Five Notes from an Orchestra Rehearsal

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I played two rehearsals recently as a sub with the ASU Sinfonietta, our second orchestra; they are working on a concert that includes a movement of Holst The Planets and more. I enjoyed especially getting out on the Gammage stage yesterday and playing in the hall, what a great venue. A few random notes:

1. One thing playing Holst reminded me of is the topic of stagger breathing. A lot of long phrases in Jupiter require stagger breathing. When I played third horn in the Nashville Symphony the fourth horn and I had an unwritten agreement that I would breathe first. Someone down the section needs to take the lead and breathe at the odd spots; you can’t all breathe at the obvious places.

2. Another marking I found myself making in the music was that of breaking up rests to show more clearly the structural points. For example a seven bar rest will often break into a three and a four bar rest with probably some change of melody or orchestration at the midpoint. Knowing where that midpoint is helps counting greatly. None of the parts were new, but none of these were marked this way in previous performances.

3. Also I wrote in several cues as to what instruments came in at rehearsal letters. Again, maybe I worry about it more than I should, but you don’t want to mess up something simple like not counting the rests accurately. Pros will mark this stuff.

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4. One of the section leaders (not horn) asked a number of questions of the conductor. This is OK if there are a lot of problems but in general only ask questions when you really need to, it will have more impact.

5. Finally, on the very negative side, I saw someone, not in the horns, texting during the rehearsal. I had heard that this was happening more these days but had not seen it in person. I know in Nashville the contract had a clause added when I was a member that prohibited use of electronic devices on the stage during rehearsals or concerts—the previous season one principal player was watching a sporting event on a portable TV during the second half of a pops concert! But besides this being banned in any orchestral contract, really, this is common sense—don’t text in a rehearsal, ever. You may think you are a student and it is OK but it is not OK as people will remember and it could come back to haunt you and your career.

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