Trumpet Discussion Discuss Sounding the Retreat in the General forums; Hey, all...
It's nice to be back from a brief hiatus to tell you that this weekend was my annual ...
Sounding the Retreat
It's nice to be back from a brief hiatus to tell you that this weekend was my annual retreat with my orchestra, known as "Symphony", at Lake Pepin on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. It's not a lake in the way most people think of it. Rather, it's a bulge in the Mississippi that is so wide it looks like a lake. It's also the place where waterskiing was invented.
We stay and rehearse at a YMCA camp with the requisite cabins, cafeteria, and playfield. We rehearse in a large space that gets a bit loud but it's good because it gives us a chance to work on the all-too-often neglected soft playing that widens the dynamic range of a 115 piece group of young people!
We're preparing Scheherazade for our first concert, the last movement of Mahler 1 for the second (along with a premiere and the solo competiton winner), and Pictures at at Exhibition for the third and final show in the spring. We also have a special concert with a balet company. I mean to keep them busy and out of trouble!
It's a beautiful setting... a large, open field with cabins in a semi-circular cofiguration that face out onto the lake. You can see the shores of Minnesota from the beach. This time of year is particularly beautiful because the fall colors are just starting to show themselves. So, it's a great way to get the kids away from the city and to a quiet (until they get there!) envioinment.
We rehearsed and sightread during the day and on Saturday night we had a bonfire/movie time. The kids can do either one or just socialize. I brought the Making of West Side Story and was happy to point out Wilmer to the students. They loved you, Wilmer! Did I really hear one of the clarinetists say "He's hot!"? I also played a video of a Bernstein Young Person's concert that featured some nice shots of Mr. Vacchiano circa 1970. So, that was a nice segue to tell them about his burial that day and the life he led for music. The next morning I have made it a tradition that I crawl out of bed at 7:30 and play "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" to rouse them for breakfast at 8:00.
I had a moment during a rehearsal where I expressed my observation that they played too often without listening to a larger picture. Play softer and listen, I said. Then I went on to tell them that one of the reasons they're not sensitive enough to what the rest are doing is the lack of dancing they have today! I don't mean just the "sexified" slow dance but the kind of dancing where there is leading and following, like a waltzes. So, during one of the breaks, I noticed a couple of girls trying, unsuccessfully, to waltz. I went over and taught them to do it properly and then yelled at the boys playing Foozball to come over and partner up with the girls that were there (boys are such idiots). After all the blushing subsided, they got into it and I was absolutely delighted to watch this huge group of 21st century boys and girls ballroom dancing and ENJOYING IT! All, on a field with grass and rocks.
So, the musical tasks I have in front of me this season are going to be important ones: obtaining a true pianissimo from them and teaching them to hear musical cliches when they sightread they can dance that dance of sensitive ensemble playing.
That's why I love that other job, the conducting. Watching kids have these series of musical revelations is thanks all by itself and worth the time spent. It's the process of continuing to pass down what we've learned. I've learned a lot in the past 17 tears of doing this, too. I'm much more direct about correction than I was when I first started. If you correct with good humor and kindness, if you treat them equally without preference, if you show them that it's about the responsibility to the composer, they accept the correction with a good spirit and will walk through fire for the sake of the group. I think I've become that way with private students as well. You get more done and the student gets his money's worth, too.
Well, enough... it was a great weekend and we got a lot done in a beautiful setting.
It sounds like a great time was had by all.
On the subject of dancing, it's unfortunate that we don't dance today like they did years ago. I can't dance because it just wasn't something that my generation learned to do.
I would have liked to have heard your rendition of "Oh What A Beautiful Morning"
"What we do in life echoes in eternity"
"At my signal, unleash hell."
- Maximus Decimus Meridius
I love it!!! When students first think you are just being funny; then they see the real purpose behind your actions...and the intensity that follows a moment like that...I love that.
I can only imagine the boys' reaction to your request to ask them to dance...much like mine would be, I guess!
"Roses have thorns; shining waters mud. Clouds and eclipses stain the moon and the sun; and history reeks of the wrongs we have done. After today, after today, consider me gone."- Sting
Mezzo Piano User
I really enjoyed your account of the weekend! Sounds like you have a fantastic program that you are offering to these kids. They’re certainly lucky to have you rub off on them!
Speaking of dancing, my Wife and I took a ballroom dance class shortly before we were married. We ended up taking some private lessons as well and had the instructor choreograph our “first dance” for our wedding. Our instructor was very impressed at how quickly we were able to pick up the ideas that she was throwing at us (it helps to be musicians). I learned how differently music is viewed through the eyes of a dancer.
I never really considered how closely “classical” literature was tied to dance until I started playing some of the Bach Cello Suites. My instructor told me that the movements of these pieces were simply the major dances of the time: Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Menuette, and Gigue. As you mention with the Waltzes, the appreciation that you can bring to the music by understanding some basics of the dance can make a real difference in the interpretation of the notes on the page.
I learned how to Waltz during the class that I took, but when I think of waltzing I picture the choreography from Die Fledermaus that I saw at the Santa Fe Opera. All of the swirling and the strong emphasis on one (a very vivid picture). That can only help to make the musical sound match the dance picture from a practical perspective.
Thanks for sharing this!
Glad to hear you had another successful and fun retreat. You didn't hit any plastic deer on the way up there, did you?
You have a good memory! Well, if I did. you'd be the first to know!
I hear you need a sax player for Pictures.....
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