Wrangling Cats – Part 3 Rehearsals

Why do ensembles have rehearsals? What is the real VALUE of a rehearsal? Rehearsals are for rehearsing as a group the music you have had in your possession for usually a few weeks or longer. Rehearsals are NOT for sight-reading those parts and trying to get away with playing as part of large group where you can “hide” in the section. It is even more important when you are the ONLY person playing that part. Rehearsals are to make it “tight;” to make it sound like you’ve been playing together for years. The attacks on the notes, the slurs of the bow, the body language and flow of the music. When the ensemble has the luxury of having a conductor, he or she needs to make sure the ensemble is all on the same page – musically, stylistically, and interpretatively.

Often, I like to throw out a new chart at rehearsal and see how everybody reads it down. This keeps up all our sight-reading chops, but I do not like to perform that chart until it has been practiced thoroughly at home by the musicians, then rehearsed as a group, ad nauseum. It is the responsibility of each musician to take time at home and practice their own music so that when it comes together as an ensemble, it can be rehearsed for the collective sound, not just the practice of a single musician.

Again, I see this happen all the time, and have even been guilty of being the ill-prepared musician due to illness or family emergency. I have shown up at an orchestra rehearsal where I have practiced my part at home, with recordings (when available), and made sure I had the correct bowings and markings in my music. I have sat with equally prepared (sometimes more prepared) stand partners, and we have enjoyed our time together. I have also sat with ill-prepared musicians where I have to literally hold their hand through the rehearsals, and often the concerts. This challenges me in ways I cannot fully describe, and sometimes my performance suffers as a result.

When I am the only one playing that part, I know I have to step it up even more to be more perfect. There is no excuse for not playing well due to illness or family emergency. The rest of the group is counting on me to know my part and play it well. I have to know my part inside and out, memorized and charted. I have to know how my part fits into every other part of the music, and be able to cover and recover if there is a mistake by myself and/or anyone else in the group. When I am part of a group, I must realize that the rest of the group is counting on ME to know my part and play it well. As part of that group, I know I am counting on every other member to know their parts and play them well. As leader, it is my job to “call it out” if it is not right. But even the leader must be open to accept the same criticism.

If you will please pardon me, I’m off to practice again for yet another rehearsal. I have one more day to perfect it before the one and only rehearsal before the show Friday. Tunes swirling in my head, mixed with different genres and styles. I sure hope I can keep it all straight!