Week 3 Day 4: So much more excitement than I really bargained for

As we all know (?) I do an orchestra in London, and it’d be something of an understatement to say I enjoy it. Our last concert, just as a completely random example, was a film music concert except for the part where I played Let it go, a whole load of Scott Joplin rags (actually, that one was more boring than exciting for me personally, but hey, I think the audience liked it), and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Fantasia. Don’t recognise it? Don’t worry, there’s always youtube. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Back? OK then. So this orchestra is great fun, and this year we’re doing loads and loads so I’m really excited about it. Obviously, as always when things get exciting, a problem came up.

The problem was this: RHUL. Specifically, the Symphony Orchestra. Because this year, the RHUL orchestra rehearsal is on the same day as the other orchestra rehearsal. Yeah, I was pretty upset too. But, I thought, as long as I still do at least two of the other orchestras (the requirement to do solo performance!) and apologise to the conductor, it should be fine, right? I mean, it’s not like the orchestra is compulsory or anything. Ha, what a thought.

Only they didn’t take it as well as I’d hoped. And when I say they took it badly, that’s an understatement.

The email I got essentially blackmailing me with expulsion from the solo performance module unless I did Symphony Orchestra definitely felt like a bit of an overreaction.

So, let’s just let that sink in for a minute. The department went as far as that to get me to do something which wasn’t even compulsory. I have a sinking feeling that next year the rules will be changed, but until then… I have an even more prominent suspicion that this is only because of the instrument I play and nothing to do with the actual departmental stance on people not being in Symphony Orchestra. Nobody’s sending threatening emails to the many legions of flautists dotting the campus. (seriously, they’ve started forming colonies. Whole sections of the campus are infested)

Maybe I should have expected it after I received an email from the head of performance (i.e. not the conductor) telling me I’d made it into Symphony Orchestra despite not auditioning for it. But hey, it could have been an honest mistake. Perhaps.

Anyway, I pointed out that Symphony Orchestra was in fact optional and I should be able to choose which orchestras I play in without being threatened. The response to this was such a sudden U-turn I almost couldn’t believe it. Apparently the conductor was just disappointed that I had chosen to not participate in Symphony Orchestra. …

I came very close to sending back a very rude email, but I suppressed the urge.

Of course, the matter wasn’t closed, not by a long shot. Because then the conductor herself chipped in asking me to come and talk to her so ‘we could work something out’. There is no we. If there ever had been a we, it would have been in the audition where I offered to see if I could maybe alternate rehearsals. Unfortunately this isn’t possible for one simple reason: the music they’re playing in Symphony Orchestra AND the London orchestra is really fucking hard. I cannot humanly learn to play both, and frankly I can’t understand why you’d want a substandard performance.

Hey, I’m not a conductor. Who can say what goes on in their mysterious minds?

Suffice to say that in the meeting we established several things:

  1. I respond very badly to threats
  2. The piece in Symphony Orchestra requires three bassoons. There are three bassoons at RHUL including me. Well, you should’ve checked you had three in your orchestra before you chose the piece, frankly.
  3. Apparently I’m not committed. I don’t really know how much more committed you can get from 1 chamber orchestra, 1 sinfonietta, 2 chamber ensembles at RHUL, 1 symphony orchestra, and 1 wind quintet. BUT IF YOU THINK OF A WAY DO LET ME KNOW.

I don’t think I’m friends with the conductor anymore.


4 thoughts on “Week 3 Day 4: So much more excitement than I really bargained for

    • I know! I knew that office politics were a thing, but I had no idea that student politics existed. Apparently these days respecting someone’s playing means hating them as a person or something.

  1. I tried so hard to get you to send that rude email. I think your alignment must be on the “good” side, while I think mine is steadily dropping from true neutral to chaotic neutral.

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