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My First String Ensemble Rehearsal

Krista Moyer

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Published: October 3, 2014 at 2:48 PM [UTC]

Last night I had the opportunity to sit in on a local adult string ensemble. A recent acquaintance of mine is a member and suggested that I try it out. The group has no audition requirement and I was assured that the music was well within my capabilities.

My ensemble experience is limited to some early music jam sessions, and three studio performances. None of my previous experiences involved a conductor or much in the way of defined parts. Because of my limited exposure to group playing, I was very nervous about going. My friend offered to let me come with her so I wouldn’t walk in alone. She showed me where to stow my case, where to sit, and introduced me to people. Everyone was very friendly, and I felt more at ease once the conductor gave me the music and I realized that I could indeed play it.

The music is easy, but I’m glad it is. There is enough to do trying to figure out how to blend into a section, follow a conductor, and sight read never before seen music. I missed pretty much all of the dynamic markings, and some key changes last night. Counting appears to be my biggest obstacle right now. Yes, that was me playing not one, but two solos during the rests.

I discovered that hearing the melody line is hard when seated behind the first violin section unless the cellos are mirroring it. Having a conductor direct the sound and help massage the dynamics is much different than having it dictated in a lesson. In the practice room, it’s easy to tune out and just play the notes, but in ensemble it seems important to play with feeling. There’s a sense of partnership with the other voices that I haven’t really experienced in the past. You don’t want to let anyone down by being the rotten egg in the back row.

This is probably old hat to many of you. For me, this is what I imagine I missed out on by not having orchestra class as a child. I wish that all of my adult starter friends had this as an option if they want it. Being surrounded by a group of like-minded individuals trying to create a unified sound despite our varied backgrounds is a wonderful thing.

I can’t wait to go back next week.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on October 6, 2014 at 12:17 AM
Welcome to the world of ensemble playing. You will get used to it and its quirks in time as you get more experienced. However, there is nothing like it for a musician. It is what we live for. Just keep at it and keep enjoying it!
Posted on October 6, 2014 at 8:25 PM
Good for you! So many wonderful things about group playing, so congratulations on taking the plunge.
From Adrian Morris
Posted on October 7, 2014 at 5:13 AM
Hi, OP! Thanks for sharing your experience. Chamber playing is magical, isn't it? I'm very fortunate that I get to do play chamber music for a living. Although we attempt to rotate our repertoire regularly to keep it fresh, the weddings and corporate events that we play each week only affords so much musical satisfaction. It's Thursday night rehearsals that I look forward to. Not everyone can make it each week, so the combination of musicians changes, and we usually are sight reading through works. The ones we really like we decide to work on to be featured in our quarterly recitals. I like the flow of conversing as people arrive, most of us grab a good beer and/or a scotch, playing through a sonata or a couple of short pieces, then taking breaks featuring more conversation and perhaps another scotch ;) A few of us stick around after the music session to talk philosophy, current science, great movies, etc.. This is my favorite night of the week, and truly is my favorite thing to do...

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