Sunday, December 28, 2008

Last bell gig

What a crazy night - Christmas eve that is. Now that it is over I can reflect calmly on the situation. First of all, we are experiencing an insane amount of snow for this area - over 3 feet at once, and more was falling every day. A huge storm was predicted for Christmas eve into Christmas. So I was concerned about us getting to church (and back!) as well as the ringers. I had 4 subs coming in, 2 of whom hadn't rung in 6 years (college aged) and one who had never rung a bell before - but she was an exceptional musician. And my options were limited. I got there early so I could mark parts for these people since they'd be sightreading - it is way easier to follow your two notes in the score when you highlight left hand in one color and right in another. I was up for anything to make this go easier.

Somehow my early arrival slipped away and we were rushing around setting up tables etc (which the praise band had shoved to the far side of the stage in a clump instead of our usual line - exactly why I had wanted to be in the balcony!) The pastor came in and said I had a phone call (odd). It was B - my only 4in hand ringer (which means it takes 2 people to cover his part) and he couldn't get in due to weather. His wife is the choir director, she was playing violin in the praise band, and he was in charge of all the readings. SO! That was kind of terrifying news.

I went back out to the bell choir and tried rearranging people again to cover Bs parts (which were on top - so big melody notes). Amazingly the 2 who had rung at camp 6 years ago were really fine, the music major had no problems and everyone really stepped up to cover holes in the middle. Maybe not our most memorable performance, but husband J said you couldn't tell anything was wrong! Good enough for me.

My super people will be the worst part to miss about quitting this job. I am sad but so excited about getting more time. Someone from the bell choir found the readings and they distributed them for people to read - another ringer/vocal choir member directed the vocal choir in their two pieces (which I sang in) - fortunately they had just done these pieces in church and the accompanist just pulled us along. But still these wonderful people just rose to the occasion.

B's wife S was supposed to play violin in the praise band, which was this motley assortment of musicians our new DOM did not-well-thought-out arrangements for. I was playing oboe because I felt sorry for her, not realizing I would just be filler - most of the oboe parts doubled the trumpet parts an octave down (so you couldn't even tell I was playing). This annoyed me. But since S couldn't get in, I offered to play the violin parts (also crap, but better than the oboe parts). DOM was amazed to figure out the oboe was in the same key as the violin (Finale, what have you done to us?!!) but I assured her I could play it just fine. The girl playing the 2nd violin part was REALLY out of tune, and she didn't know how to tune her instrument. I had the cellist (who was the music major playing bells for the first time) sneakily tune it for her between services. Lines of sight were another huge problem, even with the bell tables awkwardly shoved out of the way. It was kind of a dreadful experience, at least musically. I am sad for what I consider the death of sacred music (praise bands in general); although I am a huge advocate of well arranged live music with more than 2 chords. I think it is good I'm taking a break now!

Monday, December 22, 2008

one more gig

Still snowing endlessly! I guess I wasn't clear in my last blog that our neighbor's son who helped us clear the driveway came with a shovel (not a plow!). Our driveway is about 1/8 mile, so this was kind of a big chore. I am still very sore, and now it has added at least 8 more inches to what was there!. *sigh*

White Christmas was good - excellent turnout for all 3 shows. I felt that I wasn't too bad on all the sax/clar stuff, and it was fun to play. I think I will try to play in the old people orchestra (it meets in the daytime) just to get my clarinet chops up. M brought her "outdoor" plastic King clarinet to try and it was SOOOO much better than mine - I'm sure I can get something better for a reasonable price. The sax I'm not as sure if I need something better, or if I can just "pimp my ride" with new mouthpiece and some keywork. Also practicing makes it sound amazingly better.

Church is the last thing I have to do before Christmas, I was going to shop today and tomorrow but J has the 4wd and so I'm here. We ordered many things online which probably won't make it through the mail. Supposed to be another big "system" coming though on Christmas eve so who knows if I'll have a whole bell choir. As it is, I'm missing tons of people and have 4 ringers coming in to help (one of whom has never rung a bell but she's a performance major at a good school - should be no problem for what we are playing). More and more I am feeling the lack of support for the bell program, just got an email about people rehearsing Wed before the services and they didn't schedule us in! We are the only performing group playing that hasn't played all our stuff in church service already - and I have 4 subs! Obviously an evil ploy to make me quit - oh wait...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow Snow Snow

So White Christmas opened last night - complete with 2.5-3 feet of snow! Holy cow. I spent the morning frantically digging out our truck - our driveway is about 1/8 mile long, which doesn't seem too long unless you have 2.5 feet of snow on it. It was exhausting and J was awesome, but about 10am we realized there was no way we could possibly finish before 12, when I needed to leave for dress rehearsal. Our one other rehearsal was cancelled Thursday night due to...Snow! Ironically, this show is all about how this resort in Vermont has no snow (til the very end) and the annoying stuck-in-my-head song is Snow Snow Snow.

Anyway, called the neighbor's son and paid him handsomely to bail us out, and even with the three of us killing ourselves it was a near thing. I am extremely sore, and could barely lift the cases of my instruments (with lovely HEAVY stands). This doubling thing s@cks. But kinda fun too, in a masocistic kind of way.

Got out driveway, some wonderful neighbor had plowed our main road (one tiny lane, you just hope you don't meet anyone coming up!) but we only go on that about 1/2 mile before the "big" road. This had been plowed about a foot of snow ago. Glad we had the 4wd, but only one vehicle so J dropped me off with M who brought her Suburban - she plays bari/bass clar for this show. Fun to carpool too - although J had to wake up D and come get me at the freeway at 11pm.

Finally we made it to the show - with 10 minutes to spare. Which is great if you're a trumpet player, but I (and M) had 3 horns to get out, get reeds wet, and harness up. Oh, wait. No harness. Crap. This is the harness I got when I nearly killed my back playing tenor 2 weeks ago - and after the 5 hour workout I was really worried about playing tenor anyway. There is NO WAY I could play without some sort of strap, so I asked the conductor (who teaches there at the college where the show was, as do I) if he had access to any of the student horns that might have a strap. No. None of the other saxes had an extra...except M!!!! What a goddess - she had her bass clar strap which I tied knots in until it was short enough. Thank goodness.

Rehearsal went ok; M also loaned me her spare $300 clar mouthpiece which made quite a difference over my $10 stock mouthpiece! If you read a previous blog L (who is Reed 1) had loaned me his $300 tenor mouthpiece - I'm so lucky to know these fabulous players. I actually played a solo on tenor (2 measures) credibly, although it went better in rehearsal. But just wait until tonight. We only have 2 more shows, but hopefully the others will be easier to get to at least! Although our forcast if for another storm tonight....

Monday, December 15, 2008


Bunch of stuff done. whew! My recorder students were darling at their 10 minute Christmas carol presentation; I got them santa hats to wear and they were SO excited.

The Sibelius went great - well, greater than we have ever played it. Ob 2 didn't come in several times *sigh*. There are these back and forth measures where we play and they didn't go back and forth (as she didn't play). Oh well. She is nice and plays fine when she counts right, so I'm ok. Hard to complain too much as our section players still aren't getting paid. The economy is not helping our little orchestra grow, now they are talking about not paying us for the black and white ball, which is a fundraiser. This is difficult because they did pay us last year. The civic theater has fundraisers they don't pay the musicians for; and several of our key players were in that production (people who I think will make a big stink about the orch not paying). We'll see what happens.

Cantatas at church went ok - can't believe I was singing in the middle of everything else! But I think it was good for me to contribute. Since the music program seems to be going down the tubes there. I am really annoyed that it appears the bells are going to be sidelined for Christmas eve, which has in the past been our big feature performance - usually we play several things. I prepared 3 pieces this year but was informed we would be playing once for the early service and 2ce on the later one - but those would be prelude/postlude (NOT featured, as no one is listening at those times and people just talk over the music) Since this is our final performance I was kind of hoping to at least have the offering slot. But there is a new DOM and she is arranging praise tunes (which will be lovely I'm sure). SO. Not only am I POed that the bells aren't having a bigger role; I'm also playing the oboe on FIVE praise tunes and singing two selections from the cantata with the choir! This is NOT how I planned Christmas eve - and I am super annoyed that the DOM practically BEGGED me to play oboe that night and I caved since all my other stuff is over by then - and she is just having me play with a herd of other people on crap music. I should have asked but I Assumed (stupid stupid!) that I would be playing an obbigato part for some hymns or a solo of some sort. I should just bag out but I don't want to appear bitter as I'm leaving the bell job. Even though I am.

FINALLY, rehearsal for Wh*te Chr*stmas was yesterday - first time I've played tenor in public for 20+ years! And the clarinet - both had some issues, mainly because I got there just minutes before we started with 3 big horns to get out. I thought it was at 2:30, but actually started at 2! NOT good, but at least I wasn't late. Crammed oboe together in time for a miraculously in tune A. Was happy to see oboe parts were not too bad - actually featured in a couple places (which is all you would expect of any part); so I feel better about playing this book. When I realized how much sax/clar there was I was wondering if I should step down, but I'm giving two screamin tenor parts (measure or two each) to book 4 guy; and I'm transposing a couple of the harder clarinet songs to oboe. Most of the stuff I can play ok on clarinet though. Hoping M can loan me her MUCH better tenor and she also may have a line on a clarinet I could use. I might consider buying it - her old Selmer Bb, I have my brother's Bundy he played in jr hi band.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

One down

Amahl went quite well last night! So great to play in a big cathedral - although I'm guessing it was hard to understand the diction. The singers all did a good job, esp Amahl and the deaf king.

Now I am really going to start practicing the doubles (t sax and clar) for White Xmas. And I need EH reeds for that too - I'm not worried about the ob/eh parts, just having decent reeds. So odd that I don't worry about good reeds on clar or sax, maybe I should more - but it seems like they just play no matter what reed I use. I probably would notice more if I was a better player! Off to sacrifice to the reed gods.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Tonight is Amahl (take one!) I missed the dress rehearsal because of orchestra, but no one seemed to be worried about that. Looking forward to seeing it, should be fun (please good reeds!!!)

I STILL haven't tried my sax harness. I'm kind of afraid to mess up my chops for tonight, but I think 15 minutes will be ok. Also afraid to mess up my back again, it still twinges. The super sax guy L (who coached me a couple times) was at orchestra last night. We are doing the Duke Ellington Nutcracker, which I have to say is not my favorite. I think the audience will love it though. L sounded FABULOUS on his solos - he is just the best saxophone player I have ever heard. So.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I told the bell choir I was leaving (after Christmas) tonight. It was hard and I am sad to leave all my people (would those be my "peeps"?) but I am more and more convinced it is the right thing to do now. I feel bad for the secretary, I think she is very unhappy. I told her I was leaving this afternoon; and brought her a little snowflake candle (I like to bring her little gifts since she makes everything run better!). What a drag.

I didn't practice at all today, but my super sax harness came! Hopefully I will be able to practice tenor without killing myself.


So last night we played Amahl at the big cathedral and OMG we sound so great in there! Not that everything went smoothly but the SOUND was good. And for the most part I felt comfortable - I am way more relaxed about this gig now. Whew!

I will miss the dress on Thursday - so the 2nd oboe is excited to play my part. She will be great (hopefully not better than me, at least not noticably!) During the dance I asked the flute player to cover my part as both parts are so exposed and I thought it would be really confusing to the dancers to not have both. This guy G is the best flutist I have ever heard, certainly the best live. He is really world class - moved up to G*d's Country from the studios of LA and he has some mad skills.

I'm kind of annoyed because the contractor for this gig emailed me (when I specifically asked) that admission was FREE but there would be an offering taken. So I told a bunch of people (mostly my poor friends who never come to concerts unless they are free). Yesterday I got a postcard in the mail about the concert and it said $12 admission! This is not astronomical, but for this area (for a college concert) it is not cheap - I think the orch tix are usually $5. And after telling us it is free. AND for the orch concerts we get at least one comp ticket - no comps are available for this. Grrr. Not that I begrudge them ticket sales, I just have to tell my neighbor with 3 kids and no job they can't afford to go. And the kids are all excited about going. Hate that.

Monday, December 1, 2008

It begins...

Argh! The Christmas season is starting! Tonight I am playing with the community concert band as a ringer (oboe ringer, not bell ringer). This is the band J plays in regularly. They are actually doing some stuff I need to look at - nothing scary, but still. Canzona by Perter Mennin, Danza Finale by Ginastera, Whisper to Their Souls by Samuel Hazo and a bunch of marches - oh an the lovely Sleigh Ride of course. Should be fun. I am mostly playing 2nd as they have an oboist, he is just out of HS and does pretty well although his reeds are terrible, and last night he was having trouble coming up to pitch. He said, don't worry, I'll cut off the bottom of the tube and that will fix it right up! I was kinda horrified, and asked him if he'd like me to clip the tip of the reed, which obviously needed to be done for pitch and tonewise too - but he assured me he knew what he was doing. *sigh* Oh well.

Tuesday is the last rehearsal for Amahl - I am excited and nervous about that. What a great oboe piece. I just hope my reeds are good. Wednesday I have to announce to the bells that I quit my church job (after Christmas). This is not going to be a fun announcement - I really like all the people but the more I sit with the decision the more I realize it is the right one. I'm staying to sing with the choir as they are doing a cantata on the 16th and really need more ladies (such as I am).

Thursday is orchestra, concert (with Sibelius 2) next week - then 2 Amahl concerts. Holy cow. I am really wondering what possessed me to take the tenor/clar/ob/eh part for White Christmas (Dec 19-21) - nearly killed myself playing tenor, couldn't move for 2 days. I have ordered one of those fancy harness things so I don't die while playing. Also somehow have to work up clar chops while not sucking on the oboe for Amahl and Sibelius. The ob/eh parts in White Christmas appear to be nothing exposed. Hopefully the sax/clar stuff is buried as well!