Wrap up of the Holiday Season Concerts

Yesterday was the last one.  I suppose I didn’t do that many, really, but it’s been an intense few weeks of rehearsals and driving around.  I subbed into the York Symphony’s holiday concert (plus 2 rehearsals leading up to it) because their tubist suffered an injury and needed surgery on his knee.  Ouch.

They rehearse on Wednesday nights in Northern Toronto (the Waldorf School) and performed two concerts this past Saturday (a 3:30pm matinée and an 8pm show).  Both the same, so it was nice to get a second crack at the rep.  As you’d expect, the evening concert was the better of the two.  Challenges with the first half lied in performing for the first time publicly with their guest conductor.  Pressure has an effect on behaviour – for both the musicians and the conductor.  “On edge” would be a good description of it.  He knocked the music from his stand at least twice.  That was part of being “in the moment” of performance, and making gestures he wasn’t making in rehearsal.  Plus, his unbuttoned jacket was in the way a little too.

It was good that it was a lighter holiday pops mix of music.  The mood was light and was helped by his cute props (colourful “sultan’s” head dress and a lit-up baton).  He did seem a little nervous though.

The weekend before was Orchestra Toronto’s December family-friendly concert – sold out!!  Some coworkers of mine were there too.  And a fantastic show between the music, the invited entertainers, the children chorus and the 16-year-old cello soloist.  It was also the first show for our new principal trombone: a young guy studying at UofT.  I like him and I think we’re going to be a great section.  He’s got great tone, decent volume and a real keen interest.  I’m looking forward to Tchaik 4 with him.

Finally, yesterday was the Highlands Wind Symphony (HWS) winter/holiday concert.  I was surprised by the nearly-sold-out hall at the high school despite the bad weather and so-so driving conditions.  Included in the show was the Highlands Swing Band (directed by Judy Cole), plus a duet sung by Lorrie Reddering and Glen Carter (the other two conductors) and a performance of a new song by Carl Dixon (who has albums released and has performed internationally – and he’s our percussionist! – we are some kinda crazy lucky to have him in our ensemble).

Lemme tell ya something – the HWS has got its game on!  From the time I’ve known them, we’ve gone from simply reading through pieces, to truly rehearsing parts.  Individual and section improvements are noticeable and at each concert we’re hearing from the audience that it’s been the best show yet.  Some haven’t heard us in a few years and are amazed at the difference.  I hear it too — overall tuning is better; dynamics are wider and more controlled; and articulation is consistent.  The musicians are more aware of what they are playing.  They’re the little ensemble that could.  I’m definitely looking forward to starting some new challenging rep in January.

So now, I can relax a little, enjoy the holidays and concentrate on rep for the Highlands Chamber Orchestra.

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