Be Our Guest!

I’ve got so much going on this week I thought I’d better at least quickly write about the QUO concert a couple of weekends ago before it got lost in the mists of time. [edit: and I started this draft days ago and am just now getting back to it.]

As I mentioned before, we were test-driving four guest conductors, leading two pieces each. It was a long concert, but a wonderful and varied program. Our horn section was four really good players, so we mixed and matched: I played first on one piece, and 2nd, 3rd and 4th on two pieces each (and sat out one). Just from a “I’m enjoying playing these parts” perspective, it’s probably the best QUO concert I’ve played in.

One of the conductors hadn’t been able to work with us at the dress rehearsal, so we did his ‘dress’ at the sound check – meaning we had quite a bit of playing before the concert, never a good thing. There were some other pieces touched on by the other conductors – we had to put our foot down on the Rhine Journey, saying, ‘please don’t make the 1st horn player play that frightening solo now and use up his chops before the concert’.

I myself was more tired than I should have been, was feeling things were tetchy. The very first piece in the program was the Barber of Seville overture, with my exposed solo. An easy trap to fall into as a brass player, especially when you’re nervous and just sitting around waiting for the concert to start, is to ‘over’ warm up – and then you’re great at the beginning and way too tired for the rest. But if you don’t warm up enough… Anyway, a combination of nerves and however warmed-up I was and just kind of a general blah… my solo was yucky. Audibly bad, not just a quick mistake. So that was embarrassing.

(It’s easy to make excuse after excuse why circumstances got in my way. But it shouldn’t actually matter. I remember being quite startled by the concept, delivered somewhat frustratedly by one of the horn professors when I was in grad school, that it doesn’t matter that you’re tired, you had a bad day, whatever. You still have to play well, so something you need to do as a performer is learn how to play well when you’re not at your best. And that’s hard, but it’s still on you to figure out how to do that.)

Well, once I got through that, the worst was over and then of course as we kept going, I got really warmed up and mostly played just fine from that point on. Everything went very well. Probably the piece we were most worried about (the trickiest) was John Corigliano’s “Gazebo Dances”, and it went just fine. The last piece on the first half was the Wagner Rhine Journey, and horns never get a break, and we were all exhausted by the end. so that sucked, but I think it came out OK.

I didn’t play the first piece on the second half (Hebrides overture), but it sounded beautiful. The only piece left that was in any way about me was the Brahms Haydn variations, in which I had quite a few exposed solos, and they all went just fine too.

Audience was very appreciative, it was a nice concert. Afterward, the brass took a nice picture (below) and my buddy Martin came out with us to the bar we all ended up at. Unfortunately, we were sharing the back of the bar with Young People Loudly Having a Good Time, so it was very difficult to have a conversation. But I got to actually chat with some of the guest conductors and they are all interesting, competent, smart young men. Left everyone fairly early and went home.

It was a really fun concert, but I have been begging off the upcoming chamber music concert and the winter/spring concerts (for now), since I have Ruddigore to prepare for, and one other gig which may swamp my top-of-2023. Nice to be in hornistic shape, though, at least for a while.

and here’s a link to the videos of the whole concert!


So much blog backlog. Carol’s whole visit (we did so much), changes at work, BHT’s Addams Family. I hate having a time delay between events and writing about them – one of the luxuries of my Cape Cod trip is I got to blog pretty much in real time. Anyway, stay tuned…

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