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As is sometimes the case with me, I am a little late in getting this post
up. In a earlier post I mentioned that I was taking violin lessons and had
joined the orchestra out at Holy Names Music Center. In terms of orchestra
I got in a little late in the academic year, the year now being over until
September. But not before having two public concerts on May 20 and 21.

The first of the two concerts was held at the beautiful and rather
prestigious Bing Crosby Theater downtown. The concert was at 3:00 p.m.
and we the members of the orchestra and the choral ensemble arrived at
2:00.

Even though it was a great venue to play at, I am afraid that my
perception of it was dulled a bit by the fact that as soon as I entered
the building I went downstairs to the basement where the dressing rooms
and green room were located. Even an apparent recent fix-up to the
basement was already worn, the old brick walls showing dingy paint
flaked off in large areas. Overhead there were old pipes running the
length of the halls and the floor was of painted concrete. Neither were
the dressing rooms in any way fancy looking — they looked more forlorn
than anything else. The small green room shared the same brick walls and
chipped paint as the hallways, with the addition of old posters from
other events pasted up on the walls and columns, the lighting was bad,
the floor also concrete like the hallways, the overall impression being
of an underground club in the French Quarter of Paris. Actually very
cool, but all of us had a tough time fitting into the room, our empty
instrument cases had to be stacked on top of each other on the floor or
one of a couple different tables. There was a couch made half
un-sittable by more instrument cases, and there were a couple of chairs
that seemed so inadequate in the circumstances that nobody bothered to
sit on them. We squeezed in and the violin sections did a bit of tuning
and practice, while the woodwinds did the same on the other side of the
room. Meanwhile, the trombone section had decided to go warm up and
practice in the large men's restroom down the hall — a very nice restroom
actually — and my thought was that they were the smart ones. Once we
got upstairs we found one hallway stage left leading to the stage, and
stage right off the stage a tiny room. Even with our small orchestra we
had been hard pressed to get the long carts of our music stands in, and
then had to deal with all the chairs — one handed each of us as we were
carrying our instruments. But we finally got set up on stage and were
ready to play. Ah, there is no magic behind the curtain!

Nevertheless it is a wonderful theater, and I thank the people at the
Bing for making it available to us. I know that everyone in the orchestra
was excited to play there.


Before the McNally Concert. Jerry Thomas, our orchestra
director, is on the far left.

The second concert was held the next night out at the Music Center at
McNally Hall. As it turned out we had a "packed house" for this one —
all of the 50 or so chairs that had been put out were filled by the time
the concert started. It was actually the better concert as we also did
Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals. Except for a few pieces that had
already been axed from the program this was the only piece we rehearsed
through the semester that I liked. Which is not to say that I could play
it. In fact with all of the pieces but two that we rehearsed I felt like
I was more just sitting in the orchestra rather than playing in it.

My ability in orchestra bothered me. But one night walking over to the
grocery store it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I should give myself
a break. Having gained some facility in the 70s on the instrument I
guess I had forgotten that, when it comes right down to it, the violin
is not really a very easy instrument to play. When I first started out
I thought I would never be able to play that beautiful wooden thing with
the strings on it. But I kept at it. And I learned. And that is simply
what I need to do now — be patient with myself. And I will have the whole
Summer to work on things with my teacher Claire Keeble.

By far the best part of orchestra for me were the people involved. All
of us in orchestra are older people who decided that they wanted to play
again the instrument that they played long ago, or who at one point
simply decided they would like to do what they didn't do when younger —
learn an instrument. Except for the end of semester concerts, no one
knows we do this. And we don't get paid for it — in fact we pay tuition
to do it. Everybody is doing it for the pure love of it.

I would like to thank Suzanne for getting me acclimated and for the
introductions, and Ray and Jan for the rides home after rehearsal. A
ride home made the difference between a two hour bus transit and a
10 minute drive. As tired as I have been feeling lately they were a real
god-send. I really don't know if I could have gotten through without
them. I would like to thank Jerry, our orchestra director, for his
enthusiasm and his humor. Thanks also to Caridwen, our strings coach,
for some extra help, some advice about my bow, and for doing the
set-ups on my violin that had never been done. And to everyone else
in the orchestra — I really enjoyed meeting you all, and look forward
to next year.

And oh, one more thing. As I was standing on the bus stop heading to
the Bing Theater that afternoon, I reached into my pocket and got a
dollar and two quarters out for the bus fare. Well of the two quarters
I pulled out one was an old silver quarter not found much anymore. It
was dated 1970. Which was the year I started playing violin. Strange,
huh?

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