha Mr. Director) doesn’t care about orchestra… at all.

    same as a successful rapper

    December 7, 2008 at 10:24 PM

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