On the (french) horns of a dilemma

As a musician there’s nothing I like better than playing with other musicians. In fact I would almost go so far as to say I HATE playing on my own (well, a plausible excuse for not practising, anyway). So it’s been an interesting experience recently playing with other musicians and really not enjoying it. I realised once again also how powerless you are as a single player in a larger ensemble to actually control what’s going on or at least influence it. Particularly when you have 37 bars rest.

So, picture the scene (and I have purposely changed the instruments to anonymise my comments and avoid any awkwardness), containing the following elements:

  • A flute player who taps his feet, inevitably at a different time to the conductor.
  • An aged clarinet player who can’t hear the conductor is always asking “where are we going from”
  • A leader who gets lost
  • A solo pianist who is young and hasn’t played with a less-than top rate orchestra (ahem) and thinks that they can change speed on a sixpence
  • A conductor (bit hard to anonymise) who not only has difficulty following the pianist, but also has a habit of beating two beat bars as two down beats
  • A viola section who only appeared on the evening of the concert
  • A brass section light of three trombones and a horn
  • An orchestra over-reaching itself with the repertoire

I could go on, but I expect you’re getting the picture. Now at this point I should probably confess myself. I’d only been to two rehearsals, after a previous experience with this orchestra.

On mature reflection of course I could ask questions such as: “Who am I to make these judgments on the orchestra?”, “Where to I get off saying that the orchestra is over-reaching itself?”, “If they only picked easier pieces to play, how would they learn anything?”. Plus many others in a similar vein. So my dilemma is this – do I cast myself adrift from this orchestra to avoid the uncomfortable times (yes I could never really be a teacher, could I?), or do I continue to add some experience (and a needed extra bassoon) to the orchestra and learn something myself from the experience. A real dilemma since neither answer is ideal. I’d love some thoughts.


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