Orchestra Toronto’s Season Ender and Bydlo

Let me tell ya, I never thought I’d ever play in a concert where Pictures at an Exhibition was the opening piece.  But we did just that yesterday.  We got a roaring applause once the Great Gate of Kiev was finished (and for good reason, cuz it was awesome!).  The rest of the concert, though well-played, was nowhere near as grand (Danse Infernale from the Firebird was excellent and just about the best we played it: driving and energetic — but audience didn’t know we were finished and there was an odd silence in the hall until we put our instruments down and laughed a little).

The reason Pictures was programmed to open the concert was that it was a feature with 5 painters who were painting while we were playing.  Logistically, their setup dictated that Pictures went first.  Opening the concert with the Promenade was fantastic anyhow.  Tim played it superbly on first trumpet.  Gnomus was also very memorable for me – it sounded dark and vicious!

And before I knew it, I was playing Bydlo.  My heart wasn’t racing out of control, and I did really well, though not without some quick mis-pitches.  In fact, I overshot the last G# by a hair but quickly recovered.  Our conductor, Danielle Lisboa, came to me just before the sound check and offered that I could play a high E instead of G# for the ending.

Final bars of the solo with the perched G#

But it was way too late for that — I’d been practicing the G# for weeks.  Suddenly changing to E would be risky – and not true to the part either.  The solo part of Bydlo was well done (though not perfect).  And I overdid it in the tutti section.  I’d practiced that tonnes so not to get excited and overblow and crack it.  But I did anyhow.  That, I’m disappointed in.  But everyone was so encouraging before and after the performance.  That’s an important concept to grasp:  everyone in the orchestra and in the audience is rooting for you (and me) — fill yourself with positive thoughts, hear in your head how amazing it will sound when you play it and just go for it!

Bill Beecroft, our first trombone, is so supportive too.  A week ago, I wrote to him warning that I may want to have a trombonist play this (or at least the high-high stuff).  He wrote this back to me:  “I think you sound great and you would hate yourself for not doing it!  GO FOR IT.”  In person afterwards he asked:  “Now don’t you feel good having played it?”  And I do.  There are certain risks you’ve got to take to make yourself a better player.  This was one of them.  Call them milestones or notches on a musical bedpost of some kind, but you have to do them in order to reach the next level.

And thanks to all this work and practice, I can hit high G#/Ab now (and got some high Bb’s too).  Now I can apply this to the cadenza for the RVW tuba concerto and to Les Corsaires overture by Berlioz (hopeful future programming for Orchestra Toronto).

I also got this message from Rebecca Davies, who was playing first horn in Pictures (and played her Promenade so beautifully too – so much emotion):  “You were a wonderful Bydlo, Dan! I was so inspired by your playing.”  Musicians (all artists, really) can be so self-critical so reading this really touched me.  Thanks Rebecca!

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