Monday, January 29, 2007

Cold and Busy... and Cold. Did I mention Cold?

This past weekend was the kind I really like. The kind that makes me feel closer to my colleagues out there with "real" gigs: Dress for Brahms 4 Friday night, rehearsal on Don Juan Saturday afternoon and perform the Brahms that night. Then another Strauss rehearsal Sunday morning. The only trouble is these programs are with different orchestras in different cities. Neither of which where I live.

Wait, I lied. There was other trouble. The ten mile long run in -15 degree wind chill I crammed in Sunday morning before rehearsal. That was no fun. Brutal. Just brutal. I'm sure the feeling will return to my fingertips eventually. Probably after the black flesh gets some pinkness back in it, right?

The CRSO had a great reception following the Brahms concert Saturday night. There was free wine and Greek cuisine at a new restaurant right across from the hall. I hope this is a regular occurrence. Oh yeah, I also met the woman with whom I may want to spend the rest of my life. What are the odds that she has a boyfriend? I know. Pretty darn good. I'll find out soon enough and probably make a fool of myself in the process. A few of us finished off the night at the usual post-concert haunt with some Mexican food and beer.

It was my first set with CR as a regular member and it was a great experience. They are a really fine group. The conductor is new and loved by the orchestra, deservedly so. Everyone is serious about making good music. Intonation was so much easier than in any other group I play and that makes all the difference in the world. Happiness is in-tune perfect intervals so the thirds and sixths can be placed where they belong. My only complaint is they play only one concert each set rather than the usual two or three. But I guess you need to get enough asses in the seats before you can justify a Sunday matinee. One packed show is better than two performances to middling houses.

Next weekend's docket: Don Juan and Beethoven 1 (as well as a piece in which some of us play tuned wine glasses) with the QCSO.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

It's Hammer Time!

We're doing Mahler Six in DM this weekend. It isn't one of my favorite Mahler symphonies but I think it is growing on me. At 80-90 minutes I'm sure it is a test for the audience. Though it calls for eight horns we're covering the 7th and 8th parts among six of us. Every group tries to save a buck somehow!

Here's a shot of the hammer specially made for this piece which requires three loud hammer blows in the final movement. It will be given to our board president after today's performance. He's not a musician but he loves this symphony and has been prowling around during rehearsals taking pictures and looking generally giddy.

I'll be happy to get done with this set although it has been a blast. It is just very demanding to focus for that long on such a schizophrenic work. When it is all over you feel a bit depressed rather than elated. That elation will come in spades when we do Malher 1 in CR next month.

We also got a nice covering of snow from a storm last night. It made my long run this morning rather tough and slow. But at least I was out there... as were the usual farm dogs giving chase. I could out run them because of the snow this time. With clear roads, they might have had me!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sights from the Road

A Sun Pillar

This is a rather modest example of an atmospheric effect known as a Sun Pillar. A shaft of light seems to emanate out of the top and bottom of the Sun, usually during sunrise or sunset. The effect is caused by flat polygonal-shaped ice crystals which, in calm air, slowly float down from high altitude clouds. Due to air resistance their flat sides stay parallel to the ground most of the time, like a falling feather. An observer sees sunlight reflected predominantly in a plane perpendicular to the ground containing the sun, the observer. This gives the appearance of a vertical shaft of light rising and/or descending from the Sun. For a few more images of the pillar see my Picture Album.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Five Things

I've had blog block lately so I'll partake in this shenanigan.
Warning: Due to some graphic content, timid reader discretion is advised.

Five things you probably don't know about me.

1) If you quote a line from "Seinfeld" I'll likely be able to tell you the episode in which it appears, the four story lines and a dozen or so other lines from the episode.

2) I watched, and enjoyed, every episode of the reality show "Newlyweds" with Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey during its first season. I'm not proud if it but it happened.

3) Last year I got rid of my television. Why? See (1) and (2).

4) I had three ingrown toenail "surgeries" when I was in high school. The first two were done by general practitioners and involved anesthetic injections under the big toenail. It was the worst pain I've ever experienced in my life. If inserting needles under toe and finger nails isn't a torture technique already, it should be. Incidentally, the final procedure was done by a podiatrist who, while giving one small shot to the main nerve in the big toe, expressed bemused horror at the medieval method of the GPs.

5) I am divorced... and that's all I have to say about that. Now enough with these bullshit lists already.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

For Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year!
I hope everyone had as fun a break as I did hanging out in central Wisconsin with the Kamp clan. It snowed just in time for Christmas and made the most of it. I kicked in the new year Sunday night in Des Moines with a well attended pops concert featuring these guys. They kept the audience entertained with shtik and song and a good time was had by all. It is really nice to start off the year with a big fat check for two "days" work. I found out that playing fourth horn on the average straight classical set is exceeded in down time only by playing fourth in a Broadway pops set. Most songs used none to three horns with the exception of the symphonic arrangements.

This year I pledge to blog more, practice more, date more (okay, get a date), make more friends, start a working brass quintet, get a horn quartet together, give a solo recital, write some tunes, arrange some tunes, record some tunes, improve my improvisation skills, improve my intonation skills, run another marathon, get a summer gig and audition like mad. This is a kind of bird-shot approach to resolutions. Something is bound to hit.

Sights from the Road
Being on the road a lot I witness strange, interesting or humorous sights all the time. I'm going to start risking my life to document these for you, the reader. I hope you're thankful!
The first of these is the holy grail of the license plate game. My brother and sister played this on a road trip all the way from Wisconsin to Maine and back this past Summer. I think we got shots of forty-some states but never dreamt we would ever see the likes of Hawaii or Alaska. My sister has since sent me a blurry, low resolution camera phone shot of what she says is an Alaska plate. I'm still skeptical. As you can see above, however, there is no doubt of the veracity of my claim. I caught it on I39-South half an hour north of Madison, WI.

The Madison Marathon
It has been five years since I've run a marathon and thirteen since I've run one fast. My goal is to work up to 70 miles a week and, ultimately, to break three hours in the race itself (May 27, 2007). I will plot my weekly mileage and average pace at the link on the right. I welcome you to join me on my journey toward marathon shape. Of course the possible obstacles are many. Not the least of which is the very real possibility that an audition will be scheduled for that day. Such is this life.

This year starts off pretty cool. Brahms 4, Mahler 1 & 6, and Don Juan all in the first five weeks. A couple of February auditions here and here. Then things will be a bit slower than last Fall. I'm hoping to fill some of the open weekends with chamber music. That's the biggest difference between freelancing and being a student. Chamber music is taken for granted in school because it's so readily available. I was in both woodwind and brass quintets most of my time in school. Now only the occasional wedding get folks together in such small numbers. I'm going to try my best to change that this year. More on this endeavor in a later post.