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"Will I be able to correctly play that high bar in the Schubert piece?"

Diary: the University orchestra preparing for concert

MAASTRICHT. On December 6th the Maastricht University Orchestra performed at Maastricht’s Christmas celebration ‘Magisch Maastricht’. Leading up to this, Sophie Silverstein, second violist and second year UCM-student, kept a diary.

16. November – New pieces

Today we receive the last new pieces for the concert. Like every Monday, we rehearse from 20:00 to 22:15 in the auditorium at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Some of the pieces I recognize from our concert in June such as Fantasia on Greensleeves. Others are new additions like Aria 21 from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. In the break my seat-neighbor wonders if we would get the new pieces done in time as there are still some patches of Delibes’ Pizzicato (where we pluck the string instead of using a bow) that didn’t quite align.

 

23. November – New pieces again

We attempt the Mozart again today. The rhythm is quite tricky as the second violins transition from an accompaniment to interjected riffs and syncopated rhythms and back again. In the concert we will accompany a singer, meaning that the entire orchestra has to stay alert to match the singer’s speed. Our conductor remarks that Mozart is actually one of the hardest composers to play, something that people often forget or underestimate. I guess he is right; Mozart looks simple on paper but because of this you hear every note out of place.

 

30. November – Bringing in the big… bows

A week before the concert we receive some extra help from members of the Philharmonie Zuidnederland. For two very short hours we work through three pieces, one to be performed in December and two others in reserve for January. I have never felt simultaneously as productive and aware of work yet to be done as I do during this rehearsal. By the time we move to the dress rehearsal in the second part of the evening we have worked on runs, rhythms and dynamics. However, this rehearsal mainly allows us to conceptualize what was left practice do before the concert.   

 

6. December – The Concert

On Sunday morning the orchestra trundles into the Dominicanen church-come-bookstore.  While I am a bit nervous (will I be able to correctly play that high bar in the Schubert piece?), our pre-concert run-through goes smoothly which puts my doubts to rest. My music stand neighbor and I decide to add some extra bow-markings in the Mozart just to make sure we bow in unison during the concert.  Before we know it, people have found seats among the books and our conductor announces the first piece (Schubert’s Entr’acte from Rosamunde) and we are whisking through the pieces. Despite some sticky parts we arrive at the last piece, a Hungarian version of the classic Christmas tune Silent Night. As it rings through the church it is clear to everyone that the months of work have paid off.

Sophie Silverstein

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