Tuesday, April 28, 2009


The 4/17 performance at the Gordon House (all eight players present) and then having Andy (cello & fretless bass), Bill (Eb tuba) and Dave (percussion) here for a session this past Saturday afternoon were both very helpful.

Some of what I'm thinking through:

When working in the closed classrooms in schools in San Antonio I never had a detailed lesson plan, but always more instruments than students and always more than enough material to work on for longer than an hour. That allowed for great flexibility in creating good sessions and increased the likelihood of my connecting with the students and helping them connect with each other. For Kenwood Players performances, having that sort of flexibility to adapt to how the audience is reacting is the way to go. Instead of a set program, we need to have an album of pieces we can play and then choose different pieces for different situations, and every performance is really a different situation. 

There's a need to get back to an early notion I'd gotten away from. Back as a therapist, I never wanted students having to just sit while others were playing, so usually everybody was doing something all the time. I'd unconsciously transferred this to the Players, so there was a wall of sound effect with everyone playing most of the time. At one point Saturday Andy played the melody to a Renaissance dance and Bill the bass line. With just the two playing, Bill never sounded better. In performances we should have solos, duets, trios, quartets and tuttis, both to allow different timbers to be heard and to let the audience experience some dynamic variety.

Up tempo stuff has a better chance of engaging an audience that slower pieces. Both are needed for variety, but in a performance, engaging the audience is more important that the players enjoying playing. 

Recording performances is terrifically helpful. The Sony PCM is nearly magical in ease of use, and the sound is getting better as I learn to use it. When running that audio to the Tascam to make CDs I have to listen closely, and hear entirely different things than I did while playing. Especially for anyone working mostly without a teacher, in this modern world of affordable technology, recording and listening back to music making is a wonderful learning mechanism.

All the physical labor of moving and setting up equipment should be done as much ahead of time as possible. At least for me, there's a need for a break between being a roadie and being a performer, both to physically relax a bit and to mentally change channels.

Dress rehearsals are important. Because Good Friday intervened, the Kenwood Players didn't have everyone together for a rehearsal in the two weeks before the Gordon House performance. It took longer to get the ESP connection going amongst us, and we never played anywhere near as well as we have on other occasions.  

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