This weekend I am playing Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker in Fort Wayne, with the Philharmonic and the Fort Wayne Ballet. Musicians sometimes get a little Nutcracker-ed out, or at least we used to – I can remember seasons where we performed 6 or 8 or 27 repeats over the course of the season, and the 2 1/2 hour ballet does get a little old by the end of the run.
The music is great, though, and it’s never a gimme – it’s tricky enough that I really have to pay attention, and every year when I get the book there are some details I need to look at. This season I’m playing the second oboe part for the first time ever, so that should be an interesting wrinkle in this piece which I know so well from the principal chair.
With the recent economic downturn Nutcrackers are being cut back all over the country. Many ballet companies are performing it with recordings, or with piano. That’s certainly less expensive than paying a full orchestra. Many groups do a reduced orchestral version, with two players or even just one in each wind section instead of three, and with a smaller string section. Some communities have eliminated this holiday tradition entirely. We haven’t used live music here in South Bend for at least 5 years, and last year I didn’t get to perform it anywhere. This is sad.
I remember going to Nutcracker presentations as a little girl, and being wowed by the story and the music and the beautiful effects on the stage and of course the dancing. I remember my parents taking me up to lean over the side of the pit and see the musicians at intermission. The first time I ever played the piece I was terrified, because the music is quite hard, but when I saw all of the children leaning over the pit to look at US I almost wept. I want Zoe to have the same experience, but won’t take her to hear the local recorded-music performance on principle.
All this to say that I am delighted to be working this week, and happy to play one of my favorite holiday pieces again, and optimistic that someday the tradition will return in more places. Meanwhile, please do check out these performances on Saturday and Sunday in Fort Wayne.
Click HERE for tickets and more information!