Saturday, September 17, 2011

Three Things KSO Musicians Do Well (Besides the Obvious)

#1: Getting Around Town

KSO ensemble members log many miles playing in the Knox County schools and care facilities, and take pride in their knowledge of Knoxvilles’ sometimes vexing roads. I spent many Septembers playing in a quartet at every school there was, and some of them are pretty far-flung. New Hopewell, Gibbs and Corryton; all the way to Mount Olive, Karnes and Copper Ridge. Need an alternative route to just about anywhere in the 9-county area and beyond? Ask a core string player, but hey, give the new members just a few months to get their bearings. If you ask one of us old-timers, terms such as “where the Weigel’s used to be” will creep into our directions.

#2: Handling With Care

Every musician has an instrument in his hand that is worth anywhere from $500 to 6-½ or more figures. (No, the chime mallet is not worth $500. But the chimes? Forget it). It isn’t about the money that an instrument is worth, rather its value. Even a wedding band or a sweatshirt zipper can inflict harm on a string instrument. Harps and basses pose king-size challenges; just carrying a bass is a craft. Until we have children, we have instruments from which to learn a gentle touch.

#3: Being Quiet

This sort of derives from the previous skill. Silence is a really important part of music. Granted, tight ensemble playing is a fine trait in an orchestra, but each player knows that a rest means shut up. The ability to honor silence and count rests quietly is a sine qua non for all of us. Wind and percussion players have the added challenge of changing instruments; plenty of opportunities for sonic violation there. A chime mallet makes an interesting but perhaps unwelcome sound when dropped on a suspended cymbal, and horn parts have a distinct report when dropped. Rests are a welcome sight in a long show, but that doesn’t give a us license to open a bag of skittles or clip his nails. A musician can be counted on not to wake your kid up.


Katy said...

Andy, the "being quiet" section jogged my memory of the times when the quiet was abruptly broken by some snafu. Do you remember in the days of Kirk when one of the 2nd violinist's sound shields collapsed during a masterworks performance? I think we were playing a piece by Hoagy Carmichael.

Or the time when a cell phone was dropped into a crack on the stage (I can't remember if this was at the Civic or the TN) and it kept ringing and ringing and ringing during rehearsal? Lucas was SO mad (rightly so!) and no one could get to the stupid phone to turn it off because it was under the stage.

My favorite, though, was when an audience member dropped their program over the ledge of the balcony. (Also a MW performance.) That was the strangest extraneous noise I've ever heard during a concert. I thought there was a bat loose in the hall.

KSO blogger Andy said...

haha. My premise is all shot to heck now, as I am remembering a rehearsal where my cufflink got stuck under one of my strings and practically ripped it out of the instrument with the loudest snap pizzicato Lucas or I have ever heard.