We rehearsed this morning for our Home for the Holidays concert here in South Bend. As usual, it is a huge extravaganza, with a big chorus, a marvelous soloist, and a bell choir. I was surprised and pleased that we managed to play almost all of the show in our single three-hour session, and even to rehearse a few things. BUT our first performance is tonight, and that just doesn’t feel appropriate at all.
The service cuts that this orchestra is already experiencing, even without an approved contract in place, are hurting us artistically. We only meet about one week a month as it is, and a single run-through is not enough for us to get reacquainted and feel like we know each other’s playing. I know that this concert is “just” Christmas music, and we will be OKAY – everyone knows the songs and the audience is there to get into the spirit and not to criticize – but that is not a reason to play out of tune and sloppily. That is not an excuse to have poor ensemble and balance so that the choir cannot be heard. These problems are directly a result of not enough rehearsal time.
Of course there are groups that can pull together a tight performance on that little time, but this is not currently that group. Many of our players are local musicians, rather than lean and hungry free-lancers, and the culture of this orchestra is not one of get-it-done intensity. We are used to multiple slow-paced rehearsals and while I am not proud of that, I am even less proud of the vague and cautious concert we will probably present this evening.
Many people in our audience will be attending the symphony for the first time, or for their once-a-year Christmas visit. This is not the impression I want to leave them with. If we really put on a good, tight, well-programmed show, mightn’t someone consider coming back for another concert before next year? Mightn’t someone at least mention us with enthusiasm and encourage more people to attend?
The result of these service cuts is that we are performing less often and less well than we used to, and that is no way to attract new attendees, subscribers, and donors. It’s no way to retain the high-quality musicians we have now, for that matter, or to encourage great players to come for our future auditions. This new policy is so short-sighted that it makes me cringe.
However. It is time to dress up and walk over to the hall. To warm up and look over the music. To check some pitch issues with my colleagues. And to give the best performance I personally can give.