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.


Trials by train

I may have already mentioned my BBC orchestra thingamajig that I’m doing. If not, it’s a) a cooperative thing with the BBC and b) in Wapping. Now, for those not in the know Wapping is approximately a year away from Egham.

I jest. It’s on the Overground line, so it’s about a century away. seriously, I didn’t know trains could be that slow. But apparently they can. There is absolutely no risk you might fall over when this train stops, kids. It’s going so slowly you could outpace it going backwards doing cartwheels.

So, anyway, I really wasn’t looking forward to this journey, especially because that train is the rush hour train and it’s always packed to the brim. But this time, I ended up meeting up with someone from Holloway who was also doing the orchestra.

(the week before we kind of were looking at each other like “I think I recognise you from somewhere? Do I know you?” and apparently I’m noticeable on campus, which is slightly scary)

Anyway, so we met up and managed to wrangle seats, so that was nice. Even though the journey was really long and it turns out there’s only so much small talk you can do with someone you barely know. And of course, I learnt a very important lesson in the distinction between silence and awkward silence: silence is when you’ve run out of small talk. Awkward silence is when you’ve just whacked someone in the chest with your bassoon.