Friday, February 15, 2008

Marathon rehearsal day over!

I'm just back from the lengthy day of orchestra rehearsals for the concert on Sunday, and ... I'm feeling pretty darn good! Tired, but really good! The orchestra is tight, and the soloists are amazing!

I had some great advice from a fellow blogger, Kenneth Woods, which I would like to share with you. I asked Ken about the mathematic equation used to decide how long to work on the pieces you are conducting.

My Question:
I work with orchestra maybe about 2-3 times a year. I wish it was more - from what they tell me, they enjoy working for me, and likewise, I with them. I love the “professional” aspect of the orchestra rehearsal, even if for the first 5 minutes of the rehearsal I usually feel like a fish out of water, and a bit nervous. Anyhow, this weekend I am conducting a professional Baroque string orchestra with my chamber choir, Handel and Bach on the program. I get two rehearsals with the orchestra, first one with soloists, second with the choir, then a dress rehearsal and then the concert. Not a lot of time really, although not unusual. Likely we will only “rehearse” each movement once before the dress, as a 2..5 hour service with 70-80 minutes of music will fly by. Do you have a method for working out how much time to allocate for rehearsal? I was once told 2.5 minutes of rehearsal for every 1 minute of performance time. I’ve worked out the rehearsal schedule with this in mind, borrowing time from easy movements for more difficult movements. It seems like a ridiculous thing to do, but if I don’t, I will run out of time - and with the union clock ticking, there is no going overtime.

Any other suggestions on how to make a short rehearsal process like this more effective?

His Reply:

I’ve never had much success at trying to find a mathematical formula. With good players and singers, I can rehearse a very good Messiah on one 3 hour call, but that’s a very familiar piece. Your best assett is a good librarian- make sure all the bowings, cuts, repeats, ripieni markings, continue markings and so on are clearly and consistently marked in every part. It only takes one part with a wrong marking to waste 4 minutes of time, especially if they’ve got the wrong version of a movement circled or the like. Then, show everything and have fun. Conduct as if you had all the rehearsal time in the world- as expresively as you can. Don’t try to be extra clear to save time- it never works, because that kind of kappellmeisterish viertel-schlagging doesn’t transmit any information to the players.


The last two sentences stuck with me for the past two days. Although I still made flexible use of my original 2.5:1 rehearsal:performance time ratio, I was very conscious about enjoying myself and conducting expressively. In the end, I found I had a bit of extra time in both rehearsals, not much, but enough to fix a few things that needed second attention.

Two things I learned tonight about the Union (which I am a card carrying member ... I was once told "if you are going to lead them - you should join them in all ways that you can, which means being in the Union". However, the union rep in the orchestra was a bit upset that I had set up my video camera without asking. It wasn't a big deal, as I apologized, and asked permission after break, and no one came up running to complain. Which is good, as it's always hard to apply for jobs when you do not have a quality video of you conducting an orchestra!

1 comment:

Ken said...


So glad the concert went well! Thanks for the mention and lots of luck with the upcomig projects.