Things could be worse. Suppose your errors were counted and published every day, like those of a baseball player. ~Author unknown
Our symphonic band’s first concert of this year took place over the weekend and despite practicing, despite some of us being involved for four (or more) years, we finally found a way to crash and burn.
It was bound to happen, but it wasn’t pretty.
Looking back, we should have known it was possible. Yet we didn’t do anything to prevent it.
In January when we started this semester, we selected four pieces that would become the program for our portion of the concert.
One piece — suggested by a student — consistently got ignored.
Maybe our director didn’t particularly like this piece. Maybe he was on the fence about including it in the program. Or maybe he decided the other pieces needed the most work because of their potential for tripping us up.
I think we played through it — top to bottom — once. Maybe twice.
Even during our onstage warmup the day of the concert, our director jokingly said, “We don’t need to go through this one, do we?”
Seeing a few head shakes in the negative, we put it aside. Again.
Now, it’s true that you can only worry about so many things at once. And most of us were focused on our first piece. A student conductor was to direct that one; we’d given her a hard time in practice, and she was fragile.
So it made sense to think: If anything goes wrong, it’s going to be right here.
Nope. It went fine, as did the second piece.
We were all feeling pretty good. Confident, even.
Then came poor neglected number three, Unraveling. Similar to Bolero, this piece starts mysteriously with section after section picking up the main theme and speeding to the end with a cacophony of sound.
We were in the weeds from the get-go. Eight measures of percussion should’ve set the tempo, but, because that section rarely practices with the full ensemble, we really had no clue what their part was supposed to sound like.
Then an alto sax solo was to play the main melody, but despite having his part down pat, he dropped in and out, trying desperately to catch the rhythm and notes.
That caused our trumpet soloist to flub his eight measures — again, despite knowing his part.
And when we flutes were supposed to enter, we didn’t and tried to play catch up.
Well, the song was nearly half over before the full band got involved and managed to put fingers to keys and mouths to instruments.
To say we were “unraveling” would be a gross understatement.
As would it be to say our director was a bit puzzled.
The poor man’s eyes widened; his mouth dropped behind his mask.
Still, I’ve gotta hand it to him, he kept flapping his arms and hoping for the best.
Eventually, we ended together. Whew!
But all of us were so ready to get off that stage that we zipped through our fourth piece at lightning speed. And I suspect more than one compensatory drink was hoisted afterward.
You know, it never pays to assume you know something when you don’t. Or to spread your focus so thin it can’t cover all your bases. But thankfully, we have another concert scheduled, and Unraveling won’t be on the program.
This time, maybe we’ll get things right.
It is wise to keep in mind that no success or failure is necessarily final. ~Author unknown, 1970s