Friday, December 24, 2010

Day 18 - Finale or Finally?

After not-the-best-night-sleep I arrived shite and briney to the QPAC concert hall. After some buzzing exercises on the mouthpiece, I met up with my new friend and brass colleague Karim for a coffee.

We chatted about Los Angeles, weather comparisons and of course, Havergal Brian. He had his Gothic score with him so we actually could find the passages we were talking about. He commented yesterday how awesome the low brass sounded. Leading to the comparison that he though the people chosen were better than himself as far as bass trombone playing goes. Although I've never heard him play, I'm sure he was just being complimentary and modest. He is a composer first, then a bass bone performer second. For those who don't know, he auditioned to play in the orchestra.

By the way Karim, thanks for the coffee that morning mate!

Back to concert hall warm up room to... warm up.

Up on stage, the doors were opened and the Dress Rehearsal concert goers flooded in. With the exception of the side stalls, it was a full capacity crowd. Not bad considering it wasn't the actual concert. John wanted to run through the movements non stop. We almost performed Part 1 in its entirety without any stopping. Afterwards, including a well appreciated round of applause from the audience, John asked anyone if they had any questions before having a break and moving on to Part 2. I had 2 issues that needed clarification. Someone elses question answered one of mine and then I cleared up with John, my other concern. I was now 100% comfortable with Part 1. My performance was much more precise than the day before and I played a couple of troublesome area right for the first time today. This tuba player is well on track for tonight's performance. Very happy indeed.

Lunch time went by and the chorus joined us and our capacity crowd to rehearse Part 2. Not 1 movement was rehearsed straight through. Some areas although much better, were still not up to John's expected standard and he worked these areas with the chorus. Despite this extra rehearsaing, the chorus is sounding amazing in some places but excellent overall. My comments in earlier posts about the standard of the chorus and peaking at the right time were well founded, as not just the chorus but the entire Gothic ensemble is rising to the occasion.

The ending of the dress rehearsal went as expected. The chorus chord disappearing to silence, then some appreciative applause for our efforts. Little did we know the ending that was install for us later that evening!

Lunch time! I consumed my pre packed home made lunch before heading across the river to and introduce Karim to Brisbane city. The weather was wet and miserable but we made the trip relatively unscathed sharing my umbrella. Karim was well fed by Red Rooster in the Myer centre. I pre warned him that the chips would be almost inedible by the layering of salt we aussie fast food servers think we need. But he managed to finish the chips after agreeing with me. He said Coke (drink) tasted much better here. Over in the states they use corn syrup to sweeten Coke. Another trivial fact brought to you courtesy of the Gothic Tuba Experience!

The main goal in the city was for Karim to purchase as flash or USB drive, so he could take home all the photos he took of the Gothic experience with my camera. For a bass trombone player, he makes quite a good photographer.

On Tuesday he took shots from all over the hall, balconies, floor, side and so on. He also photographed the orchestra and chorus!

We had fun watching the pics yesterday on my laptop. Today he was just as liberal with his camera skills and  got some more awesome shots. I will post these with some shots Alison Marsh took with my camera, after I recover from writing this post.

Brass players are a unique breed. Some can perform on the whiff of a cheese burger. On the other end of the scale, like myself, are performers who need food inside. More precisely, who can not play on an empty stomach. Timing, believe it or not can be critical. Enjoy your food, indulge even, and you can start the concert feeling bloated. Not a good predicament for anyone playing the tuba 1 part of the Gothic Symphony. Don't eat enough? Then there will be "no fuel in the tank" by the end of the concert, resulting in a weak finish, probably some bad playing too.

I was concerned with the time and the food I planned to buy from the green room kitchen. Long story short, I had my chips and gravy, 3/4 of an egg and bacon toastie, washed down with a Pepsi Max, then arrived on the concert stage in perfect condition. Was still strong and stable by the end of this massive symphony.

Green room chips and gravy. They give you quite a large serve of chips with the best tasting gravy. 10/10 You can quote me on that!

Crunch time, the 7:00pm start time arrived. The atmosphere in the side entrances of the hall was very jovial and relaxed. This was a good sign. On we went, filling the humungous stage with about 150 people who genuinely wanted to be there.

After the obligatory tuning, John Curro proceeded to his podium accompanied by generous and well deserved applause. The stick came down and the Gothic Symphony burst to life with precise and energetic playing. Now it was down to business. This was it, no stopping.

Did Part 1 go off without a hitch? No. My best performance of the day was in the morning dress rehearsal. Plus there was an anxious ensemble moment, which made a full recovery by the next rehearsal marking. It took a couple of moments but the confidence returned after reconciling our anxious moment.

Yes, the above paragraph was written using a magnifying lens to find imperfection with our performance. The overall verdict was a stunning display of a difficult work by an orchestra performing for the first time after only just over 2 weeks rehearsal. Despite my self criticism of my performance, it was just little inaccuracies here and there, as the difference between concert and dress rehearsal performances. I continued to perform with confidence to the very end.

Regardless of how good rehearsals go, things happen on performance night. No blame or ridicule to be passed around. Simply keep performing to the end of the piece with absolute confidence. That is the true test of one's (and the ensemble's) character.

Part 1 performance verdict? Bravo!!

Personally, I was quite relieved to finish Part 1. It is a playable "tuba concerto" in itself but after over 2 weeks of non stop rehearsals and practice, it was nice to know I could rest my chops. Part 2, while not a walk in the park, isn't written as high or as concerto like as the first part.

Now it was time for the chorus to shine!

Our 2 "brass bands" moved into the choir stalls along with all our choristers, thus completing the performing compliment of the Gothic Symphony. Well, this was our version, as we couldn't fill in every single performers seat. But with John Curro, Alison Rogers and our production team creating solutions with the personnel we had, we never really had any short fall in any part our performance.

Precision! That's how our immense chorus and childrens choirs announced part 2 of this symphony. It was a welcome far cry from the very first rehearsal. The trumpet fanfare to follow once again showcased the varied trumpet talent that was assembled. Brilliant.

Over all, I personally noticed only a bar of intonation issue with the chorus. Now THAT'S saying something, that I actually noticed. They were magnificent! My personal highlights was the "Tu Rex" section, that was brilliantly led into by our fanfaring (new fanfare) trumpets. Dimitri, our bass soloist, had an absolute blinder in one section. I just sat there taking in his performance. It was an absolute pleasure to be where I was. As it was by the conclusion of the performance.

Alison Rogers, take a bow. Accept your nomination for Prime Minister as well. Not only did you create this vocal juggernaut, you handled John Curro's demands and questions with great diplomacy and decorum. You were a welcome addition to the brass section for that short time too. Beehive hairdo?

There are many memories that will be taken from our performance tonight. Some will be very individual and personal and some to the testament of the Gothic ensemble. Wether you simply set a goal for yourself and hope for the best, or you are more than confident that you will achieve it, when you finally do, the experience is nothing like you expected. It is far greater than you could imagine.

While I can not speak on everyone's behalf, I'm quite sure no one in the hall, on stage or in the audience, could even imagine what was install for them that night.

The orchestra and chorus knew how this piece ends. Some audience and Havergal lovers knew how this work finishes.For those who don't, the last section is some heavy percussion bustling, reinforced with some orchestral chords then some beautiful soft playing, leading to a final few bars of choral sounds. This chorus only final chord then diminishes to nothing.

We were all expecting this beautiful chord diminishing to nothing. After the last vocalist faded away, John Curro brought both hands together, clutched them and his baton to his chest, closed his eyes and lowered his head. Then he just stood there, conducting the silence. Not one sole, Gothic ensemble or audience, made a sound. The building made no sound. There was no outside noise filtering into the building. After about 2 seconds of silence, the tears started welling up, not just myself but others also, as I found out later. John continued to conduct the silence for what seemed an eternity but it was about 2 more seconds later I realised something else. I had not moved, I was absolutely frozen! I was certain no one else did either. Not even my eyes wandered, they were firmly glued to our musical director, never once flinching. The seconds continued to tick by, in what seemed an eternity. Absolute silence continued to be experienced and the emotions continued to well within. Still, no movement within the entire environment as even more seconds slowly passed.

Then Havergal Brian's Synphony 1 was concluded. Maestro Curro animated himself and released the Gothic Ensemble, to forever keep this moment of time we stole from the universe.

Stay tuned with the Gothic Tuba Experience

John Szkutko

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