Janet (j4) wrote,

Playing along

I have a bit of a dilemma. It's a bit of a long rambly explanation, sorry.

At the beginning of this term I was asked if I'd like to play violin in Hertford College Orchestra, who would be playing Wagner's Siegfried-Idyll, Haydn's Surprise Symphony, and Britten's Simple Symphony. The rehearsal dates/times were all given in the invitation, and the organisers said clearly and firmly that a very high attendance at rehearsals was expected. They asked for replies of either "Yes, I would like to play", "no, but keep me on the mailing list", or "no, and please take me off the mailing list". All well and good: clear, informative, no-nonsense. So I emailed them and said that I was delighted to be asked, that it sounded like an excellent programme, but I knew for a fact that there were 2 dates on the rehearsal schedule that I wouldn't be able to do; so if that was acceptable, then could they please count me in, but if not, then regrets and apologies and all that, but could they please keep me on the mailing list. They emailed to say that missing those two dates wasn't a problem, and that I would be welcome to join the orchestra. So I did.

So, as I saw it, I'd been upfront about my availability, and they'd responded to that by being reasonable and flexible about it: all fine. Unfortunately it looks like they've been far too flexible all round: attendance at all the rehearsals I've been to has been fairly bad, and if they are trying to do something about it, it's not having any effect. It's exams term, which is never a good time to try to organise something that requires lots of people to make a regular time commitment, and I thoroughly sympathise with them on that front; but badly-attended rehearsals are miserable. It's less rewarding for conductor and orchestra (it's hard to play something convincingly or get a feel for the piece when half the parts are missing), and it's rarely productive: any wrinkles which are ironed out in the rehearsal are likely to have to be fixed again in the next rehearsal when loads of people turn up who weren't there last time; at worst, things go wrong in the performance for the same reason. And worst of all, anybody with any experience of any sort of musical ensemble knows this, and is demoralised by it, and/or annoyed that other people aren't pulling their weight. All in all, a fairly miserable atmosphere in which to try to make music.

So I had my two weeks away from this, as arranged, due to prior engagements, and went back yesterday to a rehearsal in the church where the concert will be. (The concert is on June 7th.) Guess how many people were at that rehearsal? Nine. That's not an orchestra, it's a slightly overcrowded string quartet. It was the most joyless rehearsal I've been to in ages; conductors were obviously annoyed and stressed, players little better. It's amusingly ironic the first time being referred to as "second violins" when there's only one of you; it's getting a bit wearing by the hundredth time. (It's also annoying being glared at every time somebody else makes a mistake just because that somebody is the leader, and therefore above suspicion, though you'd think that sort of thing would be less likely to happen if only 3 people are playing at the time.) And being asked to play difficult passages solo -- just because you're the only person in your section, I mean -- is just stressful for everybody: yes, an orchestra is only as good as its weakest player and everybody should be able to play their part competently and confidently whether solo or as part of the ensemble; but honestly, I (and I suspect many of the others) didn't join an orchestra in order to get the chance to play solo in front of a hostile audience.

Anyway. The point is I'm not enjoying it at all; I don't think anybody else is enjoying it either; and the music sounds appalling because there just isn't enough sound there -- honestly, even Haydn doesn't sound convincing with only a dozen people, and Wagner is just out of the question. Okay, maybe if you had a dozen members of the LSO you could carry it off; but, really, it's not like that.

So my instinct is to say "This is not doing me or anybody else any good" and resign now, with 2 rehearsals to go before the concert. HOWEVER: having missed two rehearsals I feel like I have no moral high-ground from which to complain about poor attendance, and it would be hypocritical to cite that as a reason for wanting to give up. (But I did warn them before even joining, and they could quite reasonably have said "no, sorry, not good enough" when I did so; but they may not have been confident enough to say that to a Grown-Up; but that's not my fault!) And if I resign, they will be even worse off than they are now, and I'd feel like I was letting them down. (But that may be a good thing in a way, as it might either make them make more effort to round up their fellow students or push them into cutting their losses and saving everybody a lot of stress and disappointment -- a rubbish concert isn't going to benefit anybody, really.) ALSO I worry that my judgement is being coloured by the fact that I am fairly busy at the moment and honestly, there are more interesting things that I could be doing with my time. But half of my irritation with the bad attendance is that lots of people have made a commitment and then not made good on that, and if I do the same, I'm Part Of The Problem (but at least I'd be telling them openly rather than just Not Turning Up). And ye-es, I could just claim that I had to stop because of work commitments and duck the issue altogether, because as a Grown-Up I have that get-out-of-jail-free card, but that really wouldn't be right.

And if I don't do something soon it really will be too last-minute to drop out; but I fear it's already too late to turn this into a good performance, which paradoxically may mean it's already too late to drop out and the only option now is to grit my teeth and live with the fact that we're going to have another 6 hours or so of miserable rehearsal and then look a bit stupid in public for a couple of hours (but hey, it's not my friends and classmates who'll be watching), and maybe that will make people realise why it's important to turn up to rehearsals.

ALSO (meta-angst) I feel like I'm being so bloody pompous in trying to ascribe so much moral weight to something which is so trivial in the grand scheme of things, but I do think of things in these terms, and even trivial choices are still choices. I blame the Chalet School for this attitude, incidentally.

So, er, your advice and thoughts welcomed...
Tags: morality, music
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