Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

All Music Was Once New Music

The regular bell player for the Freedom Band and I have still not managed to attend rehearsal on the same night. For a few weeks she was tending to family in hurricane-ravaged Mobile, and then I was tending to the Red Sox in baseball-fevered Boston, and then she was simply ill. So every practice is a pleasant surprise for the rest of the percussion section, and the new conductor just looks up and hopes when an exposed part comes up (say, the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies in the Nutcracker, when the rest of the band provides soft sweet accompaniment to the glockenspiel solo).

I don't know what Jon does when I'm not there (I suspect she ignores the xylophone parts), but on my nights I find that it's great fun to dash back and forth between the xylophone and the bells, quickly putting the xylophone mallets between my teeth like Flamenco roses and grabbing the bell mallets from the music stand before the part comes in -- and then reversing the procedure a few measures later for a xylophone glissando. I suppose there are calmer ways than mine to make the transition between the instruments, but I also suppose that there are people who are not me. It's the same difference.

It will probably seem boring when Jon comes back and my only role is to play the xylophone parts, but that's what I agreed to do this season and in the meantime I am still enjoying my Monday evenings tremendously. Part of this is because the band is of decent size (about 50 members, possibly more if everybody were to attend the same rehearsal), and part of this is because in general I enjoy rehearsals (more than actual concerts, I'm afraid to say), but most of this is because the new conductor is just such a hoot. This guy is very young -- somewhere in his twenties, although I can't really say for sure because he's got this general Minnesota red-cheeked blond look about him that is somewhat ageless. He has probably looked the same since infancy and will look the same in his dotage. He will also still be saying "Oh jeez!" and "Yah!", as he does now and as no doubt his father and grandfather and great-grandfather before him said.

He is gloriously intense and enthusiastic. The down side to this is that this makes him more talky than I would necessarily want a conductor to be at practice, where the actual production of sound should take up the bulk of your time. But this is more than made up for by the up side of the enthusiasm, which is that he's just so gosh-darned excited about what strikes us jaded old-timers as, well, something we've done before. "Debussy!", he cries. "Saint-Saens!!!" As if this music is new and fresh and exciting and a privilege to play. Which it is, of course, but we have forgotten.

"Look at Stravinsky's chords here!" he cries. He talks about an unexpected progression while tapping his score with his baton. Then he looks up at our blank faces and says, crestfallen, "Oh, I guess this isn't really what you care about right here." That's not true; we care very much, I suspect. We're just not used to somebody talking about this deeply-felt private emotional stuff so openly and freely.

"It doesn't matter how loud or soft we play," he announced on Monday. Then, after a dramatic pause, he hunched down and whispered, conspiratorially, "It's how intense we play..."

Oh, what a wonderful break from my currently overworked days.
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