Tuesday, January 22, 2008


The kind of practicing I hate the most is learning difficult orchestra music. A bunch of amateurs, struggling with difficult passages, no bowings, let alone fingering suggestions, each alone in our respective practice rooms, or wasting our lesson times asking for our teachers' help. (I don't do that anymore. Since T1-, my rule is no orchestra music in lessons. I have much more important things to do.)

The best orchestra I have ever played with was a local university orchestra that needed a few community players to round out the sections. We rehearsed twice a week, and had sectionals... I don't remember exactly how often, but it was at least monthly. The principal cellist was responsible for marking bowings in the parts, with assistance from the faculty section advisor, and additional fingerings were discussed in the sectionals. It was heaven, and hard work. But productive work.

At my last orchestra I was principal cellist for the last number of years, which meant at least I had some control over my/our destiny. We formed a cooperative within the section and hired a local pro to mark our parts (actually to mark a master part, then we did the copying) and to run two or three sectionals for each concert cycle. That was worth every penny; we learned so much, and it made the performances so much more enjoyable.

My current orchestra is a typical, small amateur orchestra with limited resources. Our principal cellist is a very competent player, and personally a very nice guy. But he doesn't mark bowings, and frequently changes them from week to week. That leaves everybody else playing tensely, ready to change bow directions at any moment to stay in sync. And we're all on our own to figure out the fingerings.

Tchaikovsky and Brahms. Who has time to practice? I'm too busy figuring out workable fingerings to bring anything up to speed or make it sound beautiful.



CelloGeek said...

We played the Tchaikovsky - it is a very hard part for all of the strings. I have the same problem with our principal cellist - although he does mark the bowings, but he generally doesn't follow them so I always have to keep an eye on him to make sure I'm bowing in the same direction. definitely worth a rant

celloluv said...

Wouldn't it be nice to have your cello teacher in your pocket to help out? At this point my orchestra's music isn't hard. The director is also teaching as she goes and helps out with the bowings. The strongest cello sits in the middle of the cells section to assist in fingerings and other cello questions. I'm ready to move up to a more challenging orchestra but I think I've signed up for plenty of music right now. I get your rant! Best of luck.

yarnplayer said...

Yeah, I get your rant too. Hope things improve for your orchestra situation so you can enjoy making the music beautiful.

TheCelloMan said...

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Gottagopractice said...

Thanks for your commiseration, everyone. Our principal showed up at rehearsal this week with many new markings in the part - do you think he reads my blog?

And thanks for stopping by with the answer to my question, CM. Loopstation. Boss. I'll look into it.