Saturday, March 3, 2012

The strangest rehearsal ever -or- why you should never assume the elevator works

Ok, so I have to start this off by saying that I am a professional harpist.  I've played a mess of orchestral repertoire on some very strange stages.  However, I think this one takes the cake.

I was asked to play for a local youth orchestra.  The parts are super easy, so no problem there.  After a string of email correspondence with the conductor, where I am quite sure my emails were never fully read, I am told to show up 15 minutes before the rehearsal and they can get me in.  Ok, well, that's great but I'm a harpist and I have to tune and I'm not capable of getting anywhere in 15 minutes, let alone deal with parking on this major university campus.  So I arrive about 45 minutes early, spend a little time double parking 5 people since that's the only handicap accessible entrance to the building, repark the car and another group is using the rehearsal space, so I find myself a semi-quiet corner and tune, interspersed with parents walking by with their kids saying "look at that honey, a harp!"

Oh, and this is about the time I realize that I forgot to grab my coffee on the way out the door this morning.

This would probably have fixed most of my morning stress.

So finally the other group lets out and I need to figure out a way in.  There are two doors into this rehearsal room, each of which opens directly onto a flight of stairs.  The space itself is basically a giant staircase to make rehearsing easier which is fine except that really the only place to put me is all the way down on the ground.  This too shouldn't be a problem since I find out there is an elevator.  Wonderful!

Ok, so off I go to find the conductor who is going to lead me to the elevator, and she gives her keys to a young cellist who is going to go unlock the door for me.  Basically, the elevator is easily accessible from the main floor, but it opens into a utility closet which is locked.  So the conductor and I ride the elevator down, only to discover that the kid with the keys can't get the door on the other side open.  So she leaves me there to ride the elevator back up (now the only exit from this room).

Let's think about this for a second.  I'm in a broom closet where the only door is locked and the elevator is my only way out.  Has anyone talked to the fire marshal about this one?

So the conductor gets to the other side and is not having any luck getting the door.  She rides the elevator back down with another gentleman, who also can't unlock the door.  So we give up on this and ride the elevator back up.

Now I get to try to get my harp down the stairs.... whee!  Two wonderful (adults) in the orchestra helped me walk it down the stairs and around the corner, all the while attempting to not smash it on the concrete or the violinists' heads as the orchestra is starting to tune.  Its things like these that I try not to relate to my insurance company.

I. Hate. Stairs.

Whee I've made it down here!  Ok, so now I have to frantically set up and pull myself together.  I hate being late for things and now I'm feeling super unprofessional.  On top of that, the two pieces I am here to play are both Viola concerti.  So, I quickly open my music and check: yes this is a viola concerto, yes there is a viola soloist standing in front of me.  Ok, she's starting to conduct in 3 and this piece is 9/8, great, I'm golden, I have 50 measures before I have to do anything.  Wait, why did the meter just switch to 4? There's no meter change here? What's going on? Maybe I'm just not paying attention well enough.  Why didn't I grab my coffee? Crap, I'm going to get a headache.  Seriously, what is going on this makes no sense.  Oh crap, I bet I'm on the wrong piece, yup, look at that (frantically turn to other piece) and no I have no idea where we are and she seems to have no intention of stopping.

At this point I get the kid next to me to tell me where we are (also not my most professional moment), and start playing away.  Whew.  Ok, so that piece is fine, but following this conductor is a bit of a trip.

Let me just take a second to explain this for the non-musicians.  Most pieces are conducted in 2,3, or 4. The conductor's baton tell you what beat you're on.  For all of those set ups, the first beat goes down.  Always.  Ok, easy enough.  The second beat tells you what meter you're in: if the conductor goes up, its in 2, if right it's 3, if left it's 4.  So, by the second beat I know exactly what's going on.

Now, if you are conducting and accidentally go the wrong direction on the second beat, I get MASSIVELY confused.  I think we're on that measure in 4/4 but no, we're actually doing a 3/4 measure.  Suffice it to say, at some point I mostly gave up watching the conductor.  I recognize that this is a general no-no, but I was doing better without.

Luckily the rehearsal went by pretty quickly, I got the harp back up the stairs ok, I managed to not get a ticket from the fanatical parking people at this major university, and now I just get to wait until I get to do it all again next week.  Yippee!!!!

I need a nap.

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