Musical Life

12 May 2013, Concert 38 Tiempo Libre
I am sleep deprived, exhausted, melancholy, thrilled, energized, relaxed. How do I cope with it all? I let whatever comes simply flow over me, manic-like, until it abates; hoping some of the less desirable feelings leave quickly. Despite the reduced ballet load, it was an amazingly satisfying season with the symphony. My last contribution was in the form of 2 easy cuban pieces, mostly as part of the rhythm section. It’s an odd way to end a year of fireworks and unbelievable speed. Fizzle, fizzle.
I am reacquainting my hands with soil, gardening every day, tending the young veggies, the towering potato plants, and the transition from spring to summer perennials. Nothing is more nurturing than the earth.
As is customary after a full and challenging run, I feel sad and lonely. I’m an outlander. I often wonder if I am really and truly transparent, invisible; either still not fully formed, or slowly fading away.
Does anyone else feel this way? I credit these feelings to being on the outskirts of established groups, but it’s possible the experience is more universal than that. It’s tempting to over think these things.
Musically, I’m forcing myself to take 3 weeks off from practicing. That’s a long stretch. Self-imposed “do something else” time.
So, I’ll take out my camera, put on my walking shoes, pump up the tires on my bike, and move.

7 May 2013, Concerts 35, 36, 37 Premonitions
The end of the season draws near and I’m feeling full. Even though the concert count is a lot less than usual (given the low live-music count at the ballet this season), the note count surpassed most years by the thousands, I’m sure. The last concert series for me included a special run-out to Seattle’s Benaroya Hall. It reminded me of the Met in NY: a vast space built for sound of the turbo variety. For me, it was actually a bit over the top in terms of sending sound out into the house. Kind of hard to control the softer end. The piano was a spunky Steinway, lid off, also built for sound of the turbo variety. I had my hands full, especially when I had hundreds of notes to play on the soft end. But, the Seattle Symphony was welcoming to the max, lots of yummy veg food, drink, snacks, cake, etc, etc. Pretty fun. My vantage point from the piano bench made me feel detached from the orchestra though. I could only see the percussion section and the very tops of the violinists’ heads. Big disconnect. I saw some Seattle buds in the audience, which was a nice perk.
The two performances in the Schnitzer felt like coming home, and even though the acoustics are usually pretty poor, I prefer it, including the home Steinway. Carlos, the orchestra, and guest singers delivered a terrific performance, including the sensual, sincere, Storm Large. I wish I could have read the tattoo on her back. Darn those piano glasses.
My part on the Seven Deadly Sins by Kurt Weill was fun, fast, exposed, exciting, challenging, and gratifying. The Shoenberg was brainy, which I always love. I am so lucky.

30 April, Concert 34: Blind Pilot
Now for our next trick, we will play with the quirky, cool, young band, Blind Pilot! Actually, when the symphony plays with visiting artists, it’s common to have a shorter opening half with only symphonic music. Sort of an opening act, if you will. I only played in one piece on that first half. Go on stage, play the piece, leave and get home to practice for the next concert series. I’m usually drinking tea and working out notes at the piano before the concert at the hall is finished. What a weird life I lead.

26 April, 2013 Concerts 31, 32, 33
The sun is shining, the birds are tweeting. I’m outside! It feels like the first day of summer vacation!
The intense recording/performance schedule is calming down a bit. The Oregon Symphony is in the process of putting together a new CD of American music. Last week I was involved in three performances of the Copland Third Symphony, and Antheil’s Jazz Symphony. The Copland is a glorious piece, and the piano part is a joy to play. Every moment was a reminder of how much I love music, being a musician, and being alive. I cried every performance. Really. Thank you, thank you, thank you life for times like this.
The Antheil was one of the most challenging parts I’ve ever played, including Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit, Corgliano’s Etude Fantasy, and Scriabin’s 10th Piano Sonata. I sought out the part months ahead of time, including contacting the publishing house, Shirmer, directly to find out how to get my hands on the music. We usually get our parts two weeks ahead of time or so. Now that would have been a disaster. I spent hundreds of hours learning this piece, and every minute was helpful. Now brace yourselves. Here’s the rub: the piece is only about 8 minutes long! Tough stuff. But, 90% of it is a blast, 9% is fun when it goes well, and 1% is nearly impossible but fantastic when I hit all the notes. The thing is, we were playing for CD quality. Big pressure!
I was pleased with how it turned out. 99% very happy, and 1% undecided until I hear the final product.
I did go through a very hard period though, following the performances. I didn’t get any mentions in the paper or my friends’ facebook sites. Zero. It was a big FAIL. Now, I’m pretty used to not getting a well-deserved bow on stage (our conductor, Carlos Kalmar came through for me this time, except for the last performance. btw, he was masterful to the max. See how easy that is?). I’ve come to terms with that, as an extra in the orchestra, I’m omitted from the programs. I sometimes get a mention for soloing with the ballet, but rarely get noticed in the papers. But this time, being the featured performer in the Antheil, I thought I’d get some recognition. Nope. It kinda hurt.
After reading the review in the Oregonian, noticing the neglect, I’d given up. What’s a girl to do to get a little love? Then I read the Classical Beaver’s post!! I was so happy, so relieved, so grateful for the kind words, the unbridled joy he experienced. It changed everything. I’m okay now. Thank you Beaver!! His mention: “Kicking off the show was A Jazz Symphony written by the über-intriguing figure of George Antheil. Its herky-jerky syncopation, unpredictable insanity, and super sick stylings resulted in 8 solid minutes of perma-grinning for over 2,000 folks. [In my book, the kick-ass piano chops of Carol Rich were independently worth the price of admission.]” Can’t get better than that! Since writing this post, I discovered another brief but pleasant mention by James Bash. Maybe I should just chill. Expect nothing, be grateful for anything sincere.
All in all, I am so glad I passed on the Petrouchka and devoted myself to this concert series. Next: Schoenberg and Weill Monday morning, here in Portland and in Seattle. I am a lucky, lucky woman.

Nijinski_Petrouchka_317 April, 2013 Concerts 28, 29, 30
Rehearsals, concerts, patch sessions, practice and repeat.
It’s been a wild ride in my musical life lately. The symphonic repertoire has been extremely demanding. This past weekend was the first in a series of concerts where I got to play fistfuls of notes at top speed. The concert included one of my favorite pieces, Stravinsky’s Petrouchka. When I was younger, way before I contemplated playing in the body of an orchestra, I loved this piece. It was one of my top ten pieces to listen to. It’s quirky, thick with musical innuendo, clean, and massive. Then, when I came to Portland, I started to play the piano part. It is a concerto, a BEAR of a concerto. 90% of the exposed playing is some of the most gratifying writing in the symphonic literature. But, there are these 8 measures, well, they made me insane. My love of Petrouchka has only grown, but my love of listening to it at home stopped. The physical toll on the arms is unbelievable. I knew that there were three other classical series yet to come in the season, including recording for CD and a performance in Seattle. So, I opted out of playing the piano part, and played the celesta part instead. I have regained my love of the piece, and after my part was over early on in the piece, I sat and listened to the rest of it. It was heaven.
Then, the was The Incredible Flutist by Piston. This was performed and patched for CD. I took on the piano part for this, happily. It has a short but dazzling piano cadenza which I loved playing. Oh the glee of middle-aged decisions!

17 March, 2013
Concert 27
Every now and then, the Oregon Symphony is asked to play for a special show. Last night, we played music from Zelda. Apparently, there is a huge sub-culture of individuals who love the imaginary world and characters of the video games called Zelda. It was a strangely fun experience for me. The orchestra played with ear buds playing a click track for the music, keeping us in sync with the film of the video games playing on a screen above our heads. The conductor, the world’s leading specialist in this sort of music, cued us, prompted dynamics and overall expression, and corralled us in during accelerations and ritards.
The music is pretty much sight-readable, and good thing, since we first saw our parts at the first rehearsal, one of two. It either was rhythmically driven, or sweet and melodious, bordering on nerdy and humorous. I loved playing with the click track, and was a bit shocked that some in the band had issues with it. Perhaps metronome work is needed in general? At any rate, the audience members were so enthusiastic, so invested in the topic, Zelda et al, it was tremendously gratifying to give them their music. Give them what they want and they will come. Sold out. My favorite audience members were the myriad elves scattered around the hall. Long live grown-ups dressing up!

9 March, 2013
Shostakovich Symphony #15. I’m not in this performance at the symphony, but I like to attend dress rehearsals of pieces either I love, or I’ve never heard live. This piece falls into the “never heard live” category. There is a pretty cool celesta part, but I’m not hired for everything…oh well.
After hearing this piece, I can’t help wonder where Shostakovich would have gone with his composing if he lived longer. The structure of the symphony: the form, the thematic development, etc, is so odd. The first movement begins with gorgeous solos in the flutes and piccolo, later, playing like a trio of crazed insects with one goal. The second movement in particular struck me as a total departure of all other Shostakovich I’ve heard before. The symphony sound has broken down, offering lengthy solo lines to (mainly) the cello. The melodies are haunting and edgy, like much of his lines, stretching our ability to hear dissonance as consonance. There was an unusual section in the 4th movement using uncharacteristic counterpoint, which surely needs a second listening to fully comprehend. I’m not sure I love the symphony, but it was worth hearing, especially since I got to enjoy the talent in the orchestra. I am constantly impressed when I sit in the hall and listen to my friends on stage. How lucky are we?

1693 March, 2013
Kids 3 (concert 26)
Today’s entry is a continuation of my ex-blog’s count of my performances for the 2012-13 season. Go to to catch up. Thanks. It pains me to ask you to jump around this way, and maybe someday I’ll figure out a slicker way to do this. Time will heal this wound, I’m sure.
Today’s kid’s concert was one of the most fun I’ve been involved in. The concert’s main focus was a piece that told the story of The Sneetches, by Dr. Seuss. I mean, how much fun is that? My celesta part was fun to play, the story was great, David Hattner did an expert job conducting, the kids in the audience were CUTE and involved. Really, in a world filled with sadness and stress, what a gift to give thousands of kids. Fun. Need I say more?

14 February, 2013
I’ve been forcing myself to leave the house at night, to venture out in search of inspirational events. My tendency is to stay in and practice or write. I am a home body. But most of the time, only good comes from risking it, going towards possible joy.
Last night, leaving the house was easy. The Hubbard Street Dance Company, Chicago, was at the Schnitzer. I bonded with these amazing dancer athletes in Las Vegas when I was there to play for Nevada Ballet. We shared the bill at the Paris Theater, and I got to watch them dance from the wings. It was great to see them again in my home town of Portland, OR. I watched from the wings again, and was equally inspired and flabbergasted by their endurance and quirky execution of the choreography. If you have a chance to catch their show, do. I’m sort of a groupy. Can you tell?

9 February, 2013

Assistant Conductor Auditions at the Oregon Symphony are always fun for me. There’s something about watching prospectives conduct and rehearse the orchestra while our music director, Carlos Kalmar, watches from the clarinet section. My part in it is pretty small, but my curiosity is huge. What is Carlos looking for? What are the musicians looking for?
I play in only one of the pieces, a medley of tunes by Duke Ellington. They need to see how the prospective assistant will do with non-classical styles. I love playing that score. It’s just fun.
So, unlike last season, The Oregon Symphony has a new assistant conductor. No naming names here, sorry. But, I was really hoping for the female candidate. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her as I watched her conduct Beethoven and Brahms. Her movements perfectly conveyed a beautiful interpretation of the music. It was evocative and mesmerizing. Sad for me that she wasn’t picked.
But, alas, I have no vote since I’m an extra.
I only saw the winner conduct a few minutes of Strauss and left. But I’m happy to get behind him, the new guy. It’s tough to land a good position. Kudos to him.


One thought on “Musical Life

  1. cellonancy says:

    Carol, you really were fabulous!! I think you may partly be a victim of your success; we all know it’s going to be great, everyone feels total comfort and confidence, and therefore takes you for granted a bit.

    I would have mentioned you on FB, but I didn’t go on pretty much at all for the last two weeks! Too darned much going on. I know the disappointment of not getting mentioned in the Oregonian, all too well…Big commiseration!

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