Blowing my own horn

July 31, 2012

Went to the Proms last night – first time ever! Only lived here 30 years but somehow never managed to get round to it. So we set off in plenty of time to allow fro Olympic traffic, and got there an hour and a half early.

We strolled around the corridors looking at the displays of old programmes and tried to stop getting completely wrecked before the show.

I was surprised at the casual attire of the audience, but husband tells me  the  Proms are for the People- that’s the point. And the tickets cheap. So I took off my tiara. But anyway we settled down to listen to the Aldeburgh World Orchestra and rather marvellous they were too with Mark Eldred at the helm. Some of the modern stuff was a bit discordant for me – I like a nice tune myself so I was surprised to find  enjoyed the Mahler best of all as I have never considered myself a fan of his.

But the evening reminded me of the times I played in a youth orchestra. I played 3rd trumpet the first time I went. I’d never played a trumpet before, but played a cornet in a  small Town Silver Band and the principle’s the same. Just the cornet is squatter, silver and has a more mellow tone. Less brassy if you will. And the first time I went for orchestra practice I was overwhelemd at the size of it. The number of people playing all these different instruments. And all seated in particular positions. I had no idea who anybody was.

Always liked to get my mouth round a horn

But I quickly learnt it was all about the strings. And the violins in particular. Unless you were a first violin in an orchestra you were nobody. The violins all crowd round the conductor, clamouring for attention. And getting it. Those playing the viola are only doing so becuase they weren’t good enough to be first violin, but didn’t want to be second. Then there are the cellos and the doublebasses. Thousands of strings with their bows flailing with self importance.

Beyond the strings, further away from the conductor are the woodwind – the reeds – clarinet, oboe, bassoon and the flutes. Behind them further comes the brass section. Us. Trumpets, french horns, trombones….Only timpani is further away from the conductor.

I look at my music and I see I have 212 bars rest to start with. Yes, that’s right. Doing nothing but counting out 212 bars before I come in with a toot or two.  Then another 50 odd bars rest till the next little tinkle. And so on throughout the piece.  You cannot believe how many times we get to bar 57, bar 100 and return to the beginning. I am not sure I played anything at all at my first rehearsal. But whenever it was that I did first add my contribution to the wondrous sounds we were making ( having counted all those sodding bars religiously …..nine 2,3,4; ten 2,3,4, eleven 2, 3,4; ) and PARP! PARP!  The conductor tapped his baton on his stand and said, “Less volume please brass. Back to bar 168 please everyone.”

I realised then I  was better off playing in a brass band where the point was to be heard  and we didn’t have to play second fiddle to any fucking strings.


6 Responses to “Blowing my own horn”

  1. janetditch Says:

    Blimey Sarah, is there no end to your talents?!

  2. Think of the 1812 Overture. The person with the cymbals and the one with the cannon have to wait for the whole score 😉

    • Exactly! And theye were the only ones further away from the conductor than us. Increased conductor to instrument distance means decreased importance to the piece! 🙂

  3. georgiemcclarke Says:

    Haha love the last line – so you xxx

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