We Did It! — Weekly Inspiration from Jenny

When Jenny, our resident clarinetist, sent me this week’s Weekly Inspiration Blog Post to proof & post, I was wondering what kind of introduction it was going to need.  Well…Jenny pretty much summed up exactly what I would say to introduce this post in her first paragraph.  Check back at the end of every week for more inspiration.  Also, check out the second performance of In Transit: #undercoverhero this Friday, October 28, at 6:30pm at Ridge Park.  And there’s a costume contest & community party hosted by the Chicago Park District starting at 5:30pm!  So, without more words from me, here’s Jenny’s post.

You read Crystal’s post a few days back as we were getting ready to launch In Transit:#undercoverhero, the first installment of our 2011-2012 signature series.  You read Adam’s post about some of the behind the scenes madness that goes into pulling off such a production.  Well folks, we survived, and I am here to tell you all about it.  Let’s be honest, we rocked it.

The last couple of weeks have been a total immersion into In Transit: #undercoverhero with tons of run through rehearsals, performances and run through personal practice sessions.  This show brought on a set of unique challenges.  First of all, logistically, I have even greater respect for drummers.  Why you ask?  Well, just try to catch me before or after a show hauling all of my gear to the performance venue.  I have a bass clarinet on my back, my double clarinet case in my hands and a granny cart carrying my bass clarinet stand, a regular clarinet stand and a “booster seat”/adjustable height stool loaned to me by Eric Snoza so that I can reach the bass clarinet when I sit down to play it.  (I don’t make the height requirement to play the bass clarinet.  Shhhhhhh.  Don’t tell anyone.)

Once I get all my stuff in, unpacked and set up, I have to prepare to play three extremely challenging pieces of music that are all vastly different.  However, putting together a show Fifth House style and breaking up the movements forces you out of necessity to focus on the common threads.

In the most basic of terms, in order for music to sound good, the right notes must be in the right places.  In John Elmquist’s Junk Shot, we spent a large amount of our rehearsal time working through sudden tempo and meter changes.  Metric transitions always require repetition.  The polyrhythmic nature of the Villa Lobos forced us to spend much of our preparation time meticulously analyzing, rehearsing, and speaking our way through our parts.  Did we spend the same kind of time analyzing the relatively simple metric language of the Mozart?  Yes, but we didn’t really know it.  Without actually putting it into words, we all realize that in order for Mozart to sound magical the way that only Mozart can, the rhythm must be like a constant electrical current running through each of the ensemble members at all times.  One of the best lessons I have ever had involved a teacher guiding me through playing through the entire first movement of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto with the on beats as off beats and the off beats as on beats.  If you’ve never tried doing that with Mozart, stop reading this blog and go do it right now.  You will be amazed at what it will do to your sense of phrasing, articulation, AND rhythm.  (Edited by Carole to add: After you’ve done that, come back and finish reading this post!)

When all is said and done, in the words of the great Mr. T, “I pity the fool” who only knows concerts to be:  Piece 1 starts, Piece 1 ends, Piece 2 starts, Piece 2 ends, Piece 3 starts, etc…  Getting to know music that I perform within the context of the entire program is a challenge I will ALWAYS be up for.  Bring it on!

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