I’m down in Peoria again, performing with the Peoria Bach Festival. This is always a great gig for me, and this year is no exception.
This year, I’m especially aware of the incredible skill level of my colleagues in the orchestra. These people are known to me – we’ve been playing together for years down here. I’m a pretty good player myself and I’ve just had a marvelous spring – three terrific MFM concerts, four recitals, and the Rouse Concerto concert. And a studio recital. And two auditions. I’ve been working hard and having some success and feeling strong and great.
But on Tuesday, when I first walked in, I had to immediately rehearse three chamber works and two big concerto grosso stand-up solos, and those two rehearsals just about killed me, and I felt like a bull in a china shop. In my defense, I’d driven four hours to get down here and that takes a lot out of me, but I think I always feel a little clumsy when I first arrive.
I enjoy playing Baroque music, but I’m not a specialist. Most of my work is in big modern orchestras, and I spend a lot more time teaching Handel and Telemann to high schoolers than playing them. I’m accustomed to striving for a big, rich sound, and using vibrato and intensity to move my phrases forward, and these skills are not needed or welcome here.
When you play baroque music the style is different, lighter and airier. The writing itself is different, of course. It’s very difficult to physically GET THROUGH Brandenburg 2 if I play it like a modern oboist. There’s a metaphorical step backwards that I have to take to make this music really float, and it takes a couple of days of focus and obsessive following to get there.
I think of myself as a leader, in my ordinary life, but in this group I sit back and try to fit in, because EVERYONE seems to be doing it better and more naturally than I am. I love it – it’s a treat to be out of my element in this way and to be allowed the privilege of struggling for a day or two to find my baroque legs again. I feel 10 pounds lighter by the end of the week (in spite of all the desserts) and like I could play cantatas and concerti every day for the rest of my life.
I love to learn. I love to improve. I love to work. I love this gig.
Our first chamber concert went great. I’ll performing twice more this weekend, Friday night and Saturday night. Details HERE.